Annette Roberts works in the Network Management department of Aetna in Milwaukee, WI. Outside of the office she chooses to work with underprivileged youth in the Milwaukee community. She does this through a program called God Bless the Kids Spot. Annette says, “Every Wednesday I rush to wrap up my workday in anticipation of spending time with 12-30 young people who attend this weekly central-city program that keeps them off the streets and gives them a safe, loving environment.”
God Bless the Kids Spot is an organization that was started by Annette’s church, Incarnation Lutheran, in order to reach out to both the youth of its congregation as well as the youth in Milwaukee, many of whom have had very difficult personal lives. When Annette first began volunteering she helped out as a cook with two other women on Wednesday nights. Since then, Annette has gone on field trips with the young people; helped tutor them; and most importantly has become a mentor to many of them.
For many of these children, Wednesday night is the highlight of their week. For a number of them, God Bless the Kids Spot provides them with the only hot meal they will eat that week. The environment at the Kids Spot is unlike any they have ever experienced before – they are in a safe environment where people genuinely love them. In fact, this environment is so appealing to the youth of Milwaukee gang members to participate on Wednesday nights and on field trips.
Annette’s passion and dedication to this program have helped her build strong relationships with many of these youth and break down many walls. Through these relationships, Annette has been able to mentor and help them change their lives for the better. In fact, many of the kids have actually begun to call her “ma.” This truly shows how much of a positive impact Annette has on each of these kid’s lives.
One of the most important things that Annette stresses to all of the kids she meets is the value of obtaining an education. She will tell them, “Getting an education is not an option.” Annette often speaks about a 19-year-old man she has been working with for some time now. She said that when she first met him he did not show much interest in schoolwork, and he did not even think he was going to graduate from high school. Now that he has gotten involved with God Bless the Kids Spot, he is getting higher grades and truly wants to graduate from high school. This is just one of many examples of the positive impact the program is having with the youth of Milwaukee. According to Annette, one of the biggest joys she personally receives from working with this program is “being able to see kids get excited about education.”
Another story that Annette was excited to share with her friends at Aetna was that she had the opportunity to take about 50 kids caroling this past Christmas for their first time. They went to the homes of elderly and homebound people they knew in the area and sang Christmas carols to them. Instead of feeling awkward, the children felt a sense of pride and confidence.
Annette has delivered a personal commitment to these kids when many times their own parents have abandoned them. She accepts and loves them just as they are. Through this spirit of service, Annette is not only changing the lives of these young people, she is positively influencing their friends; acquaintances; and, hopefully, those of future generations. Annette is truly providing these children with a beacon of light and hope for the future.