Strength, Hope and Courage

How these local leaders pulled through 2020

By Daniel GaitanKENOSHA.COM

Gaitan is a proud Kenosha native who has covered his local community for much of his professional career. The DePaul University graduate served previously as an award-winning writer for the Kenosha News.

In moments of profound sorrow and stress throughout the year, these men and women found the strength to carry on. Here’s how:

ANTHONY PERRINE, OWNER OF LOU PERRINE’S GAS & GROCERY What helped get you move forward during such a difficult year?

Perrine: You can’t really prepare for a year like 2020. So many things happened back to back that were honestly completely out of business owners’ control.  

I tend to thrive in chaos, so for me this was simple. It’s time to adapt quickly, lead my team, bring value to our community, and simply try to be some sort of light to the community, my family that I love. It wasn’t easy. Sleeping in the gas station during COVID-19. Not going home for seven days during the riots, having to figure out how to keep employees paid while there is a car in the middle of your building. Basically having my whole business on life support.  

But my goal was to show the vital importance that small businesses have to the communities we serve. If I could add some light at a time when it all seemed bleak that’s what I wanted to do. I’m a firm believer that opportunity is everywhere, sometimes it just hides its face in dark and trying times.  

My heart goes out to all my fellow small business owners. Keep fighting, don’t throw in the towel yet, the sun is going to rise brighter than ever. And for those who may have had to close their doors, don’t give up. You still have what it takes to come back stronger than ever. Always remember CEOs like Colonel Sanders, Walt Disney, and many others have lost it all at one point but just kept fighting.

Anthony Perrine
Arnetta Griffin

ARNETTA GRIFFIN, FOUNDER OF GOD’S KITCHEN How did you carry on feeding the community through COVID-19 pandemic?

Griffin: Well, I knew that the need out here had gotten worse for the community. I knew that I couldn’t stop and I knew I couldn’t let fear in. It was the grace of God that is getting me through and protecting me to continue serving those in need safely. How did you get through this summer’s historic unrest?Griffin: It broke my heart to see what happened in our community, where our community was burned down and damaged. But the love that Kenosha has is marvelous. The community just came together in Uptown and downtown to help one another. The community was also feeding the community everyday, and painting, just showing love to one another, even strangers. We are definitely Kenosha strong.

JOHN ANTARAMIAN, MAYOR OF KENOSHA You’ve probably faced the most challenging year of your mayorship? What inspired you to not lose hope?

Antaramian: As everyone knows, we’ve had an unrelenting year with COVID-19, unrest and violence in our community. Besides that, though not spoken of, there has been the recession.

Though we look at these as the main concerns, the individuals hurt by loss of loved ones, and the tearing of the fabric of our community is the most devastating of all. 

What has gotten me through is the strength of our neighbors, their assistance and concern for each other, and their belief that together we can get through the worst and change for the better. That is belief in community. That has kept me going through the difficult times and has convinced me of the resilience of Kenosha. 

Mayor John Antaramian
Charles Leipzig

CHARLES LEIPZIG, KENOSHA FIRE CHIEF What helped you carry on during the historic summer of unrest?

Leipzig: The most important attribute or virtue, if you will, is simply “duty.” I swore to protect the citizens in my current capacity and I do not take this lightly. Other attributes that define any public safety role (as our fire department) is resilience, determination, pride, dedication and courage. 

What kept me moving forward is the desolation I felt when the morning of Aug. 25, 2020 broke and there were multiple buildings still burning and in ruins. That was quickly replaced with determination as I witnessed our crews, and several other fire departments fighting fires for hours and sometimes days without a break in the midst of a hostile environment. This again was replaced by hope when many local and non-local people showed up to offer our crews water bottles, a meal, kind words of encouragement. This was even more evident when work crews showed up to help business owners move belongings, board up windows and paint messages of hope.

I cannot feel sorry for myself or revel in what I feel as a great loss while our crews were rising to an additional challenge of multiple fires and injuries beyond a national pandemic. That is what makes this community great!

EVAN GORR, PUBLIC HEALTH NURSE What helped you get through this year and help fight the COVID-19 pandemic locally?

Gorr: What helped me get through 2020 was my friends and family, it was amazing to have those around me to fall back on when I needed a good laugh or words of encouragement. I was inspired by all of the outpouring of love and support from the community for healthcare workers in general. We work in a profession where we do good for the sake of good, not the attention of others. Also, I am so grateful for all of our frontline workers and their dedication in unprecedented circumstances, they are the true heroes. Knowing that there is someone out there risking it all for others is what keeps me going. We will make it through this, together.

Evan Gorr

AMBER COCHRAN, DONATION ORGANIZER What inspired or motivated you to become one of our community’s leader during a time of need?

Cochran: 2020 has been a challenging year globally due to COVID-19 which impacted employment statuses, businesses of all sizes, and most of all the ability to connect with one another. After the Jacob Blake incident, our small town was faced with a large social issue that brought us national attention and civil unrest. 

As I watched buildings burn during the unrest, I was faced with two choices: To observe and debate on social media, or to use my leadership skills to help our community recover. That is when I decided to create the Recovering Kenosha Facebook group in an effort to receive donations and volunteer assistance to help our town recover. Getting my hands dirty and walking through the streets of Kenosha after the unrest is what helped me get through 2020. It was refreshing to see people in person again, and I was reminded of how amazing the citizens and business owners of our community are.

BRENT TOWLE, FOUNDER OF KENOSHA CARES You helped provide thousands of masks and other personal protective equipment throughout the year, and helped businesses and people in need move forward after this summer’s unrest. How did you stay positive?

Towle: Yes, we are all suffering losses, be it financial, homes, and most of all, the lives of those most dear to us. What do I see? I see folks of all walks of life, economic, political, creed, and race, coming together and not caring where you come from. Simply how can we all help? This is what I will try to hang on to when recalling 2020. 

REGI BACHOCHIN, KENOSHA COUNTY CLERK Your first major election took place during the beginning of the pandemic and your duties continued through civil unrest. Where did you find the strength to get through it each and every day?

Bachochin: Anyone who knows me, knows my love for dogs. I honestly have to say that my dogs get me through a lot of days. They are not aware of the cares and peril of the world outside of their own little world and they are always so happy. I also am lucky to have the support of an awesome man, my fiancé Joe. Even though he was away on a project during all the chaos, he was always encouraging me to keep going. During the Safer At Home order, my son, Max was finishing his master’s degree from UW-Parkside. Besides being a scientist, he is also a talented musician and artist. We spent many evenings sitting on the patio, hanging out with the dogs and he would play his guitar and sing. It was at this time we would talk and reflect upon what was happening around us. 

This helped me to have hope that we can get better both from the pandemic and the social issues we are facing. That what I do is necessary and relied upon by the residents of Kenosha County. That as a member of this community I have a responsibility, not just professionally, but personally.

I am further inspired by the dedication of the municipal clerks in Kenosha County. I have enjoyed the relationships that the clerks and I have developed this year through communication, support and teamwork. It always helps to know that I am not dealing with the unprecedented situations of 2020 alone.