Category Archives: Rotary Weekly Guest Speaker

DAIS: Making Adjustments to Provide Services During a Pandemic

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski

On January 12, Shannon Barry, executive director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Service, spoke about how her organization adjusted to support survivors through the pandemic. This required new strategies just when their clients’ own situations were more dire. During the Covid lockdowns, victims were isolated with their batterers. DAIS provides an array of personal services and advocacy and has the only domestic violence shelter in Dane County. The volunteers who previously staffed the DAIS 24-hour helpline were let go, and all staff members had to help staff the line. With a Paycheck Protection Program loan, DAIS has purchased additional phones, improved its technology and made the workplace safer.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

December 15: Festival of Youth Arts

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman

The program for our last meeting of the year was a video compilation of performances by five Madison-area youth arts organizations.  Featured video montages were from:

  • Opera for the Young – A professional adult touring company that brings interactive performances to elementary schools throughout the Upper Midwest.  Adult casts collaborate with music teachers and student choruses to perform specially created opera adaptations.  They reach 70,000 children at around 200 schools.  They showed snippets from Pirates of Penzance and The Magic Flute.
  • Little Picassos – A youth-focused art enrichment organization that serves low-income families and seeks to provide more equal access to art education and enrichment.  The program provides a safe and nurturing environment to create and learn about art genres and history.  It also seeks to highlight the achievements of Black, Latino and Indigenous artists.
  • Music Con Brio – Created to provide affordable, accessible, and high-quality music lessons to children regardless of a family’s ability to pay or transport their child to and from lessons.  They produce an annual community concert series in collaboration with diverse Madison groups that perform a wide range of music from chamber music to jazz and funk.
  • Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps – Founded in 1920, the Madison Scouts is the oldest youth music organization in the State of Wisconsin. The program reaches over 4,000 youth students through music education programs, leadership development programs, and events hosted in Wisconsin through performing ensembles, and the Madison Scouts.  The Madison Scouts bring 165 youth from around the world including North America, Japan and Europe. 
  • Madison Ballet – Reaches around 13,000 people per year through live ballet productions at the Overture Center, School of Madison Ballet, and outreach partnerships with other non-profits in the Madison area.  The video they shared was of a performance at a state park near Delafield of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

Thanks to Neil Fauerbach for doing the video editing to present this program at our meeting.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

December 8: Impact of Large and Small Capital Projects on Their Communities

submitted by Kevin Hoffman

Club Member and Past President Bob Sorge (left) and Tom Linfield (right) of the Madison Community Foundation (MCF) gave an informative, eye opening and thought-provoking presentation on the tangible benefits of non-profit capital projects on the Madison area. 

Bob gave background information on the MCF and the financial resources directed into the community.  MCF distributed about $29M in grants in 2020 that were largely directed by individual fundholders.  The MCF was also able to help other non-profits in the area leverage another $114M in resources from outside agencies for a total impact of $143M.  In addition, to create an authoritative reference for making informed giving decisions, the MCF has spent the recent past developing capabilities for researching and evaluating area non-profits.  The result has been the Greater Madison Nonprofit Directory which can be found on the MCF website.  This is a resource open to all community members. 

Tom covered the impact of capital campaigns on the Madison area by pointing out that buildings quickly become a community asset elevating the area surrounding the structure and becoming a center of development in the neighborhood.  New buildings also transform the non-profit’s capacity for services and development of resources to benefit the community.  Think about the impact that libraries, schools, health centers, community centers and affordable housing (to name a few) has on a given area.  There are about 15 building campaigns a year.  The financial impact is large not just for the physical buildout, but it also creates momentum within the non-profit for increased services, outreach, performance space, work efficiencies, and hosting/meeting space.  Once complete, this allows the non-profit entity to leapfrog to the next level to the community it serves.

If you missed our meeting on December 8, you can watch the video here:

UW Support of Military Connected Students                                            

–submitted by Bill Haight

Rotary Guest Speakers on November 10, 2021

Joe Rasmussen, Director of University Veteran Services and UW student Brooke Villella addressed the club on the status of veteran students. 

