Growing up I attended a Catholic Grade School on the south side of the City of Milwaukee known as St. Gerards; only a couple of blocks from my home, I could walk there and back easily, often even coming home for lunch. In 6th grade, I learned the school was closing and I would have to change schools for my 7th grade school year.
While I was upset about the school closing at St. Gerard, I remained a parish member there because it was my church. In my teens, I worked as a part time janitor at the parish, keeping the place up. When I was in college, pursuing an accounting degree, my involvement increased to include sitting on the parish counsel. When I became a lawyer, I was asked to become one of the trustees of the parish.
The Establishment Of A Youth Scholarship Program
As time passed, the parish population was aging and participation in parish programming was dwindling. In the late 1990's, there was a push for welfare reform, which created a need for affordable day care. A nearby former orphanage, St. Joseph's Orphanage, was winding down its operations, and looking to get into the daycare operation. A developer approached my parish, with a plan to purchase the St. Gerard site, renovate it, and turn it over to the nuns who had run the orphanage, for use as a day care.
Many of the remaining parish members did not want the parish to close. Many had put a lot of time, effort and money into the church, and did not want to give it up. Moreover, people were wondering what would become of the remaining parish funds if this plan were pursued. A series of meetings were held where all options where outlined and discussed. The archdiocese told us if we came up with a reasonable plan, our recommendations would be considered.
We came up with many ideas and debated over various options to allocate the remaining parish funds. Some individuals wanted to split the money with neighboring parishes. Others wanted to start a ride service to help transport the elderly or disabled to services. Personally, I was pushing for the establishment of a scholarship fund for catholic schools in the area. After a few meetings with an associate superintendent of schools for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, the plan began to take shape. The scholarship program was ultimately adopted, with some of the former members (or their children) on the committee working on the scholarships. The first scholarships were awarded in 2000, and have continued on to the present. The total amounts awarded have varied between $60,000 and $80,000. The Office for Schools of the Archdiocese provides support for the program, which benefits around 100 students attending 20 south side Milwaukee Catholic Schools.
A Personal Pride, Giving Back In My Community
St. Gerards fell short on educating our youth when it closed the school in 1969, but I am proud that the parish that helped me so much as a youth continues to serve the community through this scholarship program. Since 2000, the proceeds from this former parish have been working hard to make a catholic education easier for area youth.
I am also proud of the role I played in helping to establish this scholarship program and keep the memories of St. Gerards alive and continue to highlight the positive impact the parish had on the lives of so many in my community. As a Milwaukee personal injury attorney, I am happy to stay involved in my local community.
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