Mother Teresa told the world that if you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one. Every day, all over this city, people practice what she preached. In food pantries, parks, churches, museums, health care facilities, libraries, gardens, community centers and corner offices—one by one but also in uniquely Madison partnerships—people are out there making life better.
Gifts from the Heart: Diane Ballweg
"I'm always eager to speak to people about giving and how it changes the world," says Diane Ballweg, who volunteers and serves on more than a dozen boards, including the Endres Foundation, the family business nonprofit she created that gives $75,000 to the community annually. She is on committees to build a visual and theater arts center at Edgewood College as well as to raise $77 million for the Wisconsin Historical Society. She chaired the recently completed "Madison Cares," Porchlight's $3.5 million housing and services campaign for homeless people suffering from serious mental illness in Dane County. "She's leading big, important capital campaigns while donating her own money generously and strategically," says Jan Gietzel, executive director of A Fund for Women. "What I appreciate most about Diane is that she gives her gifts a lot of thought and she gives from her heart. She truly gives from her heart." In her role as philanthropist, Ballweg joined the ranks of Women Moving Millions, a worldwide support network for gifts over $1 million. "The joy of changing lives in an affirming way, the constructive impact of money invested in a good causes, the personal satisfaction of making a difference in the world, the doors that open to new relationships and opportunities … all of these are reasons to give and give generously."
Investing in our Kids: Mary Burke
Why she gives: "Because others need it more than I."
Her giving strategy: "I focus most of my efforts on the issues surrounding the achievement gap, and equities and incomes, and what we can do about that. I think Madison has an incredibly challenging issue of a very large size … but also we have to really do something about it now. It's not just replacing government money; it's how much we need to step it up and get ahead of the issues and solve them instead of accepting the status quo."
How she became aware of the achievement gap: "I was overseeing a study of the financial situation for Milwaukee public schools. I wondered how this looked in Madison. I was absolutely shocked to see kids of color here were performing no better than kids of color there on standardized reading scores."
On Madison Prep charter school: "To me it's, ‘Let's not put all our eggs in one basket. Let's do more than the minimum.' We just really need to make sure that every kid in this district regardless of color is striving and has a positive vision of the future for themselves." [Editor's note: In early October, Burke donated $2.5 million to the Urban League's Madison Preparatory Academy initiative.]
On what might compel more community giving: "I think people will give; they just need to see solutions and not problems."
What people say about her: "She's really an unsung hero because she expects nothing in return for everything she does." – Kathleen Woit, Madison Community Foundation
Takes to the Top: Michael Johnson
The Boys & Girls Club is a bustling after-school enterprise with kids from across the city coming and going between two clubs and seven school sites six days a week. Its dozens of youth programs serve more than two thousand youth members. Under CEO Michael Johnson's leadership the organization's accomplishments are impressive: this year one hundred percent of the AVID/TOPs college readiness program participants are heading to college and ninety-four percent of the kids in the College Club for students through eighth grade showed improvement in reading and math. While the club's academic, tech, health, recreation and creative arts offerings are many and varied, an innovative financial literacy program has taken off like wildfire. The youth-chartered STAR Credit Union, which allows members to join for as little as a quarter, has nearly five hundred accounts. Johnson credits a generous community, talented and professional staff, and myriad school and community partnerships for helping the club achieve its goals. Those partnerships came in handy last spring, when Johnson saw the devastation from the tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. He led a communitywide volunteer effort to deliver truckloads of food, water, clothing and first-aid kits to the Boys & Girls Club of Joplin. "Agencies like the Boys & Girls Club played an instrumental role in my development and I feel privileged to be able to pave the way for others," says Johnson, who recently accepted a fleet of five new vehicles donated by Kayser Ford and others.
