MATC instructors help with Family Feast

December 26, 2013

From jsonline.com: “Recipe for Milwaukees feast mixes volunteers, fellowship” — After 24 years, they really do have the Christmas Family Feast down to a science.

On Wednesday, thousands of people streamed through the Wisconsin Center to savor a free festive meal, bringing joy and cheer to the quiet downtown on Christmas Day.

There was turkey and ham, green beans and sweet potatoes, pie and ice cream.

Choirs belted out Christmas standards.

And a musician named Kevin Kennedy donned a red and white suit, put on a white beard and took his place on a seat that looked a little like a throne.

Santa Claus was in the building.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Kennedy said. “You’ve got kids and adults and you can make them all happy.”

The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County was once again the host, with lots of local sponsors pitching in with support. There were other smaller, events around town, like at the Guest House of Milwaukee, where 86 men who stay at the shelter had a holiday party.

Volunteers are the key ingredient for the Family Feast, with more than 1,200 doing everything from seating visitors to clearing tables to handing out gifts. The volunteers included Gov. Scott Walker; his wife, Tonette; and sons Matt and Alex. The Walker family has volunteered at the event for 11 straight years.

“The last few years it has gotten bigger, which probably reflects on the economy,” Walker said, taking a brief timeout from putting pats of butter on rolls. “Talking to people here, you see not only folks in need in terms of food, you see a lot of folks in need in terms of family and fellowship. So this becomes an extended family.”

That extended family could be seen at dinner tables, complete strangers sharing meals and conversations.

Lisbeth Maturin; her husband, Miguel Moure; and their four young children were seated with Norma Anwar and her two middle-age sons.

“We wanted to do something special for the kids,” Maturin said.

Anwar said she enjoyed the food but especially enjoyed the spirit of the event.

“It brings Christmas back,” Anwar said.

Anwar’s older son, Marlon, said the event provided “a beautiful experience. This is the chance to say hello to a lot of people.”

A 3-year-old named Donovan Webb celebrated his Christmas Day birthday with his mom, Latonya, and other family and friends.

“This was a good year,” Latonya Webb said.

East siders Marilyn Kruger and Kim Morgan bumped into one another at the event. Kruger enjoyed Christmas morning, visiting her grandchildren and attending a religious service. The feast, she said, capped “a wonderful holiday season.”

Morgan said many people may be struggling through the year, but the feast serves as a way “to make the community come together.”

Back in the kitchen, the staff was busy making up parcels of food that were to be taken to shelters around the city.

Between the people who attended the feast and the food parcels, about 10,000 meals were made under the supervision of chefs Gus Kelly, a veteran of the feast, and Bob Ilk, who was volunteering at the event for the first time.

The pair taught together for years at Milwaukee Area Technical College and worked easily under great pressure in the kitchen on Christmas Day.

“Bob can take over next year and I’ll be his helper,” Kelly said.

Don Rosette, the former longtime general manager of WMCS-AM (1290), was back for another year. It was Rosette and the station who helped get the first feast off the ground in only 55 days and helped it grow through the years.

“The Salvation Army has taken the reins and it’s going well,” Rosette said. “It’s a tradition now.”

 

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