January 2017: Homelessness, Poverty & Diversity

Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business. She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.

Homelessness, Poverty and Diversity

Linda Ross, Executive Director
Linda Ross, Executive Director

Homelessness, poverty and diversity. Tough problems. What is being done to help with these issues? Can the Leadership Development Academy make a difference or are the problems too big?

Listening to heartbreaking journeys, participants walked through simulations and did some soul-searching during their January 2017 session at Community Action in Beloit.

January 2017 Homelessness Speaker

A Changed Man

Danny Robinson lost everything. Drugs and alcohol took it away. Danny lost a job of many years, his marriage, his family, his home, his car, everything.

Hitting rock bottom, he was brought to a treatment center, then sent to Gifts Men’s Shelter in Janesville. With a huge chip on his shoulder when he arrived, it took awhile to soften his heart.  

Now a changed man, Danny is helping others on their journey to recovery. It wasn’t easy, but he is a success story. He has a twinkle in his eye and joy in his heart.

Danny choked up when he talked about finally having his grandkids call him Paw Paw again. He wants to share his story with others to help them.

Rock County has 250 to 350 homeless needing to be housed each night. We are thankful for Danny and the many shelters and programs in our area that help the homeless to get back on their feet.

January 2017 Homelessness Panel

Homelessness is a Major Issue

Homelessness is a big problem with every age group. No one is immune. Our panel on poverty and homelessness shared what they are doing to help. Stephanie Burton from the Gifts Men’s Shelter, Erin Loveland from House of Mercy, Tammy DeGarmo from Project 16:49 and Carrie Kulinski from the School District of Janesville were all on hand to share.  

Young children lose 6 months of learning each time they move to a different school. Drugs, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, alcoholism and physical abuse are some of the issues they are dealing with. Heartbreaking and eye-opening.

Each of the panel members are very passionate about these issues. They continue to attempt to remove barriers. Transportation issues is one of the biggest. Holding down a job is nearly impossible without transportation.

The HITF (Homeless Intervention Task Force) is addressing many of these issues through education and awareness.  Involvement and education is key.

January 2017 Hunger Simulation

Hunger Simulation

Hunger is an issue throughout the world. One in five live in poverty in Wisconsin. Sometimes we turn a blind eye to it.

The Leadership Development Academy class experienced a hunger simulation during the session. Facilitating the program was Bard Meier, from the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee. Each participant was given an identity.  Some single with transportation; others with large families and no transportation.  Each with a different amount of money and parameters they were working with, while attempting to feed their family for three days.  Many found it frustrating and nearly impossible.   

January 2017 Hunger Simulation

Why do we throw LDA participants into situations they are not equipped to deal with? For a learning experience. People who are hungry do not choose to be hungry, yet they have to feed their family everyday. Many have jobs, but not enough money to provide for their basic needs.

One in five people live in poverty in Wisconsin. Rural areas are impacted more, due to transportation issues. In northern Wisconsin, one in three live in poverty. There are resources, but sometimes those resources are difficult to obtain. Therefore, communities who will not admit there is a problem can leave families and children hungry.

Spoiled Again

Participants were treated to homemade scones and coffee from Joe and Amber Jimenez; and Johnson Bank provided a delicious lunch. Johnson Bank has been one of our sponsors for many years and we are thankful for their partnership.

Team Projects

Working with project teams each month are board mentors.  This year’s projects are benefiting Project 16:49, Caritas, First Responders of Rock County, the Gifts Men’s Shelter and the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville.

January 2017 Diversity Exercise

Restorative Practices and Diversity

Diversity comes in many forms. Walking the class through a session on diversity was Tasha Bell and David Wilson, from the School District of Beloit.

Mutual respect, speaking the truth and confidentiality are a must. Sharing how to work through “Restorative Practices” was interesting. Don’t ask, “Why?”, ask “What happened?”  

At the beginning of the session, participants were asked, “What gets in the way of you being the best professional you can be?” At the end of the session, they were asked, “If you came to yourself for help, how would you help yourself to overcome those things?”

We all need to have an understanding of human differences to learn more and judge less.  What is our purpose? Great session for becoming empowered!

January 2017 Community Action overview

Community Action

Katie Lawler, from Community Action, who is in our Leadership Development Academy class, provided information on the services they offer. Leading the class on a tour of the facility, she gave them a better understanding of Community Action.

January 2017 Kids Against Hunger overview

Kids Against Hunger

John Wong shared what Kids Against Hunger is all about. The Rotary Clubs of Rock County are working together to help support this organization. Millions of meals have been provided locally, as well as being sent throughout the world.

Sharing some excellent leadership tips, John was encouraging. He inspired the class to learn how to delegate, follow through with what you say you are going to do, be efficient, be respectful of others opinions and time, and to give back of your time, talents and wealth.

John said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.” We are thankful for local leaders who share with our class and are truly making a difference in our community.


Empowering day, filled with some tough moments. Each person walked away with a better understanding of these challenges and of themselves. They now know how they can make a difference with poverty, homelessness and diversity; and I am confident they will!