Brendan O’Brien

Central City Crusaders

More than 15 Milwaukee groups and individuals are award nominees for work improving central city.

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Margaret Henningsen chats with attendees after the 2012 award presentations. (Photo by Kenya Evans)

Margaret Henningsen chats with attendees after the 2012 award presentations. (Photo by Kenya Evans)

Individuals, nonprofits and corporations committed to strengthening Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods will gather soon for the 14th annual Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation (MANDI) event to be held at the Pfister Hotel.

The awards are sponsored by U.S. Bank, in partnership with LISC Milwaukee.

“You will not find more entrepreneurial people than the people who are leading the efforts to rebuild our central city neighborhoods,” said Leo Ries, executive director of LISC Milwaukee. The MANDIs provide an opportunity for us to celebrate and learn from our city’s greatest talent.”

Here are the finalists:

BMO HARRIS CORNERSTONE AWARD (honors long-standing commitment)

ACTS Housing
For the past 20 years, ACTS has made strides in stabilizing the housing market throughout Milwaukee. What started out as a partnership between the city and St. Michael’s Catholic Church, ACTS is now a one-stop shop that provides home buying and rehabbing services for community members. ACTS, 2040 W. Pierce St., has assisted more than 1,500 households with a home purchases and more than 600 with home improvement projects.

“Being highlighted as a finalist was a huge victory for us. Winning would be icing on the cake,” said Carl Quindel, executive director. Winning a MANDI “would highlight some of the work that is being done in the inner city by residents who a lot of times don’t know they are capable of doing such incredible things.”

La Causa
During the last 40 years, La Causa, 2040 W. Pierce St., has gone from a day care center caring for 19 children to a pillar of the south side community, where it now serves the social needs of more than 10,000 community members annually. The original day care center now offers infant and toddler developmental care, preschool, head start and after-school care to 1,200 children. The organization also runs a crisis nursery and respite center, a charter school and provides support for foster parents, behavioral therapy and crisis stabilization.

“The (MANDI) recognition simply underscores our efforts and helps move us towards future successes,” said George Torres, president and CEO. “Our mission remains the same, to provide children, youth and families quality, comprehensive services to nurture healthy family life and enhance community stability.”

Progressive Community Health Centers
The Progressive Community Health Centers, at 1452 N. 7th St. and 3522 W. Lisbon Ave., work to meet the health and medical care needs of community members, regardless of their ability to pay. The centers also spearhead community outreach programs to address health issues such as high blood pressure, infant mortality and diabetes.

“This is a just a great testament to the fact that we have grown so much,” said Sarah Andritsch, fund development and marketing manager, noting that the patient population has increased 41 percent in five years.

PNC TRAIL BLAZER AWARD (recognizes innovation)

Select Milwaukee Financial Literacy Through Home Ownership
The Financial Literacy Through Home Ownership program at Select Milwaukee, 4219 N. 16th St., provides tools to low-income and minority Milwaukee residents to stabilize their finances and reach their home-ownership goals. The program gives participants access to an individual development account, where every dollar saved is matched by $2 of federal funds and an additional $2 raised by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. The program also offers a wide range of education, coaching and support for families purchasing homes.

Winning a MANDI “would say about sustainable homeownership, that the dream is alive and well,” said Raymond Schmidt, the program’s executive director.

Milwaukee Rising
For the past four years, Milwaukee Rising, 2336-38 N. 44th St., has tackled the vacant property and foreclosure problem in Sherman Park neighborhood. Community members involved in Milwaukee Rising were able to encourage big banks that owned blighted property to help fund the effort. The result is that 27 properties have been rehabbed.

Being a MANDI award finalist “is validation to the hundreds of volunteer leaders who led this campaign, that we can take charge of our own destiny and shape the Milwaukee we know and love to be a quality place to live for generations to come,” said Kathleen Patron, the lead organizer.

Our Next Generation
The Our Next Generation community center, 2411 W. Lisbon Ave., provides students with educational and cultural experiences to help them succeed in school and life. The center’s Outbound Learning program offers children after-school hands-on learning, through community partners. The program touts a 97 percent graduation rate of high school students who participate, with 80 percent going on to higher education.

BREWERS COMMUNITY FOUNDATION PUBLIC SPACE AWARD (spaces that contribute to community well being)

29th and Burnham Park
A small army of neighbors and students, along with various community development organizations, turned a blighted parcel at 2830 W. Burnham St. into a community garden. The garden consists of eight beds, park benches, planters, a children’s play area and a rain harvesting system.

“To win it … would serve as an example of one way to convert public space,” said Will Sebern, community outreach manager, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors. “It could also serve as an example of how community-led initiatives like this can be very successful, very meaningful and sustainable.”

Brown Street Academy Schoolyard
In 2010, the Brown Street Academy schoolyard greening project brought learning out of the building by constructing the state’s first certified outdoor classroom. Community members have now constructed three outdoor classrooms, where students interact with their natural surroundings and enjoy arts and crafts.