A Tradition of Giving: Tim and Kevin Metcalfe
Tim Metcalfe jokes that he doesn't know how to spell the word "no." Luckily he and brother Kevin of Metcalfe's Market say yes, whether it's to the Boys & Girls Club, American Family Children's Hospital, Second Harvest, Clean Lakes Alliance or their family's philanthropic baby, Brat Fest, started by community-minded father Tom. The event just passed the $1 million mark in money raised for community nonprofits. Also this year Kevin and Tim formed the Brat Fest Endowment Fund so their late father's legacy will continue for generations. "Metcalfe's doesn't just motivate and encourage others to take leadership roles in philanthropy and community involvement—they lead the way," says the Boys & Girls Club's Michael Johnson. And now they're leading an effort to reinvigorate John Nolen Drive. "The Nolen Centennial Project's vision is to connect, unify and enhance the abundant natural, cultural and recreational assets surrounding John Nolen between the Beltline and Monona to create a world-class lakefront park, education and event destination," says Tim. "Someday this will be an economic catalyst for the entire community." While he appreciates recognition for his community work, "I don't really consider it a service," he says. "I follow my heart." A similar sentiment comes from Kevin, who gives "because I love my town. Because I care. And most of all, I give because I like knowing that even I can make a difference."
Homeward Bound: Rachel Krinsky
About me: "I have served The Road Home as executive director for the past eleven years. During those years we have grown from a small start-up providing emergency family shelter through collaboration with local congregations into a multi-program organization that helps families move from homelessness to stable housing." [Editor's note: Krinsky was recently hired to lead YWCA Madison.]
What I'm most proud of: "This year marks the completion of The Road Home's $4.5 million Housing & Hope campaign. The Housing & Hope apartments provide affordable rent and on-site case management services to families through a unique model developed by The Road Home. Fifteen Housing & Hope apartments opened on Madison's north side in 2009 and the completion of the campaign enables us to develop another fifteen units. Fifteen formerly homeless families, including forty-two children, live at Housing & Hope. These kids are able to walk to their neighborhood school, bring a friend home to play, and wake up each morning knowing where they will sleep at night. Their parents are working, studying, learning financial management and other skills, and regaining their pride as parents and community members. We will be thrilled to offer these simple, everyday experiences to fifteen more families."
Skills Builder: Baltazar de Anda-Santana
"2011 has been a great year to serve the Madison community. Through my work at Vera Court Neighborhood Center, I had the opportunity to co-found an exciting new program called the Latino Academy of Workforce Development. At LAWD, we have spent the past year providing culturally sensitive employment services and industry-specific job skills training in Spanish. We have served over 1,000 Latino students with our job skill trainings, computer classes, business development and employment programs. Our computer classes, which have been LAWD's most popular offering by far, have expanded to include six levels, from basic skills all the way to Web design, and we employ a staff of five professional computer instructors. Our students are hard-working adults; they raise families and work full-time, yet they are so dedicated to improving their lives that they arrive to class every week ready to trade their time and experience for knowledge and support … Students who graduate from our computer classes return to teach our computer classes … Without the volunteerism of our students, LAWD quite frankly would not exist. I am very proud just to be included as a member of this community.
The two things that make me most hopeful in life are community and education, which are also the values that guide everything that is done at Vera Court Neighborhood Center. I always joke that if one day you cannot find me at Vera, it will be because I have returned to Mexico to establish a community center similar to Vera Court."
Care Giver: Susan Derse Phillips
It's quite remarkable for a community to tout its end-of-life health care facilities as one of its crown jewels, but to understand why, look no further than to its president and CEO Susan Phillips.
"Susan is an outstanding leader, devoted to our community," says Tom Ragatz, a volunteer and board member of what is now known as Agrace HospiceCare (formerly HospiceCare Inc.). "She has energy that I wish I could bottle and sell."
With revenues of $50 million, 500 staff, 1,000 volunteers and 650 patients served daily, Agrace under Phillips' sixteen-year tenure is one of the most efficient, effective and employee-focused businesses around. For her accomplishments Phillips has received this year's Philanthropy Day Award for Outstanding Fundraising Professional.
What's her secret? "Friend-raising first and fundraising second," says Phillips. "Only until a donor knows what we do, how we do it and the quality that is delivered to patients and their families will they consider a gift. Their gifts are what make us different from hospices across the county."
Outside Agrace she spends time mentoring. She's proud to be working with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services on its capital campaign to open a new shelter. "It is a need for which we Madisonians should be embarrassed and clearly something that deserves our attention and dollars," she says.
