A day in the life of Andre Pirtle can include delivering water to Milwaukee’s homeless, leading youth groups at Immanuel Church in Brookfield where he's a pastor, and working with the outreach group StreetLife late into the evening.
Not yet 30, Pirtle has dedicated his life to serving Milwaukee’s communities and lifting people out of the pressures that he once faced himself. Pirtle's work is featured in a profile written by Zach Brooke in August's Milwaukee Magazine.
"I think we all see problems. Sometimes we walk over them and sometimes we just ... work on them. And I’m just a person who wants to work on a few issues that I see, " says Pirtle. "So, I’m not special at all. The people around me are special."
For Pirtle, his first experience working with and being responsible for others was as a YMCA camp counselor as a teenager. He admits that he never thought that experience would have led him to his calling today.
"If I didn't have someone there every day, my life would've been dramatically different," says Pirtle. "And I want to be that — I want to be consistent in people's lives, I want to be consistent in the work I do. And if I'm just being honest about it, I believe in a higher power. I believe that what we do on Earth in some way, shape, or form ... I believe that we answer for these things."
"I think it's different when people believe in you," he adds. "I had a group of people who believed in me and I think that sparked all of this."
It was also through YMCA that Pirtle met his mentor Max Ramsey, also a pastor pastor at Immanuel Church. Pirtle's role through Immanuel can range from leading discussions between congregations to leading a youth group called ReignStorm.
Whether it’s as a social worker, a pastor, life coach, motivational speaker or at times a first responder, Pirtle says it all comes down to connecting with someone through conversation.
"We're working with a person, we're living life together. And the relationship aspect, if you lose that everything falls by the wayside," he says.
Working with populations ranging from transient populations to mentoring kids teaches a lot of valuable lessons, according to Pirtle. He wishes that people wouldn't assume people who are living in poverty, homeless, or mentally ill are "lazy." Pirtle has seen and experienced first-hand the effects of families being broken down for generations, and he says everyone needs help in their lives.
"Mental health needs to be spoken about," Pirtle says. "It's a taboo right now and it doesn't have to be."
The work Pirtle does throughout the greater Milwaukee area can be long, arduous, and at times dangerous. But he says he's learned how to let others help and invest in him when things get to be too overwhelming.
"I didn't know how to do that at first," admits Pirtle. "I knew how to give, but it took me years to realize I need to receive."
Ultimately, he says, "it's not about the hours you put in, it's about what do you in those hours."