“I think it went really well. Love to see the people coming out for events like this. I still want more parents to be involved directly from Darbo, but it was a great showing for the neighborhood,” says Mentoring Positives Executive Director Will Green.

Mentoring Positives hosted the 3rd Annual Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk & Block Party on Aug. 24 to bring the community together to close out the summer. The event began at Worthington Park with arts programming by Community Unity Arts. At 5 p.m., Darbo leaders led a march through the neighborhood in support of peace and justice on the annual Peace Walk.

“It was the most beautiful night for a Peace Walk. Great to walk along that bike path. There were a lot of people didn’t even realize that it was there and other things that are in their neighborhood,” Green tells Madison365. “We really wanted people to talk to different people while they were walking. I saw a lot of school staff in attendance and I thought that was a great way to for students and families to get ready before school starts in their space and in their neighborhood.”

The Peace Walk ended up back at the park where the party was just getting started with music and food. A partnership between Carts for Community and Let’s Eat Out! brought local food carts to the park through the dinner hour.

Face painting at the 3rd Annual Darbo-Worthington Block Party
(Photo by Diane Schwartz)

“It’s all about getting to know people and building relationships and really understanding who those people are in the neighborhood,” Green says. “Big ups to NBC-15 for being out there doing their live thing and for Johnny Winston Jr. for sending the fire trucks out there.”

Green founded Mentoring Positives in 2004 to serve the many at-risk youths in the Darbo-Worthington area on Madison’s east side. Mentoring Positives is a referral-based mentoring program that improves youths’ behaviors in the home, school, and community so they will not engage in criminal behaviors that ultimately lead to juvenile detention, jail, or prison and, thus, to break the cycle of recidivism for high-risk youth.

(Photo by Diane Schwartz)

Beyond the camaraderie, music, and fun, the event was also an opportunity for the kids at Mentoring Positives to show off their summer project – Off The Block Pizza.

“This was the official launch of the pizza, although we had a few pre-launches. So that’s what we really wanted people to come out for and grab a pizza to help us wrap up our summer program with the pizza,” Green says.

About 100 pizzas that people pre-ordered were picked up at the event.

“This summer we got a small grant through the seed grant for the city and we used it to produce about 200 pizzas,” Green says. “We were able to perfect the recipe, working with the [University of Wisconsin] PEOPLE program, and we are selling those pizzas for $12 right now. We made four different varieties of the pizza.”

Kids in the program have been working for months to develop the recipe, source the ingredients, and come up with a business plan.

“We’re in the process of selling those 200 pizzas right now,” Green says. “We don’t have the resources to get it to market so we will continue to make the pizzas on a pre-order basis. Right now, we’re not looking to get it in the store just yet like the [Off the Block] salsa currently is. Our bigger vision is to have a space in the public market in 2019 to sell salsa and pizza there and potentially pizza by the slice – hot!”

Off the Block Pizza is a spin-off of Mentoring Positives’ Off The Block Salsa, which is designed and made by young men at Darbo-Worthington where the young men grew their own tomatoes and peppers on an acre of community garden and cooked them into big batches of salsa which they have been selling at stores that raise money for the programs of Mentoring Positives.

Green says that not only are you getting a great product with the new Off the Block Pizza, but it’s also putting money back into the non-profits that support youth programming.

(Photo by Diane Schwartz)

“It’s been a busy summer here at Mentoring Positives. We’re seeing kids Monday through Thursday doing a lot of leadership programming – teaching kids leadership and having them apply it within the program,” Green says. “We’ve just been doing various different events and demos throughout the summer. We’re working with the school district on this.

The 3rd Annual Darbo-Worthington Peace Walk & Block Party was a chance to let people know about all of the good things that Mentoring Positives does in the Darbo neighborhood, but it was also a chance to engage in grassroots activism.

“We’ve really found some residents in the neighborhood that are really a strong part of the Worthington Park Neighborhood Association – board president and secretary, to be exact,” Green says. “We are really building up the neighborhood association in a grassroots style. I just want people to know that we are really residents-focused here. That’s what we’re concentrated on. Getting residents in spaces where they can be the leaders of the neighborhood and speak their truths and take charge of their neighborhoods.

“All in all, I was really happy about the heartfelt love of the night for the block party,” Green adds. “It was a beautiful thing.”

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.