On a personal note, Phillips has been fighting a battle of her own lately, and deeply appreciates the support she's received during her illness. "I am most proud of exceptional staff, leaders and board who have stepped in to fulfill HospiceCare's mission in my absence."
Team Effort: Rebecca Krantz and Don Katz
Though Don Katz and Rebecca Krantz are this year's Philanthropy Day Award recipients for Individual Philanthropist, they approach community service as a team. Their influence and impact are best described by the people who serve with them.
Paul Terranova, Lussier Community Education Center: "In my capacity as executive director, I have seen firsthand the outcomes of the thoughtful philanthropy practiced by Don and Rebecca. When we were raising money to create the LCED, they were early donors and believers in our project. They had taken the time to truly understand what it was the organization stood for and what we wanted to accomplish. While their gift may not have been the largest, we valued it deeply because it came from such thoughtful, committed and discerning people."
Salli Martyniak, Forward Community Investments: "They give of their talent as part of the traditional Jewish belief that it is humanity's responsibility to repair the world, tikkun olam, through social action and the pursuit of social justice. The emphasis of tikkun olam is on using one's talents to perform acts of social responsibility and to fix, not undo, the world as we know it."
Amy Mondloch, Grassroots Leadership College: "With their assistance, our organizations become not merely funded, but more effective."
As a volunteer with Grassroots Leadership College, Rebecca took her community organizing talents to the streets, organizing and training in civil disobedience during the state Capitol protests. And together she and Don helped launch the Center for Progressive Leadership's political leaders fellowship training, the first in Wisconsin. "We want our community and our state to be a good place to live for everyone," says Don. "Not just for ourselves."
At the Center: Crystel Anders
"As executive director of Community Shares of Wisconsin, I am most committed to the important work of our sixty-three member nonprofit organizations. This year marks our fortieth anniversary and I have had the honor of documenting, through interviews, what forty years of change looks like. It is through this retrospective lens that we see the power of community. I am honored to be a part of the community that is Community Shares of Wisconsin, and as a leader I believe I provide the support needed to keep us moving forward together. I believe that as individuals we have more in common than not, and by working together we can be a powerful vehicle for change.
I am most proud of my role with the launching of the new Center for Change. For over two years I have met with interested nonprofit organizations, potential sponsors and interested individuals to explore the possibilities of creating a space where people can meet and work together to build a community that is fair and just for everyone … The center provides a space for us to meet and find our common ground. I give because I want to make other people's lives and our world a better place. As someone who has been lucky enough to have resources to give—including time, money and skills—I feel both a need and an obligation to share those resources."
A Work of Art: Russell Panczenko
The reason for expanding was simple: they ran out of room at the Elvehjem Museum of Art, which opened in 1970 with a collection of 1,600 objects. A $43 million capital campaign ensued, and with a lead gift of $25 million by alumni Simona and Jerome Chazen, the museum's footprint has doubled to accommodate the current collection of more than 20,000 works of art.
As director of the renamed Chazen Museum of Art, Russell Panczenko has skillfully balanced ongoing operations of the existing facility with a mission to create one of the leading university art museums in the country. "The building design is beautiful and very functional," he says.
Now Panczenko is finally able to bring a variety of important pieces out of storage and into the galleries, as well as display recently acquired art and present significantly more exhibitions, including paintings from the Chazen family's own rich collection featured through March. More public events like artist talks, films and family activities are on tap, with the goal of extending the museum's offerings far beyond the walls of the university and into the community—the Wisconsin Idea at work.
Child's Playground: Caden Collins
When Caden Collins's friend told him about the kids in Haiti whose toys "fell through cracks in the earth" after the 2010 earthquake, the kindergartener decided to do something about it. He asked his pastor, the Rev. Ken Smith at St. John's Lutheran, for help. One thing led to another, and Caden found himself presenting a check to the head of Lutheran World Relief.
To date "Caden's Fund for the Children of Haiti" has raised $8,000—$7,000 more than Caden had hoped for. The money will be used for playgrounds staffed by psychologists to work with children on dealing with the effects of the earthquake. In May, Caden received the Youth Good Samaritan award from the American Red Cross Badger Chapter, part of its annual Real Heroes program.
