Big changes for the Williamson-Marquette Gazette

Andy Miller Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood Leave a Comment

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.

MadFolk celebrates the 39th Annual Willy Street Fair by hosting the Folk Stage for its 9th year

Andy Miller Events, Willy Street Fair Leave a Comment


It is that time of year where we have the final festival of summer here in Madison, you put away all your indoor toys, tvs and computers and you come out to get, as the Chicago Tribune says, a “hip dose of Madison,” parades like none other, foods stands that can’t be beat, groovy stands to buy stuff ‘cuz you deserve to splurge on yourself and of course, cold beer and MUSIC!

The folk stage will again kick off Willy Street Fair (WSF) this year. We welcome a newcomer to our stage, Kendra Swanson. Kendra is an independent roots music performer and songwriter. With strong, expressive vocals and energetic instrumentation on banjo, guitar, and fiddle, she applies a timeless sound to original compositions written from (and about) the American heartland. She has shared bills with the likes of Charlie Parr, Ralph Stanley, The Waydown Wanderers, Eric Lambert, The Howlin’ Brothers, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. She is going to be a fine addition to the WSF family of musicians.

Macyn Taylor is no stranger to WSF, she has graced our stage twice before and is always a joy to see and watch how much she has grown since appearing on the stage before she was even 18.  Macyn is an accomplished guitar player and singer. She is 20 years old and has recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Masters in Music Performance degree. Macyn’s guitar playing has been heard around the world through YouTube, with her YouTube site having nearly 2 million views. She has competed in many guitar competitions and has won many, including the 2013 Wilson Center International Guitar Competition. Macyn was recently given an award for “Most Promising New Talent” by Acoustic Guitar Magazine. She was also named the 2013 WAMI Folk/Celtic performer of the year.

Moonhouse will be the closing set on our stage on Saturday.  You may get to see them regulary if you’re a night owl and hang out at the UpNorth Bar.  But for WSF we are again bringing these guys out for some daytime fun!   They are a great group of musicians, they play some of their own music and they do a lot of wonderful covers, you’ll pull up a chair, grab a beer and song after song you’ll be saying, I love this song, and after a few beers, you’ll probably be singing along.  You can describe Moonhouse as a folkadelic powerhouse from Madison.  They combine elements of folk, rock, blues and jazz to create an intoxicating and uplifting sound.  Beautiful vocal harmonies and solid improv chops round out this musical trip.

If you don’t know the name Bill Camplin, you should.  Not only does he own and run (along with his wife Kitty) one of the best small music venues in the mid-west, which just happens to be in our neck of the woods – Ft Atkinson, WI – he is one fine musician. He has a great tenor voice and plays a guitar that keeps you asking for more.  He has several CDs, and if you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you need to own his CD of Dylan covers to complete your collection. Come see him at WSF and purchase one of them.  He will be joined on the stage this year by Randy Sabien, who is talented on so many instruments, although I bet in this duo show we’ll get to hear a lot of his violin and mandolin playing.  So those of you in this music scene know this is going to be a great way to kick off WSF on Sunday morning right after the parade, it is a set not to be missed.

Kelley McRae will be making her debut on the WSF stage this year and we are excited as can be to have this international touring act make a stop in her schedule to play on our stage.  Kelley called New York City home for many years, cutting her teeth in the vaunted singer/songwriter scene and honing her craft at legendary clubs like The Living Room, The Rockwood Music Hall and the Bowery Ballroom.  In 2011 McRae teamed up with guitarist Matt Castelein, and the duo traded in their Brooklyn apartment for a VW camper van and hit the road full time.  Kelley and Matt traveled extensively across America those first few years, performing hundreds of shows and finding inspiration for new songs along the way.  The duo has since gone on to tour in eleven countries, including shows in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin.  They’ve taken the stage at renowned venues such as The Bluebird Café in Nashville and The Green Note in London, and they’ve performed at festivals like Riverbend in Chattanooga,TN, Rhythm and Blooms in Knoxville, TN and the Kerrville Folk Festival where they were named New Folk Finalists.

