Keith Stanley, NWSP Executive Director
Bobby McQuay, Outreach and Safety Manager of the Near West Side Partners starts the grill for the brats and hot dogs for the “Brat For Your Thought” event.
So what does a barbecue grill, a few brats and some dedicated NWSP staff do to impact community engagement in the Near West Side? The answer will depend on who you asked. However, for some it means connections to eviction prevention programs and for others connection to vaccination resources. Ultimately, for many it means connecting with local community resources and guidance as they navigate a very challenging time for themselves, the community and our country.
The Near West Side Partners’ signature event “Brat For Your Thought” is the mastermind of Bobby McQuay, NWSP Outreach and Safety Manager. Using a combination of food and drink and working with various partners like Alderman Robert Bauman, the Milwaukee Police Department, Legal Action and other groups, the event connects people to resources. Hear from Bobby below on the history and role of “Brat For Your Thought”.
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Alderman Robert Bauman and Near West Side Partner Ambassadors prepare for a “Brat For Your Thought” event in summer of 2018 at the corner of North 27th Street and Kilbourn.
It allows for direct connectivity to the local community. Bobby and the Near West Side Partner Ambassadors Duane and Savanah (both residents of the Near West Side) have meaningful conversations with residents and work to solve problems and bring solutions to the many challenges Near West Side residents face.
Various photos with the Milwaukee Police Department, District Attorney’s office and NWPS staff at “Brat For Your Thought” events this summer.
Not only is “Brat For Your Thought” a connection to resources it is two-way communication in which NWSP also surveys residents on what are their concerns, dreams and hopes. Recently, for the Appreciative Inquiry Summit NWSP staff worked to gather information from residents documenting their concerns and hopes for the community using white boards, audio and video recordings. Here is a video documenting that outreach.
Residents line up to grab a hot dog or brat but leave with a bag of information, a connection to their local neighborhood organization and confident that someone is working their behalf. It is that confidence that builds hope in a community. It builds relationships with partners like the Milwaukee Police Department and supports a healthier conversation and relationship with many Near West Side community stakeholders.
(l-r) Assistant District Attorney Kelly O’neil, Officer Sanders, Near West Side Ambassador Duane Henderson Stokes, Near West Side resident Valerie Langston and youth organizer Carlos stand in front of the “Free Brats” sign.
In light of the country’s issues surrounding community policing or the lack thereof, having entities like the District Attorney’s office and the Milwaukee Police Department at these events can play a key role in providing a bridge to law enforcement officers and residents. Near West Side District Assistant District Attorney, Kelly O’neil attends these BFYT events and works the crowd with information and guidance on the various quality of life issues that can destroy hope and relationships in the community.
Here is what Kelly has to say about BFYTs and the partnership with NWSP.
Recently evictions have become a hot topic as residents across the country are faced with the looming reality of being evicted once the eviction moratorium is lifted. In fact a number of Near West Side residents have already seen eviction notices in the past few weeks. This is when partnerships with groups like Legal Action are important and provide Near West Side residents with resources and guidance during these difficult times. Attorney Shakia Smith has been manning a booth at each one of the August “Brat For Your Thought” events. Each time the attorney has given away all of her information to the 100’s of people that stop by her booth.
Here is what she had to say about this partnership.
Community and specifically resident engagement is a “contact sport” and done best when it is in-person, face-to-face with genuine compassion and intentionality. That means being open, transparent and understanding while taking the time to listen residents.
NWSP will continue to have “Brat For Your Thought” events until the weather no longer permits as there is so much to share, discussion and connect regarding transportation, fresh food access, safety and more. New businesses and upcoming developments are occurring in the Near West Side and it is important to keep all residents up-to-date on such activities.
Residents enjoy a brat at the “Brat For Your Thought” event this summer at the corner of 28th and Wells.
NWSP understands that we have to meet people where they live and where they are. Everyone in Wisconsin loves a brat and food is great way to start the conversations. Residents see the value in these on-the-street conversations and NWSP understands our role as a community organization as we make sure the resident (homeowners, renters, students, etc.) voice is top priority in leading our work efforts in the Near West Side.
If you believe there are opportunities for your organization to partner with us at “Brat For Your Thought” events please do reach out to Bobby McQuay at email@example.com. We look forward to seeing you in the future at these events and more in the Near West Side.