This post was written by LDA Class of 2020-21 Team Grow, Give, Learn (G2L) members Mike Bain, Baker Tilly; Mark Borowicz, Blackhawk Technical College; Melanie Mussey, Corporate Contractors, Inc.; Leslie Vaughn, City of Janesville Police Department; and Chris Zillman, Johnson Financial Group.
A full day of lessons and leadership skills
The November LDA session was hosted by Community Action, Inc. in Beloit, WI. Community Action provides a vast number of services to Rock and Walworth residents with a goal to eliminate barriers, establishing clear pathways to economic self-reliance. Community Action directly serves 5,000 people per year, and indirectly serves thousands more.
Panel discussion on poverty
The day started with a panel on poverty and homelessness comprised of four compassionate community leaders working to combat these issues.
Startling statistics regarding poverty levels in our community were shared. Rock County has a poverty rate of 13.6%, higher than the national average of 12.3%. One in five children come from a poverty stricken household, which is an income level below $26,000.00 per year for a family of 4.
With high poverty levels comes the issue of homelessness for our school aged children. In Rock County alone, there are approximately 1,000 students that are identified as homeless each year.
The panel discussed the different programs and resources that are available in the area to help those in need. Their goal is to have enough resources and rehabilitation programs to end poverty and homelessness in Rock County.
Learning about local homelessness
John Koesema (Executive Director) and Jim (staff and resident) from the Gifts Men’s Shelter presented next. They shared the importance and value of the shelter for local men seeking a safe place to live while sometimes also recovering from substance abuse.
Gifts Men’s Shelter provides opportunities for individuals to go through short term or long term rehabilitation programs in a safe and supportive environment while “challenging their thinking” about their relationship with Jesus Christ. Jim shared that those who helped him along his journey provided a “kind and compassionate” approach which has helped him grow as an individual in faith while stabilizing his life.
Gifts has two locations in Janesville (one with 42 bed capacity and one with 8 room capacity) and a thrift store opening soon to support the various programs and operations of the program. Anyone seeking volunteer opportunities or wanting to get involved in the program can visit their website to learn more.
How we handle stressors
This month’s Real Colors session focused on how we each handle stress in different ways. LDA members were placed into small teams with other members who had the same real colors.
Part one of the activity was intended to remind us of who we are and what our colors say about us as individuals. Each team took a few minutes to create a list of what they value, their needs and strengths, and what brings them joy.
For part two of the activity, each team was provided a plastic bag that contained various materials. We were instructed to create our version of an “ideal” star within a limited amount of time.
Before time expired, we were told the plans had changed and instead of a star we now needed to create a sailboat. Upon completion we discussed what happened in each group, what the experience was like and how it was similar to our real world experiences.
The activity was a good reminder of why it’s important to have a diverse team. If a team is comprised of similar individuals who all have the same weaknesses, there is no one to balance those weaknesses with a different set of strengths.
Learning about and discussing diversity
For our last segment of the day, the Executive Directors of Community Action, Inc. and Comprehensive Community Solutions, Inc., Marc Perry and William Chatman, respectively, presented on Diversity.
Diversity is so often associated with race or gender people often forget that there are many other factors to consider such as age, religion, class, sexuality, education, language, heritage, history and ethnicity. Contrary to how some view Wisconsin, the data shows that our state is widely considered the most segregated state in the US.
We discussed what we can do as community leaders to help combat the diversity issues in our state. The concept of not being silent was discussed. This simply means not letting your friends, family, or co-workers say insensitive comments around you.
It’s important to take a stand and ask them to refrain from talking like that. While this may not change that person directly, it might set a spark in someone else overhearing these conversations and encourage others to embrace diversity.
We have never left a LDA session without gaining new perspective on our community, developing and expanding our way of thinking, and honing our leadership skills. November was no exception to that statement.