Tracy Comer one of the driving forces of this group has played our stage in many different arrangements of musicians over the years.   We are excited to welcome her back with a fine group of supporting musicians. “From folk to swing and lots in between!” Common Chord combines the musical skills of Michael Bryant and Tracy Jane Comer (who between them play a stage full of stringed things), plus additional musicians Delores Jenison (vocals), Faye Bruggink (clarinet), and Alan Maslowski (percussion). Michael and Tracy were members of the former Madison-area trio Sticky Fingers from the early to mid-2000s and they have worked as a duo on occasion during the years since. They perform originals plus unique covers from the likes of Tom Waits, the Beatles, Robert Johnson, Cheryl Wheeler, and more, with flavors of folk, blues, swing, country, pop, and jazz.

We close our stage out on Sunday night with a local favorite Americana band of Brother Rye.  Again, no stranger to this stage or many other stages in the Madison area.  This band gets stronger every time I see them, and they bring out the fun in all of us, you’ll be tapping your toes and humming along and before you know it your singing and dancing, which is partly due to the great music and partly because it is the end of the day and we have been drinking beer.    I only mention the beer as this whole festival is a fundraiser for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center and some of the money raised comes from your support of purchasing the libations offered during the festival.   We hope you have a fun weekend and we know it is guaranteed if you’re at the folk stage.


Saturday – September 17

2:00 – 2:45 – Kendra Swanson

3:00 – 4:00  Macyn Taylor

5:00 – 6:00 Moonhouse

Sunday, September 18

12:15 – 1:15 – Bill Camplin & Randy Sabien

2:00 – 3:00 – Kelley McRae

3:30 – 4:30 – Common Chord

5:00 – 6:00 Brother Rye

Nestor Bacque, Common Wealth affordable housing tenant

Affordable housing tenant profile: Nestor Bacque

Andy Miller Housing Leave a Comment

Originally from Salto, Uruguay near the Argentinian border, Nestor Bacque moved to Madison in 2005. He has made his home here ever since, working jobs in agriculture, at a grocery store, and now at a car dealership in Madison. He moved into a Common Wealth apartment in August 2012.

“Common Wealth is a great organization,” he reflected on his front porch on Williamson Street. “I love my location. Every time when I tell people where I live, they’re like, ‘Wow, man, you have a nice spot.’ I cannot say anything more than nice things about Common Wealth because every time I need them, they were here for me.”

When he first began his housing search, he knew he wanted to be on the near east side. “You have access to restaurants and downtown,” he said. He stopped by the Common Wealth office five or six times in a week when he was frantically searching for housing, and Common Wealth was able to set him up in an efficiency, where he has lived ever since.

He uses his English skills daily by working the customer service desk at a local car dealership. As recently as 2008, he hardly knew any English. He was working on a pig farm at the same time when Brett Favre was first retiring from the Green Bay Packers, and everyone was talking about the state of the Packers. He realized then that he had to learn more English so he would know what everyone was talking about.

Nestor recently became a United States citizen after many years of studying and passing the citizenship exam. “It feels good,” he said. He now has many more opportunities, including the right to vote. “It feels good to vote! I already voted [in the presidential election]!”

Common Wealth owns and manages 139 units of affordable rental properties throughout Madison. To view currently availability, visit

View the full interview with Nestor and hear his own words:

Graduates of the Youth-Business Mentoring Program at Madison West High School, Fall 2015. Photo by Kent Sweitzer.

2015 Youth Programs Annual Review

Andy Miller Youth Programs Leave a Comment

Each year, we like to highlight the impact of our Youth Programs from the previous year, including the Youth-Business Mentoring Program (YBMP) and Employment & Financial Literacy Workshops. We do this in August because we like to provide the most accurate information about how many students in the YBMP that we placed in jobs, and sometimes it takes several months to find a job that fits the participant’s interests and schedule.

In 2015, Common Wealth provided 311 teens with high quality financial education, mentoring, employment and job retention skills. Common Wealth also placed 99 teens in jobs with local businesses.







