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Recycling - are you doing it right?

By now, it seems that most people have gotten the memo that recycling is a small, seemingly simple waste-reducing favor we can do for our Earth. Unfortunately, there are misunderstandings and difficulties abound in the world of recycling. The best of intentions can be futile if you don’t adhere to under-publicized requirements of recycling. We compiled some helpful information for you to reference to help you recycle as effectively as possible!

Each city handles recycling a little bit differently, so it’s important to make sure that you review what the City of Madison specifically requires. They have specific guidelines, including information about what can be recycled and what needs to thrown away, how to prepare items to be recycled, what to do with irregular items, and schedules for recycling pick-up. Common errors have also been compiled into a handy reference page. You might realize you have been making an error that only requires a simple fix!

A quick google search revealed this list of other common mistakes people make when recycling -- there is definitely no shortage of these lists, so you can do some exploring and find out how you can improve your recycling practices!

Interested in taking your waste-reduction efforts a step further? Look into composting! Unfortunately, there is currently no city-wide composting initiative, but check out this website with information about how to compost in your home.

While recycling is not quite as beneficial for the Earth as reducing your use of plastic/single-use material or reusing/repurposing items, but it is so much better than stuffing our landfills. Inappropriately recycled items end up in the landfill -- if you go through the effort of recycling in it, you might as well make sure you do it appropriately!


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SPRING PRIMARY IN WISCONSIN!

Today isn’t just any old Tuesday… It’s the SPRING PRIMARY! We’re all about civic engagement here at Short Stack, and we want to encourage everyone to get out there and exercise your right to vote. Now, primaries tend to not get as much buzz or turn out as other elections. Your voice matters NOW — don’t wait to show up and make your voice heard, you have a great opportunity to do so this Tuesday.

Here’s what will be on the ballot for those of us living in Downtown Madison:

  • Mayor

  • Madison Metropolitan School District School Board Member - Seat 3

  • Madison Metropolitan School District School Board Member - Seat 4

  • Madison Metropolitan School District School Board Member - Seat 5

Check out MyVote.wi.org to check your registration status, see who/what is on the ballot, and register t vote (or get info on how to register to vote if you do not meet the requirements to register online). The City of Madison also provides detailed information about voting here.

Wisconsin currently has very strict voter ID laws. In order to vote in Wisconsin, there are specific identifications that you must have with you. VoteRiders.com provides information about those identifications and how to get them. 

Voting as a student at the UW, MATC, or other nearby college can be particularly confusing — especially if you are from out of state. Check out this website (published by the UW, so it is UW specific) for information about voting as student!

Will you be out of town on voting day? Do you currently reside in a different state than you have established residency? Are you a student? You can vote absentee or early! The City of Madison provides detailed instructions for how Madisonians can vote absentee or early on this website.

Getting to the polls can be difficult, but there are many organizations and services that are willing to help. Carpoolvote.com is a service that provides rides for those that need them — and you can even sign up to be a driver!

A great way to learn about current political and social issues is ISideWith.com. It is geared towards seeing where you fall in terms of the potential 2020 presidential candidates, but has lots of information to help educate you on various issues.

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GSAFE - Creating Just Schools for LGBTQ+ Youth

The youth of today are our leaders tomorrow. At Short Stack, we firmly believe that it is absolutely critical to empower youth with the knowledge and leadership skills necessary to be a force for good in their world. That’s why we love GSAFE so much -- they do just that for LGBTQA+ youth in Wisconsin. Andrea, our Director of Sustainability, had the opportunity to chat with Brain J. from GSAFE about their mission and impact on the greater Wisconsin school community.

Tell me about the history and mission of GSAFE.

The primary focus of GSAFE is developing youth leaders to empower the LGBTQA+ community and advancing protections for youth across the state. Students deserve to feel seen and cared about, in a thoughtful and intentional way.

Further, we have a strong focus right now on raising voices in the LGBTQA+ community that have historically been more ignored than others. It is particularly important to make spaces for and empower leadership within LGBTQA+ students of color and trans and nonbinary students. We haven’t gotten that right in the past, and we continue to work to center our work around these specific youth populations.

For the last ten years GSAFE has worked with individual school districts to update or otherwise modernize their existing discrimination policies to specifically include protections for transgender and nonbinary students. Our medium range goal was to get half of all school districts in Wisconsin to have some kind of policy, and we have now met and exceeded that goal! We are now in the process of really helping schools implement those policies -- it is one thing to have a policy, it is another to have every educator on board and know how to implement those policies.

Where do you operate? What kinds of resources do you provide to LGBTQ+ youth?

We operate primarily within schools and school systems, supporting close to 250 Gender and Sexuality Alliances, originally known as Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs). We offer direct support via leadership conferences, classes, and a summer leadership camp. Students have the opportunity to build their network, refine their leadership skills, and become even more effective in their advocacy. Connection among students is a critical component of our work. We also offer support to students, families, and educators who come to us individually with a concern and assist them in solving the issue or advocating for them as need be.

What are some of the nuances or differences in working with LGBTQ+ youth versus LGBTQ+ adults?

Not to generalize, but they are AWESOME and have lots of optimism and energy. Oftentimes youth are in a position where they don’t have quite as many options as their adult counterparts -- their families or schools may or may not be supportive. This can affect how authentic they can be. Engaging in services outside of schools requires parental permission, so we have to grapple with how we can make schools supportive even when homes are not. Adults around them need to know how to be resources and supportive.

Youth in general, but particularly LGBTQA+ youth are frequently told that they aren’t smart or capable enough to have rights -- even though they do. They have a right to be seen, to be a leader, to not be abused. Youth often need extra reaffirming that these rights are true.  

What is the biggest issue facing LGBTQ youth today?

There are many issues that LGBTQA+ youth face, but we always come back to the fact that LGBTQA+ youth of color and transgender and nonbinary youth are not being treated with the same respect as their white, cisgender, and gender conforming peers. Educators often want to create a welcoming space for all students, but might not know how to accomodate for all intersections of identities. This creates unsafe spaces for youth, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not. Youth can often not be their true, authentic selves.

How can folks get involved? Any events coming up?

-Financial support is critical. When we don’t need to be thinking about funding, we’re able to invest in and grow our programming for students and educators. One great way to provide financial support is to eat at Short Stack during February, as a portion of every sale will go straight to GSAFE! Another is through our website, linked here.

-We often need volunteers to help behind the scenes at events such as conferences, fundraisers, and community events. If you have interest in volunteering for these, you may reach out via our website.


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Sustain Dane - The Sustainability Organization of Dane County

For the third year in a row, we are so proud to support, partner with, and learn from Sustain Dane. We’re amazed by their huge amount and array of programming and stand by their community-first approach to sustainability. I got to catch up with Jessie Lerner of Sustain Dane to learn the ins and outs of what Sustain Dane has going on right now — read below to find out!

Tell me about the history and mission of Sustain Dane?

Sustain Dane has been a force for good in Dane County for twenty years now. We have recently reimagined and refocused our mission and vision statements:

Vision: We are a thriving and connected community with a sustainable economy and environment we are proud to pass on to future generations.

Mission: We inspire, connect, and support people to accelerate sustainable actions for community wellbeing. I’d like to highlight the word “accelerate”. We’ve always focused on people and how the individual can impact change. There are lots of individuals impacting lots of change, and our job is to accelerate sustainable change, make it go faster. In order to do this, we need to have broader networks and work together.

What is something about your organization that people might not know about/might surprise people?

At any given point in the last 20 years, our staff has been anywhere from 1-8 people strong, and we currently have only 3. Our staff is extremely small. I think people would find this surprising because we have so, so much programming -- it is a combination of skilled, passionate staff and our rich partnerships that allow us to have such a large volume of programming.

Sustain Dane did a lot of amazing things in 2018. What was your favorite stand-out event/initiative/that SD did in 2018? What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

The thing that stands out in my mind from 2018 is the 10th annual Sustain Dane Summit. Formerly known as Badger Bioneers, this year’s edition of the event was very different from years past. We focused heavily on youth, art, and forward thinking. In particular, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison sponsored the comedy group called 1491s to entertain Summit-goers. A group of Native Americans, their style of comedy is cynical and involves plenty of Native American satire. Bringing them to the Summit was a risk in terms of how people would react -- but we are at a point where must take risks to move forwardIn 2019, we are pausing our MPower program. This past year we had more than 40 organizations interested in participating, but we were only able to accommodate a cohort of 4. It is time to consider how we can alter our work that is geared towards organizations to be more effective.

Also, we will be hiring a new executive director this year! Stay tuned for a job posting to be released very soon.

What types of resources are available to people through Sustain Dane?

This biggest resource Sustain Dane offers to the community is a network. Through our programming, we have a large network of professionals, activists, volunteers and community members who are all interested in making sure the Dane County area is sustainable.

How can people get involved with Sustain Dane? Events coming up?  

Newsletter - The best way for folks to get involved with Sustain Dane is by signing up for our newsletter to stay updated on upcoming events and ways to be sustainable.

Two upcoming events of note:

-1/18 MPower AND Quarterly Meeting of Sustainable Business Network. Full details and RSVP here

-1/31 Brunch for Sustainability at Short Stack Eatery

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Living Wage.

Crazy Al here. I am an owner of Short Stack. Couldn’t sit this conversation out. So here are my thoughts on this fine Saturday morning.

Exactly what we wanted to happen is happening. People are talking about this. People are pissed, confused, and simply tired of the pay inequity bullshit that exists in our country. But nonetheless, people are talking. This is step one of lots and lots of steps towards action.

I welcome the online (or in person-hit me up) dialogue.This is the whole point and why we chose to put all this content out there. I dig all the conversation on social media (Okay, maybe not the being called a cunt, a prick and a money-hungry asshole in the same hour...maybe try to spread them out throughout the day) but I recognize that there is so much to do besides post a bunch of shit online…

For people that need an introduction or simply a refresher on living wage and what factors are used to calculate it, I pulled up Madison’s calculations HERE. This breaks down how a person’s living wage differs depending on their family dynamic. So this begs the question-Why is the minimum wage that is mandated by the federal and state government and the living wage so different, especially in the state of WI (who has not raised the minimum wage since 2009)?

We also have had difficulty getting information from the City of Madison as they list a different dollar amount for our city’s living wage, but do not provide any information for people with dependents/families.  Why is it so hard to find a singular answer on current living wage in our state, city and county? We go to two different sites from accountable sources and find different answers. Anyone out there that can give me a clear cut answer, I would appreciate it. (See our current sources below for reference).

As an owner, I am under no LEGAL obligation to pay my employees anymore than $7.25/hour. This is fucked up. How do we change it? How do we encourage employers to pay employees more if the government won’t step up and mandate it?  One way is we fight for legislation to be passed to FORCE the government to step up and increase the minimum wage. Check out awesome orgs like Fight for $15 pushing for higher wages. Another way? We make it public on social media and our blog to start the dialogue. We bring employers to the mat (myself included) and shine the light on our own operation in order to hold ourselves accountable and figure out how to make this work.

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We went to our accountants (yes, we have an accounting team that we have been working with for six years to meet this goal of living wages) and had them calculate two things for us to start this dialogue with the public:

#1: What would the the annual increase be in our labor costs if we were to pay EVERY employee (we have 36 employees) their individual living wage: 59% increase (In dollars, an additional $338,200 every year).

#2: Pick one menu item to use as an example: What would a full stack of pancakes have to cost to cover this increase: $11.93. They are currently priced at $7 and we CONSTANTLY get feedback from customers that our food is ALREADY too expensive, making it inaccessible for some customers/potential customers. We waited three years to increase our menu prices (despite an increase in cost of product happening every year) after getting customer feedback that our food was too expensive.

Don’t want to increase pricing/put the burden on the customer? Then we look at cutting our variable costs (things within our control). Our two highest variable costs are labor and food/product cost. Tons of people online have had a common sentiment, “Tell your owner they are an asshole and shouldn’t make so much money.” I make $60,000/year. A reminder that  I need an additional $338,200/year to meet every employee’s living wage. Even if you paid me $0/year, that wouldn’t even cover 20% of the cost needed to make living wage for all employees. So we move to food costs-Do we cut the spending on local/organic ingredients and buy cheaper food to cut costs? Do we sacrifice quality and the support of our local economy/farmers to buy Walmart product? No. Our third highest variable cost is employee benefits. We spend approximately $137,000/year to pay for 100% of our full-time employees health insurance, provide free employee meals, PTO, stipends for work supplies (shoes, chef coats/pants, etc), employee wellness benefits like yoga and meditation, and paid leadership & development, training, and educational opportunities. We are not willing to cut these costs. Not even a little bit.

So besides looking at the issues of increasing menu prices and cutting costs, we also have to talk about educating our employee base about what paying an INDIVIDUAL living wage means. This means everyone could be paid a different amount, and wages would be unequal. This is not a bad NOR an impossible thing. We are working towards EQUITY, not equality. This is our goal. But first we have to start by educating employees/potential employees, so animosity among staff members doesn’t boil over. Here is an example: Let’s say I was a single person who had been working at Short Stack for five years, being paid my living wage of $11.52-$13.01 (depending on your source). Then a new trainee comes in who happens to be a single parent with two dependents (which we have numerous employees at Short Stack w/ dependents). Their living wage in WI is $29.04/hr. So despite having five years more experience, this single parent comes in and makes OVER DOUBLE what I make. Again, let me be VERY clear-this is EQUITABLE, not equal. Our goal is equity, so this is the structure we are working towards. However, the dialogue needs to happen so everyone understands.

I would be VERY interested to find any restaurant in Madison that is paying every employee their living wage. Please-if you know of any or are one, please please please reach out to me (alex@shortstackeats.com) because I would like to learn from you and figure out how we make this work in our own establishment.

Let me be crystal clear about one thing: Our number one goal is to get to a place where we can afford to pay EVERY employee their living wage (not including the cash and credit card tips that they share with their co-workers). We would ideally like to reach this goal without going out of business. We also want to challenge other employers to look at their own operations and see how they can work towards the same goal. Is this going to piss off other restaurateurs/small business owners who want to keep their financial happenings to themselves? Maybe. The goal isn't to make friends. The goal is create awareness and move the needle. So we will continue to go line by line with our accounting team to figure out how to do this. We will also continue to have in depth discussions with all our employees along the way about how we make this happen together, as a team.

Accountability time: Currently only 32% of our employees are paid their individual living wage or above at Short Stack. The work continues…

Nothing but love,

CA

You can hit me up at alex@shortstackeats.com. I ask that if you are an asshole, keep your emails to yourself. If you have constructive and/or informative stuff for me that is going to continue to push this forward, I’m all about it.


Our two different sources for living wage in Madison, WI are:

MIT’s Living Wage Calculator (We are going off this one as it provides calculations for employees with dependents and we have numerous employees with kids)

http://livingwage.mit.edu/metros/31540

City of Madison (This does not give us information/breakdown for employees with dependents)

https://www.cityofmadison.com/finance/wage/factsheet.cfm




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Traditional Tipping Structure and How Short Stack Eatery Turns That On Its Head

Working in the restaurant industry often means working long hours, smiling through sometimes negative customer encounters, and providing excellent service in hopes that customers decide to tip appropriately or even generously. Many servers in traditional restaurants make as low as $2.33 per hour from their employer — and the rest is expected to be made up in tips. Serving is far from an easy job, and compensation is dependent on customers who might not be aware of just how crucial their tips are to the server. We’d like to point out some issues with this:

  • We’re all human. Sometimes servers have bad days or have hard things happening in their lives and don’t perform at their highest level — which could then result in customers deciding to tip less. Conversely, a server might provide excellent service to a customer who’s having a bad day and reflects this in their tip -- a low tip for the server despite great service.

  • Tips from a customer who has biases against their server due to their race, gender, age, etc, often reflect these biases in the form of low tips regardless of level of service.

  • If the restaurant happens to have a slow day, a server might be required to stay on the clock regardless. This effectively means that this server would not be compensated for their time, because of a lack of customers to tip them. Servers sometimes cannot depend on their paychecks.

