CommonGround Ministry, Inc. was founded in August 2000 by a team of individuals including a caregiver, social worker and minister who had been working with people affected by HIV/AIDS for several years at the St. Camillus HIV/AIDS Ministry. After St. Camillus closed the Raphael House, their home for people with HIV/AIDS, in January 2000. This group recognized the need in the Milwaukee community for an alternative to institutional care for people living with HIV who were unable to live independently.
In March of 2001, Elena’s House, CGM’s transitional and end of life home for people living with HIV/AIDS opened. Since opening in 2001, Elena’s House has been home to many individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Most of our residents have moved back to independence in the community, some have died with us surrounded by people who loved and cared for them. We have been privileged to be a part of their remarkable stories.
Elena was one of the original residents of the Raphael House. She was a daughter, a sister, a nurse and a friend to many. Her magnetic smile, outgoing joyful personality, and creative gifts were enthusiastically shared with everyone she met.
Elena became an inspiration to all as we watched her turn her life around. Being diagnosed with AIDS and brain Lymphoma the same day would have sent most people over the edge. But Elena's strength and tenacity for life sent her on a personal journey to discover her inner spirit and make the most of each day.
For the next two years Elena was a uniting force at the Raphael House and on the St. Camillus Campus. Most everyone either knew her or knew of her and everyone she met on a daily basis embraced her positive and energetic spirit. It is truly hard to put into words the joy and light she brought to so many residents and staff on the campus even though she was fighting daily with the reality and severe side effects of her disease.
Elena lost her fight with lymphoma and AIDS on March 14, 2000 two months after St. Camillus closed their AIDS ministry and the Raphael House. During her journey she was surrounded by the love and presence of God. This love was made real through the people who cared for her and those who lived by her side day to day. Her experience is an example of how a person who is struggling with overwhelming problems can live a vital and important life and die with dignity. We believe in the power her spirit kindles. And in memory of that WONDERFUL SPIRIT we created Elena's House in her name.
Board of Directors
CommonGround Ministry, Inc. 2017 Board of Directors
President - William W. ZiechePastor Bill is a retired Presbyterian minister who has served a wide variety of churches over a 30 year period. He has been a Pastor, an associate minister, a church developer, and a leader of youth and Christian Education. Along with Mary Ellen and Eric, he was instrumental in beginning Elena’s House, and ministered to his parishioner Elena Kuenzi during her battle with AIDS. The house bears Elena’s name, and the genesis of the House came at her funeral. He is married to Sue, lives in Hartland and has 4 children and 9 grandchildren. He has been President of the Elena’s House board from the beginning.
Treasurer - Bruce PietrantonioMr. Bruce Pietrantonio, CPA
BPA & Associates Accounting Firm
Secretary - Susan ZiecheSue Zieche brings energy and love to her work at Elena’s House. She has been the board secretary from the beginning. Sue comes to the House from a background in business. She has worked as a home decorator, co-owning a store in Pewaukee. She has been a marketing consultant for Froedert Hospital, and the “executive concierge” for her children who own a printing and marketing business. Sue is married to Bill and lives in Hartland, where she continues to share her biggest passion… being a mom and grandmother.
Board Member - Eric GravenkampEric Gravenkamp has served on Elena’s House Board since we opened the home. He had previously worked with St. Camillus HIV/AIDS Ministry and wanted a way to continue serving those living with HIV/AIDS and has done so through Common Ground Ministry and Elena’s House. Eric has worked as a Chaplain and as a Social Worker in Hospice and is currently working as a Support Services Manager for Serenity Hospice in Germantown, WI. Eric finds joy in serving others and is grateful that he’s been able to earn a living serving others. He says being on the Board has been extremely rewarding and a great deal of fun. Eric is married to his wife Kelley of 24 years and has two sons, Jacob 20 and Spencer 19. He will be working a really long time to pay off school for his boys!
Board Member - Mary Ellen HuwilerRetired Executive Director
Board Member - Anne R. DanielsAnne Daniels, PharmD, BCPS, AAHIVP, has served on the Elena’s House Board of Directors since 2014. She received her undergraduate degree from Marquette University, Doctor of Pharmacy from University of Minnesota, and then completed her Pharmacy Practice Residency at Froedtert Hospital in 2002. She has continued to work at Froedtert Hospital in various settings, such as intensive care and internal medicine. But since 2007, she has been the clinical pharmacist in the Froedtert Infectious Diseases Clinic and a member of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Team. She enjoys working with patients on a daily basis to maintain adherence, avoid side effects, navigate health care systems, and coordinate care with team members. Anne is a clinical instructor for the Schools of Pharmacy at Concordia University and Medical College of Wisconsin, and lectures students in the classroom and has them by her side in clinic so that so that the next generation can develop empathy and knowledge to care for patients living with HIV or other infectious diseases. In her spare time, she likes to run, play volleyball, discover new restaurants in Milwaukee, travel, and spend time with her family.
Board Member - Kristy WittExecutive Director
Board Member - Luke KoenigProgram Manager
Dr. Lee Za OngMental Health Advisor
Sarah HuckLegal Advisor
Nanci Rabideau-Fink, R.N.HIV Medical Advisor
Jessica GardnerSocial Services Advisor
Gary FitzgeraldCommunity Advocate