The motto, “No running required – just walking with your neighbor,” may seem like a fitting mantra for a charity walk, but it’s actually the group Midnight Run Marquette’s philosophy for aiding the hungry across Milwaukee.
Gerry Fischer, the Campus Ministry administrator for Midnight Run Marquette, said there are 160 Marquette volunteers, 11 service sites in Milwaukee and more than 100 individuals on the volunteer waiting list to provide meals for the homeless and hungry of the city. The program began on campus in 1988.
“Generally we get a lot of interest from first year students, but Midnight Run volunteers tend to be very loyal,” Fischer said. “We have regular volunteers who have been involved consistently since their first year on campus.”
Fischer said the volunteer program is a bridge between the Marquette and Milwaukee communities.
“It breaks down stereotypes and provides opportunities for students to make connections with people they would never meet otherwise,” Fischer said.
Lisa Cathelyn, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and co-coordinator of Midnight Run, said specific volunteer sites include St. Ben’s Community Meal Program on State Street, The Guest House (a men’s shelter), St. Vincent de Paul and Casa Maria Catholic Worker House.
Contrary to the name, Cathelyn said that students don’t necessarily need to volunteer at night, though in the early days of the program, Marquette students did provide late dinner meals out of a single van.
Since then, the program has greatly expanded and sends volunteers to sites every day of the week who distribute breakfast and dinner meals, Cathelyn said.
Jena Wallander, a junior in the College of Nursing and Midnight Run site coordinator, said she enjoys volunteering with Midnight Run because it is an almost entirely student-run organization.
“We each recognize that it’s okay to struggle with what we encounter every day on campus or at our sites,” Wallander said. “We want to be advocates for our community and for those who don’t always have a voice here.”
Wallander added that Midnight Run continuously strives to have a strong campus presence by raising awareness regarding the realities of hunger and homelessness.
Under the umbrella organization of Midnight Run, Noon Run is also a Marquette meal program and sister organization.
Noon Run serves lunches six days each week and, after many relocations, has found a base at the Redeemer Lutheran Church at 631 N. 19th St. Cathelyn thinks Noon Run serves the community well at the church because it is an enclosed shelter.
Marquette students meet at Cobeen to prepare three weekly meals the organization provides, while Redeemer picks up the other three meals, Cathelyn said.
“It is essentially a student-run meal program in that we pack the sandwiches, transport the food, serve it, interact and mingle with the guests, form those relationships and are responsible for clean-up,” Cathelyn said.
Cathelyn said in the past, 40 sandwiches were sufficient for a lunch meal for those in the community, but now Noon Run makes around 150 sandwiches each Sunday as word has spread.
“Knowing that there is a greater need is tough – it’s important that we are able to provide for a meal, but it’s gut-wrenching to be keenly aware that those who need a meal are women and men who live in the neighborhoods surrounding Marquette,” Cathelyn said.