"I wanted the children of Haiti to be able to have things to play with so they didn't get bored and think about the earthquake so much," says Caden, now an eight-year-old second grader at Arboretum Elementary School in Waunakee.
Naturally, parents Craig and Ronda Collins are very, very proud.
Retooling Tenney: Terrence Wall, Mary Lang Sollinger and John E. Wall
John E. Wall has donated more of his time and money than many of us are lucky enough to give in a lifetime. In 2011 alone, Wall's generosity has reached the worlds of health care (St. Mary's and the UW Carbone Cancer Center), children (Troop 5, Boy Scouts of America) and education (Edgewood College's Visual and Theatre Arts Center), to name just a few. And for the thirty-seventh straight year, he's volunteered for winter rescue and first aid on Devil's Head Mountain.
What Wall is most proud of this year is being able to guarantee the renovation of the Tenney Park Shelter with a gift of $250,000 on behalf of his family—his wife and eleven children who've enjoyed the park through the years. As head of the Wall Family Enterprise—known locally as Demco, Inc.—Wall says he gives "so that our grandchildren, great grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of my co-workers here will enjoy the privilege of living in this community."
Wall's son Terrence has fond memories of his boyhood adventures at Tenney. Noticing a need for a renovation of the east-side park's sixty-year-old shelter, the local commercial developer drew up a plan in 2007 and intended to fund the entire project personally. After sharing the sketches with then-mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Madison Parks superintendent Kevin Briski, and bringing independent fundraising professional Mary Lang Sollinger on board, the modest makeover became an entirely new project. The new shelter construction is nearing completion at an estimated cost of $1.2 million, with $500,000 in city funding.
The building will open in time for ice-skating and hockey season. In addition to its current use as a shelter and warming house with concessions and equipment rentals, the new John Wall Family Pavilion will also provide a welcoming, versatile space for meetings, celebrations and gatherings of all kinds. Sollinger formed and chairs the volunteer effort. She has spent countless hours over the last four years coordinating and organizing with park staff, city committees, architects and neighborhood residents to guarantee that the new facility meets the needs of the community.
"Madison has had the good fortune of good stewards and visionaries in its making—they gave us a great legacy," she says. "We need to respect and build to these principles and leave that kind of legacy for the next generation."
– Brennan Nardi and Liz Wingate
Big Shoes to Fill: Eileen Mershart
Eliminating racism and empowering women is an ambitious mission for an organization, even in the twenty-first century. But as she retires from her post as CEO of YWCA Madison, Eileen Mershart has made remarkable progress toward those goals and leaves the organization in terrific shape for the future. She completed the $16 million rehabilitation of the organization's flagship building debt-free while keeping the housing units in the building affordable. She grew the affordable housing program to more than eighty market-rate apartments throughout the community. She led the effort to create the Empowerment Center to target employment and training. And every year she hosts three important communitywide events that shine a spotlight on the people she serves (Circle of Friends), the people who serve (Women of Distinction) and the issues of the day (Racial Justice Summit). "As a civic society we have an obligation to serve our neighbors, to help make this a better world, to help made democracy function," says Mershart. "I find the causes that are important to me and I try to support them the best I can. Each of us can do this whether it is through volunteering or through contributions. Every little bit helps."
Coming Together: Hooyung Young
"I grew up in South Korea, and moved to Madison in 2003. It was not easy for me to have a sense of belonging at first. But, through my work at United Way, I was inspired by the fact that community leaders, volunteers, partners and donors identified themselves as United Way, and made their greatest effort to contribute to the direction of Agenda for Change goals with their strengths and expertise. I trust the strong capacity of this community to change the lives of citizens for the better, and wanted to be a part of it.
[As director of community impact] I work to mobilize people and partners across sectors and disciplines—community leaders, agencies, businesses, city and county government, the medical community, volunteers and many more—to make change happen. These people are the amazing volunteers that I work with on a daily basis. They are the change-makers on the frontlines. For more than two years, our Delegation on Safe and Healthy Aging, comprised of volunteers, has worked diligently to identify the key triggers that precipitate functional decline of older adults. They have brought to light the root causes of seniors losing their independence and formed a goal to reduce the rate of adverse drug events and falls by fifteen percent by 2015."
