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Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established by the United Nations more than 30 years ago to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities. Currently, 1 in 4 American adults has a disability. The barriers people with disabilities face in our world play a role in undermining stability in employment, housing and access to medical care and other services. People with disabilities are among the neighbors we serve at WayForward Resources. Mary is one of those clients, and she recently shared her thoughts with her case manager about what it means to her to be disabled and how WayForward’s services are critical to her stability.

What does the word “disabled” mean?  It most likely means something different to almost everyone. …Since I am disabled I have some physical aspects that make daily life challenging.  I am currently dealing with three kinds of arthritis and severe scoliosis.  My struggles don’t  mean much to the general community.  My challenge is to find where in the community I can find a network of helpful people who work with disabled or other handicapped people who are seeking similar help. [WayForward] offers help with its food pantry, clothing center and rides. I’ve discovered that many of the social service agencies are interwoven – so you can find lots of friends and suggestions and help with one call.

Recently my [WayForward] case manager has been helping find grants to help pay for veterinary treatment for my little dog, who is my joy. Unfortunately, because I’m currently in a wheelchair, she wasn’t able to find a way for me to take my fur baby to the vet school.  After spending hours trying to line up a ride, I ended up having to spend $100 on cab fare. Not on my fixed-income budget!

As far as I can tell, having a disability has definitely filled my heart with love, and somehow all the struggles and phone calls to get the help we need, grows hope.

We started supporting MOM a few years ago when it became clear that there are too many people in our community who don’t have access to basic needs like food, clothing and housing. We’re comfortable enough that we have more than we need, and being able to do something to support people in our own community is really important to us. With MOM, we can see all the good that is done with our donations. They know the immediate needs of the people they are serving, and they can make the best and biggest impact with the support they get from us and others in our community.

My husband and I were first introduced to MOM through Blackhawk Church. As a member of Blackhawk for over 15 years, there were regular opportunities to support MOM through food and school supply drives. With elementary and middle school-aged children, we have seen the impact MOM has in the community, serving many families within our neighborhood and school district. Over the years, I was also able to engage in workplace projects with MOM and find opportunities to serve alongside my family at the food pantry and the Holiday Art Market. I have always admired the mission of MOM, anchoring to the most critical issues of food and housing to love and support our neighbors in the area. Beyond volunteering my time with MOM, and financially supporting MOM’s efforts, I am privileged to now join the board at MOM to continue to support this great mission for years to come.

MOM was proud to join with Rise Wisconsin to nominate Springs Window Fashions for the 2022 Outstanding Large Business Award from AFP Greater Madison.

Springs, the second-largest global manufacturer of custom window treatments, has been part of our community since 1946. With 420 employees right here in Dane County, Springs remains fiercely dedicated to its roots in the community and is focused on giving back. The company donated over $500,000 last year alone to nonprofits as well as provided volunteer and other in-kind support.

Springs’ support for MOM dates back to 2013. In addition to generous financial donations, their support has included regular food and clothing donations, participation in our Winter Wishes program, support of the Capital Campaign, and sponsorship of events. Thanks to a $30,000 donation from Springs in 2020, MOM was able to purchase a new van to transport donations of food and clothing as well as pre-packed food deliveries. In presenting Springs with this award, AFP Madison noted that the company “approaches their philanthropic and volunteer work as listeners, ready to do whatever is needed most.”

John Weinstock, Springs Executive Vice President for Marketing, accepted the honor on Springs’ behalf at the National Philanthropy Day event. MOM is grateful to partner with Springs to create stability in our community.

We are longtime supporters and volunteers for MOM because we were brought up to help others in any way that we can. As members of one of the original churches that helped establish MOM more than 40 years ago, our family has been involved since 1997, volunteering at their early community dinners and delivering meals as well as making regular donations to support a variety of programs. We are proud to serve as a Giving Tuesday ambassadors and Challenge Gift donors this year, sharing the opportunity with others to make a donation to MOM that can be used where needed for housing stability assistance and food and clothing distribution. We are also building a family tradition of giving by using a donor advised fund (DAF) to make charitable contributions to MOM.

