Residents of the South Madison Promise Zone enjoyed an evening of family fun during the first South Madison Community Night on Aug. 24 at the Urban League of Greater Madison. The new, free event will be held the third Friday of every month.
The goal of the South Madison Community Night is to provide opportunities for parents to spend time with their children and for neighbors to get to know each other. Plans are underway to expand the night so that multiple events are taking place across the zone, providing a menu of activities for community members to choose from.
The goal of the Promise Zone is to transform South Madison into a community of opportunity with strong systems of family and community support that prepare all children to succeed. In order to accomplish this goal the South Madison Promise Zone team is looking for residents to participate on Innovation Teams, including the Community Engagement Team, which will facilitate the monthly Community Night.
“In our recent community survey, residents expressed the need for more activities for children and ways to build a sense of ‘community’ in South Madison,” said Peng Her, director of the South Madison Promise Zone. “We wanted to meet the needs of the community by organizing a family-friendly event for residents in the Promise Zone.”
Partners in the South Madison Community Night include Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, Burr Oaks Senior Housing, Centro Hispano of Dane County, Club TNT, Goodman Public Library, Growing Power, Robert Pierce, Urban League of Greater Madison, and UW Space Place.
Sisters Charlotte and Jessie Rankins, residents of the Burr Oaks Senior Center, and their friend Juanita Humphrey joined the fun and played a game of Yahtzee, while a movie played in another room where the younger children curled up on multi-colored blankets and munched on freshly popped popcorn. In the lobby, older children competed in the Xbox version of NBA 2012, eliciting cheers and cajoles as the competition heated up. Participants enjoyed refreshments which were provided by South Madison Farmers Market founder, Robert Pierce.
Ten lucky residents went home with a bag of fresh produce donated by Growing Powers Market Basket Program. The market basket program is a cross between a mobile grocery store and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. The produce comes from local farms and from small-scale wholesalers, offering the freshest produce from their shelves. In addition, Women in Focus Inc. donated a number of new books in English and Spanish for children to take home and enjoy. The evening ended with local percussionist Rockameem Bell giving the children a drumming lesson, and talented resident “Queen Shakia” shared a monologue that energized the room.
In addition to activities designed to engage residents, the South Madison Promise Zone wrapped up its Community Engagement Survey intended to provide a vehicle for residents to express their concerns, ideas, and solutions. Over 600 resident surveys have been completed, along with 30 surveys of local agencies which provide services to Promise Zone residents. The information gathered will be presented to the South Madison Promise Zone Leadership Team via a written report. The Leadership Team is headed by MMSD school board member Mary Burke and Madison Times Publisher Ray Allen, and includes Mayor Paul Soglin, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, and MMSD Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore. Residents will have an opportunity to review the written report and make additional comments at a Community Listening Session in Mid-September.
In addition to the Community Engagement Team other Innovation Teams will be created to craft solutions to issues identified in the report. These solutions will be used to create an Implementation Plan to remove challenges in the Promise Zone.
If you would like to participate on an Innovation Team, volunteer, or keep up with Promise Zone activities you can check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SMPZMadison or call Project Coordinator, Hedi Rudd at (608)729-1268.