Mentoring Positives Executive Director Will Green knows at least two things that everybody loves that will make a great stocking stuffer or holiday party favor: Pizza and salsa.
And right now, the young people at his Mentoring Positives organization are raising money by selling Off The Block Holiday Gift Boxes that feature both.
“We’ve never done this in the past, but we felt like this was a great way to raise money and bring some awareness of what we do,” Green tells Madison365. “We normally do our big Mentoring Positives [fundraising] event at the end of the year, but we’re just not willing to get people together like that just yet. We just hired more kids and we knew we had to sell the pizza and the salsa to get it out the door and that will help them continue to work.
“So we were like, ‘It’s the holidays. Let’s get these holiday gift boxes off and see what kind of response we get.’”
The young people have been doing videos (below) for the Off The Block Holiday Gift Boxes since they first launched on Dec. 8 and Green likes that it gives them an introduction and a feel for the marketing and production, another skill they are learning as entreprenuers.
The Salsa Holiday Gift Boxes have 12 jars per box and you can mix and match hot and spicy salsas as you like. The Pizza Holiday Gift Boxes are five pizzas in one box where you can choose from seven different kinds of pizza.
What’s Green’s favorite pizza?
“I would say I’m a meat guy so I like the sausage, but I do like our MP Classic that has onions and red peppers on it,” he says.
Mentoring Positives created Off the Block as a platform to help youth build skills and confidence and so far it has been a success in not only doing that but in raising money for the young people. MP has been making salsa since 2009 and pizza since 2015. Pizzas are made every week at FEED Kitchens on Sherman Ave. on Madison’s north side.
Green says that he is excited about the eight permanent young workers that started back in November.
“They went through a training phase to get to where they are now and we have another 10 kids going through it right now. They are learning about Mentoring Positives, learning about the products and what happens in the FEED kitchen where we make the product,” he says. “They’ve made some pizza and salsa. They are learning all of the aspects of the business.
“But we also deal with the socio-emotional discussions with the kids – we just went over healthy relationships. Our mentoring is really focused on social entrepreneurship right now,” he adds.
Overall, the programs are going well at Mentoring Positives through the long COVID-19 pandemic and he says they are fortunate to not have COVID within the organization.
“Of course, it’s around the kids, so we are careful,” Green says. “We’re excited about our latest training session with 10 more kids. We’ve been giving some sign-on bonuses to the kids to come to the training. It’s a great way to engage them. We’ll give these kids a chance to have a permanent job here in the new year with some of the funding we will have gotten from other organizations and businesses in the community.
“In the meantime, we’re going to keep these kids busy making the products that people love for the holidays,” he adds. “The hook is the kids, so we try to get them involved in things they are interested in and we want to hone their skills. Marketing, designing, flyers, being on the computer, they love doing that type of stuff. It’s great how much they are into this and how much they are contributing to the Holiday Gift Baskets.”
The money raised with the Holiday Gift Baskets will support youth wages and Mentoring Positives’ mission to empower youth and families through mentoring, leadership development and social entrepreneurship.
“We know that people are going to be seeking a great holiday season gift and this is a great way to give us and our programs some end-of-the-year support,” Green says. “It’s a way that people can really help and it helps spread the word about our program and our work when you get this as a gift for your family and friends.”
To purchase Off The Block Holiday Gift Boxes, click here. Use the coupon code “giftbox” to get 10% off. Pay now and pick up Dec 20 or 22 between noon-6pm at FEED Kitchens, 1219 N. Sherman. You can have Off The Block pizza and salsa delivered to your home via EatStreet’s Forkful Market.