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Announcing the 2019 Community Reinvestment Fund Winners

by Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director

The Community Reinvestment Fund is one of the ways that Willy Street Co-op uses donated or abandoned Owner equity to support charitable local projects. Owners have the option to donate their equity to the fund when they leave the cooperative, and equity is automatically “abandoned” to the fund by law when Owners cease shopping at the Co-op for more than three years time and do not take steps to retrieve their equity. The fund is currently held at the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, and the Board of Directors allocates a portion of the fund annually for nonprofit and cooperative business grants available through a competitive application process. This year 34 organizations applied for a total of $115,713 in funding, and with $25,000 allocated for this year’s awards, we are pleased to announce the 11 organizations receiving 2019 grants. 

Bayview Foundation: Healthy Cooking Club $3,500

An affordable housing development close to downtown with 277 residents who are primarily immigrants and refugees from ten countries, Bayview Foundation provides free afterschool and summer programming to children ages 7–18. Over the past few years, CRF grants have supported cooking and gardening becoming an integral part of that programming, and the Healthy Cooking Club will utilize the garden’s harvest to provide 98 hours of culinary instruction and practice preparing and serving healthy and culturally appropriate snacks and meals to peers. This year’s funding supports the hire of a Bayview resident to act as the Cooking Club facilitator.

Briarpatch Youth Services: Madison Street Team $1,275

Picking up from year one, Briarpatch will continue expanding their successful Northport Madison Street Team to provide more 14–15 year old youth with first-time employment experience. The grant provides supplies and food for the program’s youth, who will perform a variety of neighborhood-identified community service projects such as maintaining community gardens, removing graffiti, conducting clothing and food drives, and more. All students receive 20 hours of training in employment readiness, financial literacy, and leadership as part of the program, and a celebration of their work and accomplishments is planned for the end of the summer. 

Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center: Edible & Ecological Garden $2,255

The Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center’s Edible & Ecological Garden will be built this summer to act as a “bountiful, open community space” for reading, art, yoga, sharing food, and learning about nature, nutrition, biology and permaculture. The project will involve the neighborhood in planting and building the garden, preparing community meals, offering bilingual nutrition classes, and developing a garden club for area children. The Community Reinvestment Fund supports the supply budget for their outdoor garden kitchen. 

Catholic Charities: Inciting Culture, Supporting Change—Women's Wellbeing at The Beacon Homeless Day Resource Center $2,500

The Beacon is a year-round homeless day resource center helping on average 225 guests per day with basic needs: meals, laundry, and shower services. The Beacon also provides access to computers, telephones, mail and transportation between night shelters; and it hosts partner agencies that connect guests to other community resources to become housed, financially stable, and live independently. Approximately 33% of The Beacon’s guests self-identify as women, and The Beacon recognizes that the experiences men and women have are very different, requiring different types of support. To address women’s specific needs, The Beacon is embarking on an educational project focused on women’s health and well-being utilizing art-based support and trauma-informed yoga practices to instill healthy coping mechanisms, identify safe spaces, and increase peer support for women experiencing homelessness. Funds will purchase art supplies, yoga equipment, lockable storage containers, and provide for yoga instruction. 

Dane Arts Mural Arts: Hawthorne School Tunnel—Safety and Beautification $3,000

Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) employs community artists to “beautify neighborhoods throughout Dane County by engaging youth and community members in all aspects of the collaborative mural making process.” One place that has been identified for a community mural is the pedestrian tunnel in the Truax neighborhood on Madison’s east side at East Washington and Fair Oaks Avenues. The tunnel is designed to provide safe access to Hawthorn Elementary School, though due to increasing safety concerns, the tunnel is underutilized. In partnership with Hawthorne Elementary, Madison Police Department, East Madison Community Center, and the Healthy Kids Collaborative, a comprehensive plan is now being developed to address the safety concerns including adult presence in the tunnels during school commuting hours, improving the lighting, and utilizing the mural project to bring people to the tunnel, and give the community ownership over its beauty and safety. Funds will provide paint, poly-tab mural fabric, and artist time during community planning and painting events at East Madison Community Center. 

Elver Park Neighborhood Center: Southwest Madison CSA Access and Learning Project $2,350

This year, Elver Park Neighborhood Center is partnering with Theresa Terrace Neighborhood Center on Madison’s west side to continue increasing neighborhood accessibility to fresh produce for children and families utilizing their centers. Both centers will use produce provided through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce shares acquired through FairShare CSA Coalition’s PartnerShares program for cooking activities within their youth programs. Programming will include taking home produce with recipes and other materials to assist with preparing the items for their families; and bringing in a local chef to host all-ages cooking lessons at community events. The grant purchases farm shares, educational resources, supplemental food and storage materials, and the food preparation and nutrition educator. 