  • At busy, successful restaurants, a skilled server might make a great salary — that’s awesome! But at these restaurants, cooks don’t get tipped out. This results in cooks making significantly less than servers, even though they are intimately involved with the customer’s experience and are largely responsible for making it a great one. Animosity can develop between front-of-house and back-of-house because of this.

  • A competitive culture can develop between front of house staff because of tips, resulting in less teamwork and more issues between employees.

  • You, the customer, have already paid for your meal. Why should you also be expected to pay the wage of your server?

Here at Short Stack, when you leave a tip either when you sign your receipt, in our jars, or at the table, you are supporting everyone that works at this restaurant -- dishwashers, cooks, and front of house folks alike. We pay each employee above minimum wage, and do our best to pay them their living wages when possible (see THIS BLOG POST for more information about minimum wage vs living wage!). This means that your generous tips are an extremely appreciated addition to each employees paycheck — but they are not necessary as is the case at other restaurants with traditional tipping structure. We have chosen this model for many reasons:

  • Employees can count on a certain amount of money based on the number of hours they worked, regardless of how busy the restaurant is on their shifts.

  • Our cooks and dishwashers are shown much-deserved appreciation.

  • The divide between front-of-house and back-of-house is greatly reduced, resulting in a team-oriented and supportive culture.

  • Everyone works together to help each other deliver excellent service, encouraged by the knowledge that no one person will benefit more than the other.

While we recognize that tipping can make serving a very lucrative job or career at some restaurants, this is not the case at many. There are so many variables that can affect a server’s wage when dependent on tips, which we find to be unfair and outdated. We value our positive and collaboration-oriented work environment, and believe that our tipping structure is one major foundational aspect that leads to this.


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NAMI - Dane County -- Reducing stigmas surrounding mental illness and health

Some battles that are fought on a daily basis go unseen and unheard by nearly anyone, only experienced by the person fighting them. They can be lonely, scary, dark. Help can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to reach out for. Mental health is an important facet of overall health, and mental illnesses should be treated just like a physical illness — with compassion, patience, love, and competence. NAMI - Dane County works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, which is a vitally important task. I had the chance to chat with Kaitlyn Mellom, NAMI - Dane County’s Program Coordinator, who answered a few questions to elaborate on what it is they do!

Tell me about the history and mission of NAMI-Dane County.

One cool fact about NAMI Dane County is that it is actually the founding chapter of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization. What started as a few parents banding together to share resources for their kids with mental health difficulties over a kitchen table in 1977 has blossomed into a nationwide organization with over 900 affiliates. Today, NAMI Dane County strives to provide education, support, and advocacy for those affected by mental illness. This is done through educational programs and support groups for those living with mental illness and their loved ones as well as taking part in advocating for mental health rights. 

What is one aspect of NAMI-Dane County’s work that might surprise people?

One aspect that always surprises the people I talk to is that all of our educational and support programs are cost free to those who attend them. We are able to keep them cost free because of the incredible work of our volunteer facilitators and teachers.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

The most rewarding part about our work is when we get the opportunity to hear just how beneficial our programs are for people who may feel like they are out of options. One of the greatest parts is when someone will go through an educational program and then reach out to us asking how to become a teacher for the course, that someone found the information so helpful and meaningful that they want to provide that same help to others. 

How can people get involved?

There are number of ways people can get involved, including helping with our annual NAMI Walk or banquet/gala, becoming a facilitator for our programs, or helping out with tasks in the office. These are just a few ways in which people can get involved and if anyone is interested in volunteering with NAMI Dane County, there is an application on our website.


Any fun facts/important tidbits that people don’t generally know about NAMI or the issues with which NAMI works?

We're so grateful for the members of our community and our volunteers who help us continue our mission every day.

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October OTM - Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin

Planned Parenthood has been a force for good for over 100 years. If you haven’t taken advantage of their services, someone else in your life has. We specifically admire their intentional and purposeful service for individuals who may otherwise not have safe or affordable access to vital healthcare. I got to chat with Katrina Morrison, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Public Affairs Coordinator to find out more about what our local branch does and how we can all get involved!

What is the mission of Planned Parenthood?

Planned Parenthood strives to "empower all individuals to manage their sexual and reproductive health through patient services, education, and advocacy". We fulfill our mission through a holistic manner, as we are well aware that there are many factors that can influence one's ability to access and/or make informed decisions about their reproductive healthcare. Therefore, in order to fully advocate for accessible and affordable reproductive healthcare, we have to also advocate for: LGBTQ+ rights, gun control, immigrant communities, survivors of sexual assault, etc. Our programs and efforts are tailored to encompass this multifaceted approach. 

What’s one facet of your work that might be surprising to others?

In my capacity at Planned Parenthood, I primarily work with volunteers and community organizations to bring awareness to the services and resources we offer. Through this work, I have had the opportunity to do lots of fun outreach projects -- including, helping to plan reproductive and social justice related rallies!

In regards to the work of the agency, some people might find it surprising that Planned Parenthood offers educational programming tailored towards Latinx communities and their needs. 

What is important for other people to know about what Planned Parenthood does?

We offer an expansive amount of services to anyone and everyone, regardless of: gender identity, immigration status, income, age, etc. We provide where other healthcare providers cannot, and that makes our services vital to those who might not be able to otherwise access reproductive healthcare. 

What is most rewarding about your work?

I work directly with people — both those who use and those who support the services we provide. I get to see first hand the impact that we have, and it is meaningful and important. So many people know, use, and love Planned Parenthood. 

How do we get involved?

Email me with your interest and I can connect you to all of the resources! My email is katrina.morrison@ppwi.org.

We also have a volunteer form on our website. Most of our volunteer opportunities are through public affairs, so will include activities like tabling, attending different events on behalf of Planned Parenthood, and canvassing. Canvassing is particularly important right now — with the November election coming up, many issues regarding reproductive justice are implicated in each candidate. Canvassing is a great opportunity to promote candidates that support reproductive justice. 

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Vote Vote Vote!

Voting is SO important! It’s the best way we have to make a our voices heard and make a difference. However, it can be difficult to do. Knowing everything you need to have prepared ahead of time, what’s on the ballot, and all the other details of voting can be daunting and confusing. Short Stack believes in democracy and believes in your right to vote, so we’ve compiled resources to help you with the process! From now until November 6th, we will constantly be updating this post with new information and resources that we find.

MyVote.wi.org has tons of specific information for Wisconsin voters. You can check your registration status, see who/what is on the ballot, register to vote (and get info on how to register to vote). 

Wisconsin currently has very strict voter ID laws. In order to vote in Wisconsin, there are specific identifications that you must have with you. VoteRiders.com provides information about those identifications and how to get them.

Voting as a student at the UW, MATC, or other nearby college can be particularly confusing — especially if you are from out of state. Check out this website (published by the UW, so it is UW specific) for information about voting as student!

Will you be out of town on voting day? Do you currently reside in a different state than you have established residency? Are you a student? You can vote absentee or early! Check out this absentee and early voting information to learn more.

Getting to the polls can be difficult, but there are many organizations and services that are willing to help. Carpoolvote.com is a service that provides rides for those that need them — and you can even sign up to be a driver! Many of the services will become available closer to November 6. We will keep this post updated with any new services that we see!

A great way to learn about current political and social issues is ISideWith.com. It is geared towards seeing where you fall in terms of the potential 2020 presidential candidates, but has lots of information to help educate you on various issues.

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Centro Hispano - Empowering Youth, Strengthening Communities, and Engaging the Community

I had heard about the great work Centro does in the community, but I had no idea what to expect from the space itself when I went to visit Nina Geham, Centro's Director of Development and Communications. Let me tell you, I was absolutely floored! First of all, it's HUGE! They have recently renovated the entire space, and it is functional, accessible, and beautiful. Nina took me through the space and explained how each corner was being utilized to its fullest extent -- there truly is something in this space to suit any need.

What amazed me the most though, was the energy. You can feel how positive, powerful, and passionate everyone at Centro is just by being there. There is a drive behind everyone to support and empower the community, which leads to the incredible services and programming they provide. I spoke with Nina to learn about these -- read below to find out yourself!

What is the history of Centro?

