Author Archives: jaynecoster

“More Than a Store”

submitted by Carole Trone; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

Maldonados 6 12 2019  “More than a store. It is a gathering place,” was how Joe Maldonado summarized the special role of Luna’s Groceries in its first year of operations. Luna’s Groceries is the result of the inspiration, research and hard work of Joe and wife/business partner Mariam Maldonado, longtime residents of Madison’s Allied/Dunn’s Marsh neighborhood. As of last fall, they are owners of the only full-service grocery store in this diverse, working class neighborhood.

They love this neighborhood but recognized how residents have struggled to find nearby affordable and healthy food since the area’s only grocery store closed in 2009. Joe and Mariam both recounted rich childhood experiences of daily visits to the local store in their respective upbringings in Milwaukee and the Dominican Republic. Joe explained how “food deserts”—defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as the lack of convenient access to nutritious fruits, vegetables, meats and grains—hit low-income communities of color particularly hard.

Luna’s Groceries was preceded by a year of research into national, regional and local data on troubling patterns of food deserts located in low-income neighborhoods with correspondingly high numbers of chronic health problems. The Allied/Dunn’s Marsh Neighborhood was one of ten identified food deserts in Madison, further challenged by its location squeezed into a growing and massive road and highway interchange on Madison’s southwest side.

Nine months after opening, Luna’s is on target to exceed sales projections. Perhaps more importantly, Luna’s has become the answer to isolation, with an unexpected booming social media engagement, monthly cooking classes, demand for hot specialty foods, and a bi-monthly “Coffee at Luna’s” interview-format gathering on education, health and social issues that affect community members. With Luna’s Groceries, Madison residents can feed body and soul.

Opening Doors to Great Futures

submitted by Carol Toussaint; photo by Mary Ellen O’Brien

IMG_0047Michael Johnson, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Dane County, delivered on his promise to share “The Ten Characteristics of Successful Non Profit Leadership” with the Rotary Club audience on June 5th.  He was profiled in last week’s Rotary News and as Rotarians and guests learned, he lives his commitment to improving conditions for young people through his own successful leadership of a major non profit organization.  Sharing statistics of the impact of non profit organizations and position in the U.S. economy, Johnson had some eye-opening information for us.  But he focused on the challenge of keeping the current situation in focus and emphasized the challenges of adequate employment and educational opportunities.

Johnson pointed out the success of the AVID-TOPS program and drew attention to a soon to be released evaluation of records of students from this program as they proceed through graduation from high schools and enter colleges.  The records demonstrate the value of these programs supported by donors and service to the community when there is adequate support.

Those 10 characteristics of effective non profit leadership are:

  • Board and Executive Alignment
  • Passion for the Organization’s Mission
  • Empowering Team and Volunteers to Execute w/purpose
  • Keeping up with Trends w/ Effective Communications
  • Attracting & Recruiting A Diverse Workforce
  • Showing Confidence and Humility
  • Having A Positive Attitude & Long Term Vision
  • Being Persistent & Financially Astute
  • Inspire Others to Achieve Greatness
  • Accountability, Transparency & Fundraising

Johnson also emphasized the need for a non profit board to meet regularly, review the performance of the CEO, empower teams and assure staff proper training in communication, planning, and the need for a diversified workforce.  And, many in the audience could measure themselves against these characteristics in their work in non profit organizations whether as staff or as volunteers.  The board and executive leadership of the Rotary Club of Madison is, in my opinion, a great example of what Michael Johnson advocates!

Trent’s 10 Principles

submitted by Valerie Renk; photo by Mike Engelberger

Trent Jackson 5 29 2019   After congratulating 2019 Rotarian scholars, UW Foundation Sr. Director of Development Trent Jackson shared his Principles of Life.  Many Rotarians remember Jackson as the sixth all time leading scorer of the UW Badger basketball team.

These principles have helped Jackson through adversity ranging from childhood stuttering to a 2017 hate crime attack. His principles include:

  • We’re told to love, not like, your enemies.
  • Draw this from deep inside…or from above.
  • Have peace in mind and spirit, with your family and at work. Peace is related to integrity and honesty.  Make sure to live it.
  • Have faith; are you ready for good things to happen?
  • If you squeeze compassion, out comes kindness and friendless.  Squeeze harder and you’ll find grace, mercy and forgiveness.  Jackson coined the term “forgetness” which is important as so many people think they can forgive but not forget and forgetness is possible.
  • Wisdom is ROUGH: Reach Out, Up and Get Help!
  • What is the why behind what we do?  Why did this happen?  But we don’t need to understand everything.  Love, Obey and Trust (LOT).
  • If understand is the what, knowledge is the how. Ask how to get done what you want.
  • Jackson has a long list of Ds, both positive and negative.  Positive words that begin with D include discipline, determination, drive; he encouraged Rotarians to meditate on those Ds. Negative Ds to avoid include distraction and disunity.
  • Finally, have courage to work on all these principles in your life.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

“History Inspires People to Build a Better Future”

submitted by Kay Schwichtenberg; photo by Mike Engelberger

Christian Overland 5 22 2019Christian W. Overland has been the Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society since his appointment in February 2018.  He came to Madison from sixteen years in various positions at The Henry Ford Museum, in Dearborn, Michigan.

Overland has stepped into the position at an exciting time.  He and the Wisconsin Historical Society are planning to develop a new museum that would nearly double the square footage of the current facility on the Capitol Square at Mifflin and State Street.  It will be a $120 million public/private funding effort with the state funding $70 million and private funds providing the remaining $50 million. The story is unfolding in several chapters.

Chapter one started with the recently completed Wisconsin Historical Society archive facility on the east side of Madison that houses more than 200 million artifacts. It includes a large North American history collection that is second only in size to the archives in the Library of Congress.

Chapter two now connects that history through events and digital access for every citizen in the state. The new museum will be transformational by boosting access to many thousands more visitors.  Those stories will be shared around the state and around the world.

With additional space, Overland believes that exhibition and educational activities could be expanded with new state of the art technology providing visitors and students a unique ‘Wisconsin experience’.

Overland said that public input into the ideas, plans and content is critical to a successful project.  To that end, the Historical Society is setting up multiple events across the state to get input. “Every community needs a voice,” Overland said.

For more information visit www.wisconsinhistory.org.

Our thanks to WisEye for videotaping our meeting this week, and if you missed our meeting, you can watch it here.

Housing Stability

submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Mike Engelberger

Marah Curtis 5 15 2019

Marah Curtis (left) pictured here with Club President-Elect Stacy Nemeth

Marah Curtis, assistant professor at the UW School of Social Work, addressed the Club on May 15th on the current state of knowledge on addressing homelessness nationally and statewide.  She began by emphasizing that housing exists on a continuum from those who have consistent, stable housing to those who are homeless.  Most of the homeless experienced poor housing conditions before becoming homeless.  Professor Curtis noted that concern about homelessness involves the related issues of labor market success, health and education – not just shelter alone.

In Madison, low income rentals are very hard to obtain for those with poor credit, records of  incarceration or inconsistent earnings.  There are four approaches to addressing homelessness: Usual Case: Subsidy; Community Based Rapid Relocation and project Based Transitional Housing.  A major HUD study indicated that subsidy provides not only housing but lower rates of psychological duress, domestic abuse and number of schools attended by children.

“Housing First” is the most wide-spread program in the world to deal with homelessness and is used in Madison.  Studies of the program show that in 11 of 12 widely varied areas using the program, it produced greater housing than other approaches but results differ as to whether the program had a beneficial impact on amount of drug and alcohol abuse and other problems.  There was no indication that these problems were any worse than with other efforts to address homelessness.  Professor Curtis concluded her remarks by answering a number of questions from members focusing on the situation in Madison.

