Businesses and locals collaborate for nonprofit
Madison Public Market Rendering

Madison’s nonprofits provide critical services that ensure the city’s rich resources are accessible to all its residents. In turn, they rely on the support of donors and the larger business community. So many private business leaders step up to the plate every day, knowing their employees value service and the opportunity to give back. These efforts not only benefit the populations each nonprofit intends to serve, but all of us. This is good, old-fashioned, genuine community building, and it’s alive and well in Madison. With this section, we honor our local nonprofits and the companies that go the extra mile to keep them running strong.

Madison Public Market

Imagine a bustling, vibrant, 45,000-square-foot public market showcasing the best of Madison’s local food and handmade goods. A treasured destination and important economic driver melding a 21st century local food economy with innovation and growth, particularly for communities that traditionally face barriers to entrepreneurism. Yet another spectacular landmark for which this city becomes famously known: Capitol Square. Monona Terrace. The Overture Center for The Arts. And, in 2021, the Madison Public Market.

“When we look at the best cities across our country and the world, most of them have thriving, colorful public markets. Madison is long overdue for a public market of our own,” said Jamaal Stricklin, Madison Public Market Foundation president. “Not only do we want a physical space that shows why Madison’s food and art is world class, we also need a place that truly brings the community together. We’re dedicated to creating a welcoming place of commerce that unites and serves people from all cultural backgrounds. No such multicultural gathering place exists in Madison — and we need it.”

When Boardman & Clark first heard the ambitious vision for the Madison Public Market, the company knew it had to get involved. It’s one of the city’s oldest and largest law firms, with a long tradition of working with nonprofits, and the company’s values fall in line with the Madison Public Market’s mission.

“We liked in particular the commitment to social equity, and working intentionally with entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented communities. We also appreciated the opportunity to support a project the city of Madison is behind, and one that has the potential to be a boon for Madison from an economic development standpoint,” said Richard Heinemann, attorney and managing partner of Boardman & Clark. “We see this as more than just an opportunity to put our logo on a wall someplace. It’s a chance to really be a part of building something we think will be good for the city, and that resonates with so many of the values that we stand for as a firm.”

The Madison Public Market, located at the corner of East Johnson and First streets, will house more than 40 permanent market merchant booths; 3,000 square feet of temporary event space for farmers’ markets, pop-up craft fairs, live music and other events; an outdoor market plaza for seasonal food carts and fun; the Food Innovation Center to increase local food production and workforce training; an event space for classes or weddings; a children’s area; art spaces; and more. It hopes to create between 100 and 200 living wage jobs and have an overall regional economic impact of $22 million annually.

“Boardman & Clark’s early support of the market has helped us build momentum for making our Public Market a reality,” says Stricklin. “We’re so grateful for Boardman & Clark’s early investment, which has already leveraged additional early support closing in on $1 million.”

Of particular value to Boardman & Clark is the MarketReady program, launched by the city of Madison in fall 2017 and administered by FEED Kitchens, Northside Planning Council, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiatives Corp. and UW-Extension. While the Market has already attracted interest from more than 200 merchants for just 40 vendor spaces (including established brands such as Chocolate Shoppe and Stella’s Bakery to anchor and support new, fresh businesses), dozens of new businesses will be launched through the MarketReady program. Of the 30 participants already enrolled, 83 percent are people of color, 63 percent are women and 33 percent are first-generation immigrants.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to take what we know and package it in ways that can be useful to program participants,” says Heinemann. In addition to serving on the Market’s Ambassador Advisory Council, representatives from Boardman & Clark will be guiding MarketReady entrepreneurs on critical things like business formation, taxes, employment issues and intellectual property. “To actually go out into the community and nurture young or new entrepreneurs is really exciting.”

SPECIAL PROMOTIONAL: City with a Heart Walbridge School

Once a child believes that she cannot learn, this attitude follows her for the rest of her life. She may not even bother to pick up a book, participate in class, consider college or apply for that job. Instead of adapting to and even celebrating the unique manner in which her brain works, she may instead believe it doesn’t work at all. That fallacy is precisely what Walbridge School seeks to reverse, as a nonprofit, tuition-based 2-12 grade school serving students with language-learning disabilities, primarily dyslexia.

“Many students have trouble reaching their full academic potential in an overcrowded, one-size-fits-all educational environment that caters to the middle of the bell curve,” said Colleen Lourigan, director of education at Walbridge School. “But when a child is taught in a way in which their brain can absorb information, their whole world opens up.”

At Walbridge School on Madison’s west side, students receive individualized attention in small class sizes. The curriculum utilizes structured, explicit, multisensory teaching methods that give students tools they can use. The highly skilled staff prioritizes mastery of academic skills and content — in other words, if a student doesn’t understand something, the teacher doesn’t just move on. Walbridge is the only school in Wisconsin that focuses on teaching students with dyslexia how to read, in turn setting them up to be lifelong learners.

“Walbridge is unique in so many ways, especially for the acceptance students find here for who they are, what they do well and what they struggle with,” said Lourigan. “We talk a lot about how no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and, as long as we learn from them, they aren’t really failures. We meet your child where they are academically to build their confidence and skills from where they began, to where they need to get to be successful.”

Although small class sizes and individualized attention are critical to the mission, serving just 30 to 40 kids each year makes securing funding a challenge. Walbridge operates on a tightly efficient budget that is primarily tuition-funded, but it seeks grants to ease the financial burden for families. “It’s challenging as a small nonprofit because as director I wear so many hats, and it’s difficult to receive grants because our numbers served are so small,” says Lourigan. But she, the staff and the board — and especially the families for whom Walbridge School makes such a powerful, life-changing impact — understand the school’s incalculable value.

“To have a desirable city of the future depends on a strong economy driven by people who positively contribute,” Lourigan said. “Reaching one’s full educational potential to succeed academically from an early age through high school, and even post-secondary education, is a fundamental building block for cities. We have students that have gone on to be carpenters, nurses, beauticians, doctors, researchers and biomedical engineers. If they did not build confidence in their ability to learn and be successful, they would not be contributing to our community as they are today. We help foster that confidence and success for each student.” —