Centro Hispano of Dane County (Centro), located at 810 West Badger Rd,  was founded over 30 years ago by a group of community volunteers to meet the emergent needs of Cuban refugees recently settled in Madison, WI. As the Latino community in Dane County grew and diversified over the years, so did Centro – the agency is now the largest social service provider for Latinos in the county and serves 5,000+ individuals with quality programs and services each year.  

What kinds of disparities or issues does Centro work on?

The current national climate targeting immigrants and refugees is completely unacceptable. Families belong together, growing and thriving, no matter their background or immigration status. Opting to leave your home country, and to leave everything behind, is no easy decision. It is often the only one left to escape violence and turmoil. The chance to seek refuge, where a family can thrive and contribute to America is not a crime – it is the foundation of this country and of the American Dream.


Our immigration system is broken. A system that favors some over others is unjust, and manipulating families as a means of discouraging immigration is immoral.  Let it be clear that Centro Hispano of Dane County (Centro) stands in opposition to current immigration policies that affect the most vulnerable members of our community. These policies are based on political power plays and offer no humane solution to immigration reform – they are exclusionary, tear apart families, leave our DREAMers in limbo, and scar and traumatize generations to come.

What kinds of programs does Centro run?

Centro’s philosophy is that we need to invest in our children and youth but that strong youth, do not exist without strong and stable families, and a nurturing community. Our mission is therefore Empowering Youth, Strengthening Families, Engaging the Community.

Youth programs for middle and high school students embedded within Madison’s public schools, caseworker support on issues ranging from immigration to healthcare, to navigating the criminal justice system for Latino families, wellness and community activities ranging from Zumba classes, to a weekly Farmer’s market, and postpartum support group. 

For a complete list of programs please click here.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Honestly, everything is rewarding about this work because we are making an impact on the lives of people who need our support, especially at this difficult time.

How can people get involved?

Get informed! Get educated!

a. Engage with Centro - follow us and sign up for our quarterly newsletter and alerts

-Twitter: @micentro

-Facebook: @centro.hispano.5

-Newsletter: www.micentro.org/newsletter.html

b. Buy a limited edition Centro Action 2018 T-shirt and wear it to show your support for our community. Contact Nina Gehan, Nina@micentro.org, if interested. 

Give locally — invest in efforts committed to a thriving, vibrant, Latino community in Dane County!

a. Find out the many ways you can support Latino youth and families in Dane County, WI. http://www.micentro.org/give.html
b. Give to our youth, who are fighting to thrive, dream and aspire a chance at education! Especially our DREAMers who are faced with paying out-of-state tuition in a place they grew up in by making a gift to the BECA Scholarship Fund http://www.micentro.org/centro-beca-program.html

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Neighborhood Food Solutions - Sustainable food for a sustainable community

A small, local business ourselves, Short Stack is all about purchasing from local businesses and farms. When we found out about Robert Pierce and his work using urban agriculture to combat injustices in the prison and re-entry systems and to foster sustainable practices in low-income communities, we became fans immediately. So many of our passions wrapped up in one organization — how amazing! I was lucky enough to chat with the man himself, Robert Pierce, about this incredible organization.

Tell me a bit about the history of Neighborhood Food Solutions.

I began my urban farming practice in 1984. It was mostly a way to provide good, healthy food for myself and my family. I became active in multiple local food projects and I’m now focused on developing a more just foundation for food in the multi-ethnic and low-income neighborhoods of South Madison. I wanted to ensure that safe, affordable, and healthy food was accessible to those communities, and so Neighborhood Food Solutions began.

What is the mission of Neighborhood Food Solutions?

NFS was founded upon two principles: (1) to engage community members in learning about the economic, social, health, and environmental impacts of food, and (2) to promote active participation from community members and help implement community development strategies that create food-related economic opportunities. 

We have two programs under Neighborhood Food Solutions that carry out our mission. The Farming After Incarceration Release (FAIR) Initiative gives formerly incarcerated individuals a chance to get back on their feet socially and financially. These individuals are engaged in urban agriculture while participating in  strengthening local food systems. Program for Entrepreneurial Agricultural Training (PEAT) that was developed in 2009 works with low income and at-risk youth about where food is going and who is getting it. Beyond simply teaching them how to farm, the program guides them on how to become their own employer, eat healthy, and grow their own food.

What is something about your organization that others should know about?

Often times, the crimes that certain people are ostracized for after being incarcerated are things that other people do regularly without consequence. When people are getting in and out of the prison system and other situations like that, the system at large is against them — even if they’ve done nothing really wrong in the scheme of things. If most people were put in that situation, they would fail. Not because they didn’t try, but because no matter how hard they tried, the system is set up against them so success is often not possible. 

Neighborhood Food Solutions helps break the cycle. We help create a space to show people that things are not hopeless and teach them life skills that allow them to help themselves out of whatever situation they may have been in. 

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Being able to see people that can learn to work, and then express that they want to be a farmer on their own. It leads to many positives for the individual and the whole community, like production of local food, local purchasing, it adds to the economy… the list goes on. 

What is on the horizon for Neighborhood Food Solutions?

We’re in the process of getting more land. Right now we don’t have much, but we’re working on getting more. Once we get that land, we’ll be able to take on more people in our programs, as well as allow more people to do volunteer work to make all of this happen.

How can people get involved?

Until we get that new land, the best way people can get involved with our organization specifically is to donate. Donate at: http://nfsinc.org/tax-deductible-gifts/

 

 

Come say hi at the Madison Farmer’s Market on August 9th! We’ll be there with Neighborhood Food Solutions, selling lots of local goods and produce! 

 

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the foundation for black women's wellness: a movement not a whisper

Here at Short Stack, we know a thing or two about having an idea and running with it. We love seeing someone be passionate about an issue and then enacting real, tangible change. That's just what Lisa Peyton-Caire has done with The Foundation for Black Women's Wellness. What started as a personal crusade to bring attention to Black women’s health has grown into a county-wide effort with growing reach to eliminate the health disparities that Black women face in our community. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Lisa and learn more about the Foundation and why it is so important. 

Tell me about the history of your organization.

The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness (FFBWW) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that I founded along with a group of passionate women in 2012 here in Dane County. Our mission is to eliminate health disparities and other barriers impacting Black women and girls, and to empower them to live their healthiest, most well lives. We do this through year-round health promotion and education, support circles, advocacy, and connecting women to resources and opportunities to improve their lives. We directly engage and impact over 1,000 women and girls each year.

We also work with health systems and other partners to create better health outcomes for Black women, and we do a lot behind the scenes to influence how systems and institutions respond to Black women and their families--pressing for system-level change. This is so very important because here in Wisconsin, we lead the nation in health and quality of life disparities impacting Black women and their families.

We’ve elevated Black women’s health as an issue of public concern and mobilized Black women locally around the issue in a way that has never been done before. As one supporter said best “the Foundation has taken the issue of Black women’s health in Dane County from a whisper to a movement”. It’s an urgent issue.

What prompted you to launch this work?

A very personal experience led to this work. My mother, Roberta Peyton, died of heart disease at the age of 64 in 2006. Her death came too early and wasn’t expected. Sadly, what happened to her was the rule and not the exception for so many women in my family and community and across the country. After her death, my eyes were opened to just how serious and far reaching the disparities are that Black women face in our health outcomes—and how much younger we were living with and dying from largely preventable illnesses. The disparities go far beyond personal health choices and reflect the outcome of a lifetime of dealing with social inequities, systemic racism, and the very real pressures we face and feel as strong pillars of our families and communities.

In Wisconsin and Dane County and across the country – Black women are more likely to:

  • Live with and die from largely treatable and preventable illnesses.
  • Die of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke at higher rates and younger ages.
  • Be diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancers that are harder to treat and survive.
  • Die of breast cancer than our peers though less likely to be diagnosed with the disease.
  • Be uninsured or underinsured, curbing our access to preventative care and timely and appropriate treatment.
  • Though Black women and families have greater access to healthcare than in Wisconsin than in many other states, we still experience the worst overall health and mental health outcomes than any other group here.
  • Give birth prematurely to low-weight babies at greater risk of dying in the first year of life (regardless of our income or education level), resulting in higher infant mortality rates--2x’s higher than white women. Wisconsin has the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
  • Face social and economic barriers, a persistent wage gap, and higher levels of poverty that contribute to and compound poor physical and mental health outcomes.

