Life's Voices

Susan Bence / Milwaukee Public Radio

Aldo Leopold’s 1949 book A Sand County Almanac fueled the conservation movement. Estella Leopold, a vibrant nearly nonagenarian, was the youngest of five Leopolds. She grew up happily oblivious of her father’s fame.

Aldo was teaching at UW-Madison in the 1930s, when he bought a shack – quite literally, a ramshackle small barn – fifty miles to the north on what was exhausted farmland.

Estella loved the land.

Many people who give back to the community are motivated by causes that touch them, personally. That's the case for Alex Brkich. Because of his experience with his mother, Brkich has made his Wauwatosa restaurant Cranky Al’s friendly to people with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss.

Ann-Elise Henzl

During this holiday season, WUWM reporters are sharing stories of local people who give back to the community. In this installment of our year-end series Life's Voices, we meet Diane De La Santos.

Marti Mikkelson

Every Saturday morning, hundreds of people wait in line for the doors to open at the Riverwest Food Pantry. It’s located in the basement of St. Casimir’s Church in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood.

Once inside, they mingle for a few minutes, then Vincent Noth calls the group into prayer. He is the director of the operation.

LaToya Dennis

There is a chaplaincy program in Milwaukee – that responds to crime scenes and fires, and even to the unrest that occurred in Sherman Park this summer.

Rachel Morello

With the end of the year comes reflection, and plans for the months ahead. And 2016 is a big year for Milwaukee Recreation supervisor Carmelo Cortes. Cortes came to Milwaukee without many plans. He was just 21 when he arrived, coming from Puerto Rico to visit a cousin. He expected to stay a few weeks.

Things did not go according to plan.

“A friend of mine asked me if I wanted a part-time job, and since I was going to stay for a month or so, I figured, [I’d] work and make a little bit of money,” he remembers.

Courtesy of Dennis Walton

You've probably heard that it's important for fathers to be involved in their children's lives. Yet some dads struggle, such as those who don't have a good relationship with their kids' mom. A local organization gives men tools to connect with their children. One of its leaders knows what the dads are going through, from personal experience.

Marti Mikkelson

Each year, WUWM profiles the unsung heroes in Milwaukee. Today, we feature Carmen Pitre, executive director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center. It shelters and aids victims of domestic violence.

Carmen Pitre sits at a conference table in the new shelter for battered women that she’s envisioned for years. It’s a huge brick building covering a square block of Milwaukee’s central city and actually won’t open until February.

S Bence

Sharon Adams sips a Purple Haze, a beet infused drink, and marvels. She’s glancing out the window of The Juice Kitchen on North Avenue off 17th Street.

“We used to walk the streets that were trouble, it would be noisy. Now it’s peaceful out there and the noise is good in here,” Adams says.

We now continue our annual year-end series Life’s Voices. We present people working to improve the community, sometimes with little fanfare. Today we meet Terri Strodthoff. She’s founder and president of the Alma Center. It helps men who have committed acts of domestic violence to discover and heal from trauma early in their lives that may have led them to act violently.

Ann-Elise Henzl

WUWM's year-end Life's Voices series continues with a profile of self-taught pianist Len Pawelski. 

He's a lifelong musician and long-time accordion player and teacher. Five days a week, he volunteers at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, playing the piano for visitors and staff.

Ann-Elise Henzl

WUWM's holiday series Life's Voices begins this year with a profile of Steve Paradowski.

He's a professional chef who's on disability after a stroke.

Yet he still cooks a couple of times a week for Kathy's House. It's a place that provides lodging to people who live out of town who travel to Milwaukee area hospitals for outpatient treatment.

Paradowski watches the sale papers for deals. Then he shops for the ingredients for his Kathy's House meals, storing them in his apartment near Mitchell International Airport.

Sherrie Tussler, long-time executive director of the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee, had planned to be an art teacher.

Sara Risley

As part of our year-end series "Life's Voices," we profile Ginger Duiven, executive director of Literacy Services of Wisconsin.

Marti Mikkelson

As the year’s end approaches, we profile unsung heroes in the community.

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