By Ariele Vaccaro
From the outside, the St. Ann Center’s new Bucyrus Campus looks bright and new, but not unlike you might imagine a new intergenerational care center to appear: a large, three story building with creamy white brick and a roof covered in brown shingles. Walk inside, however, and you’ll see walls of rich red and gold touching stone floors of deep green and brown. Then, follow the foyer to the check-in area decorated much like a marketplace. Bright green, yellow, and blue tapestries hang over the front desk. A stack of colorful, wooden bucks stands stacked against the refreshments counter.
Stroll a little further and you’ll find a staircase with banisters of eucalyptus — wood from a tree that can be found in west Africa — leading up to an open veranda reminiscent of a cozy tree house.
At the new care center, Milwaukee residents from numerous walks of life will receive the same services that guests of the south side’s St. Ann — Stein Campus have been getting for decades, including education and day care services.
This campus is the brainchild of Franciscan nun and President of the St. Ann Center Edna Lonergan.
On Tuesday, Lonergan untied a giant, hanging ribbon outside North Ave and 24th St., signifying the opening of what had not too long ago been just an idea.
Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper spoke at the ribbon untying.
“It’s a new beginning here in the 15th District,” said the Common Council member.
He recalled a conversation with Lonergan, during which the nun assured Stamper that the Bucyrus Campus would hire north side community members in need of work.
“The best thing you can do for this community is hire from it,” Stamper said.
It would appear Lonergan kept her promise. At a recent job fair, the St. Ann Center was looking to hire some 200 people for the new campus.
Monique Taylor is director of human resources at the St. Ann Center.
She projects the campus will be looking to fill even more positions, like administrators and even teachers to utilize Bucyrus Campus’ 16 classrooms.
“We stand in solidarity with this people in this neighborhood,” said one of Lonergan’s fellow Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi Diana DeBruin while addressing those in attendance.
Before the ceremony, Mayor Barrett expressed his support of the new campus’ unveiling. He deemed it part of Milwaukee’s revitalization.
“This city is fighting back,” said Barrett to the crowd. “We are fighting back; we are reinventing ourselves.”
Following the ribbon untying, the crowd of attendees filed into the new campus where they met with front desk staff and took a seat in an open area lined with chairs, a podium at the south end.
Maseline Albring, an Elder Council member at the Congregation of the Great Spirit — an American Indian Catholic parish, completed a solitary eagle dance to a soothing song.
Then, Rev. Michael Hammer lead the audience in prayer. Finally, Tejumola Ologboni, a former UW-Milwaukee instructor and African spirituality and culture expert, lead a libation ceremony, during which anyone representing a religious group came up to pour libation, a modest jar of water, over a thirsty young tree soaking up some sunlight from a window nearby.
Lonergan didn’t address the crowd until after libation. She mentioned a few names from a long list of donors including Nan Gardetto-Cherek and Judy Gardetto, the Zilber Family Foundation, and Carl and Karen Kitzinger.
As she closed, she made clear the intent for the Bucyrus campus: “helping build a stronger community.”