ON-Lion Letter

Community Warehouse in Milwaukee was named a runner-up in the Midwest Region of WORLD magazine's Hope Award for Effective Compassion in July.  Substantially supported by Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Community Warehouse is "a Christian nonprofit based in Milwaukee’s south side that provides discounted construction materials such as windows, doors, siding, and light fixtures to dilapidated neighborhoods," according to WORLD's Midwest bureau reporter, Daniel James Devine. 

"[S]everal businessmen ... created Community Warehouse in 2002 as an effort to spruce up the city’s low-income neighborhoods," Devine continues.  "Residents within one of Milwaukee’s poor neighborhoods pay an annual membership fee ($25 for individuals, $100 for nonprofits, $150 for businesses) and can then shop at the warehouse, with product prices discounted roughly 80 percent below retail.

"As Community Warehouse facilitates fix-ups," he writes, "it also provides transitional jobs to a stream of workers with checkered backgrounds, often involving weapons or drug convictions.  (In Milwaukee County, which includes the city, over half of African-American men in their 30s have spent time in state prisons.)  As part of the effort to help some of those least likely to be employed, Community Warehouse has now opened a second large warehouse on the city’s north side.  There, workers are rebuilding pallets and selling books online in business endeavors Community Warehouse has created for them, an initiative it calls 'Milwaukee Working,' which generates around $30,000 a month.

"Community Warehouse isn’t a church," according to Devine.  "Transitional workers need not profess faith, and some live with fiancées, but they must abide by rules at work:  hand in cell phones, no smoking except during breaks, be honest and respectful.  Staff and volunteers serve as informal mentors, and Milwaukee Working hosts a Monday morning Bible study that almost all the workers attend voluntarily. 

"For the workers who stay," he concludes, former convict and current Community Warehouse floor manager Jacob Maclin is a role model.  He was first hired by Community Warehouse as a worker in 2008, after 72 interviews that got him no job offers.  Now married and a father to four, Maclin says it's his responsibility to make sure that "no matter if they are here for six months, one year, four years, five, that they know that they have somebody who really cares."

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