Animated April finds dream work
Reflecting on her career, April Struebing can barely contain her smile. The '96 theatre grad works at a dream job, near a dream town with a big-time production company aptly named "DreamWorks."
Yes, that DreamWorks. Home of blockbusters Shrek, Sharktale, Madagascar and the recently released Over the Hedge.
In theaters in late May, Over the Hedge follows a mischievous raccoon and his buddy turtle along with other creatures, who negotiate encroaching suburbia.
Struebing, recently promoted to production supervisor, put the finishing touches on the final production — think "wind in fur" or "clothes on the humans."
She has also received her Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) card for voice work in the film. The union membership allows her to work as an actor if the opportunity presents.
"DreamWorks is the most creative, aspiring atmosphere you could imagine, totally what you would think," she said. "My boss and others are really great role models, inspirational and successful. I feel very fortunate to work with a company that promotes creativity and encourages moving up from within. It's everything I could hope for."
UW-Green Bay coursework for prepping her for a career path that, at the
time, was just beginning to take off (DreamWorks' Prince of Egypt
and Antz were among the top five releases purchased in 1999).
"Many people I work with in production management have a background in theatre," she said. "All those classes — Art Appreciation, Lighting and Stage Management, Acting — they all helped create such a good base."
After graduating from college and working for a local production company that folded, she was faced with a crossroads. The Brillion native told her father, "I'm moving west." When he asked if that meant Madison, she responded, "No, Hollywood." Concerned at the time, but ever proud, he even escorted her to a Hedge screening and wrap-up party in April.
Green Bay friends who had lost track of Bruckner found him last fall by way of the national media. ESPN The Magazine dedicated 10 pages to Bruckner's crusade to help the homeless in his new hometown of Philadelphia, and his absolute obsession in solving the mysterious murder of an unidentified street person.
Bruckner, a former midfielder for the Phoenix men's soccer team, has just completed his second year as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Kixx of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
The bigger story is that he dedicates countless hours and his own finances to the homeless. For his work he was named the MISL's 2004 Humanitarian of the Year.
He is quick to ask
that his story not be characterized as just a humanitarian effort, "a
good guy thing," but something deeper.
The outward result of his conversion is the homeless ministry, but the story of the murder is what put the ministry, and Bruckner, in the spotlight.
The brutal beating death of the middle-age woman offered few clues, not even a positive ID. The victim matched no missing-person reports. Philly police assumed she had been homeless, a transient.
Bruckner, though, had a hunch the answer could be found on the streets, by those who must have known the woman, by those who trusted him — the homeless he had come to regard as brothers, sisters and friends.
He asked around and revisited previous contacts. In the shadows of the city, those drifting on the street disappear and reappear even to those who see them, but Bruckner managed to establish that a woman known only as "Angie" was, in fact, truly missing.
Investigating independently, Bruckner discovered that Angie, perhaps enjoying rare good fortune, had taken a small room. Upon finding the apartment and a few clues, and with the help of a detective and dental records, he helped confirm that the woman murdered was indeed Josephine Angelo, known by her friends as "Angie."
He also discovered that his favorite homeless guy, "Red Colt," was an acquaintance of Angie's, and might be able to lead both Bruckner and police to Angie's murderer. Colt was nowhere to be found.
Bruckner made a bit of self-discovery in the process. Colt, he learned, suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, a condition Bruckner had long recognized (but not labeled) in himself.
Because of Bruckner's experience with the disorder, he knew Colt wouldn't stray far from his old habits. (There is tremendous security in routine for those afflicted). Meanwhile, Bruckner's own obsession with the case helped detectives locate Colt and the overwhelming evidence that revealed him as Angie's murderer. Despite the disappointment in Colt, Bruckner never wavered from his faith, love, or trust in people on the streets.
Bruckner eventually began an outreach to Colt, making jailhouse visits to the man who long suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Bruckner now focuses his passion and faith through a non-profit outreach program, "Restart," run through the South Jersey Youth Alliance, with 100 percent of the donations going to helping the homeless restart their lives. It includes a weekly meal and assistance in obtaining proper identification such as state IDs, birth certificates and social security cards.
Providing the long answer to the short question his homeless friends hear everyday — "Why don't you just get a job?" — Bruckner responds, "There are many good men who want to work but cannot. Without a proper ID you can't get a job or cash a work check. You need money to pay for an ID or driver's license. It's a vicious circle. I show guys how to get their ID and then pay for it (checks written directly to the agencies). Thousands have come to get IDs and driver's licenses and some of them get off the streets."
The outreach, still in its infancy, is "incredible but stretching," says Bruckner, who spends most of his personal resources on the cause.
"I am spending much more than I make, but men and women are getting jobs and some lives are changing," he insists. "I've raised much less than I spend, but I know that God will always provide a way."
Those who knew him at UW-Green Bay will probably be surprised by his strong faith and his new outlook.
"I was a good teammate...but I had some rotten things about me...I don't know if it is as obvious from the outside, but there is no question I went from dark to light in many ways."
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