Letesha Nelson, the CEO and Executive Director of the Goodman Community Center, was our speaker this week. She joined the Goodman Center, succeeding fellow Rotarian Becky Steinhoff, in January 2021. Ms. Nelson has a long history of non-profit work, having held leadership positions with the Girl Scouts of America for many years. She brings to her work an obvious passion and a joy in service to others.
She finds motivation in her belief that it takes one person to change someone or even a community for the better, a concept captured by her personal motto, “Be the One.” She has been and intends to continue to be someone who can improve other people’s lives and direct them to a rewarding future. At the beginning of her career at the Girl Scouts, when she had self-doubts, her father (who himself worked to help people in inner-city Milwaukee) told her that “You are born to do it.” It’s clear that he was right.
After fifteen years with the Scouts, she left for a job at Idlewild Baptist Church in Memphis, where she helped parents and children deal with adverse events in their life. These were affluent people. But they needed help. She learned that the right kind of help can be important for all people of whatever level of income.
As the new head of the Goodman Community Center, she is learning what Goodman is all about: “Strengthening Lives and Securing Futures.” During the worst of the pandemic, Goodman stayed open to serve families with meals from the food pantry, providing school not only part time but all-day, with counselling about college and other career paths. They are now facilitating vaccinations in the community, which will help restore normality. The Center is already slowly and cautiously returning to a post-pandemic operation. They are looking to increase their connections to technical education for those not considering college.
Becky Steinhoff is obviously a tough act to follow. But there is every indication that Letesha Nelson has the necessary drive and the pleasure in serving others. She is “born to do it” and “she is the one.” She is worthy of the great Rotarians Bob and Irwin Goodman.
Our thanks to Letesha Nelson for her presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/AT8bJ7iozdg.
Our guest speaker this week was Dr. Elizabeth Bagley, Director of Drawdown Learn at Project Drawdown, speaking to us on a pre-recorded video from Sitka, Alaska. Dr. Bagley received her undergraduate degree from UW-Madison as well as her Ph.D. jointly in Environment and Resources and Educational Psychology. She is clearly well suited to teach us about environmental issues in understandable terms.
“Drawdown” refers to that point at which human-made atmospheric chemicals that support climate change and warming begin to decline. Dr. Bagley offered us a number of ways that we can arrive at this point of drawdown, beginning immediately. These solutions fall under three broad categories: Reduce the Sources of climate change; support the natural Heat Sinks that reduce these pollutants; and help Society make necessary changes. All of these solutions, she argues, are possible right now.
Drawdown and ESRAG (an environmental group within Rotary International represented here by Paul Riehemann and Karen Kendrick-Hands) advocate planting millions of trees that will reduce carbon dioxide levels of the atmosphere. Support electricity reform such as solar and wind power. Reduce food waste and increase composting. Reduce leaks of harmful refrigerants into the atmosphere where they do their thing: trapping heat. Reform transportation by increasing the use of electric vehicles and bicycles. Heat sinks can be supported by agricultural practices, the planting of trees, and the restoration of damaged ecosystems. Society can be mobilized in the effort by reforming practices in health and education.
Dr. Bagley suggested solutions that are not pie-in-the-sky or wildly expensive, and that are actually already being done in places around the world with support from organizations like Rotary. She grew up on a sheep farm in western Wisconsin and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from a great research university. The combination has produced an articulate, knowledgeable, and practical worker in the cause of preventing catastrophic change in our atmosphere. Our thanks to Elizabeth Bagley for her presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/zI899HBa4bI.
On an historic day, when the Club returned to the Park Hotel for the first time in more than a year of pandemic isolation, our speaker was fellow Rotarian Jason Fields. Jason is the new president of the Madison Regional Economic Partnership. He spoke on the topic “We Must Not Accept Complacency.” The title derives from his belief that Madison is a great place to live and work, but his mission is to give his all for everyone he deals with, always. And he construes economic development to mean “to empower people.” All people. He is motivated by the question that his wife asked him: “Yes, Madison is a great place. But for who?” He briefly referred to the statistics we all know, that Wisconsin has huge disparities between its White and Black populations. He and his wife were themselves discriminated against while seeking a home here as they move from Milwaukee. This is never acceptable. Beyond the immorality of it, we have to send a message that this will not be tolerated if we really want to be competitive in attracting talent.