The statistics are daunting and I’m only touching the surface. But there is always hope and solutions if we choose them. We have an opportunity right now to decide what kind of community, county, region and state we want to be for Black women, for families of color—and to change these outcomes once and for all. We can do it.

So I started Black Women’s Wellness Day (BWWDAY) in May 2009 as a way to address this issue as I understood it at that time first by bringing Black women together to start a new conversation about how we want to live, how we would work to save our own lives and create the conditions we need to move from surviving to thriving. I lived in Maryland at the time and it all started as a very small, impassioned effort to make change. When I moved back to Madison in 2011, I brought the work with me and saw the great need for it here.

BWWDAY was immediately received here in Madison, and has grown from a gathering of 100 to over 500 women and community partners each year, providing information, inspiration and empowerment to all who attend. And we’ve done it all up to now as a 100% volunteer-led effort. Women leave BWWDAY equipped with information, tools, new knowledge, and connections to resources that enable them to take their health into their own hands, and to make informed choices and actions toward optimal health. It’s a life-changing day and experience!

After our first BWWDAY in Madison at the Urban League in May 2012, it was clear that we needed more than just one day to make a real impact. Women wanted and needed more, and the disparities we face here in Dane County and across the State made it necessary to take the next step. So, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness was born. Our initiatives focus broadly on health literacy and promotion, prevention, mental/spiritual, physical and financial well-being, along with our advocacy work and partnerships with health systems and other stakeholders to build an environment in this community that bolsters the well-being of Black women and families.

What challenges does your organization face and how do you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges we face is helping people see that Black women’s health is not just a Black community issue, but a community issue that everyone should care about and that everyone has a stake in improving. It’s everyone’s business. The persistent disparities we see weren’t created yesterday and have their roots in a long history of racial inequality and its lingering effects today. Eliminating the disparities is possible if we choose to, and will require everyone’s efforts. I’m encouraged by the folks who embrace this responsibility alongside us.

What is your favorite part about your organization?

Two things! First, we get to see women completely transform their lives and to discover their personal capacity to be resilient, to choose something more, to adopt new behaviors and create the solutions they need to live healthier, stronger, and to build a new legacy of wellness. They pass this transformation on to their families and their community and it’s powerful! They go on to become advocates, leaders, and creators of change in even bigger ways. We spark that change, and the ripple effect flows from there.

Second, we get to work with incredible partners like our four local health systems, companies, businesses and community based organizations who are more committed than ever to supporting our work, driving change in their  own institutions that positively impact Black women and families, and getting deeply engaged in creating long-term solutions. We make a greater impact working together.

Where do you see the organization in 10 years?

In 10 years we’d like to look back and see that we’ve been a major part of moving Wisconsin from the worst to the best for Black women’s health. We want Wisconsin to be the model and the leader in showing how you move from disparity to opportunity and real well-being for Black women and families. We will also have a greater presence across the State, and a national and even international presence. This issue is much bigger than Wisconsin, but if we change the outcomes here, we can change them anywhere.

 What is something that might surprise people?

Something that always surprises people and should deeply concern us all is that Wisconsin is the only state in the U.S. where Black women’s life expectancy is stagnant or some would argue, declining. The gap has widened for us rather than closing. This is unacceptable and illustrates how absolutely imperative it is that this work is done and that everyone pitch in. We need you!  

What can people do to help?

  • You can give! We rely on the community’s support to make a difference.
    • Go to our website: www.ffbww.org, follow the “Give” link. This will take you to our GoFundMe page! Or you can mail a check to us at our address on the Contact page of our web site.
  • You can sponsor a woman or girl to attend Black Women’s Wellness Day.
    • Each year we get more requests from women who would hugely benefit from attending, but are not financially able. Your seat sponsorship would help many women that otherwise would not be able to attend our event coming up on Sat., September 22nd.
  • Go to www.blackwomenswellnessday.org and follow the registration link! Choose the General Donation ticket and donate in any amount that feels right to you.
    • You can volunteer!
  • We are a small but mighty force, and we rely on volunteers to get much of the work done. Any skill you have, we likely have a need for it. We have needs for fundraising, marketing, social media, community outreach, administrative support…the list goes on. Contact us if you are interested!
  • Follow our social channels to stay engaged with our work!
    • Facebook.com/blackwomenswellnessday
    • Instagram.com/bwwdayfounder

Finally, become advocates for Black women’s health. Find your voice on the issue, what strikes a chord with you, and use it to make a difference.

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Alzheimer's Association - fighting Alzheimer's Disease one Longest Day at a time

Alzheimer's Disease hits close to home for many of our SSE family. It just makes sense for us to partner with the Alzheimer's Association to raise awareness and funds to combat this horrible disease.

On June 6th, we held our annual Rib Battle event to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. It was an incredible event with tasty food, fun games, and lots and lots of people all coming together to help end Alzheimer's. I met up with Kate Mayefske the day before the event to learn more about what the South Central Wisconsin chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is all about.

Tell me about the history of the organization/your chapter

The South Central Wisconsin chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is one chapter of a national network of chapters. Alzheimer's Association was founded in the early 1980 by Jerome Stone, and it is now based in Chicago. It has grown to be involved in care and support services for all those affected by Alzheimer's and related types of dementia, including those living with the condition and their loved ones and caregivers. We also advocate at the national and state level, and fund research for better therapy and hopefully a cure.

What is your role within the organization?

We are a small staff of 4 employees, and I am one of them. I do a variety of things, including being the staff lead of The Longest Day, which is our second signature event. Our first signature event is the Walk to End Alzheimer's, a nation-wide walk to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's research.

What is The Longest Day?

The Longest Day is an event typically held in June around the Summer Solstice. The idea is that the person holding the event chooses an activity that either they love, or their loved one that lives with Alzheimer's loves, and make it a tribute to their loved one with the goal of raising awareness and funds. The range of activities is endless: we have a woman climbing a mountain, a beer tasting, and of course, Short Stack's Rib Battle. It's all about personalizing the day and making it a tribute to their loved one.

Where does the name "The Longest Day" come from?

The event is typically held around the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year. It represents the long days that caregivers can have when caring for their loved one, and also is a nod to the fact that the concept of time can change for the person living with Alzheimer's.

What's something that would surprise people about your organization?

We are the third largest funder of Alzheimer's research, behind the US government and the Chinese government. There are 2 researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison whose work is funded by this money! We have impact on every level -- close to home, national, and global.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Helping people. I get to help connect people with information that will help them, whether that is information about how to make the most of the time left for a person with early onset Alzheimer's, or connecting caregivers with networks of people that can support and help them best care for their loved one.

How do we get involved?

We rely on our volunteers to reach out into the community! Your commitment can be as little as a 1 day event, participating for a season, or even an ongoing engagement. No matter what, your contributions matter. There's something for everyone, too! We lok for people to assist with support groups, facilitate office work, help with web design and social media… the list goes on.

The best way to get involved is to go to our website, alz.org/scwisc. From there, click the volunteer link and there will be a description of jobs volunteers might have and a link to the application!

Anything else?

Some interesting stats:

-There are over 7,000 people living with Alzheimer's or related dementia in Dane county, and over 110,000 in Wisconsin.

-Of caregivers, 2/3 tend to be women.

-People that participate in our social groups for those that have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment report a great increase in quality of life and learn a lot about how to cope with the disease process.

Alzheimer's affects a great many people, and the Alzheimer's Association is here to help. Come on down to Short Stack the entire month of June and part of your meal will go to help support this great cause!

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WHEELS FOR WINNERS: ENGAGING WITH THE COMMUNITY THROUGH BIKES

Do you remember getting your first bike? I know I do. It was pink and glittery and had ribbons on the handlebars…which was great, don’t get me wrong. But I was more interested in the fact that it got me to my best friend’s house, to the gas station a few streets over to get a candy bar with friends during the summer. I rode it to school and felt like a ‘grown-up’ when I was in the third grade.  

Wheels for Winners wants every kid to have this kind of experience. I sat down with Stephen Bagwell to find out how they do that.

