Special promotional content provided by Goodman Community Center.
The is hosting two free events inviting the public to meet its new CEO Letesha Nelson. Located in Madison’s Atwood neighborhood, the Goodman Center is Dane County’s largest community center. Nelson joined the organization in January and has hit the ground running, learning about the work the center does and making plans for its future.
“I’ve spent the last seven months getting to know our staff, volunteers and families, and I’m excited to finally meet some of our neighbors, community members and supporters in person,” she said.
The free events will offer two opportunities for members of the Greater Madison community to meet Nelson: Friday, Sept. 10, 8-9:30am, and Thursday, Sept. 16, 5-7pm. Those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP at .
The Sept. 10 event will feature a conversation between Nelson and Angela Russell, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CUNA Mutual Group and host of the Black Oxygen podcast. At the Sept. 16 event, Nelson will be joined by Brenda Gonzalez, Director of Community Relations at UW-Madison.
Nelson started her long career in nonprofit leadership with the Girl Scouts. She recalled a summer with the Girl Scouts, working as an assistant in the kitchen at a camp her children were attending.
“The cook quit and suddenly I had to cook for 200 girls,” she said. “The director at the time gave me the books to read to learn how to take care of the kitchen. I called my dad and said, ‘I can’t do this.’ He told me I was born to do this – to serve my community. It was the perfect place to learn how to serve. That experience was so meaningful to me.”
For the next 17 years, Nelson would work her way through the ranks of the Girl Scouts, eventually taking a chief operating officer position in Utah.
“Everything about the Girl Scouts meant community to me,” she said. “That experience helped me see how connected I was to community – how connected I had always been to my community.”
Nelson took that connection to her role as executive director of an organization for children and family enrichment in Memphis, Tennessee, and is now applying it to the work she’s doing at the Goodman Center.
“This place is full circle for me,” Nelson said. “I connect with Goodman’s programs on a personal level. When I was a single mom, I had a place like Goodman to help take care of my kids while I went back to school. I was a hard teen, but there was no Goodman for me to go to. I feel like this place is my chance to influence positive change on a higher level.”
Nelson has been hard at work learning the ins and outs of the Goodman Community Center’s programming and operations – even rolling up her sleeves to help in some of the center’s direct services. She’s packed meals to be delivered to seniors and families on Madison’s east side, read to children in the preschool program, and led a cooking activity with teens.
“The staff here are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever worked with,” she said. “The mission can’t come to life without them, and it’s because of them that so many kids, families and older adults are getting the services they need in Madison.
“Goodman is the place you go and, whatever the need is, you can get it. And if it’s not here, we’ll find it for you. It’s amazing.”
Nelson has big plans to take what the Goodman Center does well and expand it, and she’s fully aware of the role the center plays in impacting change in the community. “You can’t separate social impact from social justice,” she said. “We’re a beacon for good, and we want to make sure that our work strengthens lives and secures futures for every member of our community.”
Nelson added, “I have big dreams and Goodman is a place for those dreams to come alive. I’m excited to meet with people who have similar dreams and invite them to come along with me. Together, we can accomplish anything. It’s going to be great.”
Friday, Sept. 10, 8-9:30 am: Light breakfast, coffee and tea, plus a conversation with Angela Russel, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CUNA Mutual Group and Host of the Black Oxygen podcast.
Thursday, Sept. 16, 5-7 pm: Light hors d’oeuvres, soda and cash bar, plus a conversation with Brenda Gonzalez, Director of Community Relations at UW-Madison.