Not Far from Home
“We used to come down here and buy our shoes in one of the stores that was about 10 minutes from here,” Joe Goss said. “So we knew the [Harambee] neighborhood 40, maybe 50 years ago.”
Joe, along with his brothers, Tom and Michael, volunteer every Friday building homes for Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and are known as “Habituals.”
Joe worked as an engineer and was first introduced to Habitat through corporate sponsorship. He then volunteered with Habitat in Atlanta, Detroit, Australia, and now volunteers with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. Joe told his brothers about his volunteer experience and they joined him when they retired. Before retiring, Tom worked as a lawyer, and Michael was a doctor.
“Optimal health is based on good nutrition, exercise, and living in a safe neighborhood,” Michael said. “Growing up in a very safe neighborhood environment, I think the building of these homes are the foundation of optimal health. This is our one small contribution to that.”
The brothers are dedicated to being part of Habitat’s mission of bringing safe, affordable housing to Milwaukee families.
“Milwaukee Habitat has a really strong focus on community, which I think is unique to the Milwaukee program and that’s something special,” Joe said.
Through affordable home ownership and home repair, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is revitalizing neighborhoods on the northwest side. Focusing efforts in target neighborhoods reduces crime, increases property value, and encourages community development.
“The Milwaukee strategy is very effective and very attractive to work for,” Tom said. “The stability it gives to the neighborhoods, to the family. No matter where you are – you all need stability. We all need that.”
Not only are the brothers connected to the mission, they also have fun when volunteering together.
“It’s kind of like going back to being a kid. We commute… I got to get him out of bed and get him in the car and pick up the other one,” Joe said as they all laughed.
They have fun ragging on each other but also have fun with hands-on experience.
“The idea that doing things like this, you have boots on the ground. That’s very attractive I think,” Tom said.
After 40 years of living separate lives, the three brothers came together in retirement and dedicated their Fridays to building homes for local Milwaukee families. They acknowledge that they grew up blessed and want to give that back to the community. Now, they are doing that close to home. They are bringing safe, affordable housing to a neighborhood they have known since they were kids.