Give me a little bit of backstory about Wheels for Winners

The organization has been serving the Madison community for 26 years. Madison has a strong biking community; a key part of which is insuring that all children in the Dane county area have access to quality bikes.  Wheels' founders saw an opportunity to use bikes to build communities, so their bike earning program began.

What is the mission of Wheels for Winners?

 To create a sustainable bike ecology where we get kids on bicycles, get them connected with their community and extend the life of older bikes by keeping them on the road.  When you first get a bike, it opens up so many doors. It immediately expands the area you have access to by a lot, gives you access to new places and freedom to reach further.  Many kids in Madison may not have the opportunity to access a bike for a variety of reasons. Wheels is here to bridge that gap and provide bikes to those who might not get them otherwise and to connect them with the community.

Everything Wheels does is about getting kids on bikes and keeping them in service and on the road. Biking is an outdoor activity, it’s healthy, it’s engaging with the community. If kids are biking, then the family is likely biking, and this develops the biking community generationally and sustainably. The more people that are biking, the better our biking infrastructure gets for everyone. It enfranchises our community physically.

Wheels is dedicated to engaging Dane county communities through cycling. For earners to earn a bike, they must do 15 hours of some kind of community service. Not only does this create investment and value for the earner in the bike, this also either starts or reinforces a model of community involvement.  Both the act of service and the bike are given value for our earners.   The earners see how our volunteers value their contributions and work.

How does Wheels work?

Bikes come in through donations throughout the year, and winter time is when most of the refurbishing and rehabbing happens. Wheels can take bikes in any state—if they can’t be refurbished, all useful parts are stripped from them and kept in circulation.

In the spring, earners start coming in.  Any kind of community service is accepted, as long as it does something good for someone else. After filling out the forms that document the service, earners talk to mechanics and chat about the service they did and why they’re excited to get bikes. The mechanics love talking to the kids and making relationships with them! They’re then fitted for a bike and a helmet, given a lock, talk about bike safety, and then are sent on their way with their new-to-them bike. Easy!

Wheels actively cultivates and maintains relationships with community organizations and groups to generate community projects for their earners and tailor their program to the needs of each community served.  Often, this is how earners learn about wheels.  Sustaining community partnerships is essential to the success wheels has had.  Wheels couldn't do it's job without the many helping hands those community partner's provide.

What is your biggest need? How can people get involved?

The biggest thing is Wheels needs is outreach. We want every single person that wants to be on a bike to be on one. Wheels always welcomes help figuring out what barriers exist to accessing their services and identifying pockets of the community that they haven’t touched yet. 

As a volunteer only, non-profit organization, financial donations are always appreciated. Wheels is an efficient responsible organization with intentionally low overhead.  All money and bikes donated go directly into putting bikes on the road and keeping them there.

Wheels isn't in dire need of volunteers, but know that if you'd like to join them, you're welcome no matter what experience you may have with bicycles.  Daytime hours and evening hours are both needed; please reach out so that Wheels can have the shop open for earners even more often!  

For further information and contact please visit http://wheelsforwinners.org/

 

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Black Woman Heal - increasing prevention, awareness, and healing efforts of sexual abuse throughout the African Diaspora

Sexual assault is a pervasive tragedy that no one should have to suffer—and that’s why we love any organization that works to combat the traumas that result from it. We ESPECIALLY love Black Woman Heal, an organization that focuses specifically on healing Black women and girls from sexual assault trauma. We met up with the one and only Lilada Gee to find out why this focus is necessary, what exactly Black Woman Heal does and means to the community, and how people can get involved.

Tell me about the history of Black Woman Heal.

I was doing national level work in the field of sexual assault, but I noticed that there were not that many Black women working in the field. For a long stretch, there were no Black sexual assault advocates in the entire state of Wisconsin. And I have never know it to be more than two at any given time. I got to thinking about what that  meant in terms of Black women who needed to heal through a cultural context. If a Black woman feels like she isn’t going to get the help she needs because the person doesn’t understand her cultural experience, she won’t seek help in the first place. 

Black women are disproportionately affected by sexual assault. Sexual assault is in the Black lineage, through the historic trauma of sexual assault via slavery throughout the African Diaspora. Even if an individual Black woman hasn’t been sexually assaulted, she is personally affected, because a Black woman that she knows and loves has been.  Many issues stem from historic traumas of sexual assault. All of this culminates in a need for a specific focus on the healing of Black women. I’ve received pushback over time from people who say that “White women get raped too!”. This is true. But given the context and the lack of culturally appropriate resources, it is critical to focus on healing traumas in Black women. This is why Black Woman Heal was born. 

So, what exactly do you mean by “healing in a cultural context”?

Try to imagine that you are a therapist or advocate who speaks only English, and you’re sitting across from your patient who speaks only Spanish. You aren’t going to be able to help her. There’s a language barrier, as well as a lack of cultural understanding. It’s as practical as that. Black people “speak English” but there are many cultural nuances in Black language and Black experience. There are different meanings for words that are even traced back to literal African dialects. Even if a white therapist or advocate may have the best intentions,  they won’t be able to support victims in a way that is meaningful enough to heal traumas as deep as those caused by sexual assault without that understanding the cultural context in which those experiences have occurred.

Another aspect of it is Black representation in sexual assault advocates and other individuals involved in healing provides strong support and role models for healing Black women. If you are a white therapist or advocate and all you know are traumatized Black women, how can you know what a healthy baseline is for Black women? It’s necessary for Black women to see that it is possible to heal, to be understood, and to be valued; and not  have to translate their experience before a person can address their areas of woundedness. 

What is the mission of Black Woman Heal? 

To inspire Black women and girls to reclaim their spirits, minds and bodies from the devastation of historic and present day sexual trauma. I want Black women to realize that healing is critical, necessary and most importantly, possible. We have lived with pain and trauma for so long that it has become normalized. The organization is called Black WOMAN Heal—a call to the individual woman to heal in order to help the collective—the Black family and the Black community. Healing as Black women, healing with Black women, healing in the ways that Black women heal; helps us to understand that there are so many answers inside of ourselves. We don’t need to be fixed by anyone else. We don’t want to be told how we should be, or how we should not be. Black Woman Heal aims to create the sacred space that celebrates the strength and wisdom of Black women to find the answers they need to heal their lives. This happens organically, when in is done in a context that inspires them to embrace the totality of Black womanhood.

What is one thing about your organization or its mission that would surprise people?

That we do the healing work that we do because of the experience of Black women many generations before the women and girls that we currently directly serve. The devastating legacy of sexual assault in Black communities can be traced directly back to slavery. No Black woman owned her own body, nor her own sexuality. For hundreds of years Black women and girls were raped. Mother after mother. Daughter after daughter. Rape after rape. This legacy is heavily pervasive and relevant to the experince of every Black woman and every Black girl throughout the African Diaspora. If she’s been a direct victim or not, her life in some way has been touched by the sexual trauma of the Black women that have come before her, especially those who have not healed. When you do not heal trauma and deep wounds, all you can do is pass that pain forward. And it becomes a heavy burden that EVERY Black girl carries forward in various degrees from her childhood, into her womanhood, into her motherhood and into every relationship. This is something that we as Black women are not often consciously aware of, and that is what makes it so incideous. We don’t know the wounds are there—we feel the pain, the anxiety, the depression, but we don’t know why it is  there or how much it really impact us, which means it does not get healed. It may get pacified—it may get dressed-up, drank-up, drugged-up, educated-up, looking for love in all the wrong places-up, angered-up, but not healed-up. The historical context is real and tangible and needs to be addressed to effectively heal. 

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Working with my girls! There truly is no more sacred space than being in the midst of someone’s pain and their story, and especially those of a child. There is no place that would be better for me to be. To be in a space with a girl and for the first time have her feel safe enough to to be able to share her struggle, it’s amazing. The girls are loud and joyful as they’re leaving grouping, and to me, that’s not a problem, though some people might perceive it that way. Their expression of happiness means something is going right!

What is the best way for people to get involved with Black Woman Heal?

There are 3 great ways to get involved with Black Woman Heal:

  1. We’re in need of financial support. You can go to Nehemiah’s website—www.Nehemiah.org and follow the donation prompt until you see Lilada’s Livingroom. Our website is almost finished, and you’ll be able to donate there too!
  2. Come to The Giving Circle! The Giving Circle is a time and place for women to meet and connect and discuss these issues. We aren’t going to intellectualize ourselves out of racism and its impact on Black women and girls; we have to love ourselves out of this through relationship and genuine concern.
  3. We are in need of volunteers to help us with marketing and campaigns! Any graphic designers, videographers, editors, and the like that would be willing to provide volunteer services should contact Lilada at BlackWomanHeal@gmail.com!

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Celebrating Neighborhood House - Madison's oldest community Center!



Not everyone knows what a community center is or does.

Thinking of community centers might conjure up some vague imagery involving squeaky hardwood floors, the smell of craft supplies, or weekly fitness classes.

In truth, it’s right there in the name - community centers exist for the benefit of the entire community and they are both a physical location that community members can access for events, gatherings, meetings, rehearsals, or almost any other purpose you can dream of - and a one-stop source for programming, classes, events, or celebrations that community members want to share in together.

SSE’s #tinyboss caught up with Ben Tolle and Nikki Novoselsky from Neighborhood House to learn more about Madison’s oldest community center (101 years!).

Tell us a little bit about the history of Neighborhood House!

In 1916, a UW student wrote an undergraduate thesis proposing the creation of Neighborhood House to meet the needs of the growing Greenbush community.

The late 1800’s saw a wave of new immigrants coming to America, and the City of Madison experienced an upswell of Jewish and Italian immigrants who were shuttled into a swampy, run-down area of the city with dilapidated housing and inadequate infrastructure - what we now know as the Greenbush neighborhood. University of Wisconsin student Henry Barnbrock Jr. wrote a 72-page paper documenting the list of social problems stemming from this influx of new immigrants which sparked the initial efforts to establish a settlement house - and thus, Neighborhood House began as a resource for new Americans to acclimate to their new environment, learn English, connect with others, and find community.

101 years later, Neighborhood House is in its third location in the Greenbush/Vilas neighborhood, currently situated south of Regent Street at 29 S. Mills Street. Over the years and generations the focus has shifted and broadened. No longer an exclusive resource for new immigrants, Neighborhood House has developed into a resource and social hub that stretches beyond neighborhood boundaries into a center that serves the entire Madison community.

What is the mission of Neighborhood House?

Our official mission is to provide high quality programming and social services that facilitate the growth of a diverse, responsible, and welcoming community… and we keep it broad enough to address anything that assists in the overall health and betterment of our community.

What’s beautiful about Neighborhood House is the amount of diversity we see in both the people we serve, their interests, and the different connections they make alongside us. We also believe it’s important to have a physical location where people can connect face-to-face, without technology or screens, and enjoy spending time together in person.
 

What is an aspect of your work that others might find surprising or unexpected?

There’s a little disconnect in where we are currently located. A lot of people are surprised that a lot of people who fund Neighborhood House aren’t necessarily the people utilizing our services. We’re not currently situated in a low-income neighborhood, however more that half the people who participate in our programming do come from low-income families.

There’s also a misconception where people think they have to live close to us in order to access our services and programming. That’s not true! We serve the entire Madison community and anyone wanting to use our space or enjoy our services and programming is welcome!

What do you wish that people knew about community centers?

We really wish that everyone understood that community centers are for you - the community!

Think about it - how do all good ideas start? They start with people coming together and discussing whatever it is that they need. And if enough people think that something is important, those ideas can become reality.

Essentially, community centers can offer whatever it is that the public wants so long as there is enough demand for it. We host groups with all sorts of interests - medieval sword fighting, Spanish classes, hip-hop groups, Brazilian dance… and good ideas can be shared activities like those, or something as simple as wanting to get together with friends on a Friday evening.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

At Neighborhood House we get to work with people of all different backgrounds, ages, interests, etc., and hear a multitude of stories. The opportunity to regularly cross paths with others who are really different from you also forces you to realize that we are not so different from one another at all.

It’s also wonderful to hear stories about Neighborhood House from members of the community, considering we are the oldest community center in Madison. We’ve heard stories from across many generations - whether events or programs people have enjoyed over the years, activities they’ve created with others, or life moments that they’ve shared with us. All moments of life are recognized here and hearing how much Neighborhood House means to others is really rewarding.

How can others get involved?

Neighborhood House is always looking for volunteers - whether that’s for college students interested in getting involved with our twice-a-week mentoring program, one-time events such as community meals or fundraisers, our summer camp, or small projects that help us keep our space in good condition for everyone to enjoy.

At the moment we’re also hosting a Valentine’s Day fundraiser where people can stop by our website and send either flowers or Gail Ambrosius chocolate to someone special. We will wrap each selection for you and deliver it on Valentine’s Day, and a portion of proceeds will return to us - in order to help keep spreading joy and love throughout our community!

Another nice opportunity to get to know us with less pressure is to stop by one of our community dinners. Throughout the year, Neighborhood House hosts community meals which provide a nice, informal opportunity to get to know others without needing to make a commitment. We hope you’ll drop by!

 

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Sustain Dane - Madison's one stop shop for all things sustainable!

Everyone has resolutions.

Whether they’re for the New Year, in response to current events, part of a promise to honor social or environmental movements, or simply for personal growth - many of us can identify with wanting to improve our lives for the better.

What most of us might not consider is whether or not we’re interested in pursuing sustainable changes… BUT, before you sell yourself short - you might be surprised to learn that, more often than not, you’re already on the right track!

To ring in the new year, SSE was thrilled to start out 2018 by learning from our wonderful organization of the month, Sustain Dane! We chatted with Lucille Marshall to learn more about how Sustain Dane serves as a resource for all sustainability efforts throughout Madison - both large and small - and how we can incorporate many of those practices into our own resolutions for the future!

 

So, what is “sustainability” anyway?

Something exciting about sustainability work is that it has the ability to bring lots of people together. It’s about transforming our community for the better to strive for a shared future in which we are all healthy and thriving.

You can think of sustainability as a three-legged stool -- supported by social, economic, and environmental efforts throughout our local community. The first addresses the need for strong connections with others by working towards an equitable society and fostering a sense of belonging amongst all corners of the community. The second supports livable wages, affordable housing, and just economic practices. And the third ensures access to a beautiful and healthy environment including clean air, water, and food for all.

 

What is the history and mission of Sustain Dane?

Sustain Dane began in the 1990’s as a grassroots initiative by a group of local neighbors. What began as a place to hold discussion circles and learn about incorporating sustainable changes into everyday life eventually blossomed into a fully-fledged nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status that now addresses the needs of the entire Madison community.

Sustain Dane believes that change happens when inspired people take action. They partner with sustainability champions and community leaders throughout Dane County to support existing sustainability efforts, provide visibility and a platform for other organizations to communicate their own initiatives, and aim to be a resource for all Madisonians looking to become partners in improving our community -- on any level.  

 

How does that work in practice?

Every year, Sustain Dane hosts an annual conference called the Badger Bioneers. Over the course of one uplifting day, Sustain Dane brings together youth, professionals, neighbors, community activists, educators, and volunteers to connect with one another and learn how to create local sustainable movements for change.

They have also created the Sustainable Business Network and the MPower Business Champion program for successful business leaders who believe in building a just economy, and harnessing the power of the business sector to create change.

For those looking to create change on the individual level, be sure to look at their Take Action checklist with ideas to incorporate into your daily life, or consider signing up for the 21-Day Eco-Equity Challenge to learn more about the various pathways within sustainability work, ideas to bring to your local communities, and more opportunities to consider sustainable practices in your daily life.

 

What is one facet of Sustain Dane’s work that might be surprising to others?

One of Sustain Dane’s newest initiatives is a storytelling project called The Megaphone. The Megaphone aims to be a powerful community platform that provides the space and tools to craft and share our stories; people from different backgrounds, races, age, gender and geographies that are working on and want to inspire others to build a more sustainable and inclusive community.

