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Community Reinvestment Fund 2018 Reports

kirsten moore

by Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director

Happy New Year! Applications for our Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) Grant are now open, and we will be accepting applications from local 501(c)3 nonprofits and cooperatives through February 28. We are seeking to fund projects benefiting Dane County with priority given to projects benefiting the Madison and Middleton metropolitan areas, organizations with limited access to funding, and projects that have not been funded by the grant program previously. Grants provide for innovative, hands-on, educational projects that impact a large group of people, reach out to underserved populations, create jobs or develop skills, foster social engagement, and offer opportunities for diversifying partnerships, collaboration and entrepreneurialism. Grants are competitive, and this year your Co-op’s Board of Directors has allocated $25,000 from abandoned Owner equity to award. For more information and to download the application, visit www.willystreet.coop/community-reinvestment-fund. 

Highlights From 2018 Recipients

Each year, as part of the agreement with our grant recipients, the organizations who received awards prepare a report for the Community Reinvestment Fund Committee about the work they completed with the funds. Here are some stories we received this past year. 

Bayview Foundation

Bayview Foundation’s Kids Cook program entered its second year, and we provided funding for the program’s membership to a FairShare CSA Coalition farm (CSA is an acronym for “Community Shared Agriculture”) and a food literacy and sustainable agriculture facilitator. Children cultivated the kids’ garden and learned to prepare vegetable and herbs. Funds also allowed for purchase of supplemental ingredients, and Bayview selected a CSA share from Los Jalapeños, and to purchase other ingredient and dry goods through Second Harvest. With the facilitator’s guidance and these ingredients, children were able to prepare and enjoy delicious snacks and meals together throughout the summer. Their report said “a highlight of the summer program was when the children made herbed butter. They combined butter-milk and herbs they had just picked from the garden in a mason jar and then took turns shaking the jar, all while dancing and singing a camp song about popsicles.”

Briarpatch Youth Services

Briarpatch (BYS) used their Community Reinvestment Funds to extend their Madison Street Team (MST) teen program to the north side, to develop pride in community and provide first-time employment training and experiences for at-risk youth. From their report: “[54] youth hired for Summer Employment Work Teams received 24 hours of training. These trainings consisted of 8 hours of employment readiness training provided by BYS, 8 hours of financial literacy training provided by UW Credit Union, and 4 hours of circle keeper training provided by YWCA Restorative Justice. Additionally, youth received alternatives to violence and violence reduction training totaling four hours over a four-week period. Youth were highly responsive to the outside trainings brought in, and many expressed interest in continuing to learn more about the topics presented.” The 14 youth on the north side worked in the Kennedy Heights and Lakeview Hills neighborhoods helping at Troy Gardens, Kennedy Heights Community Center, Northport Apartments, and Lakeview Hills Lutheran Church. “All youth that participated in this summer experience and worked at least 45 hours during the summer received school credit for their participation.”

Centro Hispano Dane County

Mercadito, Centro’s year-round Wednesday afternoon farmer’s market on Madison’s south side with an emphasis on traditional Latin American products, spent their grant expanding market offerings to include food tastings, nutrition and health guidance, and live cooking demonstrations. Centro says the market is “a place for social interaction, listening to music, and enjoying good food… Nowadays, 11 vendors are part of the Market, but behind them, there is a team that supports them; the staff of Centro, the Mercadito general manager and our valuable volunteers make this a vibrant place to come and enjoy. But, behind the scenes, the motor that makes this happen are the resources that our sponsor Willy Street Coop has donated to Centro.” Many of the vendors participate in the tastings, garden classes, and cooking demos. “One of the best ways for community members to become involved in el Mercadito is to attend it.”

Elvehjem Elementary School 

CRF funds this past year supported Elvehjem’s (LVM’s) efforts to better incorporate their school garden into regular curriculum. The grant allowed for the school to develop and train a Garden Steering Committee complete with a resident gardener to steward school garden programming and provide garden education for over 500 students. LVM’s parent-teacher organization organized receiving the grant and says “We are seeing our visions success by way of the kids interest in the Outdoor Classroom. Staff and students alike look forward to the organized time that they are allowed with our Gardener in Residence.” 

They are now setting their sights on future plans for the garden: building a winter shelter for outdoor classes, and plans to grow more fruit bearing trees and bushes. 

FairShare CSA Coalition

FairShare CSA Coalition set forth with CRF monies to pilot modifications to CSA programs and the Partner Shares program for underserved communities with low income. Their pilot plan included developing partnerships with local organizations to better refer people to the program and reduce barriers to learning about and participating in CSA through changes to written materials, community outreach, and language translation. Since receiving the grant, they have started Partner Shares outreach trainings with organizations that “have regular contact with a great number of community members that would be a good fit for the Partner Shares program:” UW-Extension FoodWIse Nutrition Educators, WIC clinic supervisors, and Middleton Outreach Ministry. They also began planning pilot CSA exposure programs with Elver Park Neighborhood Center and the Theresa Terrace Neighborhood Center (TTNC). In 2019, these centers will purchase shares for after-school programs, formalize a volunteer food preparation position, provide sessions with FoodWIse educators, and distribute produce to families served by the centers. Bayview Foundation may also become a public CSA pickup site, expanding fresh food access to  several Section 8 apartment complexes in the Triangle Neighborhood. Participant program evaluations for the Segoe Terrace pilot project that FairShare undertook in partnership with Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) were translated into Russian, Arabic and Mandarin to alleviate the language barriers that roughly half of the participants in the program faced, and FairShare is also setting their sights towards Hmong translation. 

Freewheel Community Bike Shop 

Freewheel used their grant to expand their bicycle maintenance classes in the greater Madison area, by developing means to pay employees, and offer bike repair clinics as well as free bikes, parts and locks around the city. 700 bikes were donated locally this year, and five classes were held at the Clark Street Community School in Middleton. They provided maintenance support, training and safety education at three major community rides, a regional music festival, a science fair, and they also provided capacity training to two bike cooperatives in Kentucky and Illinois. They are currently cultivating more partnerships with local libraries and schools. 

Lake View Elementary

Lake View’s twelve garden beds were in need of repair and soil restoration, and their grant funds were utilized to work with students to both reinvigorate the garden beds and start a school lunch composting project. Plants for the project were provided by the Department of Correction School Program’s prison farm, and the restoration curriculum included lessons regarding winter soil health. “Thanks to the Community Reinvestment Fund, Lake View Elementary School successfully added four cubic yards of Purple Cow Organic Soil to our twelve raised garden beds, the Kindergartener’s Pumpkin Plot and the second graders Pollinator Bed.” Through adding the soil and growing produce this summer, participants learned to protect the soil with cover crops for winter and to make their plans for spring planting. Students “met insects,” and learned the value of community volunteerism through example. Lake View is seeking community garden volunteers for 2019, and interested parties can contact Lake View Elementary’s PTO at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for details. 

Lussier Community Education Center

A continuation of past summer meal boost programs for families with low income, the Hands-On Farm Fresh program developed with CRF funding allows for young adults with disabilities to prepare and serve their after school meal program with planning assistance from a University of Wisconsin-Madison dietetics intern. A health and nutrition major collaborated with volunteers on CSA meal planning, held two kids workshops on portion size and how food affects the body, and worked with 11 middle school summer campers on meal planning and food preparation and packing. “One of our goals was to feature CSA vegetables in a variety of new ways with the hopes of finding a number of new main and side dishes for kids to enjoy. We used some of the veggies to make sushi and now have about 20 kids learning to use chopsticks and eat sushi… We also are still reaping the benefits of our own homemade pickles, dilly beans, and pickled onions! ...We welcome Willy Street Co-op community members getting involved in this and many other projects at the Lussier Community Education Center. Just reach out to Cristina Johnson, our Community Engagement Manager, at 608-833-4979 x224 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

Theresa Terrace Neighborhood Center 

Theresa Terrace wanted to use their grant to increase fresh produce access and education for families using the neighborhood center by supplying food directly from farms for children to prepare and also learn where their produce is grown. In partnership with a FairShare CSA farm, they provided produce and recipes for children and families to take home. “Purchasing a farm share was a new project for TTNC, as this was something that the center had not done before. Throughout the process, it was nice to develop a relationship with the farm and their staff who coordinated the shares. As we move forward and are hopefully able to purchase shares in the future, TTNC would certainly continue the relationship with them. In addition, TTNC has recently connected with an organization that helps to supplement the cost of farm shares. This connection may not have been made if TTNC not received this grant… As families were able to take advantage of fresh produce, some expressed interest and ideas in recipes, cooking projects, and more.”

Wheels for Winners

This year, Wheels for Winners offered free bike repair clinics that would keep the bikes children receive from their Earn a Bike program in good working condition. Clinics included free locks and helmets for participants, and the opportunity to learn how to fix flat tires and chains. Anyone who showed up with a bike was able to participate in the program. With funding from the Cap Times Kids Fund, the Co-op, and Madison Sports Commission, and with guidance from Centro Hispano and Goodman Community Center, they attended 27 community events from January through October to provide mechanic and bike support and instruction, safety checks, tune-ups, repair, and tire pumping for over 250 cyclists.

Thank You, 2018 CRF Grant Recipients and Owners

One of the traditions of the Community Reinvestment Fund is to hold a reception for recipients, and as demonstrated throughout this article, recipients of grant awards have not only made amazing contributions to our community, but are also forging deeper relationships with each other within the work they do. Exiting Co-op Owners who opt to donate their equity to the Fund can be very proud of what their collective contributions have provided since 1992 to organizations that support their neighbors and families. Thank you for your hard work, 2018 recipients, and thank you to all of our Owners, past and present, for seeding and supporting this valuable grant program. The CRF committee comprised of Co-op Owners, employees, and Board Directors look forward to reading the 2019 grant applications after the February 28 deadline.