Garden Talk: Rachel Martin
Sustain Dane has been around for twelve years, but the last two have perhaps been its most prolific. Since the board hired executive director Kristen Joiner in 2009, the organization has quadrupled its staff and plans to add three more full-time positions over the next three years. Sustainability is no longer simply about changing people's habits and behaviors, it's a shift in mindset and its renewed focus has it acting as catalyst and resource for all things sustainable—in schools, businesses, neighborhoods and more.
As director of the sustainable schools program, Rachel Martin's beat is education, specifically educating kids through a project called GrassRoots/OutdoorWonder (GROW) Coalition, which she co-founded this year with Mary Michaud of Health Forward Consulting. "When I co-founded the gardens at Midvale Elementary six years ago, there were only a small number of school gardens on Madison Metropolitan School District grounds. Now there are thirty-three!" says Martin. "The GROW Coalition is getting all of us doing this work organized. … It is our long-term goal to funnel resources to these projects and influence curriculum and policy."
Martin's position at Sustain Dane also has her working on a variety of projects with MMSD, including urban agriculture at Badger Rock, the new environmental charter school. "I really believe we can live differently, and in a way that supports the health of all people, our environment and our economy," says Martin. "I can't imagine a better way to spend my time."
Continue the conversation with Martin at the Badger Bioneers conference, a sustainability expo of sorts, at Edgewood College on November 11–12. For info and tickets, visit www.sustaindane.org.
Book Smart: Tripp Widder
"Rebuilding Central has been an agenda item as far back as my first year on the library board (1999) and so it has been a challenge to get to this point. Patience is not only a virtue, it is sometimes required for major civic undertakings such as this. When completed in 2013, the new Central Library will be a wonderful addition to the city.
Some years ago, I was struck by something Muppeteer Jim Hensen said that has stayed with me. He remarked something like, ‘The world isn't something we so much as inherit from our parents, but rather borrow from our children.' That sentiment certainly applies in many contexts, but with respect to giving back to my community, it is how I'm paying down that debt."
The Equalizer: Velma Ritcherson
"My service includes a common thread of serving youth. For example, fundraisers such as Links service group's Community Recognition Luncheon and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority's ‘Men Who Cook' raise awareness and money for student scholarships. Also, participating in conferences for girls is vital for me. I do believe ‘education is the equalizer' to enable the next generation to take their place as contributing citizens in the community. Links partners with the Madison Symphony Orchestra through the Community Engagement Programs. This is a perfect relationship for Links' Art Program to enhance students of color inclusion in classical music by providing opportunities for them to attend performances. MSO donates tickets to students and parents to attend several concerts and receptions to meet artists. What a treat! When I retired I didn't intend to give up my passions. Nor did I intend to stop contributing. It is very fulfilling to volunteer time and resources in areas particularly geared to youth. Whatever contributions I make, I hope it benefits recipients as much as it does for me. If I make a difference, it's all worth it."
Natural Innovators: Kathe Crowley Conn and Terry Kelly
At Aldo Leopold Nature Center's new, high-tech Climate Education Center, the practice of hands-on environmental education is front and center—but in a whiz-bang, twenty-first century way. President and executive director Kathe Crowley Conn's mission to connect what's happening here in Wisconsin to the rest of the world led her to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's interactive Science on a Sphere exhibit, which was installed in the new facility and will be tested by kids and teachers this fall. The six-foot, 3-D sphere is high-def soup-to-nuts, showing everything from historical weather changes to real-time weather globally. "This can tell the part of the story that we can't tell out in our grounds," says Conn. "It allows kids to see the world in a way they've never seen it before so the concepts we teach them all of a sudden make sense." Along with other climate science, renewable energy and sustainability features in the "immersion theater," the nature center has tripled its footprint. It's no surprise that such advanced power tools—from planetary projections of scientific data from NOAA and NASA to a global warming education station created by the National Academy of Sciences—landed in the hands of a Madison nonprofit. Conn and her team receive invaluable input and expertise from board chair and CEO Terry Kelly, founder of Weather Central, the worldwide provider of meteorology technology and communications. His time, energy and resources, Conn says, propelled the project. Conn credits these creative partnerships for what she's most proud of this year: "Seeing our dreams to come to life!"