To kick off this new initiative, community members have been invited to participate in two Megaphone Storytelling Workshops and a StorySlam. Participants will craft and share their stories with fellow neighbors, learning about the art of storytelling that empowers and transforms. The Storytelling Workshops will be facilitated by Jen Rubin, co-producer of The Moth and Takeyla Benton, co-producer of Listen to Your Mother.

 

So, how do we get involved?

  • For those with less time but looking to make small changes to your daily life or environment, throw Sustain Dane a like on Facebook or Twitter! Social media is a great way to stay in the know regarding Sustain Dane’s many community partners and to receive updates about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities!
     

  • Those interested in joining through their workhat should definitely check out the Sustainable Business Network, which provides a breadth and depth of resources — including an online resources hub, ideas for new sustainability trends to incorporate into your own workplace, resource events, and quarterly meetings where participants have the opportunity to network, connect, and listen to speakers on an array of different topics tailored for the business sector.
     

  • To learn more about leaders within our own community, Sustain Dane has launched a new Facebook group dedicated to The Megaphone itself where folks can join in the conversation and share their own sustainability stories! Feel free to drop a hashtag with #themegaphone to help amplify your own sustainability work to inspire others in your community!

 

 

 

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Nehemiah empowering Madison's black community since 1992

Have you heard?? Nehemiah celebrated their 25 YEAR anniversary this month! That’s 25 years of empowering the black community in Madison. Read more about this incredible accomplishment HERE.

For this reason (and many more) we are so proud to be supporting Nehemiah as our local Organization of the Month (OTM) in November. This deserving OTM will receive percentage of our November sales--which means simply by eating Short Stack in November you are supporting this incredible organization. Reverend Alex Gee recently stopped in for some breakfast at SSE. Check out this Facebook Live video here where he invites the community to dine with him at Short Stack on Wednesday Nov 29th at 11:00am.


What is Nehemiah’s mission?
Nehemiah engages the greater Madison community to empower African American individuals, families, and communities to bring about hope, transformation, and justice.

What areas does Nehemiah focus on?

Youth Education and Leadership: From elementary to high school, Nehemiah has several programs that tackle race equity issues in Madison’s youth. With these programs Nehemiah has helped students improve their attendance and performance in schools and beyond

Reentry Services: This programming focuses on African American men that leave jail or prison and re-enter Dane County are at high risk of homelessness and the stark reality of recidivism. Through advocacy, mentorship, housing and employment opportunities, Nehemiah has helped hundreds of men through the reentry process.

Family and Community Wellness: According to their website, “the Chaplain’s work involves developing indigenous leaders, serving as a liaison with human service agencies, and connecting those in need with resources and planning.”

Economic Development: This area involves so many things including affordable housing and living wage jobs, loan development and supporting businesses run by African Americans.

Leadership and Capacity Development: Transforming the face of leadership through several intensive programs and internship opportunities throughout the year.

What is the Race to Equity Report and why is it significant?
Released in 2013, this report proved what many already knew to be true--African Americans are disproportionately underserved in every realm of life in Dane County. From high school graduation rates and health outcomes to incarceration rates and unemployment, African Americans are systematically and historically disadvantaged. It has been stated that both Madison and Wisconsin as a whole have some of the worst racial disparities in the nation and that it is simultaneously the best place to raise a family (if you’re white) and the worst place to live (if you’re black).

But years before this report was released, Nehemiah was working to address these issues in the Madison community. This report shed light on the severity of the injustices still present in Dane County, and ignited further momentum for programs and movements to address these issues.

What is Justified Anger (JA) Coalition?
The Justified Anger Coalition was created in 2013 and Our Madison Plan was released in 2015, both addressing the fact that Wisconsin routinely ranks as the worst state for social, economic, educational and health disparities among African American children and families. JA works for systemic solutions and mobilized allies to reduce racial disparities in greater Madison.

Justified Anger offers an incredible 10 week African American History Course for non-black people to learn the history they likely didn’t learn growing up in school.

The JA blog continually has relevant content. For example, check out this incredible article about how to be a white ally on Thanksgiving.

So how can I get involved with Nehemiah or Justified Anger?

-Donate directly to the cause!

-Volunteer in one of the many focus areas

-Get involved with Justified Anger and stay up to date with events and happenings with Nehemiah and Justified Anger

 

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DOMESTIC ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH: what you need to know

October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, and as such we has chosen Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) of Dane County as our Organization of the Month.

 

On Thursday 10/5 restaurants throughout Dane County come together for DAIS’ annual Dine Out for DAIS event, where 10% of sales go directly to DAIS.

What is the mission of DAIS?

DAIS’ Mission is to empower those affected by domestic violence and advocate for social change through support, education, and outreach. The mission hasn’t changed so much as we’ve simply increased the emphasis on Empowerment in our service model. Empowering DV victims to make their own decisions is critical in not repeating the dynamic of power and control that they experienced with their abuser.
 

What does DAIS do that may be lesser known?

While many people who’ve heard of DAIS likely know about the 24-7 Helpline and Emergency Shelter, they may not know that DAIS has a strong Prevention, Education and Training program which brings information about DV into schools, churches, businesses, community centers, and more. Anyone can request a speaker or trainer to come out and give a presentation. Learn more here: http://abuseintervention.org/about/education/
 

What are Community Support Services at DAIS?

DAIS staff and volunteers are available to meet with clients throughout Dane County, not only at the DAIS location. Legal Advocacy is one aspect of Community Support where advocates (who are not attorneys and do not provide legal advice) can sit with victims during court appearances, answer questions about legal processes, and assist in completing paperwork for things like restraining orders. DAIS has several bilingual advocates and also use a translation service as needed so that language is not a barrier for those seeking support.
 

How can I support DAIS?
If you have a little time
Learn more about the issue, and then share what you learn with others.

→ Starting a conversation brings the issue out of the shadows, raises awareness, and improves outcomes for our communities.

If you have more time
DAIS has an extensive volunteer program with numerous roles and ways to help.

→ Visit the DAIS website for more information and to get started
 

How does DAIS reflect community values?

DAIS has four core values, which they feel reflect the values of our community. In their words:

Mutual Respect We believe the basis for our effective working relationships, within the organization and with our external stakeholders, is a shared knowledge and appreciation for individual differences. We believe individuals have the right to make their own choices concerning personal safety and how they live their lives. We strive to create and foster relationships based in understanding and appreciation for both self and others.

Openness We believe that in serving the community and each other, we benefit from being receptive and responsive to ideas, behaviors, cultures, peoples, environments and experiences. We are accountable not only to our funders and donors, but also to each other as well as the people we serve and the community as a whole. We strive to foster an environment where people feel at ease to share opinions and to question.

Collaboration We believe in the equal distribution of power and privilege throughout society and believe that by working together with each other and with our community partners, we can achieve more than working independently. We strive to create an environment where people exchange strengths and complement others weaknesses without judgment and with a shared commitment to the purpose.

Shared Responsibility Domestic abuse is a community issue. All members of the community, including abusers, must take responsibility. We work with volunteers, individuals, co-workers, community groups and systems to fulfill our mission and strive toward our vision. We believe that we all have a part to play in creating a safe and peaceful community.
 

How can I support DAIS as a business or community group?

Businesses and other groups in the community can help in the following ways: post DAIS information for others to access, host a drive for in-kind donations or funds, host a tabling event where DAIS volunteers bring materials about DV, volunteer as a service group to assist with projects at the DAIS facility, sponsor DAIS events or programs with financial support, pledge employer matches to a workplace giving campaign, or suggest new ideas!

What does the future for DAIS look like in terms of goals short and long term?

DAIS sets annual strategic goals to ensure continued forward progress on our mission. Several current short term goals revolve around our commitment to Cultural Competence, both as an employer and a service provider. The more we understand about diversity in our community, the better prepared we are to provide services which honor that diversity and meet the specific needs of clients. Many long term goals revolve around improving the systems in our community which can work together to support victims and address DV at its root.
 

How and when did the annual fundraiser Dine Out for DAIS begin?

Dine Out for DAIS began in 2010. The inspiration was to use our community’s love of local food as a point around which to gather, raise awareness about DV, and also raise funds to support our programs. It’s an easy way for businesses and individuals alike to learn about the issue and participate in making a difference.

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