Hundreds of people from the Hospitality Center gathered together Tuesday for a catered Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings, courtesy of Johnson Outdoors Inc.

But the employees willingness to help isn’t just happening at Thanksgiving. For about two years, employees from Johnson Outdoors have been volunteered their time on Mondays and Tuesdays to serve food at the day shelter program. The Hospitality Center helps people who are homeless or are near homeless. This is the second year, they have provided a Thanksgiving Day meal from Fohr’s Catering and they hope to make it an annual occurrence.

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside public health program also stood shoulder to shoulder with the Johnson Outdoors employees, among them was Bill Rushing.

“People need help in this community. It doesn’t matter where you are in life. And we need to treat people like the brothers and sisters that they are,” Rushing said.

Rushing and his co-workers brought in enough dinners to serve 200 people. As he helped unpack them he explained that volunteering at the Hospitality Center has made him a better father, husband, friend and coworker.

“Being here has helped me get to know these people and helped me understand that at any time, even I could need help,” he said.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she was a Certified Nursing Assistant. She has her own apartment, but a serious of health and mental health issues prevent her from being able to work. She comes to the Hospitality Center for moral support and friendship. At 46-years-old she is on disability, but is working with several agencies to find a job.

“I used to volunteer here when I was working, Now I’m here… I realize that bad things happen to good people,” she said. “It’s depressing sometimes and I know that it’s not good for me to just sit in my apartment.”

So the woman comes everyday to the Hospitality Center.

“But it’s great to have folks here from Johnson, we really appreciate the meal,” she said.

For Johnson Outdoors employee Amanda Thierfeder, volunteering is a way for her to give back to her community. She helps organize the volunteer groups on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“But I just love making people happy,” she said. “And this is a way that I can do that. You also get to see a different side of the world and it’s humbling because you never know when you yourself might need a little help.”

Love what we do?

In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.