Thoughts on Giving

Church members share why they are generous supporters of UUCW each year during our Annual Pledge Drive.  Read their inspiring words below.

2017 – Build the Vision Campaign

Leslie Peterson

I plan to be generous in my giving to UUCW this year because I'm grateful for this community of caring and loving people that support me in my life journey. I'm grateful for UUCW's commitment to social justice and interfaith work and how this commitment has helped me grow spiritually and broadened my awareness.

I believe deeply in the important role UUCW plays in my life and the life of others both inside and outside the church. In this fractured and anxiety filled world, UUCW offers a beacon of hope and solace.

I’m hopeful that with our Capital Fund and Build 2020 process we will create a more welcoming and collaborative space that nurtures and inspires staff and congregation members. A remodel and refresh that positions us well for future growth – inward and outward!


Ann Bertz

It’s always been a pleasure for me to support our church with my volunteer time and with my money. I believe strongly in our UU values of justice, inclusion, compassion, and stewardship of the earth – they resonate deep within me. Being a member of UUCW has reinforced and strengthened those values for me and my children.

But giving money beyond a certain level has always been scary for me. I’ve not given in a way that is personally sacrificial – until now. But UUCW has not only helped me grow spiritually, this congregation has supported me through so many of my life’s ups and downs. And our church has nourished my compassion and challenged me to increase my understanding of injustice. I’ve been inspired to live my values through concrete action, even when that makes me uncomfortable.

You see, what we stand for in this church is more important now than it has ever been, given the turbulent times we live in. Our values are under attack. What we choose to do at this moment is an important statement about how we want the future to unfold.

Because UUCW strengthens me to be the change I want to see in the world, I am choosing to be generous in my financial support to a degree that I never imagined possible before. And it feels empowering, knowing that I am supporting this church and our values not only for today, but also – as the video reminded us all -- for a future generation I may never know.


Larry Hawley

UUCW has helped me…

  • To have had a one of a kind memorial service to declare that my late wife Nancy will be with our family always.
  • To have a spiritual home where my children learned world/diverse philosophies and religions.
  • To have a place to devote time and energy to work for the seven UU principles we hold dear.

The values of the church have kept Nancy’s spirit alive and guiding my children. The church has expected action and challenged us to leave our comfort zone to demand justice for others – my children have seen me act in the church to live my values! Actions speak louder than words.

I have been extensively involved in analyzing the way we use our facilities since the 2020 Long Range Plan, and I know the time to act is now. It is what the majority of members desire.

I want to be satisfied that I did my best, and gave my best.

And I am hopeful….

  • That a more delightful building will attract more delightful people.
  • That a better work environment will make staff even more productive and feel valued.
  • That we can have more productive and modern meetings, and rent our space more easily because it meets modern requirements.
  • And I am hopeful that members will want to meet together on even more occasions to uplift their spirits! And so I will be generous in my support of Build the Vision!

Ron Trilling

I am grateful for a church home that I can count on for growth, support, companionship and living out my values. It’s a place where I can turn off the constant chatter in my head and focus on the important things that matter; to explore and dig deeper to form my own truths and beliefs. It’s a community where I can connect with caring, open-minded, giving people. It’s a beacon of hope in the community filled with people working for justice. It’s much more than a building, it’s a home…and I’m very grateful for it.

I plan to be generous in my financial support of this capital campaign in order to ensure that this special place will continue to be accessible to future generations. I am hopeful that my children and the children of other church and community members will always have a place to turn to, not only for personal inspiration, growth and hope, but also for leadership and action for positive change outside of the church walls..


Kathy Herrewig

As I reflect on my experiences at UUCW, I am grateful for opportunities to meet and share thoughts with a group of people who have a shared set of values on broad issues.

I am grateful for the opportunity to feel myself a part of a larger whole, part of a larger movement toward a saner society.

I plan to be generous in my support of Build the Vision because I am hopeful that a successful capital campaign will engender a feeling of pride and excitement in the congregation; a new realization that we are surrounded by people who care deeply about the church and are on board for the long haul.



