The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Milwaukee (SVDP) relocated its Martin Luther King north side meal program to All Peoples Church at 2600 N. 2nd St., last December. Since 1995, the meal program was situated a few blocks away on the property of the former St. Gall Catholic Church, one of the nine parishes that merged in October 1994 to form two: St. Martin de Porres and All Saints.

Chris Grambling, left to right, Carol Nickasch and Tim Tarpey representing The House of Peace, Ben Hayes from Nicolet High School, and Annie Simone also with The House of Peace serve a client at All Peoples Church at the meal program hosted by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Milwaukee, Feb. 27. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson) “It was very costly to maintain our program at the previous site,” said Deborah Duskey, executive director for the Milwaukee Council of the SVDP. “We were looking for a new place that wouldn’t allow for us to lose a day to serve food. We are really blessed that All Peoples Church offered to let SVDP join its venue.”

All Peoples Church is a multi-cultural Lutheran congregation that seeks to work with interfaith organizations. On Jan. 23, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Bishop Jeff Barrow of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America blessed the site.

SVDP also has a south side meal site located at 931 W. Madison St. Last year, both programs combined to serve 132,812 meals, 17,000 of which were served to children. Already 9,824 meals have been served in 2016.

SVDP has a 10-year lease with All Peoples Church’s Harambee kitchen – which translates to “working together” – but with the recent accomplishments, both organizations said they hope to keep this as a permanent relationship.

“All Peoples Church is extremely vested in the community; they recently had a capital campaign to renovate their kitchen,” said Peggy West, manager of the north and south side meal programs. “It’s a commercial kitchen; everything is state of the art. They even have an urban garden; we could run a restaurant.”

The cost of the renovated kitchen was approximately $300,000.

“This allows us to prepare almost any type of meal. From turkey dinners, meatloaf, spaghetti, you name it. Plus, the little kids really enjoy the desserts,” said Walter Jennings, the north side kitchen coordinator.

The success of the meal program depends on the help of its volunteers.


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“It’s a really big undertaking. It usually takes 20 to 30 people to prepare and serve the food,” said Duskey. “Everything is cooked off-site, most of the food is provided through donations from local parishes, the Hunger Task Force and Great Harvest.”

“This is a unique and perfect match,” said a volunteer. “You can really experience the community working together, everyone is benefitting from this opportunity.”

Meals are served Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Duskey noted most meal sites do not serve on Saturdays, which causes a greater increase in traffic. In addition to serving food, the meal program also provides games and other activities, such as bingo, so people can socialize.

SVDP is comprised of 54 conferences in Milwaukee County through many Catholic parishes. There are approximately 900 active members, known as Vincentians, and 2,000 volunteers in Milwaukee. Many of the volunteers are of different faiths, including Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist and Jewish.  

Besides providing meals, SVDP finds other ways to serve the greater Milwaukee community.

“It’s about neighbors helping neighbors, we provide home visitations where volunteers establish relationships with individuals and families,” said Lisa Badran, president of the SVDP Conference at Holy Family, Whitefish Bay. “Many of the them don’t have the basic necessities, such as food, clothing or furniture. Sometimes they simply just need some company.”

SVDP also offers family support services, where volunteers work with the City of Milwaukee Public Health Nurses to visit parents and their children to encourage healthy interaction. There are also two thrift stores – one located on Lincoln Avenue in Milwaukee, the other at Highway 100 and Layton Avenue in Greenfield.

Previously, volunteers offered programs to address some of Milwaukee’s major needs, including self-help support groups and an Alcoholics Anonymous program.

“There is a large spectrum in the demographic of people that SVDP assists, from the homeless to the elderly,” said Duskey. “But many of them that seek our services are single-mothers.”

All Peoples Church also provides a number of services, including “Kids Come First” a program that addresses how faith can impact young children and teenagers’ life decisions.

The mission of SVDP began in 1833 when its founder, Frederic Ozanam, a 20-year-old university student, wished to serve the poor in the Paris slums. In 1849, SVDP of Milwaukee was founded on Christmas Eve. The spirit of SVDP is to eliminate poverty and hunger through the acts of justice and charity; SVDP is organized in more than 150 countries.

Volunteers interested in helping at either of the meal sites or in donating to them, should contact St. Vincent de Paul. (See boxed information).

“We are always looking for someone to help,” said Duskey.