CONNECTING to the Community
Making a Difference

For over a century the Rotary Club of Milwaukee has been proud to make a difference by CONNECTING PEOPLE AND RESOURCES.  This year the Rotary Club of Milwaukee is again awarding “Connecting to the Community” grants, a fun way for members to make a difference in Milwaukee.  Special consideration was given to grants that address structural racism across a range of issues including education, arts, systems change, safety or health disparities.



The Rotary Club of Milwaukee is pleased to announce our 2023 grant winners…


Walnut Way Conservation Corp – $5,000

Sponsored by RotariansMargaret Crawford and Beth Ridley


Walnut Way Conservation Corp. is a resident-led neighborhood organization located in Milwaukee’s north side Lindsay Heights neighborhood.  The Equity Program (AEP) provides affordable computers and digital literacy to Lindsay Heights residents through an exciting new partnership with PCs for People, Microsoft AirBand, and EveryoneOn. This project allows Walnut Way to create a platform for increasing the digital literacy and competency of residents over time and is an essential component to the overall vision of racial equity and access, as it impacts education, employment, healthcare, civic participation, and access to goods and services.  Learn more here.


Kinship Community Food Center

Kinship Community Food Center – $5,000

Sponsored by Rotarians – Julilly Kohler, Leslie Hauser and Karl Wuesthoff


Kinship Community Food Center is a community food center that engages volunteers and neighborhood residents to end hunger, isolation, and poverty.  Research shows that shoppers care deeply about the nutritional quality of food options in pantries and are supportive of strategies to help them make healthier choices. As such, Kinship is a choice market where shoppers select from an assortment of fresh breads, fruits and vegetables, quality meats, and other staple foods. Beyond the fresh food market, Kinship integrates health education, cooking demonstrations, a breakfast/dinner bar, and connections to community resources. Through frequent visits to the fresh food market, people build community, improve their health, and address other areas of instability. Learn more here.



Sojourner Family Peace Center – $2,500

Sponsored by RotariansThomas Gale and Benjamin Wagner


Sojourner strives to ensure the safety of survivors of domestic violence and provide a pathway out of violence through opportunities to make positive and lasting changes for survivors and their children. Often survivors become homeless when leaving their abuser. Sojourner offers assistance with security deposits and first month’s rent to help survivors cover the costs associated with gaining their independence. For many domestic violence survivors, securing basic necessities while navigating violence is a challenge faced daily. Without access to safety, shelter, and reliable sources of food, a survivor’s physical and mental health remain at risk. Sojourner connects survivors to resources and education that can redirect the course of their lives. Living without fear, gaining confidence, obtaining a place to live and food to nourish their bodies and minds are attainable goals and something every person deserves.  Learn more here.


Pathfinders – $5,000

Sponsored by Rotarians – Dan Vliet, Charles Roedel, Dave Carter, Matt Matson, Cathy LaFleur, Kimberly Kane, Meg McKenna, Dave Murphy, Jim Barry, Dan Meyer, Pat Cronin, Brent Halfwassen, Samantha Maldonado, Alex Zamora, Brett Timmerman, Patrick Mutsune


Without a safe place to sleep each night, every homeless young person in Milwaukee faces enormous barriers to well-being. Housing instability takes a massive toll on young people – research shows that experiencing homelessness early in life is one of the strongest predictors of a lifetime of housing instability, trauma, poor health, and poverty. Though largely invisible, estimates indicate that about 15,000 Milwaukeeans under age 26 (more than 5,000 of whom are MPS students) experience homelessness each year. Pathfinders knows that safe and stable housing is essential to end youth homelessness in Milwaukee. This grant will support Pathfinder’s Supported Housing program, a critical component of in the spectrum of services, investing in safe and stable housing for young adults ages 16-25 using the evidence-based Housing First approach.   Learn more here.

Feeding San Diego Logo

Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin – $10,000

Sponsored by Rotarians – Leslie Hauser and Jim Milner


In honor of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee’s 110th anniversary, a special grant was awarded to Feeding American Eastern Wisconsin, a legacy project of the Club.   Founded as Second Harvest of Wisconsin, Feeding America now works collaboratively with their network of pantries and meal sites, volunteers, community leaders, and other partners to ensure people not only have enough healthy, nutritious food to eat, but also have the resources to build a pathway to stability. 1 in 8 people—and 1 in 5 children—do not know where their next meal is coming from in Wisconsin.  With this grant, Feeding America will eliminate their Shared Maintenance Fee, which will help pay for the costs of transporting, handling and storing donated food. This will remove barriers to distributing food at local pantries throughout the state.  Learn more here.



Nearby Nature Milwaukee

Nearby Nature Milwaukee – $2,500

Sponsored by Rotarians – William Lynch and Steve Chevalier 


Nearby Nature Milwaukee promotes environmental equity by focusing on education and engagement in the African American community.  A history of systemic racism has left the Lincoln Creek Greenway neighborhoods lacking access and amenities that are abundant on greenways in white communities.  Specifically focusing on “Hopkins Hollow”, Nearby Nature is working on a half-acre urban prairie restoration, the maintenance of a volunteer-built demonstration trail and wildlife surveys, developing the space into a living laboratory and educational nature preserve.  Learn more here.


SHARP LIiteracy

Sharp Literacy – $5,000

Sponsored by Rotarians  Tom Gale and Wendell Willis


Established in 2014, SHARP’s Summer Learning Program (SLP) partners with Community Learning Centers and MPS, providing innovative hands-on programming to combat students loss of academic progress over the summer due to lack of educational opportunities or “summer slide”. The eight-week art and technology-based program serves 1,000 K-5th graders, keeping children engaged and learning – developing skills, exploring new interests and building relationships – positively impacting academic and personal growth. SLP helps address educational disparities, giving students from low-income families opportunities. To mitigate ongoing pandemic-related learning loss, we focus on narrowing academic gaps, providing activities that address social/emotional learning (SEL), providing a purposeful and joyful summer experience. Learn more here.


River Revitalization Foundation

River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) – $10,000 (2023 and 2024)

Sponsored by Rotarians   Matt Haas, Margaret Crawford, Chris Jaekels, Sarah Kimball and Paige Radke.


In honor of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee’s 110th anniversary, a special grant was awarded to the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF), a legacy project of the Club.  The RRF was co-founded by the Rotary Club of Milwaukee and Kiwanis in 1994 to revitalize the neighborhoods surrounding Milwaukee’s three rivers and to improve water quality.   A signature initiative of RRF is the Summer Internship Program which offers employment opportunities for high school students, specifically targeting students of color.  The program provides environmentally focused work experience such as restoring wildlife habitat, improving public access and promoting recreation in our urban greenspaces. The interns also lead groups of volunteers assisting with projects in the field and lead hikes along the trails in the river valley to build a sense of community and engagement. Participation in the program works toward dismantling racism within the conservation field, a sector with the current majority white, by building a conservation ethic in young folks that will be the future leaders in the field.  In 2022, interns enhanced 7 acres of urban wildlife habitat, maintained 1-mile of trail and led 16 volunteer work days, among other accomplishments.  Learn more here.





Many thanks to the Connecting to the Community Grants Committee, co-chaired by Pat Cronin and Beth Ridley, and members Kaushal Chari, Janine Kolbeck, Jody Lowe, Mary McCormick, Theresa Reagan and Marilka Velez.