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.
Carmen Karvelis, our new Food Access Manager, leads WayForward’s food pantry and develops and maintains partnerships with volunteers, donors, and community agencies.
Before joining WayForward earlier this year, she was the e-pantry coordinator for The River Food Pantry in Madison. Carmen also has several years of domestic violence survivor advocacy and housing experience, which helps her collaborate with our housing stability team and understand the barriers our clients/guests face when accessing programs. In her spare time, Carmen loves cooking and spending time with friends. She also enjoys playing music and going to concerts.
WayForward Resources has partnered with United Way of Dane County for more than two decades. Thanks to President & CEO Renee Moe for her message about the transition to our new name and the work ahead!
Middleton Outreach Ministry today announced a new name — WayForward Resources — a change that will help more people access the nonprofit’s food pantry and housing stability programs.
“Our new name reflects who we are today and all of the services we provide,” says Ellen Carlson, executive director of WayForward Resources. “We’ve been discussing changing our name for nearly a decade, but there has never been a better time to take this important step to remove barriers and allow more people who need support to find us.”
The transition is taking place as demand for the services the organization provides continues to increase, driven in part by reduced federal food assistance and rising rents in Dane County. The change to WayForward Resources will reduce confusion about the mission of the organization and make it easier for clients to understand the services it provides, Carlson says.
The organization was established in 1980 by members of local Middleton churches and faith-based organizations continue to support its work after it transitioned to a community-based nonprofit organization in 2007. WayForward’s food pantry is now open to everyone in Dane County and over time its service area for housing stability programs has expanded to include Middleton, Cross Plains and west Madison.
“As a longtime partner and advocate for WayForward Resources’ mission, St. Luke’s has seen firsthand the impact their programs have on the lives of individuals and families in Dane County,” says the Rev. Carrie Greenquist-Petersen of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. “WayForward Resources provides crucial support to those who need help the most in our community, and we are proud to have played a small part in their journey – from their humble beginnings in St. Luke’s basement to the vital resource they are today. We are excited to see WayForward Resources continue to grow and serve our community, and are thankful to continue partnering alongside them.”
WayForward Resources serves more than 5,000 people a year. Its food pantry distributes the equivalent of more than 100,000 meals per month to people facing food insecurity. About 500 households a year receive funds from WayForward’s housing stability program, and 98% of participants maintain housing and avoid eviction for a year or longer.
“We’ve partnered with WayForward Resources for more than two decades and we’re proud to support their programs that help improve the lives of families in Dane County,” says United Way of Dane County President and CEO Renee Moe. “We’re excited to see the strong impact WayForward can have in the years ahead as it works to help more people thrive and make our community stronger.”
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.
Five years ago, a shopping trip to spend a holiday gift card at a local store turned into something much more for Beth Norman and her then 9-year-old daughter, Beatrice. “When we got there, we saw all these kids’ outerwear items super duper cheap after the holidays,” Norman says.
Norman started thinking about kids who could use warm clothing. So the pair took advantage of the great deals and purchased coats, snow pants, hats and gloves to donate to MOM’s Clothing Center. “Every year since then, we’ve been looking for the opportunity to give kids brand new stuff,” Norman says.
Ever since that first shopping trip, Beatrice, now 14, looks forward to their annual tradition of giving and now she is the one who takes the lead on the post-holiday shopping trip. “This year, she said, ‘’I’m looking for the cutest stuff.” Beatrice is also now more aware of the disparities in her community, Norman says. ”It’s been really interesting to see her recognize that even in her own school there are kids who show up with less than adequate outerwear when it’s really cold,” Norman says.
This year, Beatrice noted that things seemed more expensive than in the past and the mother and daughter talked about the importance of giving, especially when families are experiencing tighter budgets.
“Our kids really listen to what we say but, more than anything, they see what we do. If we can do it together, those are the things that are going to create those family values we carry forward,” Norman says. “I am finding that more and more as my daughter gets older.”
At MOM, we have always believed in the power of our community coming together to make a difference for our neighbors.
Since our founding more than 40 years ago by members of Middleton churches who came together to make a difference for our neighbors and as an independent, community-based nonprofit since 2007, we have continued to evolve, innovate and collaborate to respond to the needs of our community. This spring, we will build on that shared history as we move ahead with plans that we’ve been discussing for nearly a decade: changing our name.
Even though we’ll have a new name and logo, our mission, vision and values will remain the same. Together, we will continue working to build a community where everyone has the stability to thrive.
Every day, we are sustained and invigorated by your generosity. When we set up an Amazon Wish List to help re-stock our food pantry shelves, your purchases began showing up within days. When we put out a call for more community food drives to keep up with the increased demand at our food pantry, the Middleton EMS organized a drive among public safety and government offices during the holidays. A group of local restaurants did the same, inviting diners to bring donations with them during the month of February.
As we undergo this important transition to our new name, we are facing other challenges. The neighbors who access our pantry and housing programs are grappling with rising rents and high food prices — their pay and fixed incomes have long since ceased in keeping up. And for many of our clients, things will get more difficult this month when additional pandemic-era federal food assistance comes to an end as food prices still hover near record highs. Now, more than ever, your support helps ensure they have enough nutritious food to eat and can remain in stable housing.
We look forward to sharing our new name with you in the coming months and inviting you to an event to celebrate with us. Thank you for being part of our next chapter. We’re excited to keep moving forward together.
This week we welcomed Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and State Rep. Alex Joers for a tour of our food pantry. MOM has received a nearly $202,000 COVID Food Pantry Aid Assistance Grant from Dane County that will allow us to cover the costs of a new freezer/cooler, bulk food and more food pantry staff hours. Executive Director Ellen Carlson shared information with Parisi and Joers about the rising demand for our food security and housing stability programs. Food pantries across the county are expecting an increase in demand in the wake of a reduction in extra FoodShare benefits put into place during the pandemic, a change that will affect thousands of Dane County residents who rely on the program to access food for their families. We are currently providing the equivalent of more than 70,000 meals a month, which is more than double from last year and the most in our history. MOM is grateful for support from the county and our elected officials as we work to build food security in our community.
Have dinner plans for tonight? All month long, six Madison Originals restaurants will be collecting nonperishable food donations for MOM: 1847 at the Stamm House, Grape Water Wine Bar, Imperial Garden West, Longtable Beer Cafe, Nitty Gritty in Middleton and Buck & Honey’s in Monona. “We want to make sure that we can help our community the best way we can,” Sarah Niehaus, director of Madison Originals, told the Wisconsin State Journal. The nonprofit association of local, independently owned restaurants put together the “Mad Can” food drive to benefit MOM and other local food pantries. Thank you to these restaurants for bringing our community together to build food security for our neighbors!
Check out recent media coverage of the Mad Can Food Drive and learn more about food security in our community!
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 ASPCA.org. 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.