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Gina Patel, President & CEO of Patel Kwan Consultancy, has a strong and personal motivation for supporting WayForward Resources.

Patel’s company donated and packed 35 kindergarten backpacks for this year’s Back to School Program. Members of her team also volunteered to organize school supplies and get them ready for distribution, joined by her own kindergartner, Hari (in photo at left with Patel Kwan intern Grace Liew).

“Way Forward provides much-needed resources to families in our area,” says Patel (at left in photo at top).

“I am originally from the UK, but as a child I received free school lunches, uniform, etc. As a family we received about 40 GBP per week in ‘benefits’ to use for food, heat, transport, and anything else needed. That is approximately what it ended up costing for these backpacks including supplies. Having this extra cost burden can mean the difference between families going without heat or food and being able to send their kids to school with backpacks ready for the school year. There is a lot of drive in our community to support one another, so thank you, WayForward for facilitating this.”

Together, we can build a community where everyone has the stability to thrive. Join us on #GivingTuesday!

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Members of St. Bernard Catholic Church’s Human Needs Commission devised a simple plan for a food drive that yielded amazing results. 

During the weekend of October 7, they handed out paper grocery bags with WayForward’s shopping list stapled to them and encouraged families to fill them with items from the list. Churchgoers were invited to return the bags the following weekend and drop them in food barrels stationed at the entrances to the church parking lot. That weekend the barrels were overflowing.

“The participation was great,” says commission member Barbara Roberts, who delivered the results of the church’s drive along with Dick Seifert (pictured above).

The group handed out an estimated 200 bags and about 170 came back. The drive collected 1,212 pounds of food for WayForward’s pantry, the equivalent of more than 1,000 meals.

Roberts says she thinks giving people a physical reminder to take part was the difference in making the food drive a success.

“What people have told us is that it’s a visible reminder during the week,” she says. “You see it on the kitchen counter and you’re reminded, ‘I’ve got to stop at the grocery store.’”

You can hold a food drive in your office, school, team or organization. Our shopping list includes: breakfast cereals/oatmeal, rice, pasta and sauce, mac and cheese, peanut butter, canned soup, snacks, condiments, canned chicken and tuna, flour and sugar, cooking oil, toiletries, diapers and wipes.

Circle of Hope, WayForward’s group of monthly givers, makes it easy to increase the impact of your donations over a longer period of time.

Are you a current donor? For a few dollars more per month, you can provide a critical source of sustainable income that allows us to deliver food and housing assistance where most needed. A first-time donor? For the cost of several lattes per week, you can help more neighbors remain in housing and keep our pantry shelves stocked with nutritious food. 

“We give to WayForward because we truly believe their efforts help improve the lives of our community members. By giving on a regular monthly schedule, our hope is that WayForward will be able to plan their resource allocation more accurately when looking at future financial  commitments,” says a Circle of Hope donor. “We feel blessed to have an organization like WayForward in our community because helping one of us helps all of us!”

Join us in creating food access and housing stability with your monthly donation. Click the DONATE button and choose a monthly amount that is comfortable for you. Thank you for your support!


Did you know for just $25 a month you can provide hundreds of nutritious meals a year? By joining Circle of Hope, a dedicated community of monthly givers, you provide a critical source of sustainable income that allows us to deliver food and housing assistance programs when they are most needed. Your generosity and consistent support ensures that we can help more families and individuals remain in stable housing and keep our pantry shelves stocked to provide a reliable source of nutritious food. It’s easy to become a member and you can update or change your gift at any time. Just visit, click the DONATE button and choose any amount to donate monthly.

Your commitment makes a difference:

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.

At our food pantry, we frequently hear from clients who are in search of pet food for their furry family members.

Last Friday, a team from Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market delivered a donation of 13,000 cans of premium cat food for distribution to neighbors in our community facing the challenge of the rising costs of pet food.

“Our goal is to support the entire family, and we know that pets are an important part of the family,” says MOM Program Director Meghan Sohns. “Many of our clients will be thrilled to have access to this cat food for their pets.”

Financial barriers are one of the main reasons why 6.3 million companion animals (3.2 million cats) are surrendered to shelters each year, according to And the Washington Post reported in December that animal shelters across the country have seen an influx of pet surrenders over the last year as inflation affects household budgets.

