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There wasn’t a specific goal when the team at Middleton-based NET started a month-long food drive in response to the rising need at WayForward and other food pantries across Dane County.

But that was before the competition got serious.

Once the team at NET (Network Engineering Technologies) split into four teams, collecting food each week to earn the pieces to a 1,000-piece puzzle, the potential impact of their efforts quickly took shape.

After just one week, the company brought in 650 pounds of food. Each team of 25 people took advantage of the chance to earn five puzzle pieces for bringing in meal ingredients like pasta and sauce or canned chicken and rice. The drive, which NET launched following last month’s collective call for help from three dozen food Dane County food pantries, is scheduled to end on Friday, Aug. 2.

“With people still working a hybrid or fully at home schedule I just wasn’t sure what I could hope to expect – but people have blown my mind with how generous they’ve been!” says Laura Duffield, NET’s Accounts Receivable Manager, who led the effort. “Making it a competition between groups has also been a big driver of success.”

Another motivating factor has been the decision to drop NET’s donated items off weekly at WayForward’s pantry warehouse, she says. “It’s great to get a group of people over there to unload so they can see where their donations are going, and helps to feel ‘refreshed’ for the next round of weekly donations.”

Week two of NET’s drive focused on personal hygiene, with donations including laundry detergent and period products. Teams competing to collect more puzzle pieces brought in another 437 pounds for the pantry.

“Now that we’re two weeks in and have a little over 1,000 pounds donated, I’m making it our goal to hit a TON of food by the time the drive is over,” Duffield said after week two.

After week three, Net brought in another 1,083 pounds of pantry staples including cooking oil, flour and sugar, bringing their running total to over a ton of donated food and personal items for the pantry.

Another benefit to the effort? Building more connections between team members who are remote and those working in the office, Duffield says.

Halfway through the drive, one of the teams had almost completed their puzzle. That moved captains for the other teams to email their members to drum up support and offer to use monetary donations sent via Venmo to do the shopping. “I think this has helped people who might feel overwhelmed going to the store and bringing it all in,” Duffield says. 

This week, the drive has a theme of peanut butter & jelly and cereal. The final week is focused on collecting school supplies for WayForward’s Back to School Program. Teams could also earn puzzle pieces throughout the competition for bringing in items from WayForward’s Most Needed Items List.

The winning team gets bragging rights and a prize to be determined. But the biggest goal is for all four teams to complete their puzzles — and bring in as much food as possible. The reward for that, which seems a probable outcome based on NET’s success so far, is expected to be a company cookout with yard games and perhaps a fun surprise, Duffield says.

“I was lucky to have a great group of volunteers who have done most of the heavy lifting and some great team captains who have really stepped up and rallied support,” Duffield says. “I would tell another company that wants to do a drive to try and not feel overwhelmed and be hopeful at how generous people will actually be.” 

WayForward is proud to welcome four new members to our board this month – Chris Roth, Jennifer Wagner, Alex Gibson and Kate Nisbet (pictured above from left to right).

Roth is the Chief Marketing Officer at UW Health and also serves on the board for Ronald McDonald House Charities – Madison.

Wagner is the Director of Eligibility & Enrollment with the national non-profit advocacy organization the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and has spent her career working on programs that affect low-income families.

Gibson is Managing Director at Smart Solutions, Inc. and has worked with non-profit organizations for over 20 years. He started with WayForward as a volunteer in addition to more recently serving on a board committee.

Nisbet is part of the Client Solutions Team at Forward Health Group, Inc. and has worked in the health care industry for her entire career, along with serving as a board member for the Middleton High School Athletic Booster Club, Middleton High Band & Orchestra Parent Association and Stonefield Neighborhood Association.

Last month we said a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to two board members. Pastor Connie Matye (left) joined the board in the heart of the pandemic. Her passion for serving was a steady force throughout her term, which was full of more twists and turns than we could have ever imagined! Tricia Nolan (right) served on the board for 9 years, most recently as board chair. We are grateful for her near decade of compassionate service and her leadership in helping the organization through our rebrand to WayForward Resources.

ReMitts, an amazing community partner to WayForward Resources and other food pantries in our community, was recently featured on NBC 15’s morning show with reporter Mackenzie Davis.

Founder Janet Tupy and lead volunteer Ann Nelson shared the story of how the group turns old wool sweaters into colorful and warm mittens, benefiting food pantries in Dane County.

For $40 a pair, the proceeds go directly to three local food pantries, including WayForward.

“No one’s more astonished than I am at how well this has gone over and how much good it’s done for our community,” Tupy said in the interview. “I think it’s great.”

Nelson said each pair takes about three hours to make. “But we know that 100 percent of our effort is going to go toward the food pantry and that makes it worth it,” she said.

WayForward Communications Manager Jenny Price joined Tupy and Nelson to share information about how the need for food in our community continues to grow.

