Marquette Wire

Student volunteers feed hungry at The Gathering

St.+James+Episcopal+Church+is+home+to+The+Gathering.
St. James Episcopal Church is home to The Gathering.

St. James Episcopal Church is home to The Gathering.

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

Photo by Wire Stock Photo

St. James Episcopal Church is home to The Gathering.

Julie Grace

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Fourteen years ago, when Gerry Fischer started at Marquette, it might have been hard to find volunteers for The Gathering. That has since changed.

“Now it’s much easier to get people to get up early and serve,” said Fischer, the associate director of Campus Ministry. “I think students like to do it first thing in the morning before classes.”

The Gathering has provided meals to those who are hungry since 1982, according to its website. As of July 2015, The Gathering has served 44,519 meals at its three locations throughout Milwaukee. St. James Episcopal Church, located directly East of Straz Tower, was The Gathering’s first location.

Fischer, who serves as the Midnight Run moderator, meets with the student leadership team and leads a weekly meeting for all Midnight Run coordinators. He said the sense of community among volunteers at The Gathering is especially significant. At least four Marquette students volunteer at the site Monday through Friday mornings. The staff at The Gathering counts on Marquette students as regulars and are comfortable giving them whatever jobs are left, Fischer said.

Mary Sizemore, a sophomore in the College of Engineering and a Midnight Run volunteer at The Gathering, said volunteers prepare, serve and clean up from the meals. She said roles for volunteers can vary from week to week. From sweeping floors, buttering toast, pouring milk or cleaning tables, each job has its unique perks and ways to engage with the community.

It is not the specific service work that inspires so many students to participate in Midnight Run or serve at The Gathering, but the engagement with the community surrounding Marquette.

“After learning that Midnight Run was a service organization that involved neither running nor staying up late, I wanted to sign up,” Sizemore said in an email. “Midnight Run seemed like the perfect way for a stressed college student to get an amazing experience and meet the real Milwaukee face-to-face.”

Sizemore said she especially enjoys the people she encounters at The Gathering, noting that everyone is surprisingly hilarious at seven in the morning.

“It’s been so cool to meet volunteers from other organizations, or those just coming out of the good-will of their hearts,” Sizemore said. “I also love getting to share joys, struggles, laughs, or whatever else with the meal guests. Everyone, no matter who, has something cool to say. It’s an amazing environment.”

Fischer also noted students build deep relationships not only with those they serve, but the long-time volunteers and workers at The Gathering. Only six of 14 Midnight Run locations have been service sites during Fischer’s 14 years at Marquette.

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