Smart Investments: Greg Dombrowski
Like all United Way campaign chairs, Johnson Bank president Greg Dombrowski sees the community's faith in the organization firsthand when he talks to employers and their workforce about joining the campaign. Despite diminished benefits in a difficult economy, people continue to step up. They give, he says, because they trust that their investments will yield results. Dombrowski is equally passionate about the arts. Serving on the boards of Overture Center, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Foundation give him "the opportunity to work with very talented and caring individuals across our community that can dream and believe in a positive future—whether we are talking about how United Way is solving some of our most vexing social problems or through the reshaping of Overture Center."
Corporate Citizen: Londa Dewey
As president of the QTI Group since 2007, Londa Dewey has embraced the company's longstanding commitment to community. This year QTI was named Philanthropy Day's Outstanding Business of the Year. In addition to fostering a culture of giving, Dewey serves on the United Way Foundation Board of Trustees, leading an effort to grow resources by $10 million. The rest of QTI's leadership team—CEO Jay Loewi and chairman of the board David Silverberg—are equally as active, and the company's 115 employees are right there with them. QTI staff can use business hours to volunteer, plan fundraisers or become student mentors.
Companywide, QTI donates nearly $70,000 to the community annually through the United Way's workplace giving campaign, and its Good Samaritan Fund provides support to temporary and internal employees during times of need. In lieu of holiday gifts, the employee-run nonprofit has administered grants for everything from covering day care costs for a person battling cancer to giving gift cards to a family facing hardship.
QTI also lends its professional services to the nonprofit sector, helping organizations build staffing and human resources structures. QTI also conducts and donates a biannual Nonprofit Compensation and Benefit survey on hiring trends and staying competitive.
Knowledge Worker: Tom Linfield
Tom Linfield is like an Encyclopedia Britannica of local philanthropy. As vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives for the Madison Community Foundation, which houses 925 individual funds and assets of some $135 million, the names of do-gooders, entrepreneurship in nonprofits and the deep impact of giving fall off his tongue with ease. He talks about the generosity of donors who keep on giving despite a tough recession and the tenacity of nonprofit leaders who reach remarkable fundraising goals on top of operating small organizations on even smaller operating budgets. He points out the culture of volunteerism and how pervasive it is here for initiatives large (Overture Center) and small (the accessible playground at Elvehjem School). And he articulates a personal and professional mission. "We really need to make this a fertile place for philanthropists."
Linfield's own efforts in accomplishing that goal are evident in a first-in-the-nation programming endowment for all twenty-eight libraries in Dane County. A $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities late last year kick-started the fundraising project, which in itself is a huge victory. "We're always saying, ‘Can't we do something to attract money outside Madison or outside the state?' and rarely do we," says MCF president Kathleen Woit. "Here was a very prestigious source."
Beyond the dollars the project has attracted—$600,000 so far—and the historic countywide collaboration, Woit and Linfield say the real success will come with the results, when all communities and neighborhoods will have equal access to financial and other resources. "It will greatly increase free public programming for residents of all ages," says Linfield.
Positive Reinforcement: Will Green
When life gives you lemons, make salsa. That's what at-risk youths from the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood do when they sign up to grow, jar and sell Off the Block Salsa, a partnership between Mentoring Positives, the East Isthmus Neighborhood Planning Council and Drumlin Farms. These and other programs are designed to address poor social skills, negative peer interactions and poor school achievement.
"Our goal is to help maintain a community placement for youth who are either on the verge of being sent to an out-of-county treatment facility or group home, or coming back into the community from an out-of-county placement," says MP's founder and executive director Will Green. "Providing a mentoring service to work with this population will hopefully interrupt the cycle of our minority youth making bad choices and ending up being placed in our juvenile justice system."
Now two years old, the urban ag project, headquartered at the Darbo Salvation Army community garden, is gaining ground with a grant from the Blooming Prairie Community Foundation for weekly stipends to five youths throughout the summer. This year's goal is to sell five thousand jars. Proceeds circle back to support MP, and the youth who sells the most jars will earn a laptop.