Gio's Garden: Family Special Events $800

Gio’s Garden was founded in 2012 and is a therapeutic respite center for children with special needs and their families. As their organization has grown from offering 225 hours to 7,200 hours of care per year, they have added parent support groups offering peer support and a meal with childcare provided, and family special events where client families can meet, interact, and play together. This grant will support providing meals and food at eight parental sessions and two family events. 

Groundswell Conservancy: Creating Land Security for Immigrant and Minority Farmers $4,000

A local land trust for Dane County and the surrounding regions, Groundswell Conservancy protects land and water for future generations by creating conservation areas such as parks, natural and wildlife areas, and trails; protecting farmland from development; and ensuring equitable access to nature and land. This project focuses on addressing land tenure issues for immigrant and minority farmers. The Conservancy has purchased the 10 acre Westport Community Farm and partnered with Community Groundworks to identify the priority needs of the Hmong growers who farm the land, and the Pasley’s Swan Creek Farm in Fitchburg that will become home to Neighborhood Food Solutions, who leads the Farming After Incarceration Release (FAIR) and Program for Entrepreneurial Agriculture Training for Teenagers (PEAT) initiatives for youth and adults on the south side of Madison. These two newly protected farmlands and their use are “guided by the principles of community food-sovereignty, which values food providers, puts control locally, builds knowledge and skills, and works with nature.” The “project seeks to demonstrate that the market and subsistence farming can be a compatible land use near valuable conservation areas.” Funds will be used for infrastructure (items to be determined by the growers), project planning, and supplies including translation services and childcare for meeting participants.

Neighborhood House Community Center: Community Wellness Initiative $1,820

Madison’s oldest community center, Neighborhood House serves the Greenbush neighborhood on Madison’s south side near campus, and they are in the process of reinstating their fitness programming for older adults and seniors after a hiatus and are beginning to offer scholarships to participants with low income. After surveying neighborhood residents, they learned that the community would benefit from additional, low-cost and affordable fitness and wellness programming. Funds to expand offerings will be used to purchase yoga mats, jump ropes, speakers, pedometers, sports equipment, and for support salaries for the instructors. 

The Playing Field: Outdoor Play Space $1,500

The Playing Field was founded in 2015 to offer children ages 0–5 from varied socio-economic backgrounds early care and education, bridging “the gap between children of affluent families and those families who have minimal means.” They are currently remodeling their outside play spaces to address drainage issues, provide age-appropriate equipment such as a slide, and add a sensory playground for children impacted by trauma and those with other special needs. This will add to the time children spend outdoors and increase their capacity to serve. The grant “will be used to add dramatic play equipment for infants and toddlers, including the building of a stage and the addition of costumes, puppets, and props for outdoor play.” 

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners (WBTP): Canteen Cuisine $2,000

WBTP is a volunteer collective fostering a love of reading behind bars, pursuing knowledge and self-empowerment, and breaking the cycle of recidivism. Out of an effort to learn why many prisoners request cookbooks, Canteen Cuisine was born. “Among the prisoners who can afford to buy food from their institution’s canteen, many have developed ‘really amazing dishes and snacks’ that they cook (soley) in hot-pots and/or microwave ovens with the limited ingredients available to them.” WBTP has solicited and received recipes from prisoners and has now published them in the zine “Canteen Cuisine,” to raise public awareness about prison conditions and the nutritional quality and deficiencies of food available for purchase from the canteens and the meals provided by the Department of Corrections. The zine also publishes recipes from area chefs using the same criteria: “using canteen food that is prepared in a hot-pot and/or microwave oven.” Zines are distributed to prisoners and the public, and a public zine release party is being planned for formerly incarcerated people to speak about their own experiences dealing with meals, hunger and nutrition; a nutritional science intern to speak about their assessment of prison diets, and to learn about and sample foods used in prisons and jails. Funds will support printing and postage, the release party, the nutritional science intern’s stipend, and stipends for formerly incarcerated individuals to speak at the release.   

Special Thanks 

The Community Reinvestment Fund would not be possible without the legacy of Owners who leave our Co-op and decide to contribute the equity they invested in the business to the fund. Special thanks to our 2019 committee members. This year’s committee included Tina Abert, Owner-at-Large; Trevor Bynoe, Board Director; Kyle Freund, Owner-at-Large; Michael Gay, Owner-at-Large; Liz Hawley, Education and Outreach Coordinator; Kirsten Moore, Cooperative Services Director; and Stephanie Ricketts, Board Director. If you are interested in serving on this committee, we typically announce any committee openings (when available) in late fall or early winter through the Reader and on our Facebook page. 

Thank you for your support, and congratulations to this year’s grant award winners!