Since the average veteran is 6 years older than the typical student, they are often left  out of the mainstream of campus life. The Veteran Services Office is  moving from a role of being simply a facilitator of benefits, to one of reaching out to make Veterans more inclusive.  Veterans are now a part of the University’s “Identity and Inclusion” initiative, which includes other minority populations. This puts the Veteran Services Office in a more visible position than in recent years. However Veterans have yet to be assigned a dedicated meeting place on campus, a goal the Rotary Veterans Fellowship is helping them attain. 

This link takes you to information about veteran benefits available on campus: This link takes you to a research study on veterans in higher education: VETWAYS – The Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (

If you missed our meeting last week, you can view it here:

Jorge’s Last Stand

I’m not a sentimental guy, but I have to think back to the time I was selected to be our Club’s next President.  It was a great honor, but it also made me wonder how I could become the one President Rotarians would remember the most.  What if I doubled the amount we raise for the Foundation?  Reached one thousand members?  If only Godzilla came out of Lake Mendota during my Rotary year and I fought him off, that would make my presidency unforgettable.  Well, nowhere in my wildest thoughts did I think that I would have to deal with a once a century pandemic.

So I became the very best virtual president this Club has ever had.  It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, to be honest, but at least it had its perks [photo of Jorge in suit jacket, tie, sweatpants/shorts during Zoom]. 

Of course you must remember that even though things seemed to come to a standstill, they never really did.  Our Rotary office staff got our Club up and running in short order; they even went to members’ homes to show them how to join our virtual meetings.

Brian Basken and Jason Beren gave their time, expertise, and even facilities to ensure we could live stream meetings.  Granted, we told them they could invoice the Club for their services, but we never told them we’d pay the invoice.  We owe them a great deal of gratitude for their year-long effort and tremendous contribution to the club. 

At the same time, our Committee chairs made sure the work of the Club went on, and the Fellowship chairs made sure the fun of the Club went on.  It wasn’t easy to do, and it was especially important at a time when lockdowns and uncertainty resulted in a great deal of stress for all of us.  The Board was able to revise our Strategic Plan and put together four task forces whose work will help our club thrive in the long run. 

And of course there’s all of you: Despite a once in a century pandemic our Club donated over $750K worth of community grants, programs, and scholarships.  We continued to mentor Scholars whose life was turned upside down by COVID.  We expected the pandemic to reduce our membership to 400, and 419 of you stayed on board, attended our meetings and participated in the life of the club.  Rotary was there for the community when it was needed the most, and all of you refused to give up on Rotary when Rotary needed you the most. 

And you still refuse to give up.  You are our future.   There’s still a lot of need in the community; need for basic services like food and shelter, need for education, need for reconciliation and unity.  It is not going to happen unless we make it happen.  So I call on you to reach out to other Rotarians and encourage them to come back to in-person meetings, keep building goodwill and better friendships right where we left off.   Our work is not done.  It has gone on for over a hundred years, and we stand on the shoulders of giants.  Let us live up to their legacy for another hundred years or more.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  I bid you a fond farewell.

New Police Chief Brings His Goals for a Better Community to Madison


Why would Madison’s new Chief of Police of four months, Shon Barnes, spend most of his allotted speaking time presenting his journey from child to Chief?

   By doing so, Barnes not only shared his vision for our Madison force, but also how this vision became to be.

   Barnes wanted to serve in order to help others.  This he learned from his father, an automobile mechanic who developed a successful small business without advertising but on trust:  repair costs without overpricing, transparency of diagnosis, dependable delivery, and word of mouth.

   His college history major and four years teaching it gave him a long-view perspective, backward and forward.  He’s still learning about the legacy and power of history.  In fact . . .

   One of his most significant life events was a personal journey to Selma, Alabama with two officer friends.  They came to Selma, read archival materials, crossed the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge of Bloody Sunday of March 7, 1965 history, and then walked 54 miles to Montgomery.

   During his walk, he learned that people want to be seen and to participate; they want to be heard; they were accountable for the welfare of the three walkers; and the world is not as divided as it is often portrayed to be.

   Barnes translated his life’s experiences into practice:  trust, active listening, transparency, accountability, the use of technology to increase efficiency, avoidance of over-policing, and—as he learned as a Rotarian— “being nice for no reason”.

   Barnes’ goal?  Madison’s police force will be the national model for exceptional policing.  

Our thanks to Police Chief Barnes for his presentation this week and to Ellsworth Brown for preparing this review article.  If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: