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Announcing the 2015 Community Reinvestment Fund Grant Recipients

Since 1992, Willy Street Co-op’s Community Reinvestment Fund has provided $342,000 in funding to a variety of projects community-wide. The fund is seeded with past Owner equity that has been either abandoned or donated to the Co-op for charitable purposes. This year, the board allocated $25,000 to donate to 501(c)3 nonprofits and/or cooperatives with limited access to funding to carry out innovative projects benefiting the greater Madison and Middleton regional areas. Proposals were sought for projects covering one or more of the following subject areas: food justice and access, cooperatives, sustainable agriculture, health and well-being, and/or social change. With 30 organizations applying for a total of $103,635 in funds, and the average request at about $3,454, this year’s grant cycle was more competitive than ever. The committee paid specific attention to the potential number of people and demographics impacted by the projects proposed, potential job creation, professional or social development opportunities, strong partnerships to complete the projects, the hands-on nature of the projects proposed, and the organization’s demonstration of financial need. We are pleased and proud to announce this year’s Community Reinvestment Fund recipients.

Backyard Mosaic Women’s Project: Community Garden Improvements, $3565
"The Backyard Mosaic Women’s Project is an arts-based support group for women with a history of incarceration. Co-located in St. Johns Lutheran Church, The Mosaic Project shares its community garden with The Off the Square Club, an organization for people who are homeless and suffer from chronic and/or severe mental illness. Through the Mosaic Project Garden, members of both organizations enjoy meals prepared with fresh produce from the garden."

Centro Hispano: Growing a Garden While Telling the Story of a Latino Community in Madison, $3500
Centro Hispano attributes its success to a commitment to outreach and engagement strategies. In this year’s grant proposal, Centro Hispano requested CRF funds to tell their story through film. “Centro Hispano’s garden is an attempt to empower the Latino community by sharing their stories and learning from each other. This project aims to capture via filmmaking Latinos’ views about food, culture, health, and acculturation and by doing so—it wishes to understand their mechanisms to overcome social, health and cultural inequalities.”

The River Food Pantry: Culinary Skills Job Training Program, $3200
“In 2013, The River Food Pantry created a Bakery Skills job program for their clients in response to an observed trend of growth in program participants who were unemployed or underemployed.” Participants learned skills necessary for successful employment in the field of baking. In this year’s proposal, The River Food Pantry would like to take their program a step further by offering a Culinary Skills training program to graduates of the Bakery Skills program. The goal is to give them a wider skill set, creating a broader avenue for employment in Madison’s burgeoning restaurant landscape. The grant will be used to cover the cost of knife sets for students, ingredients, and FEED Kitchens rental. “The Culinary Skills training program is being developed with the input of the Madison Area Chefs Network, and will be taught by food service professionals.”

Allied Community Cooperative: Buying Club and Capacity Building, $3000
“The Allied Community Co-op (ACC) is a multi-stakeholder partnership between residents and organizations who live, work, or have a stake in the Allied Drive neighborhood” seeking to secure a sustainable food source. Funding for ACC will provide for the costs to take an educational tour of co-ops in St. Louis and New Orleans. The goal is to gain information from communities that faced similar needs and garner suggestions for successful strategies, preparing ACC “to train and empower residents to use cooperative principlesto make this vibrant neighborhood into a safer, wealthier and healthier place to live. Eight members of ACC will visit St. Louis’ MORE Time Dollar Neighborhood College (a peer learning and support resource) and TimeBank stores and New Orleans’ Mutual Aid Societies.” The group will also meet Anna Boyer of the C4 Tech Co-op and connect with the National Federation of Worker Cooperatives. The field visit will give ACC members an opportunity to grow leaders, improve outreach, develop a social benefit cooperative, support additional growth, and foster connections between similar organizations across the country.

WYOU: Kitchen Krewe Television Series, $3000
“Kitchen Krewe is a cooking class and television series designed to teach parents and kids cooking techniques, skills, and food choices needed to make meals together with healthy and sustainable foods.” Funds will be used to produce a series of five episodes/classes with a sixth episode wrap-up talk show. Each half hour will demonstrate cooking techniques for parents and children to work together to prepare a meal from scratch in front of a live studio audience. Each semi-scripted episode will host two parent-child students supervised and coached by chef instructor Barbara Wright. The six-episode Kitchen Krewe series will be videotaped and edited to air on WYOU Community Access Television and video streamed on WYOU’s website.

Verona Area Needs Network: Seed to Supper Gardening Program, $2615
“The Seeds to Supper garden program (S2S) is an initiative of the Verona Area Needs Network (VANN) to harness the power of community gardening to improve the health, interconnectedness, and sustainability of the families we serve.” In partnership with the Badger Prairie Community Garden, VANN manages a large gardening plot to increase the availability of fresh organic produce at their food pantry. This year they will use CRF funding to expand the current garden plot to include six more families. Families selected for the S2S program will receive a prepared garden plot, starter plants, seeds, access to gardening tools, and a garden mentor. “Garden mentors are experienced community gardeners who have volunteered to coach and encourage their families throughout the growing season—from planting through harvest.”

Wheels for Winners: 40 Bikes in 40 Days, $2200
“This project offers disadvantaged youth a special opportunity to earn a bike in time to enjoy a summer of cycling for recreation and transportation. ...With the emphasis on community service as a means for earning bikes, this project will encourage kids in their community and will teach valuable lessons about hard work and helping others. As a specific goal, this project will support a special spring/early summer distribution of bikes, enabling Wheels For Winners (WFW) to properly overhaul 40 donated bikes, and target outreach efforts within our partnership network to identify deserving kids. Since [WFW] provides the labor and expertise through our volunteers, grant funds will be used to purchase needed equipment and parts to complete bike overhauls, and buy helmets and locks, and pay for storage of repaired bikes.”  

Let’s Eat Out!: Neighborhood Dinners, $2000
Started in 2012, Let’s Eat Out was born out ot the need for food carts to find additional vending locations beyond the traditional downtown area in order for their businesses to survive. Seeing how the food cart dinners have been successfully bringing neighborhoods together around the simple act of sharing a meal, Let’s Eat Out requested CRF funds to expand this concept to economically challenged areas with limited access to local, fresh food. “The goal of this initiative is to decrease food insecurity while increasing community cohesion through food by providing free fresh produce to community members as well as subsidized meals from the food carts. The communities targeted are: Meadowood, Allied Drive, Park Street and Rimrock Road.”

FairShare CSA Coalition: Intern Program, $1920
“FairShare CSA Coalition’s Internship Program engages students and community members in meaningful internships to prepare them for work in the nonprofit, local food, and sustainable agriculture fields. Their goal is to equip their interns with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture and the local food movement.” The grant will provide funding to hire three interns to work on critical aspects of their organizational work, including outreach and communications, Partner Shares, and farmer programs.

Thank you
Special thanks to our Board of Directors for continuing to allocate funding for this important community program, and to our 2015 Community Reinvestment Fund Grant Committee: Rick Bernstein, Board Member; Mike Engel, Board Member; gianofer fields, Media Advocacy Coordinator (staff); Gini Knight, Owner-At-Large; Meghan Gauger, Owner-At-Large; Michael Gay, Owner-At-Large; and Kirsten Moore, Director of Cooperative Services (staff). Congratulations to all the organizations! An informal reception for grant recipients to network and share their projects will be held on Thursday, June 18 from 6-8 in the Community Room at Willy East.
*Quotations in the summaries are directly taken from the recipient’s proposals.

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