In Holiday Guide

Volunteers help load food during the Hunger Task Force's Thanksgiving food drive. (Photo by Darren Hauck)

In Holiday Guide

Students from UWM's North Residence Tower display their food donation to this year's campus holiday food drive.

Those in the habit say Christmas volunteering its own gift

Every Christmas many Milwaukeeans turn their focus from tearing into presents and stuffing themselves with food to helping others.

Joy Alexander, volunteer administrator at the Salvation Army of Greater Milwaukee is tasked each year with organizing roughly 3,000 volunteers for the organization's Christmas Family Feast, which feeds 8,000 people.

"Anyone who is involved with me, if they want to see me on Christmas, they know what they have to do and that is be part of it. And they love to do it. It's a family affair for me," Alexander said.

The months leading up to the feast are her busiest of the year, and she'll normally spend all day, from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., at the Frontier Airlines Center on Christmas Day.

"It is very intense and very busy but very exciting and rewarding," Alexander said.

Alexander said that many volunteers return year after year to help, choosing to spend their Christmas helping others.

"So many people want to give back and do something meaningful on Christmas. Especially after they have done it once and see how great it is," Alexander said.

Martha Love is one of those volunteers who has chosen to spend her Christmas volunteering.

For nearly two decades Love and her family have dedicated their holiday to giving back to the community.

"The primary reason why I got involved was because of having personal experience with being a recipient of food and Christmas clothing and also toys as a child," recalled Love, "And that gift to us took place over a number of years and we all kind of vowed that people have been extremely kind to us and we should most certainly give back."

Love, who now runs her own business, used to work for Milwaukee County, where she would save up her vacation time to use allow herself to help out at various volunteer efforts.

"I prearranged to make sure I had time available. My vacation was spending time collecting food and working to disseminate food for families and toys for children," Love said.

Love sees her commitment to help others as an important continuation of the generosity others showed her family as a child.

"What you take away is the fact that you were able to once again help people, because I will never ever forget as a child and as a teenager what it's like to not be able to have food or participate in the holiday like everyone else," said Love, "It's a commitment I've made as a child and I've carried on that commitment."

Pauli Taylorboyd, director of employee development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, spends the weeks leading up to Christmas helping organize the universities food drive for the Hunger Task Force with help from numerous staff and faculty.

With food and cash donations totaling more than 23,000 pounds of food collected last year, Taylorboyd said she has been wowed by the generosity and creativity of her co-workers.

"We just have some really terrific people over here," Taylorboyd said, choking up as she recalled an instance last year when a custodian made a $500 donation to the cause.

Individual departments and staff members get creative coming up with their own unique ways of getting donations through things like raffles and bake sales. A silent auction Thursday in the Union Fireside Lounge ill auction off donated items including an autographed Green Bay Packers football.

"We all come together," Taylorboyd said.

In the end volunteering around this time of year is not only helpful to those in need, but also personally fulfilling, Love said.

"There is nothing like sharing what you have. It's really the right thing to do for everybody, I just feel much better about myself," Love said.


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