“It’s important for the community to come out and support the annual Partners for Change Luncheon. They get to really understand the work that MUM does and the impact that they have in the community,” says Madison area Urban Ministry (MUM) Development Director Nasra Wehelie. “If you look at the amount of money we spend putting people behind bars, it’s very high. It’s one of the reasons why MUM’s work is so important and why we want congregational leaders, non-profit partners and business leaders to see the impact we have in the community.”
The upcoming MUM Partners for Change Luncheon on April 24 at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison is a chance to learn about all of the programs of MUM, Wehelie says, but it is also an event where you can work with MUM to invest in the community.
“This is our third year for the Partners for Change Luncheon and we are celebrating 45 years of inspiring social good and investing in community at MUM,” Wehelie tells Madison365 in an interview at Cargo Coffee on East Washington Avenue.
For 45 years, MUM has vigorously focused on fair and affordable housing, homelessness, economic justice, poverty, racism, quality education, health care reform, and criminal justice system reform. Every year at the MUM Partners for Change Luncheon, they highlight different programs that are run by MUM out of their offices on Madison’s south side. “It’s a great opportunity for the community to learn about the work that we do,” Wehelie says, “but to also support and see the impact that their support is making.”
MUM’s many programs inspire hope for individuals returning to the Dane County community after incarceration and break down the barriers that prevent them from fully participating in our community and the lives of their families. This year, MUM will be highlighting their Connections Programs – three programs where MUM supports families of those who are incarcerated including:
◆ Reading Connections – Offers parents whose children reside too far away for regular visits, an opportunity to bond with their child and encourage their reading.
◆ Family Connections – Provides opportunities to maintain and strengthen relationships within families affected by incarceration. This program keeps critical parent-child connections strong by organizing regular monthly visits between imprisoned mothers and their children
◆ Mentoring Connections – Matches youth impacted by parental incarceration with a caring, adult mentor.
“What really inspired me to showcase the children’s program is that every second Saturday of the month we take the kids to Taycheedah [Correctional Institution] to see their moms through the Family Connections program,” Wehelie says. “Along with my videographer, we were able to see how the children and the moms interacted at the prison and that was really powerful and profound. Interviewing some of those mothers and hearing their stories is something that will stay with me forever.
“We always see the stigma when somebody has done something wrong, but then there is the other side of the story which is the institutional problem or other factors that can contribute to the person to grow up behind bars – poverty, addiction, mental health,” she adds. “The Family Connections program is a very touching and very heartbreaking program for MUM. The great thing about this upcoming luncheon is that we have a keynote speaker who is very knowledgeable and has written many articles about families being impacted by incarceration.”
The keynote speaker for the MUM Partners for Change Luncheon will be Dr. Julie Poehlmann-Tynan, who is the Dorothy A. O’Brien Professor of Human Ecology at UW-Madison, where she has been on the faculty since 1999. Through her social justice scholarship, outreach, and policy efforts during the past 15 years, Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan has brought attention to how mass incarceration in the U.S. has created a public health crisis for children and their families.
“At the Luncheon, she will be highlighting the statistical part of it and things she has learned through research and talking about what works and what doesn’t work. It’s great to have her at this event,” Wehelie says.
Dr. Poehlmann-Tynan has conducted several ground-breaking studies on the development of young children with incarcerated mothers and fathers, most recently focusing on children’s contact with incarcerated parents and visits to corrections facilities. She has also served as an adviser to Sesame Street to develop and evaluate their Emmy-nominated initiative to support children with incarcerated parents called Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration. She has conducted several program evaluations related to interventions with children with incarcerated parents, including the Mentoring program offered by MUM.
The master of ceremony for the event will be Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell who is also Senior Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Judge Mitchell is a graduate of Morehouse College, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Wisconsin Law School. He’s also the former associate director of MUM.
Judge Everett Mitchell with his daughter Sydney, 12, at last year’s MUM Partners for Change Luncheon. Mitchell will be the master of ceremonies at this year’s event.[c/aption]
“I’m so delighted to have Everett Mitchell there. He always brightens up the room and we look forward to having him emcee the event,” Wehelie says. “He has always supported us and he always talks about the impact that MUM has made on the community, and we appreciate that.”
At the luncheon event, MUM will present two big awards – a Visionary Award and a Partners for Change Award – to two organizations that have been really impactful both in MUM’s initiative and the community at large. Last year, those two awards were won by United Way of Dane County and UW Health and Clinics, respectively.
Wehelie says that MUM will have also have a major announcement about the Healing House, a place a homeless child or family member can go to heal after surgery. The annual MUM Partners for Change Luncheon is a great chance to meet all of MUM’s community partners and learn all about their many programs whether it be the Just Bakery – a 16-week educational and vocational training program that works with individuals who are experiencing significant barriers to employment and who have an interest in baking or culinary arts as a career pathway – or the Journey Home program that works to reduce recidivism by focusing on the areas of residency, employment, support and treatment, as well as transportation and education.
“People that go through the Journey Home program, it’s very rare that they go back to prison,” Wehelie says. “The recidivism is between 5 and 15 percent, compared to about 70 percent statewide. The success rate at MUM is profound.
“MUM is really an organization that invests in the community but also in social change,” she adds. “How can we transform these individuals that come to our doors? We don’t turn away anyone.”
The first year that MUM held its annual Partners for Change Luncheon, they had 250 people at the event. Last year, MUM had over 330 people. Wehelie is hoping for over 400 people for this year’s event.
“We have limited space, so I urge people to sign up soon,” she says. “They will be inspired and they will see how the community has come together to make an impact. It will be a very rewarding experience for the people who come.”