I’m immediately interested in the event called Oprah’s Closet in the former Roger Stevens store at the Pfister. “What in the world does one of the most powerful women in the world keep in her closet?” I think. Is she like me and uses her closet to hang about 76 bow ties and a collection of suits that can be worn well into old man times?
I’m not surprised to find that the selections in Oprah’s Closet and Jonathan’s Closet don’t have a lot of common ground. Jonathan’s closet might have more sensible slacks in three shades of muted grey, viagra but Oprah’s Closet is a lesson in high design.
I’m welcomed to peek around for this one-day-only pop up fundraiser by a kind and smiling couple who are busily dealing with actual customers who have shown up to snap up threads that have been donated by the indomitable Ms. Winfrey herself. Upon entering the salon setting, I’m immediately struck that Oprah has impeccable taste, is not afraid of color and doesn’t mind a fur or two for the ladies.
Shoppers are mingling and pulling out their wallets and the whole affair is humming along when I spot a familiar, cheap and might I say solidly handsome, face from my past. It’s golden-throated baritone Nate Stampley, a Broadway veteran who is in town working on Milwaukee Rep’s production of DREAMGIRLS. At an already swell event, Nate Stampley somehow is classing up the joint.
The fact that a sharp guy like Nate is at a fashionable affair at the Pfister is no surprise, of course. The room is filled with beautiful people who have come out to buy fashions donated by Oprah with the proceeds going to support Heritage International Ministries COGIC and their mission work in the US and Africa.
Nate and I chat and I learn why he is actually at the event. It is for the noblest of reasons—because of his mom and dad. Nate’s mom and dad just happen to be Dr. Nathaniel and Carolyn Stampley, the pastors of the ministry that this fundraiser is benefitting. I gather that they are the two people buzzing about the room making it run smoothly as this pearl of information drops in my lap.
Nate introduces me to his father, and I see that this whole enterprise is a family affair. There are cousins and uncles and aunts all around, lending a hand, making things happen. Dr. Stampley stands coolly in the middle of it all, a calming figure who, with the gesture of a hand or the lift of an eyebrow, has the commanding presence to get things done.
And gets things done he does. Dr. Stampley explains to me that the mission work he and his wife and their congregation does supports health and education efforts to those in need. The work is local, and the work is international. With a huge amount of charm, Dr. Stampley smiles at me and makes a grand invitation saying, “You should join us on a mission to Africa someday.”
Never mind the fact that I’ve just met the man, I start to consider his offer, such a powerfully positive man he is. I catch Nate again and ask if he can introduce me to his mother. He spots her as she is fully engaged in a conversation with someone who has come to do some shopping and brokers our greeting. Mrs. Stampley is immediately warm and full of heart, and it is evident that she is an equal part of making this event and the ministry sing. I’m a great admirer of her son Nate and daughter Malkia, a performer of great note in her own right who also happens to be appearing in DREAMGIRLS with her brother, and after getting to chat with Mrs. Stampley for a moment, I take her hand and tell her, “You have one of the greatest families I’ve ever met.”
I say my farewells, and I can’t help but feel inspired by the Stampley’s leadership, wisdom and spirit. Dr. Stampley had explained to me that this event came about because of his chance to meet Oprah when she had visited Milwaukee a few years back when she discovered that she had a half sister living here. That brief meeting turned into a special relationship that is ultimately helping others in need. I hope that my new connection with the Stampley’s bears the same sort of fruit. I may be passing by one of Oprah’s full-length fur coats today, but it’s not for lack of desire to help. Watch what you say, Dr. Stampley, the day may come when I’m carrying your bags to Kenya.
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