Cheers to Volunteers

By - Aug 6th, 2010 04:00 am
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Mike Brenner is a man who likes to solve problems.

Whether it’s the fact that there are too many people at Blockbuster on a Friday night or the harsh truth that one in five relationships start online, Brenner is working on the solution.

The answer is  Cheers to Volunteers , an organization that brings individuals together to volunteer at local nonprofits. Afterward, the group gets to enjoy a Brenner Brewing Company beer together at a select Milwaukee bar.

“The idea is that there’s beer so people will actually show,” Brenner said.

The first volunteer opportunity will be August 7, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, where the group will be planting and preparing for the fall season. Afterward, volunteers will head to Best Place tavern to debrief and about their experience and socialize.

“Too often people will volunteer and meet amazing people, but then never see them again,” Brenner said. “I want to change that.”

Growing up in Milwaukee, Brenner knows the huge drinking culture in the city is no secret. More recently, he realized that a good brew or two could be a positive incentive to impact the community.

“Often times young people want to volunteer and find a way to help Milwaukee, but they don’t know how,” Brenner said.

Brenner says he’s always wanted to make Milwaukee a better place and he wanted to find a way to give people what they want at the same time – beer.
Although Brenner brews his own beer at home and has provided for events in Milwaukee like Gallery Night, he wanted to try using his brewing craft to help out a different kind of cause.

“The Nature Center has an ecological theme and it’s a good way for people to be outside and active,” Brenner said. “It’s such a unique and beautiful place.”

Mike Brenner

Brenner is no stranger to community involvement. As a graduate of MIAD, a founding member of MARN, and the owner of the former Hotcakes Gallery in Riverwest, connecting people is just sort of his thing. If you visit his website, you’ll find that he’s also a writer, musician, maverick and bridge burner.

All of these things have culminated into a guy that just really wants to inspire some productivity into the people of Milwaukee.

“The more I can make volunteerism a part of the community, the better,” Brenner said. “In Milwaukee, anything goes.”

It’s obvious that Brenner’s jack-of-all-trades persona has seeped into his entrepreneurial vision for the project. Cheers to Volunteers will benefit multiple parts of the community – nonprofits, local taverns – and if anything else, the very relationships that create the heart of Milwaukee.

Although Brenner is moving to Chicago in the fall, he still hopes to come home on the weekends and continue Cheers to Volunteers. That is until he’s off to Munich to study the craft of brewing beer.

At the end of the day, Brenner is a guy who just wants to put an end to Match.com commercials and make a difference in his neighborhood.

“It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s for the community,” Brenner said. “I’m not asking for much.”

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