The Middleton Chamber of Commerce recently featured MOM in its regular “Member Spotlight” video series. MOM Executive Director Ellen Carlson spoke with the Chamber’s Lisa Quam about the rising demand for services from our food pantry and housing assistance programs, as well as how local businesses can get involved in supporting our mission to build food security and housing stability in our community. WATCH

Martin, a 78-year-old veteran, loves his apartment because of the sunlight it gets from southern exposure. He has a monthly income of $1,450, but his rent is $1,200, which means at some point in the year he risks falling behind on his other bills. When MOM first began working with him five years ago, his rent was $1,000 a month. Public housing for senior citizens with subsidized rent have long waiting lists and moving is often too big of an obstacle for older adults without a support system in the community.

Over the last few years, MOM has provided Martin with financial assistance to cover rent, utility bills and dental bills not covered by Medicare. He used the food pantry regularly before FoodShare benefits increased during the pandemic, allowing him to shop more at the grocery store with a friend who gives him a ride. Martin is full of gratitude for the support he’s received from MOM’s Senior Program, including volunteers who help carry his laundry back and forth from the basement of his apartment building and provide rides to medical appointments.

For older neighbors in our community like Martin, MOM’s programs are what allow them to stay in their homes. Your support means that we are able to help neighbors in our community get the nutritious food they need and stay in their homes.

I’ve volunteered for MOM’s Food Pantry for 22 years and have served on the board of directors in the past. Right now, I volunteer as a greeter for in-person shopping and with the mobile food pantry at a local apartment complex and I appreciate the opportunity to meet new people and see MOM’s impact. Stepping out in that role as a volunteer really gets me in touch with what’s going on in the community that I wouldn’t otherwise see. I’m in awe of MOM and its ability to keep providing help to people.

Luis and Alejandra left behind an unstable economic and political situation in Venezuela with dreams of a better life for their 8-year-old daughter and the baby they were soon expecting. They did not have the references or credit history required to rent an apartment, so they doubled up with another family from their home country. But Alejandra didn’t feel comfortable living with strangers and her daughter couldn’t play freely without Alejandra worrying she was making too much noise for their hosts.

Luis found work after the family’s first week in the community, and Alejandra started working at the same restaurant when they quickly realized one income would not be enough to pay rent. But landlords still wanted evidence of at least a month of income before they would offer them a lease. Once a social worker in their daughter’s school connected the couple with a MOM case manager, things started to look up. Their case manager has developed a strong working relationship with a management company, which agreed to accept a letter from the couple’s employer as proof of their employment and income. MOM’s Connections housing program covered the family’s security deposit and other move-in costs. And thanks to the generosity of MOM donors who purchased items from our Connections wish list, Luis and Alejandra had the basic items they needed to start making themselves at home when they moved into their new apartment this fall, including sheets, towels and dishes.

The family visits MOM’s Food Pantry and Clothing Center to make sure their daughter has warm clothes to wear this winter and nutritious food to eat. Alejandra feels genuinely welcomed and supported by the volunteers when she does her shopping. The family is grateful for the generosity of their new community where they are beginning to put down roots and begin to thrive. Their new baby boy arrived this fall.

Terri’s life was in a downward spiral in the months following the death of her husband from a seizure. Not long after, her car was totaled when she was involved in an accident with a drunk driver. Things got even worse when she was robbed after withdrawing money from an ATM near her home. Following this unimaginable run of bad luck, Terri moved to Middleton from Illinois. That’s when Terri says her life changed, thanks to MOM.

Once Terri connected with a MOM case manager, she started to see a brighter future for herself. She became a client of our housing assistance program, which focuses on helping neighbors find stability in their lives and avoid eviction. With financial assistance from MOM, she was able to recover from the domino effect of events following a tragic loss. After a few months, she was on more secure financial footing and able to pay her rent on her own. In the meantime, she was grateful for the opportunity to get groceries from MOM’s food pantry and items from our clothing center. She also felt welcomed and supported by the volunteers who assisted her while shopping. “I’ve never met genuinely nice people until I moved here,” Terri says.

Thanks to the support MOM gets from our community, Terri has reached a place of stability in her life after a difficult journey.