“Since January 2022, the monthly visits for our pantry are up more than 200 percent and that means we’re distributing the equivalent of about 125,000 meals per month from our pantry,” Price told Davis.

You can find ReMitts at WayForward’s Holiday Art Market at FCI on December 2 and 3.

 

 

This is the 10th year that Middleton-based NET (Network Engineering Technologies) has made it easy for its employees to get in on the fun of supporting Winter Wishes and the reason is both simple and powerful.

“We care about our community and we really believe that helping others strengthens those bonds that hold us all together,” says Laura Duffield, NET’s Accounts Receivable Manager, who organizes the effort.

Winter Wishes provides $30 gift cards to participants. It’s a great opportunity for co-workers, teams, families and groups to come together to make the holidays special for people in our community. 

Last year, NET sponsored 100 Winter Wishes participants. This year, the company is increasing its commitment and purchasing gift cards for 200 people. 

About 30 employees typically take part by going out to shop for cards and if they choose to, they can donate small trinkets or stocking stuffers geared toward the age of the recipient to add to the bag with the gift card. Employees also donate wrapping paper to add to the stash recipients can choose from when picking up their gift cards at WayForward so they can wrap up the gifts they buy.

Duffield says the program resonates with employees who started at NET early in their careers and now have families of their own and want to support other parents.

“We’ve all had times in our life where we needed help without judgment or just a little boost to get us through,” Duffield says. “The holidays are hard. … so anything we can do to try to lighten the load for a parent, it just feels so worth it.”

WayForward is seeing increased demand across all of our programs this year and we are expecting a record number of people to sign up and qualify for Winter Wishes this year. Supporting Winter Wishes is a great way to engage your employees during the holiday season and bring joy to others in our community. 

Sign up by December 4 to get matched with participants or donate funds to help purchase gift cards. Have questions? Contact Jill Bradshaw, Community Engagement Manager, at jill@wayforwardresources.org

Hundreds of people in our community live in doubled-up living arrangements — which means they shift indefinitely between the homes of families and friends due to their economic situation. Our new Connections housing program focuses on filling this gap by working with doubled-up households to help them find and maintain stable housing.

 

How is the Connections program funded?

The Connections program is funded primarily by individual and group donations, with some grant funding from United Way of Dane County. Programs like Connections work with people in doubled-up living arrangements who can’t receive federal funding because they don’t meet the definition of homeless defined by those government programs. Because most of MOM’s funding comes from individuals and groups, we are uniquely suited to support this program.

What can community members do to help fund the Connections program?

Are there non-monetary ways people can support/give?

Interested in supporting Connections? Contact Leslie at leslie@momhelps.org 

(Image by rawpixel.com)

CONNECTIONS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Last month we introduced our Connections program in our blog post here. Now that you understand the growing need for this program, we wanted to explain how community members can get involved. Stay tuned for the final blog post of our Connections series to find out how you can support the Connections program!

Who qualifies for the Connections program?

The Connections Housing Program can assist individuals or families that are currently doubled-up but would like to move into their own housing within the MOM service area. The household must meet income eligibility requirements and agree to work through the housing process together with the Connections Case Manager. Any questions about eligibility can be discussed with the Connections Case Manager during referral and intake processes.

What staff are involved with Connections?

MOM has hired Nicole Verhagen as the dedicated Connections Case manager. Nicole joined MOM after providing 2 years of case management support to the Latinx community in Dane County. She is passionate about community development and social justice. Through Connections, she is looking forward to providing opportunities for those households that are in need of stable housing.

Nicole will also be supported by MOM’s Housing Stability Director, Taylor Rozman, and other staff within the Housing Stability Team.

    

How can community members get involved with Connections as a participant?

At this time, most referrals to the program come through community partners, such as school social workers and Joining Forces for Families (JFF) social workers. However, if you or anyone you know is experiencing doubled-up homelessness, you can email Nicole (nicole@momhelps.org) or call MOM (608-836-7338) to make an appointment with a case manager who can help you determine whether you are eligible for the Connections program.

What is the current process if you are accepted into the program?

Incorporating principles of Housing First, the Connections Case Manager works with participants to prioritize finding permanent housing in the initial stages. Together, we complete a housing needs assessment that defines the household’s needs, preferences, and challenges related to the housing searching process. Based on participant preferences, the Case Manager can assist in searching for units, submitting applications, negotiating with property management, and/or providing other types of support to ensure a prompt transition into housing. Connections can provide financial assistance with costs like security deposits or rent, as the household gets settled in their new housing. During the remainder of program participation, the Connections Case Manager continues to check in regularly to hear how things are going and provide support as needed, as participants pursue personal goals and continue improving their quality of life.

(Top image by rawpixel.com)

You Can Help

Build Stability in Our Community

Now, more than ever, your support helps ensure that people in our community have enough nutritious food to eat and can remain in stable housing.