“To win would validate what we are doing,” said Jeffrey Rainwater, senior project manager. “It’s not so much our organization getting recognized or our partners, but its recognition for that neighborhood, the people and the school.”

Washington Park
Washington Park Partners, a coalition of individuals, businesses and neighborhood organizations headquartered at 1859 N. 40th St., has made the park a top priority after years of deterioration due to disinvestment in the neighborhood. The effort of about 500 community residents resulted in a playground, a play trail that spans the park and a band shell. The Vliet Street Community Green Market also is held in the park.

“Winning a MANDI award would validate the work of these public-private partnerships and recognize one of Milwaukee’s true gems, Washington Park,” said Laura Schloesser, administration and external affairs chief for the Milwaukee County Parks.

NORTHERN TRUST NAVIGATOR AWARD (honors outstanding individuals)

Welford Sanders is executive director of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. He has brought $20 million of investment to a concentrated area through a series of coordinated projects known as the King Drive Commons. The projects include mixed-use developments, as well as high-quality, affordable housing, a popular gallery for local artists, a fitness center and the Growing Power Deli and Food Market. Sanders serves on several boards, including those that oversee Growing Power, the Walnut Way Conservation Corp. and Northcott Neighborhood House.

Charlotte John-Gomez has been executive director of Layton Boulevard West Neighbors for the past 14 years. Through a partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Healthy Neighborhood Initiative, John-Gomez has overseen the rehabilitation of 250 homes and the sale of 39 others, totaling $7.5 million in direct neighborhood investment. She also has played a key role in mentoring staff and community members, cultivating the next generation of leaders. Under her leadership, LBWN has invested $35 million in the neighborhood and has engaged thousands of neighbors who have worked on projects and neighborhood events.

“The award would take this vision to a whole new level of visibility and would demonstrate how far we have come since that first ice cream social held back in 1995,” John-Gomez said.

Jim Godsil started his career of activism as a civil rights organizer and a bodyguard for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For 30 years, Godsil ran a successful roofing business, mentoring countless other contractors. In 2008, he began renovating a century-old abandoned railroad factory in Bay View, now home to Godsil’s Sweet Water Organics, the nation’s largest aquaponics farm. The Sweetwater Foundation teaches school children, veterans and the community about agriculture, nutrition, biology and the environment.

“Winning a MANDI award would mean a lot for me and my cause, which, broadly stated, involves a vision of Milwaukee winning a Nobel Prize for our innovations in urban agriculture and aquaponics,” Godsil said.

STATE FARM BUILDING BLOCKS AWARD (recognizes innovative real estate developments)

Mitchell Street Market Lofts
Born out of a Marquette University Associates in Commercial Real Estate program’s final class project, the Mitchell Street Market Lofts, 1948 W. Mitchell St., incorporates both the neighborhood’s popular, longstanding farmers market and affordable housing. The $6 million environmentally friendly building project, which was completed in 2012, provides 24 rent-to-own apartments to low-income residents and space for businesses such as the year-round market.

“Winning this award would further our vision to have synergy between the residential community and businesses community while focusing on our environmental footprint,” said Tina Anderson, one of the project creators.

Clock Shadow Building
Clock Shadow Building, 130 W. Bruce St., is a testament to urban pioneering and sustainability. Half the materials used to build the $7 million structure were either recycled or salvaged, including cream city brick, pickle barrel wood, recycled doors and repurposed hardware. The building, which features the country’s first elevator using regenerative energy, is now home to a creamery, ice cream shop and three health clinics.

National Avenue Lofts
The National Avenue Lofts, an $11 million project, is part of the revitalization of the Walker’s Point neighborhood. The lofts, located at 120 E. National Ave. where an empty industrial building and brownfield once stood, provide affordable housing to students, young professionals and families. The 73-unit complex features artwork from MIAD students, a fitness room, business center, playground and courtyard.

Urban Ecology Center
The Urban Ecology Center, 3700 W. Pierce St., is an excellent example of repurposing and preservation. In fact, the visitors’ guide to the 6,500-square-foot building cites 41 examples of re-used materials from the original bar and boarding house at the site, as well as other environmental features. The building’s architects, Uihlein/Wilson Architects, even found a place for the stained glass windows and the tavern’s bar. The ecology center partners with eight south side schools, offering students a wide variety of year-round environmental education and recreation programs.

VISION AWARD

ManpowerGroup
Since 1948, ManpowerGroup has played a prominent role in strengthening Milwaukee’s economy. ManpowerGroup takes part in several region-wide initiatives dedicated to creating a strong workforce, including the Talent Dividend and BeBold 2. The group’s employees serve on countless boards and advisory committees for area schools, colleges and universities. The company has strong partnerships with Our Next Generation, Artworks for Milwaukee, Best Buddies, Literacy Services of Wisconsin and many other organizations.

In 2007, ManpowerGroup opened its international headquarters along the Milwaukee River, in a building that has earned Gold Status under the LEED Green Building Rating System. Last year, more than 160 local organizations used the building’s facilities free of charge.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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