2015 Youth Programs Employers

We are grateful to the following area businesses that provided employment to participants in the Youth-Business Mentoring Program:

Common Wealth is grateful to the following volunteers who either helped us do mock interviews with Youth Programs participants, or spoke at a graduation for Youth-Business Mentoring Program participants. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Rachel Darken, Youth Programs Director, at 608.256.3527 x18 or

  • Jaime Benton
  • Robert Coffin
  • Grant Gelhar
  • Ada Gonzales
  • Keith Johnston
  • Randy Joswig
  • Christina Juneau
  • Jackie Lisowski
  • Nancy Martin
  • Rudy Moore
  • Joann Nichols
  • Sean O’Herrin
  • Sarah Olson
  • Phyllis Pleuss
  • Randall Reinke
  • Tamaris Relerford
  • Susan Robbins
  • Deb Simon
  • Katharine Stalker
  • Michele Thoren
  • Walter Williams
  • Steven Zwickel

Youth Programs at Common Wealth would not be possible without the generous support of the following donors. If you would like to make a donation to support Common Wealth’s work, please visit our Donate page or contact Mike Sweitzer-Beckman, Fund Development Manager, at 608.256.3527 x34 or

Major Supporters of Youth Programs in 2015 ($7,500+)

American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation


CUNA Mutual Foundation

Dane County Department of Human Services

City of Madison Community Development Division

Other Supporters of Youth Programs in 2015



  • Robert Beckman
  • Cory Borgen
  • Maja Christiansen
  • Beverly K. Fergus
  • Constance Kilmark
  • Maureen McGilligan-Bentin
  • Ted Parker
  • Michael Rosenberg and Cheryl Daniels
  • Karen Sallander
  • George Swamp
  • David L. Wallner
Willy Street Fair raffle banner

2016 Willy Street Fair Raffle

Andy Miller Events, Willy Street Fair 2 Comments

It is that time of the year again for the Willy Street Fair raffle! We have an awesome lineup of raffle prizes. Ticket sales will go to benefit programming at Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center and Common Wealth. Tickets are 1 for $2, 3 for $5, or 10 for $10. There are a few ways you can get tickets:

  1. Stop by the Common Wealth office, located at 1501 Williamson Street in Madison, between 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekdays.
  2. Call Mike at 608.256.3527 x34 to arrange a different time to meet at the Common Wealth office to buy raffle tickets.
  3. Stop by the booth at the 39th Annual Willy Street Fair, located near the 1000 block of Williamson Street the weekend of September 17-18, 2016.

Here are a list of raffle prizes for this year!

Click here to download a poster with a listing of all the prizes.

Grand Prizes

  1. $1,000 cash, donated by Applied Tech Solutions
  2. Trek District 9 Bicycle ($789 value), donated by Trek Bikes
  3. $550 cash, donated by Baer Insurance Services, Struck & Irwin Fence, Bock Water Heaters,
    Blair Lawn & Landscape, Full Spectrum Solar, Badger Welding Supply, Potter’s Crackers, Willaby’s Cafe
  4. 4 tickets to a Milwaukee Bucks regular season game ($510 value), donated by Milwaukee Bucks
  5. Eldorado Grill BBQ Package for 20 People ($369.80 Value), donated by Eldorado Grill
  6. One‐Night Stay, African Queen Suite at Kalahari Resort ($349 Value), donated by Kalahari Resort & Convention Center
  7. Gift Card to Willy Street Co‐op ($250 Value), donated by Willy Street Co-op
  8. Weber Performer Grill ($249 Value), donated by Ace Hardware on Williamson Street
  9. The Absolute Relief Spa Package ($228 Value), donated by Kneaded Relief Spa & Wellness

Click here to download a poster with a listing of all the prizes.

Stephanie Bradley Wilson, Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Project coordinator at Common Wealth

Stephanie Bradley Wilson brings 31 years of community experience to Common Wealth

Andy Miller Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Project Leave a Comment

Stephanie Bradley Wilson worked for Madison Police Department for 31 years – every role from an undercover officer to neighborhood officer to shift commander and lieutenant supervising detectives. In January, she retired and by the end of February, she was hired by Common Wealth to be the Project Manager for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative.