Her talk left members with much food for thought as well as specific information on one of the major issues of our time.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Governor Tony Evers — At the Heart of It

submitted by Ellie Schatz; photo by Mike Engelberger

Gov Tony Evers 5 1 19Being a past Rotarian when he was a private citizen, Governor Tony Evers opened with some personal observations. First, he applauded the audience for their civic mindedness and stressed the importance we play as role models for our young people. Second, he talked about the small private liabilities of being in a major public position. For instance, he asked how do you sell a car? It took him and his wife over a month to figure that out. In summary of his private life, he said, “I try to figure it out; not worry; keep steady.”

The Governor focused on questions of the budget in his formal presentation. His budget/funding goals include:

  1. The Transportation System. Wisconsin ranks low, somewhere between #48 and #50. Transportation issues include biking, walking, and mass transit.

 

  1. Health Care. He has a plan to infuse 1.6 million dollars to invest in, among other things, good baby and mom care, opioid treatment, and the health of children suffering from lead poisoning. As an aside he mentioned that frustrations include answering questions such as, “why spend all that money on those kids” (who are eating lead paint from their walls)?!

 

  1. Education, which is underfunded to the point of threatening the stature of the UW-Madison. Frustrations here include having to explain why professors are an important resource and why kids with disabilities or who speak English as a second language deserve a financial commitment.

 

  1. Criminal Justice Reform. Wisconsin has too many people sentenced to prison for non-violent crimes. We need urban area programs to help them rather than focusing on sentencing.

 

Some of these issues were elaborated during the Q & A. For instance, regarding education he was asked about in-state tuition for dreamers. He replied, “I think we’ll win that argument…. In-state tuition (and driver’s permits) are important – a no brainer.”

When asked about steps to stop abuses of minorities in school and housing, he emphasized the importance of conversations at the local and state levels. As he visited schools and communities in the past two weeks, he asked personnel and students if they thought racism was worse now than ever before. The answer was an unfortunate, resounding, “Yes!” The Governor emphasizes that we must acknowledge the problem, examine what is in our hearts, look at what we can do as individuals as well as groups, and accept our civic responsibilities for making a difference.

So, Governor, you were anything but dull today. From your heart and our hearts, we acknowledge the problems and resolve to move forward with respect and good will.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.  Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week.

The Rise and Decline of US Global Power

–submitted by Linn Roth; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Alfred McCoy 4 24 2019

In an insightful and concerning presentation, UW history professor Alfred McCoy outlined some of the history and future direction of the world’s geopolitics and presented a somber view of the future of US global influence.  Since the early 1900’s, the US has steadily built up its international preeminence and paid special attention to the “Eurasian” axis, which consists of Asia and Europe, and more recently, Africa.  Due to actions begun in the late seventies and guided by Zbigniew Brzenski, National Security Advisor during the Carter Administration, the US made Eurasia the central area of concentration in order to establish and maintain its global primacy.  President Obama furthered that effort, but in the last two years, the Trump administration has reversed course on three main pillars of US primacy:  NATO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and relations with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.  This entire problem might be further exacerbated by a trade war with China.

Additional signs suggest this concern is well founded.  By 2030, projections indicate India and China will grow their Gross Domestic Products considerably more than the US, and China will become the world’s largest economy.   Moreover, China now files more patents than the US, has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, and does substantially better in its science and math education programs.  As most of us can observe at UW, the majority of technical PhD candidates are foreign born, and therefore likely to return to their home countries with their acquired knowledge.

Furthermore, China has become extremely proactive in attempting to widen its influence throughout Eurasia in a variety of ways.  This effort might be epitomized by their ongoing $1.3 trillion Belt and Road program, which cuts right through the heart of Eurasia.  In addition, they have become aggressive in taking over ports in Italy, Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and in the conversion of sand islands to military bases in the South China Sea.  Given these developments, as well as concerns regarding current US foreign policy, Professor McCoy projects that US hegemony will substantially decline by 2030.  The eclipse of US influence should give us all pause for thought, and for those interested in learning more about this critical issue, please see Professor McCoy’s recent book, In the Shadow of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.