Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Viola Rembert, executive director of HeartLove Place
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Covid-19 pandemic has left a lot of families in need of essentials such as food, clothes and cleaning supplies, but there’s also a need for emotional support. Milwaukee’s HeartLove Place has found a way to feed peoples’ bodies and spirits.
“How you doing, darling,” Executive Director Viola Rembert asks, as a car pulls up in the parking lot of the YWCA on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
As cars roll through the parking lot, a team of helping hands quickly get to work.
“We don't want them to get broken, so I'm just going to put them right there,” a woman said, carefully placing a carton of eggs in the car.
They’re busy passing groceries, diapers, clothes and cleaning supplies in through car windows and doors. Each item is loaded with love.
“I'm giving you an air hug,” Rembert said, arms wide.
The cars are pulling in for HeartLove Place’s monthly Love Offering.
“This is a safe place for you to cry if you want to cry, for you to laugh, for you to be angry because you're mad at whatever,” Rembert said.
It’s on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the brightly packed bags usually go fast. The team at HeartLove Place packs 50 bags of food the day before the event. They have things like oatmeal, peanut butter and juice.
But there are also backpacks filled with baby clothes and books for kids. They also provide cleaning supplies. Attention and care is given to each bag—right down to the loaf of bread placed carefully on top, so it doesn’t get crushed.
“Hello! Are you here for a Love Offering?” Rembert greeted another car.
Rembert is at the heart of the event.
“Why are you crying?” she asked one woman in her car. “It's been hard days? Well, that's why we're here.”
The Love Offering is a way to give those in need the necessities, and much more.
“For me, personally, what I see is that people need hope,” Rembert said. “More than anything. Because if you have hope, then you can believe that you're going to achieve whatever it is that you want.”
With every bag of groceries, Rembert also gives families information on all the programs available at HeartLove Place.
“We are a resource for families. So we provide job training, youth and teen programs, parenting programs,” she explained.
Rembert isn’t afraid to hand out some tough love when she sees the need, too.
“Jerrell-- why you causing mama problems,” she asked a teenager sitting in his mom’s backseat. “You think it's more fun out in the street?”
After the family leaves, she makes a note to check up with them soon.
HeartLove Place came up with the idea for their Love Offerings during the pandemic last summer. Word spread quickly on social media.
“You know, what about giving out some love with the food, some prayer with the food, some diapers with the food,” explained program coordinator, Latisha Gyden.
Gyden has seen a lot of reaction to their efforts in the last 10 months.
“I don't want to get emotional. It makes me appreciate what I do, because I've been through some of the things the families have been through,” Gyden said.
“You getting all the love today,” Rembert exclaimed, as yet another car pulled forward.
She greets each car by finding out what the family needs beyond food.
“When they pull up and they have a smile, or like I say, even if they're not smiling, you know, we want to pray with them, we want to bring a smile to their face,” Gyden said.
Gyden said that is one of Rembert’s gifts. She’ll sing happy birthday to people or offer a prayer.
“We pray for healing,” she prayed over one family. “We pray for protection.”
Gyden said Rembert leads by example.
“She doesn't be like, y'all go out there and get this done, she be the first one out there getting it done,” she said. “So that's what a leader is and that's what I see in Miss Viola.”
Rembert is nourishing body and soul, one car at a time.
“We want people to be at ease,” Rembert said. “And to know whatever you're going through, you're going to get through it, and that we're here to help.”
You can find out more information about HeartLove Place at https://heartloveplace.org/.
And if you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at [email protected].