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Never Miss a Chance to Do the Most Good

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What is your story? How did you end up in Milwaukee?Ian Abston

I was born in West Allis, Wisconsin. When my Mom re-married at the age of 6, we ventured out to the Lake Country area. I was a gymnast for most of my childhood until I moved and discovered the likes of basketball, football and street hockey (I only had male neighbors). I kept up with basketball, playing on numerous traveling teams during grade school until I started playing and attending Arrowhead High School. I graduated in 2005 from AHS then attended University-Wisconsin La Crosse for a year, when I realized I was a "big city" girl. I transferred to University-Wisconsin Milwaukee my sophomore year and graduated with a degree in Communication in 2009. I started working for the Milwaukee Bucks right out of college as a summer sales associate turned guest ambassador and in-game concierge. I made the decision to move to Scottsdale, Arizona in my second year with the Bucks simply because I was curious if there was something out there for me besides Milwaukee. As soon as I moved, I became an area manager for Grimaldi's Restaurant (I heard they were coming to the Corners of Brookfield, first ever in the Midwest) in North Scottsdale and although I love Arizona, a voice calling from Summerfest (aka Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.) brought me right back to Milwaukee a year later. I had the opportunity of a lifetime working in that industry with some extremely talented people for about two years. When my time there ended, I started with my current company of three years, Quarles & Brady LLP. I couldn't be happier being at this company and back in Milwaukee, near my family.

What keeps you in Milwaukee/What do you like best about Milwaukee?

What keeps me in Milwaukee is the fact that it has a big city feel, but everyone knows each other like a small town. You never feel "alone" in Milwaukee. It also helps that my family is only 10-20 minutes away. For me, the best thing about Milwaukee is our summers. The feeling that I get when I see 100x people outside on the first nice day of spring, even if it's only 45degrees out gives me goosebumps. You literally see the city coming alive, back from hibernation. I love the festivals, the Saturday morning farmers markets, Jazz in the Park, Newaukee Night Markets/Rooftop Series and the fact that we live off a HUGE body of water that comes with no shortage of beaches (Bradford, South Shore, and Doctors Park). I do not think people realize how lucky we are to have that feature. A large body of water is not something I could get when I lived in Arizona. On a side note: I love the fact I always know what direction I am going in because I know Lake Michigan is my "East" point.

Favorite spot in the city?

Cathedral Square. I love Cathedral Square whether it's in the winter all lit up with lights or during the summer holding farmers markets, Bastille Days or Jazz in the Park. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Elsa's.

Milwaukee festival you are eager to attend each year?

I am eager to attend any street festival each year, i.e. Brady Street Festival and Summer Solstice on North Avenue. I think those festivals bring out an amazing diverse group of people. A lot of my friends from the suburbs even come out for Milwaukee summer street action (namely the dodgeball).

What drew you to Echelon?

What drew me to Echelon is the fact this young professional group helps in all aspects of trying to get someone back on their feet, whether that is clothing, food, shelter and even counseling. I like to see things start to finish and that is not always possible (and it still may not be, but it isn’t a one off). As I became more active with some of the members, I realized that this was really a group of "do-ers" and I am a "do-er". There are a lot of organizations in Milwaukee where you can write checks and attend a function to be part of the group, but I appreciate that this organization is proactive, not just reactive.

Share with us a memorable experience you have had thus far with the organization.

It would have to be the most recent event, Unmask Homelessness: A Masquerade Gala, which has been the most memorable. I got to hear amazing stories of real people Echelon has helped. The performance was outstanding and I was surrounded by amazing friends and a group of young professionals really trying to make a difference but getting those stories out in the open.

What struggles do you see our city dealing with? What can our generation do to help?

I see Milwaukee dealing with a lot generational changes. From my vantage point, I do not see the same commitment to help others, volunteer or be proactive/productive on a diverse range of issues. I feel like our youth needs a bit more structure and it is our generation that needs to step up and show them "this is how it's done, this is how Milwaukee thrives." Milwaukee is one of the poorest cities in the United States and has a child poverty rate of 43%. That is just unacceptable. Our generation needs to get out there and show them the power of a large group who wants to see a city succeed.