She doesn’t see this new role as being too different from some of the roles she enjoyed playing when she was a police officer, especially when she was involved with community engagement activities such as summer programs, seat belt initiatives, Christmas giveaways and Juneteenth. It also fits with her commitment to service in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (of which she has been a member since 1976) and being active at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation project is an 18 month planning grant awarded to the Madison Police Department in late 2015. The project’s purpose is to create a comprehensive public safety and revitalization plan for the Raymond Road corridor neighborhoods by obtaining input from residents, local organizations and service providers, businesses, and government agencies to develop the plan. The plan will be used to apply for possible implementation funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and/or other sources.

The Raymond Road target area is located in southwest Madison. It consists of several neighborhoods: Meadowood, Prairie Hills, Greentree and Park Ridge/Park Edge. The community, made up of 8,800 people, consists of single family homes as well as several large apartment complexes and townhouses.

Stephanie has high hopes of getting residents involved in the process in a way where everyone is respected, and hopes to facilitate a process where everyone’s voices are heard.

“I prefer to see the glass half full,” reflects Stephanie when asked about some of the divisions of trust in the Madison community and the Madison Police Department. “There are things that haven’t gone well ever since police organizations were started in the 1800s. Black communities in urban areas didn’t receive police services at first. I remember images from my childhood from the Civil Rights movement on television where blacks were being hosed down with water, police dogs were used in attack mode, and people were battered with billy clubs.”

“There are trust gaps between police and the black community, police and the Muslim community, police and the gay community. This won’t change overnight, but we can build on the strengths we have. We can’t say there aren’t any strengths in the community – that is far from the truth.”

There are about a dozen sites throughout the USA that are in the planning phase of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative. Each site has a researcher attached who is supposed to be more of an active participant than academic. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of Sustaining Natural Circles, LLC will serve as the grant’s research partner to support participatory, evidence-based approaches to gathering and using data to help develop strategies for the planning process. Dr. Lewis will be able to help share evidence-influenced practices that have worked elsewhere in order to make decisions that produce a positive impact.

Stephanie sees the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative as a way to create something that is sustainable with lasting positive impacts, as well as a way to cultivate leadership and help leverage other resources to address issues in the Raymond Road corridor.

To learn more about the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Initiative at Common Wealth, please contact Stephanie Bradley Wilson at or visit our website.

Keith Lepinski and Jessie Light, MACLT home owners

MACLT helps Common Wealth residents move from rental to home ownership

Andy Miller Housing 2 Comments

“I can finally get out on my own side of the bed,” reflects Keith Lepinski.

He and his wife, Jessie Light, closed on their first home in the Rolling Meadows neighborhood on Madison’s east side on June 1 with the help of Madison Area Community Land Trust (MACLT). MACLT is an affiliated organization with Common Wealth and the two share office space on Williamson Street. Previously, they spent four years in a Common Wealth affordable housing rental on Williamson Street.

Keith and Jessie’s move from a 1-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom house allows them to do more than just build equity. They are both now able to pursue a multitude of hobbies. For Keith, that means building furniture, painting and making music. Jessie can now get back to her hobbies of weaving and piano playing. Keith and Jessie are also enjoying getting a garden going in their backyard and planting a sour cherry and shade trees. Keith enjoys his work at Orange Tree Imports and Jessie is a baker at Cress Spring Bakery in Blue Mounds.

Since 1990, MACLT has provided affordable homes to low-moderate income home-buyers in Madison. MACLT homes are more affordable because the buyer purchases the home only, and ownership of the land remains with the land trust. Homeowners rent the land from MACLT for an affordable monthly fee. This model saves homeowners about $200 or more per month. When MACLT homeowners sell their home, a shared-appreciation formula ensures the home will be affordable for the next low-income buyer. Through that formula, MACLT homes will remain permanently affordable.

“We wouldn’t have been able to buy a house like this without MACLT,” says Jessie. “Other places would have been smaller, needed more repairs, or been further away from town.”

Click here to learn more about Madison Area Community Land Trust and follow them on Facebook. Click here to learn more about Common Wealth’s affordable housing program.

CraftOptics logo

CraftOptics featured in Wisconsin State Journal

Andy Miller Business Incubators, Media Coverage Leave a Comment

CraftOptics, one of Common Wealth’s business incubator tenants at Main Street Industries, was recently featured in the Wisconsin State Journal. Click here to learn more about their prescription glasses with telescopic lenses, especially made for artists and jewelers doing detailed work: