Common Wealth Board of Directors Congratulates Marianne Morton

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Many in the community are asking about a party for Marianne Morton in honor of her retirement from Common Wealth. It was the Board’s and staff’s fervent wish to celebrate her legacy with a community-wide event to mark her commitment to the work of Common Wealth and to note the major milestones Common Wealth has achieved since she started in 1981. However, Marianne prefers to not be in the limelight and instead speak with people individually. We look forward to marking her legacy when we welcome our new Executive Director in an event that will look both at our history and forward toward our vision for the future.

If you wish to reach out to Marianne or make a donation in her honor:

Email congratulations to Marianne Morton (

Make a tax-deductible donation to Common Wealth in honor of Marianne’s legacy.

During the many years of Marianne Morton’s participation and leadership, Common Wealth has accomplished many remarkable things.  Among the many highlights of the last 35 years are:

  • The development of Yahara River View Apartments, a public/private partnership that created 60 new units of affordable housing adding to our already robust housing offerings in the increasingly gentrified Williamson-Marquette neighborhood.
  • The partnership with Madison Gas & Electric on Madison Enterprise Center, an office and light industrial business incubator that serves start-up and expanding small businesses.
  • The purchase and remediation of the old Greyhound bus terminal and its redevelopment into Main Street Industries, a thriving business incubator in the heart of what has become Madison’s entrepreneurial/tech corridor.
  • The expansion of our Youth-Business Mentoring Program to all Madison high schools and Sun Prairie.
  • Innovative work in the Meadowood neighborhood, providing decent, affordable housing, and job development services, partnering with Joining Forces for Families and Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ.

The Board of Directors extends its profound gratitude to Marianne for her many years of unwavering commitment to Common Wealth and its work for social justice, decent housing, job creation and youth development.  We are humbled, challenged and inspired by the legacy she leaves behind and will continue to live up to the high bar she set for integrity, courage and innovation in our pursuit of social equity for all.


Connor Sabatino, on behalf of the Board of Directors of Common Wealth

Common Wealth Announces Justice Castañeda as its next Executive Director

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Madison—Common Wealth is excited to announce that Justice Castañeda will be its next Executive Director.  Justice brings a blend of qualifications, experience, and a life story that embodies Commons Wealth’s goals.

Growing up in the City of Madison with a volatile childhood, Justice personally encountered many social justice organizations in our community.  Upon graduation from Madison’s East High School, Justice enlisted in the Marine Corps where he served two four-year terms before an honorable discharge as Staff Sergeant.  Returning to Madison a veteran, but without a college degree, between terms Justice experienced several barriers in our community including a difficult job placement environment.  Determined to overcome the obstacles in his way, Justice enrolled in college after his honorable discharge.

Justice holds a Master’s degree in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, a Master’s degree in City Planning with a concentration on Housing, Community and Economic Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California – San Diego.

In his professional career, Justice has served in multiple roles in government, non-profit, and educational settings, and has held several leadership and management roles in organizations and initiatives in cities and communities throughout the United States.  His work has explored the intersections of housing policy, economic development and children and family health, looking at the role these intersections play in creating connected thriving communities. Justice’s professional experience has encompassed a host of issues including equitable community and economic development practices, land use planning, innovation in affordable housing development, business development, and curriculum construction in youth and adult learning settings.

Justice’s breadth of experience aligns with the breadth of programming by Common Wealth.  Founded in 1979, Common Wealth is uniquely diverse in its mission to build a connected community for all in Dane County through affordable housing, youth and adult job support and training, business incubation and engagement.  Common Wealth’s programming includes affordable housing for people with limited incomes, employment and financial education for low-income and at-risk youth, operating the Madison Enterprise Center business incubator, and Common Wealth owns and operates the Main Street Industries business incubator.

With over a decade of professional experience, Justice is excited to bring his talents home to Madison and start a new chapter in life by leading a new chapter for Common Wealth.  The social justice initiatives of Madison non-profits buoyed a difficult childhood for Justice.  He is now humbled and grateful for the opportunity to give back to our community through his leadership as Common Wealth’s new Executive Director.

Justice takes over for longtime Common Wealth Executive Director Marianne Morton, who is retiring after over 35 years with the organization.  Justice has already begun transitioning into the new role, will begin full time with Common Wealth later this month, and will take over as Executive Director effective February 1, 2017.

Contact: Connor A. Sabatino, Board President, Common Wealth, 608-258-4283

The Cargo Bike Shop opens retail spot on Willy Street

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Common Wealth welcomes a new business to 1404 Williamson St.

Tim Staton has his garage back and Williamson Street has gained a new niche retailer aimed at families looking for an alternative way to cart around their young children, groceries and other packages.

Think of The Cargo Bike Shop as a dealership for two-wheeled, eco-friendly versions of the minivan.

For the past two years, Staton has been selling cargo bikes through word of mouth and online…click here to continue reading at

Announcing the Commonalities Event Series

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Join us to learn more about Common Wealth!

Common Wealth is excited to announce the Commonalities Event Series, which will take place between February and October 2017. Each of the four events in the series will focus on one of Common Wealth’s program areas: affordable housing, business incubation, youth employment training and placement, and adult employment training. These events are free and open to the public. Some food and a cash bar will be available.

Click here to register and for more details.



Bike-focused coffee shop opens on Willy St.

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A new small business is opening up on Willy St. in one of Common Wealth’s buildings.

By Samara Kalk Derby — Wisconsin State Journal

A bike-centered coffee shop opened Saturday next to Batch Bakehouse on Williamson Street.

Dan Coppola opened Cafe Domestique, decorated with bicycles, at 1408 Williamson St. The Cargo Bike Shop is getting ready to open next door, specializing in cargo, family, utility and electric-assist bikes. 

The cafe is using coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters and sweet and savory bakery from next door…click here to continue reading at


photo by Cafe Domestique


Diana, Madison West High School

Youth Programs alumni testimonial: Diana’s story

Liz Machesney Youth Programs 1 Comment

Diana’s story is one that impeccably captures the goal of Common Wealth’s Youth-Business Mentoring Program (YBMP). Now a junior at Madison West High School, Diana completed YBMP during the first semester of her sophomore year; she was hired at TJ Maxx within a month of successfully completing the training and has now worked there for over a year. While she started the 3-week training a little quiet and timid, she immediately demonstrated maturity and an eagerness to learn and work. From a facilitator’s perspective, it has been beautiful and humbling to watch her eagerness and maturity increase and to see the timid side of her fade away as her first part-time job shone light on the confidence we always knew she had.

In her own words, Diana shared that her experience going through YBMP was “pretty cool” and “made [her] grow for sure.” The fact that we “assured a job at the end” was what initially motivated her to apply for our program, and she particularly enjoyed learning new job skills and meeting new people. Some topics covered during the 3-week training aspect of Common Wealth’s YBMP include applications, motivation to work, interviews, on-the-job skills, and financial literacy. When students successfully complete the training, they are paired with one of the co-facilitators as a mentor. Through regular communication with the students and employers, Common Wealth supports our students as they navigate the first four months of their part-time job.  Diana describes the mentoring aspect of YBMP as giving her a “sense of security, knowing [she] could rely on [us],” and felt as though we offered more than just job advice.

Considering how mature and respectful Diana was from the get-go, it was no surprise that she was extremely successful at TJ Maxx. From the professional side, she gained independence in her ability to manage her time and money, and her demonstrated commitment led her to be considered as the “go-to girl” when a shift needed to be covered. In fact, she budgets her money well enough to pay for her own food, cell phone, and braces, while also managing to save some for emergencies and big expenses.

A unique aspect of Diana’s success story is her Mexican-American identity; she was born in Madison, but also spent time living in California and in Mexico, where most of her family lives.  Now appreciating the strength and skills she learned from moving and experiencing two unique cultures, Diana did and does face struggles; in Mexico, her American accent made other students pick on her, while in America she feels torn between maintaining ties to her Mexican roots and also wanting to blend with groups who are more diverse.  She shared that at times she feels frustrated trying to balance the two cultures, but overall she appreciates the growth that resulted, and she is thankful for how close she has remained with her family.  Diana’s ability to budget and save her money provides a sense of relief, as she focuses on saving enough money to visit family in Mexico a couple times each year.

Diana’s unique cultural experience, paired with the skills and development from working have made her start “to think about what [she] really wants.” After high school, she plans to move out of state for college to “start a new chapter.” She is considering locations like Michigan, Washington DC, Seattle and Manhattan, and hopes to pursue a career in the medical field or with children. Through methodically saving money and managing her schedule, Diana has learned that she really enjoys planning things, which lead her to take charge in coordinating an event for a school club. She said that despite the stress of that experience, she “enjoyed being behind all the coordination.”

Considering the strength Diana has gained in her personal and professional life, we at Common Wealth have no doubt that she will meet extreme success in her future. Students and stories like hers continuously motivate us to do what we do. We are tremendously thankful for the opportunity to work with Diana and all of our students. If you know of students ages 14-16 who are looking for an experience like Diana’s, please view our website to learn more about YBMP:, or contact me at 608.256.3527 x21 or

Rachel Darken

Rachel Darken, 2016 M List with Madison Magazine

Andy Miller Uncategorized 1 Comment

Rachel Darken, Common Wealth’s Youth Programs Director, is one of 32 mentors and teachers who made the 2016 M List with Madison Magazine.

“I’m honored to be included in this group of people dedicated to improving the lives of youth in our community,” said Rachel. “Being a part of this year’s M List isn’t just about one person, though – this honor should also extend to all of the employees on Common Wealth’s Youth Programs team (past and present), our dedicated volunteers, the businesses who employ the youth in our programs, and everyone who has been a part of supporting this vital work.”

According to her M List article: Rachel is motivated by the “privilege of being able to witness and support” the growth and success of the students she mentors. She says she recently received a card from a former client who was promoted to a manager and is starting college. “It’s incredible to walk in every day knowing you’re helping people prepare for their future,” Rachel says.

Rachel began her work at Common Wealth in 2012 as a Youth Employment Specialist, and was promoted to Youth Programs Director in 2014. She manages a team of five, including two AmeriCorps PASS members, who serve 235 students per year by providing financial literacy training, mock interview practice, and employment placement. To learn more about how to volunteer with Youth Programs, email Rachel. To become a supporter of Youth Programs, click here to donate online or by check.

Madison Magazine’s M List is a who’s who of organizations and individuals who are having an impact on our local culture and economy. In its fourth year, the M List recognizes those making strides as mentors and teachers.

Big changes for the Williamson-Marquette Gazette

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For the past 34 years, Common Wealth, the Marquette Neighborhood Association and the Williamson-Marquette
Neighborhood Center have partnered together to produce the Williamson-Marquette Gazette, a bi-monthly
newspaper for the Williamson-Marquette neighborhood. We are proud to have provided news and connections
to our community for so many years. Volunteers and staff have dedicated an extraordinary amount of time to shape and share the Wil-Mar Gazette. Our community is stronger and more vibrant because of this collaborative effort.

With the changing format of news delivery and online networks, our three organizations have come together to evaluate the effectiveness and costs of the Gazette. We have determined that, in order to devote more staff time to emerging projects and offer sustainable, evolving connections within our service areas, this November/December 2016 issue of the Wil-Mar Gazette will be the last one. Our three organizations – Common Wealth, Marquette Neighborhood Association and Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center – will continue working together to connect with our community in a variety of ways in the coming years.

Here’s information on how to contact each of our organizations:

Common Wealth is pleased to have partnered with the Marquette Neighborhood Association and Wil-Mar
Neighborhood Center on the Gazette. If you would like to stay in touch and continue to learn about Common Wealth’s programs in affordable housing, business incubation, and youth & adult employment training and placement, please visit our website at You can sign up on our website for our e-newsletter
which has regular updates on our work. You can also contact Mike Sweitzer-Beckman at 608.256.3527 x34 or
email, to learn more or be added to our mailing list.

Marquette Neighborhood Association will continue to communicate with neighbors through the Marquette Neighborhood Association list serve (click here to subscribe to the list serve), ongoing neighborhood committees, and their Facebook page. The MNA eUpdate is sent from the MNA Board once per month and gives a brief update on MNA’s work. Subscribe on MNA’s website. Neighbors are invited to the MNA Board of Directors monthly meeting held the third Thursday of the month, 7:00 p.m. at the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.

Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center will offer a new quarterly publication for the eastside community beginning in 2017. This publication will focus on the Wil-Mar programs, community available classes and workshops, volunteer opportunities, child care, summer camps, resources, events at Wil-Mar, and our neighborhood festivals. Please  direct any questions about how to participate in this new publication to Beatrice Hadidian, the Program/Development Director at Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center.

We wish to thank our readers, our advertisers and local businesses, and staff and volunteers who have supported the
Williamson-Marquette Gazette for so many years. A special thanks and appreciation goes to Shelli Lawler and Donna Magdalina for their amazing coordination and production of the Gazette during the past 10 years.

Any questions can be directed to Mike at 608.256.3527 x34 or Beatrice at 608.257. 4576 x12. We look forward to this exciting new chapter/phase!

Congratulations to Willy Street North on the Grand Opening on August 15!

Andy Miller Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood Leave a Comment

Common Wealth sends much congratulations to the Willy Street Co-op on the grand opening of their new store on Madison’s north side in a food desert this past August 15, located at 2817 N. Sherman Ave.

This harkens back to 1985, when Common Wealth had a capital equity and loan program funded by the City of Madison’s CDBG program. We had a chance to catch up with Mark Koppelkam, who helped draw up business plans for the Willy Street Co-op that was originally located at the corner of Williamson and Few Streets, where the Social Justice Center is now. Mark was the lead on this project for Common Wealth at that time and now works as a Loan Underwriter with MassHousing in Boston.

Back in the early 1980s, the Co-op was facing challenges of how to generate new revenue. Staffing costs were high but sales were sluggish, primarily because there was only so much space to sell groceries. What was it like helping the Co-op justify an expansion?

I did up a business plan….I remember it was amazing because I could use the newfangled personal computers to actually make and print out graphs! So as a geek, all the data from a grocery business was awesome…think of all the graphs you could do….sales and operating expenses by year, by department, by square foot etc.!  You have no idea what a fantastic invention that was…PC’s and Lotus 1-2-3.

This discussion causes me to bring up google maps street view and look at the building, and Willy Street, all of which brings back a lot of good memories. Granola doesn’t just happen!!!  

What is your background and how did you get involved with cooperative business model planning?

I was pleased to work on the Willy Street Co-op expansion as I had just spent a year in the VISTA program. I was trained at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, which coordinated the VISTA program. I worked in different locations in Wisconsin, primarily helping food cooperatives. I know the LaCrosse food coop has a great storefront downtown and is doing very well. The woman who ran the Gordon Park (Milwaukee Riverwest neighborhood) food co-op, Marilyn Scholl is now a national cooperative consultant.

Congratulations again to the Willy Street Co-op on your continued expansion in Madison!

Wanda Fullmore Summer Internship Program participants, 2016. Photo by Kent Sweitzer.

Fifty youth from Madison complete Wanda Fullmore Summer Internship Program

Andy Miller Youth Programs 1 Comment

The third annual Wanda Fullmore Internship Program concluded last week, with fifty youth residing in the City of Madison completing eight week summer internships with various City of Madison departments. For the second consecutive year, Common Wealth was chosen as the nonprofit partner to administer the internship program, increasing from 30 interns in 2015 to 50 in 2016. The internship concluded with a certificate ceremony, presentations by interns, and cake at the Madison Central Library on Friday, August 19, 2016.

The Wanda Fullmore Internship Program is designed to help underprivileged teens who are facing some sort of life barrier. It is an opportunity for them to learn about the possibility of working for city government. Wanda Fullmore was first hired by the City of Madison in the 1970s as an 18-year-old single mother during Mayor Paul Soglin’s first stint as mayor. She ended up working for the City of Madison for four decades for five different mayors.

The internship participants received a variety of experiences, including working in Mayor Paul Soglin’s office on expanding My Brother’s Keeper, a program designed to build opportunities for boys and young men of color, and establishing a Youth Council to provide feedback on issues affecting youth to City leaders and help coordinate plans of action. Other experiences included writing PSA’s and setting up for press conferences in the IT/Media department, working at stations and setting up for special events with Madison Fire Department, working with kids in Public Health to create more outdoor experiences, and interning in Engineering to learn how to survey storm damage and use various software packages.

“This internship program is all about employment and exposure: exposure for teenagers to realize things they may not have known even existed in our community,” said Tyson Jackson, Youth Employment Specialist at Common Wealth. “When our youth have success participating in this program in particular, it becomes easily translatable in other areas of their lives and more importantly their view of their own future, I would say that is the biggest draw for me. They can take this one achievement as a catapult for other achievements in life using the resources and references they’ve gained. Having someone tell them they’ve done great things is a huge confidence booster. This is what makes me want to continuously be part of this program.”

Brikny Ayala, Wanda Fullmore Summer Intern, with John Legend

Brikny Ayala, Wanda Fullmore Summer Intern, with John Legend

Brikny Ayala completed her summer internship at the Monona Terrace, and was able to experience things like setting up for a wedding for 408 people and attend a women’s leadership conference. The highlight of her summer was being the personal attendant for singer John Legend, who visited Madison to be part of an event with American Family Insurance.

“I liked working with a diverse group of people and in different departments at Monona Terrace,” Brikny said. “I enjoyed being present at events and learning about everything that happens at Monona Terrace. I felt very excited meeting John Legend, but had to maintain a calm, professional mode. It was very secretive. I couldn’t tell anyone that he was there.”

The Wanda Fullmore Summer Internship Program concluded on August 19, 2016. To see photos from the closing certificate ceremony provided by Kent Sweitzer, click here.