In August, Mr. Bob’s Under the Bridge hired the first-ever Co-Executive Directors of the organization, Dave Poethke and Les Feiler. As Co-Executive Directors, this incredible husband-and-wife duo is committed to helping the organization continue to grow and flourish within the community.
Dave and Les first moved to Cedarburg, WI in the summer of 1984, when they were looking for a place near the Milwaukee area to live after Dave started his career as a chiropractor. Over the following decades they worked together running Dave’s chiropractic business in Milwaukee. They first met Bob and Sue Burmeister in 2001, when they became members of Advent Lutheran Church in Cedarburg, WI. Around ten years ago, Dave and Les started volunteering with Mr. Bob’s when Bob and Sue asked them to pick up clothing donations from Family Sharing and bring them to Thursday night sortings at Advent Lutheran Church. Then, in 2020, Bob asked Dave to become one of the regular truck drivers on Saturday mornings and he graciously stepped up to the task with Les riding shotgun each week.
From their days of volunteering, Dave and Les have brought compassion, generosity, and energy to Mr. Bob’s. As dedicated volunteers, they have gone above and beyond to ensure that all friends of Mr. Bob’s receive the help and the love that they need. They better their community each and every day through their passion and kindness, and Mr. Bob’s Under the Bridge is incredibly excited to have them leading this new chapter of the organization.
Learn more about the amazing Co-Executive Directors below:
What was your first volunteering experience with Mr. Bob’s like?
Les: I had no idea what to expect when we first started to drive truck. The idea of “homelessness” was just that…an idea. To see the need, face to face, to put a name to the friends we met and to understand, even to a small degree, their life experiences, was and continues to be a most heart bending experience. I’m aware deep down that I may not be able to change one single thing about a friend’s lifestyle choice, or past trauma or loss, but for that hour and a half in the park, I will do my best to try to make our friends’ day a little better. To me, this means seeing a sudden smile from someone who just received a fluffy pillow wrapped in a bright, clean pillowcase, or surprising a friend with my limited knowledge by using the correct word for blanket in their language, or having backpacks for everyone who asks. The most simple of things, and yet, sometimes the most important.
Dave: The first Saturday I visited Kosciuszko Park, I was overwhelmed by the number of people and the needs they had, but I was also surprised by how welcomed I felt as a newcomer. As Bob always says, we are there to make sure that our friends know we care for them, we love them, and we see them. Interacting on a very personal level is the most important aspect of being at the park. Listening to every person’s story and responding in any way we can, is the way that we can help our friends on a week-to-week basis.
What does the role of Executive Director mean to you?
Les: This is a new position for the Mr. Bob’s organization, and one that is being developed as we and the Executive Board move forward. The Board asked both my husband and myself to consider a co- executive director position, and since we have worked together all of our married lives, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to continue to participate in something that we both believe in. We recognize the skills each other is able to provide to the position and will work together to accomplish what the Board is looking for from us. The Board’s expectations revolve around being able to focus on the future, using us to help implement new ideas, and deal with the day to day activities.
Dave: I see our role as executive directors as facilitators, executing the ideas that our board of directors and volunteers bring to us. This organization and others like it, rely on volunteers to accomplish their goals. Most volunteers have their jobs, their families and other regular commitments that require their attention when not helping at Bob’s. Our responsibility is to support the concepts that others bring to us. Another important aspect of this position is to continue to explore all avenues of fundraising. The issues and needs facing our friends will likely never disappear and supporting these needs requires our organization to purchase many of the items we distribute at the park. Again, this is a time intensive activity, and we will be able to devote our attention to this
What advice would you give to someone who is volunteering with Mr. Bob’s for the first time?
Les: Keep an open heart, and an open mind. Most of us in the position of being able to help, have never been on the receiving end of that help. We’ve never lived the life of want, loss, hurt, to the extent that our friends in the park experience. Whether you donate items that our friends need, or are a volunteer at the warehouse helping to organize our donations, or come to the park to assist with our distributions, keep in mind that every little kindness makes a difference. Be realistic. There will always be someone in the world who just makes life difficult for those around them. People struggle, people get upset, people believe they’ve been wronged. We all have our days. Try to be patient, try to listen, try to “see” our friends. Do your best, in whatever that means.
Dave: Be prepared to get to really know our friends. Make sure to look them in the eye and ask how they are doing. Provide what you can from the items we bring and offer to explore how to acquire something we may not have that day. Hopefully these interactions touch your heart, and you can’t wait to return. The more a person volunteers, the more comfortable they become with our friends and the more comfortable our friends become with them.