It has been quite a year for Will Green. In May, he was showered with accolades on what became his day (literally) and he received long-overdue donations for the funding of the nonprofit he founded, Mentoring Positives. Green was awarded the Nan Cheney “March For Justice” award on May 3. During that ceremony, he received grants from CUNA Mutual, Forward Community Investments and UW Health to help him continue his work mentoring kids on what used to be one of the most left-behind communities in the city.
Mentoring Positives has been the most grassroots of grassroots causes and Green has helped, oftentimes alone with his wife Becky, to turn around the community in the Darbo-Worthington area.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, Mentoring Positives will hold its annual fundraiser at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on the University of Wisconsin campus. Mentoring Positives has had perhaps the most impactful year in the program’s existence.
Green used the funds he received in May to help pay the kids who give their spare time to help make the famous Off the Block Salsa and its sister product Off the Block Pizza on Madison’s east side. Green said that the finances helped pay the kids a good wage of $10 per hour and gave him the opportunity to invest in the business aspects of Mentoring Positives.
“We are in a strategic plan right now and looking to professionalize the organization, build our staff capacity,” Green told Madison365. “We’ve been doing some heavy work around mentoring kids through social entrepreneurship and we had kids going through internships and jobs. It was new for us having kids on payrolls and being able to have them paid for making pizza and salsa. Our kids love it. They can definitely see the difference in potentially getting a $10 per hour job.”
But as long as Will Green is continuing his work, the community around Darbo Drive will never again be left behind.
“We just go deeper with the work we do, and wider,” Green said. “So we get kids that are personally connected with the things they do in the program. They feel like this is home for them. That me and Becky are like Mom and Pops. So, yeah, man it’s been good. I’ve got a good staff that’s really been helping out the organization. With the resources we got we were able to hire some help.”
During the Fundraiser on December 15, Green will award two members of the community with the Muriel Pipkins Award. Muriel Pipkins was Will’s mother who passed away when he was still a young man. He used her initials to form Mentoring Positives and has done justice to her memory ever since.
This year, Shiva Bidar and Lisa Peyton Caire will receive the Muriel Pipkins Award for their outstanding work in the community.
“We’ll have Shiva and Lisa there. We’ll honor them. We’ve been working with Edgewood College on research about Darbo and the neighborhood. So I’m excited about some due diligence work they’ve been doing around the history of Darbo and how it came to be Darbo today. The kids will be there selling salsa and they’ll be selling jewelry from our rejeweled program.”
As big as 2018 was for Green and Mentoring Positives, he hopes to use next Saturday as a springboard to an even better 2019. Green says he is hoping to work with schools on Madison’s east side helping kids who are struggling academically learn some skills that they can use to be employed.