Last month Cooperative Services News put special focus on food security within our community. Food security is not the only concern Dane County families face, some also are lacking or at risk of lacking adequate shelter. Many who are living with homelessness do not seek help, and so finding accurate statistics about those affected is difficult. According to the 2013 Annual Report on Homeless Persons Served in Dane County, 3,370 persons countywide utilized shelter services last year, and about 28% of those served were children under 18 years of age. What is true regarding food security is also true for those living with homelessness: it can happen to anyone regardless of employment status and to people of all ages, races, and genders. Preventing homelessness is a concern for our whole community. As the guiding principles of the Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in Dane County states, “There has to be a shared ownership and responsibility for preventing and ending homelessness across all Dane County groups including, but not limited to, business, faith communities, funders, government, homeless, and formerly homeless individuals, and social service providers. Community volunteers are [also] recognized as an essential part of preventing and ending homelessness.” Willy Street Co-op sees Cooperative Principle #7 within these guidelines, and recognizes we are part of a larger system. We are committed to doing what we can to make it better for those who are both food and shelter insecure.
Street Pulse is Back
Street Pulse, Madison’s Homeless Cooperative Newspaper, identifies as “a nonprofit cooperative that works to identify and address homelessness and social issues by empowering the voices of those both marginalized and concerned, providing direct, concrete avenues through which individuals can help by promoting communication and awareness throughout the Madison community.” They produce a monthly newspaper with stories about their vendors, local legislation, community projects, and more. The paper is sold by those experiencing homelessness in Madison, which empowers the vendors with job skills, income, and a voice in the community. For several years, Willy Street Co-op has offered space to Street Pulse vendors to sell their newspapers in front of our stores and Owners took notice when this service was unavailable during the Willy East Remodel. The suspension of Street Pulse sales on Co-op property wasnot due to Street Pulse at all; it was due to lacking safe space for anyone to use the outside courtyard for anything besides getting in and out of the store. In the last several months, we have been working with Street Pulse to ensure that vendors know that they may return for business and so that we can better meet each other’s needs. In the spirit of Cooperative Principle #6: Cooperation Amongst Co-ops, we were able to mutually adopt a vending policy so that vendors can now make renewable monthly agreements to sell Street Pulse at either of our locations, once a week, from 10am-12pm daily. We have also made a sandwich board sign for vendors who have made agreements with the Co-op, which will help draw attention to their paper. The new policy will guarantee interested vendors fairness and equal time to conduct business and help our Owners know whenthe paper is available. Vending appointments are still available, and vendors are mostly taking the opportunity to sell at Willy East. Those interested in the policy may read the full text in the foyers at either store location or visit www.willystreet.coop/policy/street-pulse-vending-policy.
Briarpatch Transitional Housing Cooperative: A New Partnership in the Making
Last August, the Dane County Board of Supervisors purchased a home to provide transitional housing for young adults in an effort to avoid homelessness. It is a pleasure to hear that the county board has chosen Madison Community Cooperative and Briarpatch Youth Services (formerly Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin) to partner with and that the home will operate as a housing co-op that the residents will own, cooperating together to meet their common interests in building their financial literacy and employable strengths. We see the cooperative model as an extraordinary opportunity for these young adults to develop themselves by using their own voices and ideas to control their own capital and create their own futures. As such, we are honored that Briarpatch has reached out to us as to how we can help with their efforts. We are currently brainstorming ideas with them for how their Willy Street Co-op Ownership can better lead to learning shopping tips, food preparation, label reading, and how to discover more about their exciting place in the cooperative economy both locally and globally.
Santas Without Chimneys: Donate Toys and Clothes to Children at Our Stores
Earlier we noted that almost 30% of those sleeping without shelter are children. Children who have families that, like many, take comfort in the traditions of the holiday season. Often these traditions provide children with toys to amuse and delight and all children deserve to feel and experience traditions, family, amusement and delight. Santas Without Chimneys is a program organized by the Autonomous Solidarity Organization, a community based nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting “all forms of civic engagement” and engaging “in charitable work in order to build and empower our local communities.” Santas Without Chimneys is a toy and clothing drive for homeless children in Madison. Volunteers will deliver gifts collected at a variety of locations to children who are participating in the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program; awaiting foster care placement; doubled up due to economic hardship or a similar reason; living in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, or other inadequate accommodations; temporarily living in a motel or hotel due to loss of housing, economic hardship or other similar reasons; or considered unaccompanied youth.
Santas Without Chimneys is seeking unwrapped items in good condition such as cozy blankets (no bed comforters); kids’ gloves, mittens, hats, and scarves; NEW hair accessories, pre-teen/teen makeup supplies, and nail polish; NEW or LIKE NEW books; NEW art supplies; and gift cards to downtown restaurants and grocery stores (for teens who live on their own). Drop boxes are now located both in the foyer at Willy West and at the Social Justice Center across from Willy East through December 22nd. In addition, on Saturday, December 20th from 11:00am-2:00pm, Willy East and Willy West will be hosting Santas Without Chimneys in conjunction with our holiday gift wrapping and a holiday “mocktail” sampling in the Community Rooms. Stop by with your toy or clothing donation and your holiday Co-op gifts to wrap and get a chance to try a delicious mocktail while meeting the volunteers from Santas Without Chimneys.
For more information about Santas Without Chimneys, including their wish list or how you may volunteer, please visit santaswithoutchimneys.org. We hope to see you on Saturday, December 20th!
POP Card Update: Thank You!
In the November Reader, we announced our Pantries of Plenty (POP) Community Fund Drive giving our patrons the option to purchase $5, $10, or $25 POP Cards between November 1st and December 31st for all four of the food pantries that benefit from our in-store pantry donation shelves (Goodman Community Center, Lussier Community Education Center, Middleton Outreach Ministry and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center). These neighborhood food pantries help both those who are food and shelter insecure, and your help and generosity is most appreciated. POP Cards are now available at the registers and the Owner Resources Areas of our stores. Patrons may either make a simple donation or make a donation as a gift in honor of someone else. At the end of the POP Community Fund Drive, we will divide monies raised amongst all four pantries via a Co-op gift card so that they can use the money for pantry needs beyond our standard non-perishable donations. At the time of writing, we have already raised $1,390 in funds.
Community Change Starts With You
Through the years a variety of nonprofit organizations have come to recognize your Co-op’s dedication to keeping our community strong. Donations, sponsorships, co-op mentorship for other co-ops, CHIP, relief drives, FEED Kitchens, food pantry support and Community Reinvestment Fund are some of the reasons why. This is a testament to you: our Owners. Your generosity is what makes us one of the cornerstones of our community. Thank you for your many gifts. We hope that you and all of your neighbors find warmth, food, and good cheer this winter.