“It’s so much better for pets to stay in the household and for us to provide these family needs,” says Emilie Williamson, Corporate Affairs Manager at Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market. “Pets are a big part of our families.”

In total, the grocers delivered more than 25,000 units of cat food to organizations in Madison and Milwaukee.

Watch News 3 Now’s coverage of the delivery.

This year was about opening doors, with acts both large and small.

For Luis and Alejandra, getting out of an unstable, doubled up living situation was the most important door they walked through. Because of the case management and financial support they receive from our Connections housing program, they are financially stable and could afford to buy a car seat and other essentials they needed to safely bring their new baby boy home last month.

None of this could happen without you. As we cautiously and carefully opened up along with the rest of the world in 2022, the generosity of our community is what continues to allow us to provide the resources and tools neighbors need to build stability in their lives.

Late summer we returned to a full schedule of food pantry hours, which allowed more clients to shop in person and we continue to provide around 54,000 meals a month. We grew our Connections program, which moves neighbors like Luis and Alejandra into stable housing (read a recent story from The Capital Times that features Connections). And we welcomed both new and returning volunteers, who provide essential support by stocking shelves, making food deliveries and offering rides to seniors who don’t have access to other transportation.

Nicole Verhagen, the case manager for Connections. Photo by Ruthie Hauge/The Capital Times

With the help of our community, we have stretched our resources to meet the rising demand at the food pantry, which is more than double what it was this time last year, part of a larger trend across Dane County as inflation drives up food prices. We’ve seen a similar increase in the need for housing assistance to families whose incomes don’t keep up with rising rents and the amount of housing stability payments we provide have doubled as our case managers continue to work to prevent eviction. “We wouldn’t have been able to make it without you,” one of our food pantry clients wrote in a recent email.

As we move into 2023, these ongoing trends bring me concern. Although our community food security partners continue to support our work and help us meet the need creatively, the pandemic brought great disruption to how we bring in food. This, combined with the rising demand, means I see emptier shelves when I walk through the food pantry, not the robust selection that provides dignity to our shoppers. I worry that these patterns will not leave us enough food to meet the needs of everyone who relies on the food pantry as one of the ways they fill their refrigerators and cupboards.  

But I see hope all around us, in acts large and small… Since we re-opened our doors in June to in-person shopping in the food pantry, MOM volunteers have put in more than 13,000 hours to support our programs. Their own lives disrupted, returning volunteers and people new to MOM made this work a piece of their lives. And thanks to you, we also made the holiday season brighter this year for hundreds of households — distributing Thanksgiving baskets to more than 1,200 people and providing more than 1,700 gift cards through our Winter Wishes program, a record number for us.

On a much smaller scale, when one of our team members recently learned that a gallon of milk was left out of a food delivery made to one of our clients, she hopped in her car and delivered the milk within the hour. For some of the neighbors we serve, getting to the food pantry isn’t possible due to lack of transportation, health concerns or work schedules. “What a sweetie. I was so glad to meet her face to face,” the client wrote in an email. “I nearly cried.”

Through all of these transitions, I’ve witnessed our team keep their focus on what matters most — doing what we can to ensure that neighbors in our community have what they need to thrive. I’ve seen the same from all of you — through your generous financial donations, volunteer hours and ongoing support of our mission. As we approach a new year, I know there is so much more we can achieve together. You can read more about some of the ways you can still make a tax deductible financial donation this year here. And, in addition, if your own circles can host a food drive or buy items directly from our wish list to help us keep our shelves full, it would bring comfort to so many.

Thank you for what you have done and what you will do in the coming year to help us meet the growing needs in our community. Your support means we can continue opening the door to stability for neighbors so that together we will build a better future for everyone in our community.


Ellen Carlson, Executive Director

Executive Director Ellen Carlson. Photo by Ruthie Hauge/The Capital Times

You can now help stock the shelves at our food pantry right from your phone, tablet or computer! Our new Amazon Wish List includes some food items we’re currently in need of for the pantry. Shop now to support food security for our neighbors. Your purchase will be delivered right to the pantry!

WKOW-TV in Madison stopped by our food pantry last week to cover a $2,500 donation from TDS Telecommunications as part of its “Week of Giving” to eight local nonprofits. Community Engagement Manager Beth Johnson shared how financial support helps MOM purchase nutritious food for the pantry. WATCH HERE

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.