Jason mentioned several issues that MadRep will be working on. One is broadband, which is not evenly available in the state, in rural areas and among minority populations. He will also be addressing the problem of unequal access to capital by various populations. A fund is being created. There is also a tension between Milwaukee and Madison that is unnecessary and harmful to development here and should be eliminated. We should unlearn Midwest modesty and learn to brag about ourselves to attract talent from Minnesota, Illinois, and the world. Another problem we face: We tend to “sacrifice progress to perfection.” Task forces talk, and nothing gets done. There has to be a sense of urgency.
Jason is a man of diverse experiences. He has been a politician, a financial adviser, a banker, a radio show host, and a podcaster. He is a dynamic speaker. A man with passion and an idealism disciplined by reality. He will be a valuable member of the Club and the community.
Our thanks to Jason Fields for his presentation this week and to Rich Leffler for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/LBCqc9c_bcE.
The speaker at our April 7th meeting was Jason Beloungy, Executive Director of Access to Independence, which is one of eight such organizations in Wisconsin. It serves Columbia, Dane, Dodge and Green counties. Today he spoke of the collaboration between his organization, the Downtown Madison’s Beyond Compliance Task Force, and the City of Madison’s Disability Rights Commission.
The goal of this alliance is a fully inclusive and accessible downtown which includes entrances to buildings and within their interiors such as restrooms as well as the accessibility to outdoor events and parking opportunities. Achievements of the last three years began with conducting a survey of persons facing barriers to accessibility that help prioritize the group’s efforts. From this, two separate guides have been developed.
The first was for streetory which involved entrances to buildings and the way to provide the best accesses to and within outdoor dining areas. The second guide developed is for festivals and outdoor events. The current project centers on “Well Built Conferences” which addresses designs and best practices for buildings.
Jason feels that individuals and organizations can help by getting directly involved with the Disability Rights Commission; getting input from those with disabilities; hiring people with disabilities; and by promoting accessibility and inclusion.
Our thanks to Jason Beloungy for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/IGFkTbDrKD8.
Ruben Anthony addressed our March 31, 2021, meeting on the subject of “Continued Transformation of the Park Street Corridor.” He has been the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison since 2015.
The National Urban League was founded in 1910 and now has 92 affiliates throughout the US with the Madison chapter beginning 50 years ago in 1968. It has been a champion for the poor and the unemployed as a longstanding resource for people of color that helps to rebuild their lives and give them a second chance.
Ruben believes home ownership is the key to generational wealth, but, in Madison, only 10% of African Americans own their own home compared to 48% nationally. He detailed how the Urban League actively works toward assisting those individuals into owning their own homes.
The League was inspired by the Sherman Phoenix project in Milwaukee to promote and support African American small businesses in Madison. Thus, it is working to develop the Park Street Corridor on Madison’s south side by trying to establish a Black business hub. It has been aided by an initial $100,000 grant from Dane County followed by a $2,000,000 grant to acquire property and $400,000 in loans from American Family Insurance.
The project is at the corner of Hughes Place and South Park Street. Its first phase establishes core businesses, and the second phase will develop multi-family affordable housing. It is planned to initially have 15 to 20 businesses and additional government offices with the latter on long-term leases to provide more financial stability for the project.
We all can help this project by referring anyone we know who is looking for a business location or a place to start a new business. Low cost capital, in-kind contributions and philanthropic support are of course very much welcomed.
Our thanks to Ruben Anthony for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/O4pO-f0JeUk.
Zach Brandon made an inspiring presentation at our March 24th meeting of the Rotary Club of Madison. As the president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce and past Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, he is well qualified to speak to us about Madison’s present and future in his titled address, “There is Light in the Darkness.” He structured his presentation around the intervening years since his prior Rotary presentation in 2018 which was his third.
The year 2019, as he showed, was full of positive indicators with Madison having the largest percentage of millennials moving to a new city, leading city in increased percentage of high digital skills positions and high stability in those jobs. 2020 began with more positive signs of Madison as a tech growth center in the Nation. But then, covid-19 struck, and all conversation and attention stopped which muted the story of Madison.
Then the issue became, “How can we make Madison more vivid?” Zach feels a part of that is to target the work force of the future in terms of gender, diversity and equity. As he says, the data suggests the wind is still at our back, especially when national surveys consistently predict Madison to make the fastest recovery from the covid-19 down turn.
He concluded that Madison’s goal should be developing and attracting top quality workers to the right mix of jobs in the Madison economy.
If you did not attend the presentation and would like to feel good about your community, please view his presentation on our Rotary Club’s YouTube Channel.
Our thanks to Zach Brandon for his presentation this week and to Larry Larrabee for preparing this review article. If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/Fp1PFHlnaSQ.