Green's unique approach, a blend of skills and behavioral training, has earned high praise from social service agencies, parents and law enforcement alike. He is especially proud of the support he and his team have provided to several young men who've enrolled in college this year.
"I truly believe that by having a mentor, youth are more apt to make better decisions and gain a better perspective on life and how they choose to live their lives," says Green. "It is truly a great feeling to be building relationships with youth and families and giving them an opportunity to be exposed to different resources they can connect to in the community."
To order your locally grown salsa—$6 a jar and flavors include yellow, red and green tomato and tomatillo-zebra salsa verde—visit www.mentoringpositives.org.
Hunger Heroes: Jenny & Andy Czerkas
A bit about us: "We started The River Food Pantry five years ago after seeing a need not being met on the north side of Madison. We had no idea of the true need for services, anticipating we would serve a hundred families a week. Instead, because of the economy, we are presently the busiest food pantry in Dane County, serving more than 500 families per week … In 2010, The River distributed 1,060,000 pounds of food and over 95,000 pounds or $500,000 worth of clothing."
What we're most proud of: "We have built a unique safety net where there wasn't one. There is no other food pantry in Dane County like ours. It is an independent, local, faith-based organization, unaffiliated with a local church or national organization. The River is open to any county resident and we do not limit the number of families served. We also serve hot, home-cooked meals. The families appreciate being able to feed their kids a tasty dinner while they wait their turn in the food pantry. We use tablecloths and a local flower wholesaler donates flower bouquets for a really nice touch. The clients are encouraged to take the flowers home at the end of the evening. Often the pantry is able to have live music for the Friday night dinner hour. We have created a community, not just a food pantry."
Why we do it: "We live a more satisfied life working to make others' lives better. The relationships we have made with some of our clients are priceless. This the best ‘job' we have ever had!"
Lakes Lobbyist: Dave Lumley
What's Paris without the Eiffel Tower? Dave Lumley will make you think deeply about this question when you ponder the city of Madison and what it would be like without one of its most iconic features. "Our lakes are Madison's shining symbol of our community, its diversity, health, recreation, scenery and history," he says. And yet, despite decades of valiant efforts to improve water quality, they are dangerously close to "impaired" as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, which, in addition to triggering new regulations, would diminish Madison's nationally known reputation as an above average place to live, work and play. As CEO of Madison-based Spectrum Brands and a lakeshore property owner, Lumley understands firsthand how difficult it could become to recruit and retain a top-notch workforce if the waters of Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa and Wingra continue to deteriorate. So he holds his company picnics at the annual Clean Lakes Festival—not only to make sure his staff enjoys the lakes but also to raise their awareness of how important it is to help save them. When he meets with public officials on company business, he lobbies for economic development initiatives that support area clean lakes initiatives. And he donates to the Clean Lakes Alliance by serving on its community board, sponsoring events, staging fundraisers, talking to the media and funding lake tests to show how to reduce phosphorous. It's clear his efforts have paid off. "We have all interested groups—government, community, business and the media—working together to improve our lakes' quality," he says. "Now we must clean them up—for good."
Problem Solver: Steve Goldberg
Enlightened philanthropy. Informed philanthropy. Evidence-based philanthropy. These are all phrases Steve Goldberg likes to explain why Madison's approach to solving community problems is so effective. "This is one of the few communities in the country where there's general alignment around key challenges facing the community's quality of life, what to do about those challenges, and how to measure that impact," he says. In large measure what he's talking about is United Way's Agenda for Change, which tackles agreed-upon problems by understanding their root causes, and then providing a solutions roadmap. Or the Madison Community Foundation, which leverages resources for maximum and long-term community impact. He's also talking about the corporate philosophy of his own company, CUNA Mutual Group, where as executive director of its charitable arm he expertly oversees gifts of $1 million annually to nonprofit agencies and programs that, in his words, "change the community conversation around key issues." The foundation works with employees and the community to identify those issues, from hunger and homelessness to domestic violence, mental health and student achievement, and look for high-impact ways to support them. "I think we should celebrate the fact that when you give to nonprofits in Madison, the chances are—pound for pound, dollar for dollar—you're getting more value for your money than if you were doing philanthropy in other communities."
Safety Patrol: Brenda Nelson
What I do: "As executive director of Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, it is my responsibility to oversee all of the services our agency provides to children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or are witnesses to violent crimes. Since Safe Harbor first opened in the fall of 1999, we have provided emotional support, advocacy, forensic interviewing and case coordinating services to over 1,800 children who experienced the physical and emotional trauma of abuse or neglect. In addition to helping these children, we work closely with their protective caregivers to stabilize the family and provide the support adult caregivers need to keep their children safe. In addition to providing direct services to the children who are victims of abuse and neglect, we also provide community education and outreach services to educate and engage members of our community in assisting us in keeping our children safe from abuse."
What I am most proud of: "In July of this year, Safe Harbor and the Canopy Center relocated our mutual agencies to a new shared space on East Washington Avenue … Our employees and the children and families we serve all love our new space, which was specifically built out to meet our needs."
Why I give: "Seeing a smile on a child's face when they first arrive at Safe Harbor and feel how warm and welcoming our agency is makes this job fulfilling. I have been fortunate to work with some outstanding staff and professionals from our partner agencies (law enforcement, human services, prosecutors, corporation counsel, medical and mental health providers). Together we celebrate ‘successes' each time we see that we have intervened and helped improve the life of a child who has been a victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence."
Aging Advocate: Mary Ann Drescher
"I am the president of Attic Angel Association, Attic Angel Place, Inc. and Attic Angel Prairie Point, Inc. Through these organizations, we have given over $880,000 to the Madison community in the last year through direct grants, fundraising, volunteers and professional services and use of our facilities—all this in addition to providing health care and supportive services to our 320 residents. Attic Angel received four Star of Madison awards for best nursing, rehabilitation, assisted living and senior living facility. Despite a very challenging economy, the outstanding response of our volunteers, staff and community partners have provided resources for us to grow our programs and services for our residents. We are implementing our long-range goals through expansion of our Prairie Point facilities to allow more affordable housing options, and working toward expansion of Attic Angel Place to provide greater dignity and privacy for our residents through elimination of double rooms in our health center. I believe in the mission of the organizations I am affiliated with. They each address a health and human service need in our community and bring hope for a brighter future."
Riding High: Bob Gorsuch
Bob Gorsuch and his lifelong service to the community are being recognized accordingly with the Philanthropy Day Lifetime Achievement Award for his corporate philanthropy as a bank president and employer and his private endeavors as a community servant in almost every way imaginable. As treasurer of the south central synod council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America for twenty-four years. As a Rotarian for thirty-five years. As a Zor Shriner for more than forty years. As a board member of the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Oakwood Lutheran Homes and South Madison Coalition of the Elderly. After his grandson was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Gorsuch took on the cause of juvenile diabetes research, combining his love of cycling with the Ride to Cure Diabetes. "Bob has been one of the JDRF Western Wisconsin Chapter's most ardent supporters," says executive director Jamie Weissburg. Gorsuch says he gives "to help all who are less fortunate than I am." After a lifetime of leading by example, he's taking on a new challenge—nurturing the next generation of philanthropists. "My biggest service at this point in my life is encouraging those around me to ‘get involved' and then give them support."
The Bonds of Sisterhood: Ariana Silva
When the family of Ariana Silva's "little" was considering a move out of the area, her Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist, Carol Christopher, stepped in to help. She kept the lines of communication open between Ariana and Honesty, checking in periodically to see how things were going. "Carol let me know they were thinking about moving but one of the drawbacks was that Honesty wanted to keep me as a big sister," says Silva. "I was touched." Now a freshman at Edgewood College, Silva was just sixteen when she decided to become a big. The fact that her mother, Dora Zuniga, runs Big Brothers Big Sisters was an obvious influence, but it takes a special kind of teenager to commit to developing and maintaining a meaningful relationship with a young child. "When you have great parents as role models and you see how willingly they give back to their communities, it is hard not to want to be involved like them," says Silva. When the two spend time together, it's usually in the evenings at Silva's house talking and playing board games. Faced with a busier schedule this semester, Silva is sharing her big duties with a friend, which BBBS accommodated with a switch to the family match program. "When I'm around on weekends, then we can get together," she says. What matters to Honesty is that Silva is just that: around.