Category Archives: Rotary Club of Madison Guest Speaker

“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!

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.

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.

 

 

   

Overture: Now and Tomorrow

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sandra Gajic 4 17 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Sandra Gajic and Loretta Himmelsbach

Sandra Gajic, President and CEO of the Overture Center, treated Rotarians on Wednesday to a whirlwind overview of the history of Overture and plans for its future.  The Overture Center, Gajic said, “was built to last 300 years,” but it needs renovations, citing a leaking roof and front doors so heavy that many people have trouble opening them.

The Overture Center, she said, is three ages in one (the original Capitol Theater, built in 1928; the Oscar Mayer Theater, built in 1974; and the Overture Center, which opened in 2004, funded by a $200 million gift from Jerry Frautschi & Pleasant Roland).  The current facility “reminds me of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women,” Gajic said.

Despite the challenges of its complicated history and aging infrastructure, “over 12 million people have come to Overture over the years,” she said, citing both its impact on our ecomony and our community. In order to “meet its civic mandate and preserve the facility,” leaders of the Overture Center are pursuing a long-term goal to fund a $30 million endowment to make it “fully accessible for generations to come.”  Ongoing and future initiatives include maximizing equity, innovation and inclusion by looking closely at policies such as recruiting ushers and removing barriers for people of limited means.

One future program involves arts-career exploration for high school and middle school students.  As a student, Gajic studied piano and economics.  “I absolutely love the arts,” she said, and she enjoys Overture’s diverse arts presentations, including Kids in the Rotunda, Duck Soup Cinema, Broadway shows, concerts, plays and art exhibits.

“A 55 Year Old Start Up”

submitted by Linda Baldwin’ photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Joel Plant 4 10 2019

From left: Joel Plant, Herb Frank, Renee Frank and Club President Jason Beren

That’s how Joel Plant, Frank Productions CEO, describes their company.  Indeed, Herb and Sylvia (who The Sylvee is named for) Frank came to Madison in 1964 to manage operations for the Capitol and Majestic theaters.  And the rest is history…now Frank Productions booked 214 shows in 148 cities in North America in 2018, with plans for more than 1800 shows this year across the nation.

Here in Madison, the Frank family, including patriarch Herb, sons, Fred and Larry, daughter-in-law Marla and granddaughter Renee all work in the family business with a staff of 55 overseen by Plant.  Their mission statement is “Connecting artists with fans and helping them have fun!”  With their recent merger with the Majestic Theatre, acquisition of the High Noon Saloon and the opening of The Sylvee, Frank Productions will reach even more fans.  Frank Productions also owns facilities in Columbia, Missouri, Nashville, Tennesee, and books 15 more exclusive venues in North America.

The brand new Sylvee is a state of the art venue with a capacity of 2500 and seating for 150.   Situated right in the middle of Madison’s burgeoning Capitol East neighborhood, The Sylvee is right where the action is, and, in the first six months, they sold 70,000 tickets to 53 shows and 34 special events, averaging 1700 patrons a show.  And poured 167 thousand ounces of Spotted Cow!  Plant joked “and it wasn’t even our best seller.”

Frank Productions take pride in their relations with the neighborhood and law enforcement.  “We want to make sure that our business doesn’t have a negative impact on the neighborhood and community.”  While some in Madison have had concerns about other venues suffering with Frank’s expansion, Plant says all indications are that other venues are doing better as well.  And he notes that their presence has had a positive economic impact on the restaurants and other businesses in the area.

What’s next…do more shows…sell more tickets and beer!

Madison Youth Arts Center Coming in 2020

submitted by Dave Mollenhoff; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

MYAC Presenters 4 3 2019

Madison is blessed with many amazing performance spaces, but 20 youth performing arts organizations don’t have affordable and appropriate places to practice.  That was the problem that motivated leaders of the Children’s Theater of Madison (CTM), Madison Youth Choirs (MYC), and many others to find a cooperative solution.

Their answer is the Madison Youth Arts Center, a 65,000 square foot $35 million facility that will break ground in May and open in the fall of 2020 at the intersection of East Mifflin and North Ingersoll.

The handsome four-story facility will provide a central and permanent location featuring rehearsal classrooms, dance studios, production and costume shops, a community room, office space, and a 400-seat theater.  The facility will allow up to 25,000 school-age youth—including many from Madison’s minority communities—to participate in the performing arts every year, a substantial increase over the number now served.

The Madison Youth Arts Center was made possible by a $20 million gift from Pleasant Rowland.  “I can’t think of a gift I could give that would impact more than this in the arts and for young people,” said Rowland.  A capital campaign is underway to raise the rest of the money including a special endowment fund that will cover ongoing maintenance and operating costs.

The four leaders who gave a spirited and tightly scripted summary of the new facility were: Allen Ebert, CTM executive director; Roseann Sheridan, CTM artistic director; Lynn Hembel, MYC managing director; and Michael Ross, MYC artistic/executive director.

The Center is a part of a larger proposal for the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue by Stone House Development that will include an 11-story building featuring apartments, commercial space, and a parking ramp.

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