The "Giving Season" has begun. Lasting from mid-November through December 31, it is the time of year when many people exchange gifts. After nearly 2 years of pandemic conditions, many of us are looking forward to the gift giving, Thanksgiving reunions, the lighting of the Chanukah candles, the lighting of the Kwanzaa candles, the Winter Solstice, Christmas celebrations, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

GAC will be open both on Thanksgiving, Christmas Days, and New Year's Day--which feels wonderful to many of us because we were unable to be open on these days in 2020.

During these dark months, many mission-driven organizations reach out to the people who appreciate both their mission and their impact for support. GAC is one of them.

Our community is deeply grateful to the foundations, corporations, smaller businesses, and individuals who are a critical source of support. We are grateful both to those whose support has been recently acquired as well as the donors whose loyalty to GAC has been long-term.

Here we will highlight 2 GAC efforts at raising funds. One is happening tonight--and only tonight. If you can get over to MOD Pizza in Shorewood by 10 p.m. and purchase one or more of their tasty pizzas, you will be raising GAC program support while enjoying some of Milwaukee's finest pizza.

And then, there is the Winter Appeal 2021, which goes from mid-November till December 31. Your donations will benefit all the members of our community. Below you can read the letter written by 2 of them: Wuanette Exum and Dave Hanson, both of whom have compelling stories to tell about the impact of GAC on their lives.

On behalf of the members, staff, volunteers, students, and board of directors of GAC, we urge you to be part of our growing network of supporters and friends and look forward to hearing from you.
Dear Friend,

The leaves are falling to the ground and it’s getting cold. Despite continuing pandemic precautions, most of us can feel that “the holiday season” is upon us and look forward to celebrating the holidays with family and friends, which many of us have been unable to do for some time now.

Both of us are Grand Avenue Club members who want to share our stories with you, so as to encourage you to support the GAC Winter Appeal 2021.
WUANETTE EXUM, Member since 2006

“I was in and out of the Milwaukee County psychiatric hospital. A nurse there recommended that I check out Grand Avenue Club. When I came down for a tour just to see what it was, I learned that GAC offered a lot—friends, jobs, education. I started in Culinary where I finally learned how to cook. A favorite Culinary memory is learning how to make pickles. I can’t believe that I never realized that pickles are made from cucumbers!       
The Membership, Education, and Employment Unit encouraged me to take an education course at UWM to explore my interest in being a teacher. Then I did the United Way Group Placement and a Transitional Employment data entry job at M&I Bank (now BMO Harris Bank) and worked an Independent Employment position at Derco Aerospace from April to November 2018. 

I had to go to Memphis, Tennessee to take care of my grandmother who was very sick. When she died 9 months later, I returned to Milwaukee. There were still many pandemic restrictions, but I got in touch with GAC immediately because I had such strong ties there. This past June, I got a Transitional Employment position at Outpost Natural Foods on State Street, which ends this November. I hope to get an independent position at Outpost or elsewhere. I am also going to explore the possibility of taking courses at MATC to become a teacher in a day care program.

I love GAC. GAC has helped me a lot. It’s a place I can always come to, a place where I found employment, and a place where it’s not too late to plan for my future.”
 DAVE HANSON, Member since 2009

“Just before my 2007 high school graduation, my science teacher said to me, ‘You will not amount to anything and you will be a failure at life.’ Right after that my psychiatrist recommended that I check out GAC. I decided to give it a try.
Something about GAC ignited a spark in me. First, I worked in Culinary and then gravitated to our library where I cleaned and disinfected all the keyboards. Amazed at myself for having the patience to work on every key, I started to think, ‘maybe I will amount to something after all.’                          
Joe Schultz convinced me to try the Group Placement at First Baptist Church of West Allis. After that, I did the United Way Group Placement and a Transitional Employment position at the Wisconsin Athletic Club and also worked Independently there. I was very glad to land a Transitional Employment custodial position at the U.S. Navy Reserve Center which became Independent Employment for a full 5 years. Then, I got sick and had to be hospitalized so I gave up that job.

When I was ready to work again, I learned that United Parcel Service was hiring. I applied and was hired! Nikki Lelinski helped me find the things I needed for the job, such as steel toed boots.

I am so proud to tell you that I am now a UPS “go to” guy. The supervisors know they can count on me and have trained me for a variety of jobs at UPS. I genuinely have passion for the work. A few weeks ago, when they needed someone to climb up to where a package was stuck, I was the one who did it successfully!

This month I am celebrating my 1-year UPS employment anniversary. If I could speak to my high school science teacher, I would love to say to him, ‘You were wrong. I have amounted to something and have not failed at life.'"

The Colleagues of Grand Avenue Club