Thanks to The Beauchamp Maleki Group (BMG), 50 Notre Dame School of Milwaukee families had a full Christmas dinner courtesy of Ward’s House of Prime. (Submitted photo)

There is no question that Christmas in 2020 was different than most. Reduced guest lists and concerns about virus transmission aside, the economic toll taken on so many American families and small businesses meant a season marked by financial uncertainty.

That was certainly the case for many families at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee, which serves students who hail from primarily low-income Latino families on Milwaukee’s near south side. Not only is it an area of the city hit particularly hard by COVID-19, but the majority of school families earn their living by working in the service industry — hotels, restaurants and home cleaning services — all of which have experienced great difficulty in turning a profit this year.

“It really has (been a tough year),” said Patrick Landry, president of Notre Dame School of Milwaukee. “The industries that our parents work in have been hit particularly hard.”

But thanks to The Beauchamp Maleki Group (BMG), 50 NDSM families had a full Christmas dinner courtesy of Ward’s House of Prime — making for a win/win situation that benefitted not only those experiencing food insecurity, but boosted the sales of a local restaurant.

“It just kind of felt like the true spirit of Christmas,” said Landry. “The families were incredibly grateful and touched that there are people out there who cared enough to help provide them with a Christmas meal.”

“Our objective was as simple as wanting to give back to our community,” said Gina Natoli, a financial advisor with BMG who helped to plan the event. “We are blessed and feel grateful to have the opportunity to give back as it was obviously a challenging year for many.”

A sponsored ministry of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, NDSM was founded as an all-girls middle school in 1996 and added a co-ed primary school in 2012, with an all-boys middle school following in 2018. Today, NDSM operates as one school with two campuses serving more than 550 students.

BMG was founded in 1999 and is an affiliate of Northwestern Mutual. In 2020, it was recognized by The Financial Times as one of the top financial advisors in the country.

Choosing which organization to benefit was a tough call, said Natoli, but BMG ultimately settled on NDSM because Saede Maleki, one of the partners of the group, has been very involved in the school’s mission with his family. Ward’s House of Prime was chosen because it is a favorite among the BMG community, said Natoli. “We as a firm frequent (Ward’s) often and wanted to support them during this time as well,” she said.

The meals, which fed up to six people, were picked up by families on the evening of Dec. 21 at Ward’s House of Prime on Mason Street in downtown Milwaukee.

Praising the resilience of the NDSM community throughout the upheaval they experienced in 2020, Landry said the school works hard to stay abreast of its families’ situations so they can connect them to appropriate resources.

“I think this year more than ever we’ve been attentive to what families are going through and how we can make connections with community members to help ease that pain. We have kind of a running spreadsheet of families’ circumstances,” said Landry. “There are those out there who have actually had a good financial year, and there are people in places who have not had a good financial year. We want to figure out how to connect the two and bridge that gap.”