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

I’ve been in Milwaukee my whole life – I was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and then attended UWM for school. I thought about pursuing options outside of the city after graduation but fell in love with the community – now it’s safe to say we’ll be here for a very long time!

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

To me, Milwaukee is the perfect balance of “big city feel” and “small town charm” – I have all the amenities I want when it comes to dining, sports, and the arts - yet I don’t feel overwhelmed or disconnected from the community like I would imagine others can in the large metro areas like NYC or LA. I also love that I can live in Brookfield and be downtown in 15 minutes or drive 15 minutes the other direction and be on lake in the summer!

Favorite spot in the city?

This is a tough one, lots of good options. It’s tough not to enjoy any place on the lakefront during the summer months. I always enjoy getting a cup of coffee and a bagel at Collectivo on the Lake in the mornings. The rooftop at the Kimpton is also pretty high on my list.

Milwaukee festival you are eager to attend each year?

Summerfest, hands down. My wife and I are huge music fans, and are always sure to be at Summerfest a few nights each year. I love that we can go for our favorite band and then discover someone different we haven’t heard before.

What drew you to Echelon?

I’ve been involved in many different types of organizations, from social to service, and was really looking to get involved with something that was making a more direct impact on our community. Echelon is that something, and I have been impressed with the outcomes the group has achieved thus far. It’s also a great fit because it ties my eagerness to serve our community with my faith, and it’s great to be able to enrich both hand in hand. The passion that each member has for our ultimate goal of ending homelessness in Milwaukee is unmatched by any other organization I’ve been a part of, and it’s inspiring to be surrounded by some pretty great people.

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

Probably the most memorable experience I’ve had thus far was when I participated in setting up our Five Star Dining Experience. The night before the event, we worked hard to get everything set up, decorated, and ready to go and it was so powerful to see how excited the residents were to enjoy this unique event the following day. Everyone was stopping by to get a sneak peak and you could just see the excitement on their faces. I love that we did this event because it did so much more for people than simply provide them a nice meal and polite treatment – it gave them the dignity they deserve that so often society fails to provide for them. It’s amazing how far a little kindness and equal treatment of people can go to change someone’s perspective on their reality.

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

There are several struggles our city is dealing with, and candidly many cities across the world are dealing with. Specifically, I see Milwaukee continuing to struggle with segregation and education. There is no one solution to either of these issues, and certainly there are different ideas of how to tackle them – but what I believe our generation can do to help is to start changing the conversation. Historically, we have seen our previous generations exhibit an “us vs. them” mentality – we need to be the generation that champions inclusiveness and embraces diversity, both culturally and in thought leadership. As leadership throughout the private and public sector changes over, it is my hope that the next generation of leaders embraces these ideals and uses the power of thoughtful, open conversation to drive positive change in our city.