Local nonprofit pursues restraining order against its founder

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The board of directors for Repairers of the Breach, the only daytime homeless shelter in Milwaukee and common volunteer location for Marquette students, is pursuing a temporary restraining order against MacCanon Brown, the founder of the organization.

Members of Repairer’s board, led by Joyce Roesler, claimed in a legal pleading that Brown, who served as Repairers’ executive director since 1997, was fired Aug. 26 and that she refused to leave her post and continues to act as the organization’s director.

Repairers, established as a shelter in 1994, provides food, clothes, sleeping bags, shower facilities, free medical services, birth certificates and other services for its homeless members. Repairers accepts no public money as it is funded entirely from donations.

An injunction hearing scheduled for Oct. 10 at the Milwaukee County Circuit Court aims to keep Brown and five co-defendants from entering the premises of Repairers, located at 1335 W. Vliet St., or having access to its website.

The board claimed Brown and her co-defendants — Bernard Cohen, Will McGraw, Dorothy Jackson, George Paz Martin and Sheila Grady — took over a board meeting Aug. 22 and elected themselves as the organization’s new board, according to court documents. The documents also said Brown created a letterhead for Repairers indicating they were the organization’s board.

The Roesler board appointed Carolyn Young, previously the organization’s director of finance, as interim executive director to replace Brown, according to court documents. Young, who was terminated by the board led by Brown, last appeared at the center when the event occurred Aug. 26. Other members of the Roesler administration also have not visited the center.

Jonalyn Paden, administrative assistant for Repairers, said in an affidavit, “I have not physically reported to work since Aug. 26 due to the atmosphere MacCanon Brown created at Repairers.”

The organization was founded on the premise that homeless men and women reach out to one another and improve their lives together. It relies upon the volunteer work from Milwaukee residents including Marquette students.

Maryann Radowski, service learning coordinator at the organization, said an average of about 20 Marquette students volunteer at the center each semester as service learning students. Radowski said the service learning program expanded in the past five years in which she has been at Repairers.

Other Marquette volunteers stop at the center regularly outside of service learning, though. Allen Samson, a junior in the College of Nursing, said she began volunteering at Repairers this semester through her work with Noon run, another nonprofit serving the homeless in Milwaukee. She said she was disappointed after hearing about the lawsuit.

“It’s a great grassroots nonprofit organization that has volunteers and workers who really understand the impoverished population they are helping because they were in the same situation,” Samson said. “It would be sad if Repairers of the Breach’s services suffered due to this disconnect.”

Kelsey Schanke, a junior in the College of Business Administration, worked at Repairers of the Breach last semester as a service learning student. She also expressed concern that this might affect the members of the organization.

“I loved going to Repairers and I never thought there were any issues going on with the board,” Schanke said. “I am pretty disappointed that this is occurring, because I really believe in that organization and I hope that this doesn’t affect the people who are helped by Repairers.”

Radowski said in an email that turmoil surrounding the administration of Repairers will not inhibit the service learning schedule at the center.

The court battle approaches just a few months after the organization finished renovations to its three-story center, a construction process that lasted about two years.