“Al is hard to describe — he is kind, caring and always trying to help,” said Anne Gliniecki, a senior citizen and resident of Thurston Woods. “If there were more people like him, the world would be a better place.”
Luzi, the director of development at Agape, 6100 N, 42nd St., started working at the agency in 2005. He coordinates after-school and senior programs, community meals and fundraising. Although Luzi has been involved with numerous neighborhood development projects, his biggest impact has come through the meal program, which provides about 23,000 meals to 14,000 people each year.
Like in the TV show “Pawn Stars,” Luzi said, “You just never know who or what is going to come through that door. The same thing is true of a community center.”
When colleagues step through the door of Luzi’s office, the first thing they see are walls covered with Boston sports paraphernalia. While his appreciation for all things Massachusetts is evident, as a teenager Luzi wanted to get as far from his hometown of Springfield, Mass., as possible. He never expected, though, to end up in Milwaukee.
Luzi found his way to Wisconsin through Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in urban affairs and sociology, found his passion for community work during an internship at a municipal office focusing on citizen complaints and met his wife, Mary Kay.
“I think that office gave me a sense of wanting to approach these problems within the system,” Luzi said. “I can tell you that a number of years ago I had not planned to follow this public interest path, but I did and this is where I ended up.”
Katina Davis-Allen, the kitchen manager of the meal program, has worked closely with Luzi for the last three years. She jokingly described doing so as a “mess,” but also a pleasure.
“He brings a home-like attitude to work every day,” Davis-Allen said. “He is real giving and caring.” Luzi often helps in the kitchen and greets every guest by name.
Gliniecki frequently attends community dinners held three times a week at Agape. “The meal programs are tremendous,” she said. “They help you get to know different people, as well as different cultures.”
Thurston Woods is “a neighborhood of the working poor,” Luzi said. He is motivated by seeing people standing on bus stops sending their kids off to school, making sure they receive a proper education.
“While you think that this is a very simple thing, it takes a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of coordination,” he said.
Luzi said that his job isn’t just to feed people, but to inspire them. “There’s a very strong sense of hope that exists within the community,” he said. “And we’ve looked at our role as being those purveyors of hope.”
There’s still plenty of work to be done. “Our short-term goal is lunch,” he said. “Our long-term goal is dinner — and we’ll do it again tomorrow.”