March 17, 2023
A Commitment to Giving: The Widen Family Foundation
The Widen Family Foundation generously supported MOM with a $50,000 grant in 2022 for our Connections housing program that works with doubled-up households to help them find and maintain stable housing. We asked the family to share their motivation for giving back to the community and how they involve multiple generations in making a difference.
Why did you decide to establish your family foundation?
Leanne Widen, President and Founding Member: My husband Reed and I wanted to be able to make a difference in the community that they were born and raised in. Both of our families have a long history in the Madison area.
Reed Widen, Founding Member: It provides a chance to give back to the community. It will also teach our grandchildren the joy of giving.
It was so great to see family members of all ages here when you brought your donation to MOM this summer. How do you involve everyone?
Leanne: Reed and I began the foundation in 2021 with the intention of involving our children. Together with their spouses they are active members of the board of directors. They are founding members that aided in determining our vision, mission statement and giving goals. We continue to evaluate strategies of giving and strive to remain true to these values. The grandchildren are very young, but the hope is that they will continue the legacy of giving through the foundation as they become adults and that legacy continues to grow based on our family values.
Why is it so important to you to include the youngest of your family members in this tradition of giving? What does it mean to them — even at the youngest of ages?
Ali Widen, Secretary: Although our children are all still very young, it is important to us that they see us connecting with those in need in our community. They enjoy coming along on tours of the various organizations we have worked with and seeing the impact those places have for those they serve. We look forward to seeing how their roles in the foundation will evolve as they get older. It will be so valuable to have the next generation’s insight on where they think we can have the most impact in our community.
Is there a story or tradition in your family from the past that illustrates how giving became a value you pass on to the next generation?
Leanne: Reed and I actively involved our children Jenna and Jesse in various giving back ways. Our family sponsored children in India and Kenya and we encouraged our children to write letters to them at a young age. As they grew older, they were encouraged to volunteer time at The Luke House, or ringing bells for The Salvation Army. Leanne volunteered her “free” time serving for the local PTO, Wisconsin Dietetic Association, Monona Grove Education Foundation and Breast Cancer Recovery in many capacities.
We know that you support educational programs, basic needs and small businesses. How did you determine these priorities for your giving?
Leanne: We worked with a family legacy counselor to align our values and expectations in order to determine our vision and mission statements for the foundation.
Ali: It was really helpful to get together as a family and talk about what is important to us and what we wanted to be the pillars of our foundation.
Why do you support MOM?
Leanne: Middleton Outreach Ministry really checks all of our giving goals as a foundation. We are impressed with the level of commitment to families of all ages, gender and need.
Ali: We were especially excited to help support your new Connections Housing Program as it helps families secure and maintain housing, while also working on individual needs. MOM truly has an immense network
of services available to their clients, and we are so thrilled to be able to support your organization.
What would you say to others who are considering establishing a family foundation?
Reed and Leanne: It is a work in progress to develop a foundation and learn how to best prioritize our giving. We hope to continue to work together as a family to provide grants to deserving organizations. We would
encourage any family to move forward knowing there are many ways to support nonprofits in our community and beyond.
Reed: I would encourage anyone to give back, even if they can’t start something like a foundation.