Eric and Jody Jessup-Anger Giving Stories

Eric: In our day jobs, we are charged with helping college students integrate into their communities, me as the Associate Director of the Student Union at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Jody as a faculty member at Marquette. Given our backgrounds, it is no surprise that fostering community is a big piece of why we choose to give to UUCW.
Jody: I teach a course called College Student Development Theory, which examines the psychological development of college students. One of the very first theories that my students learn is Involvement Theory by Alexander Astin. The basic premise of the theory is that the more involved a student is in their collegiate experience, the more they get out of it. Astin introduces us to 5 postulates that explain involvement in the following way:



Sarah and David Stokes Giving Stories

Sarah: As we thought about our words for this morning, we were thinking that this is more of a “gratitude story.” We have reflected on all the ways that we are grateful for UUCW: the people and the ideas we share.

David: We both grew up Catholic and drifted away due to so many questions that came up for us. In the early years of our marriage, with both of us working as Audubon naturalists, our “spirituality” or “religion” was just being in nature. So, you could find us just going out for a nature hike on Sunday mornings.

Sarah: Then, our son was born in 1987. Hmmm, now what do we do? Shouldn’t a child grow up in a church community, learning about values we believe in? We found Unitarian Church North in Mequon, where we were inspired to join, and we were involved there for 20 years. Our kids grew up as UUs and their religious education, including the OWL (Our Whole Lives comprehensive sexuality education) class, was one of the things we were the most grateful for.



Jerry and Pat Kashmerick Giving Stories

My name is Jerry Kashmerick. I do not know much about UU history, but recently I went to some UU church history classes by Religious Education Director, Maria O’Connor, about early Unitarians and Universalists. Both groups believed in a good God that did not eternally punish his children for sins after death. This came from different interpretations of the existing Bible, which was generally frowned upon. Many of these pioneers were oppressed and persecuted and some gave their lives to promote religious interpretation and freedom.

It dawned on me that these courageous people of the past created a special space that exists for us here with this church. Members can have a wide diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs and be accepted here. We can be true to our own philosophy and values. We do not have to conform to various degrees of millennium old dogma and teaching. And we are safe here in this special space.



Betsy Gomoll Giving Story

In a number of my columns in the West Wind this year, I’ve referred to UUCW as my church home. And it really is.

I grew up in Minneapolis and I love it there. But I went to college in Wisconsin and met the man who would become my husband there and as his career grew we lived in Denver and Pittsburgh and finally, 24 years ago, we moved Milwaukee, which is his hometown.

But 16 years ago, I became a divorced mother of 2 children ages 10 & 12 and I realized I needed a community so I became a member of this church.

While my kids were growing up and going to school, I kept saying that some day I’ll move back to my hometown of Minneapolis – my extended family is there, my daughter now lives there, and I still love the city. But what I realized a few years ago is that, more than anything, what keeps me in Milwaukee is my church family. I love my peeps!



Karen Engelking Giving Story

As a Catholic child, I studied the life of St. Francis of Assisi because he was my patron saint, meaning, I was born on his Feast Day and therefore, according to the church, he was a saint of great significance to me and my spiritual life. St. Francis is associated with giving. The words “As you give so shall you receive” are deeply profound and the basis of what’s commonly called the Peace Prayer. Part of this prayer, attributed incorrectly to St. Francis, says:

Grant that I may not so much seek to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive.

My earliest memory of giving was donating my pennies in the poor box in the wall in the back of the church. The nuns and priests always reminded us of the poor children in China who benefitted from our generosity.


Eric Hoaglund Giving Story

My name is Eric Hoaglund and I have been a member here for almost five years. I am married, but my wife, Susan, has not made the leap to UUCW (yet). We have two kids who are in college, so we are now empty nesters. I am enjoying getting to know people here. I give myself the same advice I give my kids at college—if you want to connect with people, you have to become active in opportunities that interest you and then reach out to people. You won’t really get to know people by just showing up for class (or in our case, Sunday services).

I am a quiet, “behind the scenes” kind of guy, so if you have not gotten to know me through the Tap Roots discussion group, the Nicaragua Brigade in 2012, serving at Guest House, or through the Wellspring Program, you might not know me! I also work full-time (and then some) at my job as a lawyer for a national senior housing company; that, plus my obligations to my family, takes the bulk of my time and energy. But even though the time I have for UUCW is limited, I try to make the most of it and I hope to continue to get to know more of you over the months and years to come.




Genevieve Daniels Giving Story

Hello, my name is Genevieve Daniels and my 3 children and I have been members of UUCW since January 2013.

Over these last several weeks leading up to the annual pledge drive, I’ve spent a lot of time better understanding the financial aspects of what it takes to support our church. I am humbled by how naïve I was regarding the financial pledges required to sustain all we have here, but it makes sense to me, when I look back at my childhood experience.

Every Sunday morning, when I was a little girl, my dad would call me and my siblings to the kitchen table. We all had our dedicated spots and he would set four quarters in front of each of us. This was our weekly allowance, which we earned for daily clean up duties and Saturday chores. Every Sunday morning, when I was a little girl, my dad would call me and my siblings to the kitchen table. We all had our dedicated spots and he would set four quarters in front of each of us. This was our weekly allowance, which we earned for daily clean up duties and Saturday chores.



Kathy Schwei Giving Story

My name is Kathy Schwei, and I have been a member of UUCW since 2009. And even though I am a shy, private person, I’d like to tell you why I give generously to support our church. I give because UUCW has touched my life. I am a mom to three great adult kids, and I am here today because of my youngest, David. David is a very quirky, very sensitive guy, and he is also gay. He told me he was gay his first year in college, and a short time after he told me, he said, "I don't need a church right now, but I would just like to know that there is a church out there somewhere where I could fit in and belong." I replied "Don't worry, I will find you that church."

Somehow David knew that the church of his childhood, even though he liked wearing the vestments and lighting the candles, was not the church where he would be accepted. .



Erich Zuern Giving Story

What is the connection between coming to church and doing your laundry? I’ll ask that you put that on the AGITATE cycle in your head for a while…and we’ll come back to that.

Good morning. I’m Erich Zuern, a member of this church since about 1993, and in honor of our upcoming Pledge Drive, I’m here to tell you about why I support UU Church West.

Every year at this time, we ask all of the members and friends of our church to pledge their financial commitment for the upcoming fiscal year. The Pledge Drive allows us to build a budget and plan for next year’s programming, staffing and building expenses, but it also gives all of us an opportunity to consider how much UUCW means in our lives. This year’s Pledge Drive begins on March 1st, so over the next few Sundays you’ll be hearing from some members like me who will come before you to reflect on the many ways we value this open-hearted, inspiring, justice-seeking, religious community.



Deb Ruesch Giving Story

My name is Deb Ruesch and this is my giving story. I give because I believe in being a steward of the things in life that are life sustaining. Our church is that and more! Giving here creates a space that has the power to open doors to life changing opportunities. I also give because I believe in the power of you -- and the power of me. Here, when we come together in worship, service or fellowship there are vast possibilities for magic to happen. I don’t mean that literally but more in the sense that here, we get to give from the heart and create powerful change.




Donna Paulsen Giving Story

Hi, I am Donna Paulsen. I grew up in a strongly connected community that revolved around my church. My church community was my extended family. From singing in the choir, to summer camp, softball games and the annual picnic, my life was intertwined with church activities and the church members who were our closest friends. I felt safe and loved within my church community. My spirituality was born sitting around a church camp fire singing “If I Had a Hammer,” with all the soul and conviction my 10-year old self could muster.


Johanna Larson and Nick Meli Giving Story

Hi, we are Johanna Larson and Nick Meli, and we have been members at UUCW since 2011.

By now most of you have heard several different perspectives on the question “Why do we give to UUCW?”  There have probably been plenty of jokes like this, but we feel we would be remiss if “free food” and “lots and LOTS of coffee” were not at the top of our list, especially after last night’s Pledge Drive Cabaret…  

As young homeowners, we can appreciate the costs of building upkeep.  Can you imagine keeping your home clean and in working order after a hundred people visit each week?  Or paying for the heating and cooling bills of a building this size?

UUCW is many things to many people – school, library, sanctuary, art gallery, coffee shop, concert hall, gathering place, babysitter, office, playground, social club, softball team, group therapy, movie house, wedding venue, spiritual refuge…

We could go on.  That is why we volunteered to share our giving story with you today.



Lee Huempfner Giving Story

There’s no place like home. I want to tell you a little about my own journey to this home. If someone had told me 13 years ago when I first stepped foot in this building that I would be standing here tonight as president of the congregation giving this speech I would have told them they were crazy. If someone had told me that I would get up in front of you and sing I would have said I was crazy. Yet here we are.

My earliest memories about UUCW are about music. If you come to my other home a few miles from here, you will often hear jazz playing. So imagine my first time attending a service here. I envisioned slipping into the back of the sanctuary just to see what a service was like. That plan was blown when I walked through the solid wood doors to find someone thrusting a hand at me: Welcome. Are you visiting us?” So, after a stop at the visitor’s table, I went into the sanctuary and tried to regain my composure.

Imagine my surprise when all the music at that service was by Duke Ellington. Wow, this might just might be the place for me. The second service, though, was even more memorable.



Giving Story – Scott Shulick and Lisa Becker

Delivered to the congregation February 23, 2014

See their Giving Story on Youtube
[Lisa] So Scott, Why do you suppose Suzelle asked us to talk today about why we give to UUCW?
[Scott] I don’t know, Lisa.  I guess that would’ve been a good question to ask her, you know, before now.  Maybe she asked us because we’re relatively new members to the church?
[Lisa] I know.  Exactly.  We only just started coming here a year and half ago, so it’s not like we can talk about our years of experience with UUCW.  And we’ve only been UUs for one year.  Before joining UUCW, we were just lapsed Catholics.



Amy Taivalkoski

My name is Amy Taivalkoski and I have been a member of UUCW for around 15 years. My husband and I moved here from New Hampshire about 20 years ago. The Midwest was very new to me. People were so “nice”, even driving. My dry east coast sense of humor seemed to baffle my neighbors. Then I came to UUCW. Right away I felt at home.

Through my work with Earth Ministry, and more recently through working with Common Ground and the Green Initiative, I have found that UUCW is like a treasure trove of really smart people with lots of experience and everyone is more than willing to share their gifts. So the church really is its people – as Suzelle says on Sundays. That is why I feel it is important to support this community and make sure it is here for people who are looking for what we have to offer.



Kal and Lisa Larson

(Lisa) Hello! Kal and I have been members of UUCW since 2008. We're on our 7th year now... Kwin, our oldest son who's a freshman in college was just a 7th grader and Kenn our youngest who's now a junior at Brookfield East was in 5th grade.

(Kal) We came from a Lutheran Church down the road where hypocrisy hung heavy in the air. We were in search of a place that would let our boys ask questions about their beliefs and have a healthy discussion about those questions... In addition, we also wanted a place that accepted people for who they are.

(Lisa) We had been looking around and I had my sister who was a UU in Mukwonago send us a link to the UUCW website. The first time we came here there was a joyous announcement of a gay marriage, we knew this place had potential!




The Spirituality of Our Family is Nourished - March 3, 2013

I Give Because UUCW Challenges Me - February 24, 2013

We Are the Church – How Can I Not Share? - February 10, 2013

UUCW is a Treasure - February 3, 2013


Come As You Are - March 25, 2012

Open Doors, Welcoming Presence - March 18, 2012

Pay It Forward - March 11, 2012

A Profound Effect on Our Family - March 4, 2012

We Celebrate UUCW - February 26, 2012


Spiritual Air - March 13, 2011

I Came for My Daughters...I Stay for Myself - March 6, 2011

Why Do We Give? - February 27, 2011




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