What is this now — the 4th or 5th annual Mentoring Positives celebration?

“It’s the 11th annual Mentoring Positives Fundraising event,” smiles Will Green, executive director of Mentoring Positives. “I can’t believe it either. Eleven years go by fast. But we’re here to say. Honestly, when I first got into this, I saw a lot of other people getting into mentoring, too. And those people are no longer doing it today. This work takes a dedication and a heart and you give up a lot of your own life and your own time. But that’s been my own choice … and I love it.”

Green founded Mentoring Positives in 2004 to serve the many at-risk youth 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.

Mentoring Positives will host their annual celebration, their 11th annual Mentoring Positives Fundraising event, at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in downtown Madison on Saturday, Dec. 5. The event will feature networking, a silent auction, performances, music, spoken-word poetry, and refreshments. “We will hopefully have a lot of the [Mentoring Positives] kids there at the earlier part of the program to give the community a chance to meet and talk with them,” Green says.

Mentoring Positives kids at a Darbo-Worthington picnic
Mentoring Positives kids at a Darbo-Worthington picnic

The event will also feature the 2015 Muriel Pipkins Awards, a prestigious honor given to a community member or organization that exhibits compassion, empathy, caring, nurturing, integrity and dedication. The award is named after Green’s mother, Muriel Pipkins, who was role model and mentor to many in her family and to ordinary people on the streets. She passed away from breast cancer at the young age of 46.

This year’s Muriel Pipkins Awards will go to the Salvation Army and Cora White.

Cora White
Cora White

“Without the Salvation Army, we might not be sitting here talking about Mentoring Positives,” Green says. “They allowed us to be in their building way back in 2004 and we’ve been here ever since. It’s just been a great partnership.

“Cora [White] and I go way back,” Green adds, speaking of the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center director. “She was a great mentor to me. She helped guide me along and she’s been a great supporter of Mentoring Positives.”

Green was born in Gary, Indiana, and was raised by his single mother, Muriel Pipkins. Though Gary was known as the “murder capital” while growing up, Will and his two younger brothers thrived. Green was a standout basketball player and used it to get out of the rough situation he was in. But he recently lost a major influence from his childhood.

“I just lost my high school coach Carl Traicoff two weeks ago. I was in Los Angeles and I rode the red eye back to get to Madison and jumped in my car to get back to Gary, Indiana, to get to see coach laid to rest at the cemetery,” Green says. “He meant so much to me. He was a role model. He took us in. He believed in us. He taught us much more than basketball; he taught us about life skills. He was like a father figure to so many of us.”

Clippins of an old Gary, Indiana newspaper featuring high school coach Carl Traicoff and stand-out basketball player Will Green
Clippins of an old Gary, Indiana, newspaper featuring high school coach Carl Traicoff and stand-out basketball player Will Green

It was really those people in Green’s life that he didn’t know were affecting him at the time that really made a long-term difference. “They made me who I am today and they really shaped me. That’s what I hope I am doing for young people today,” he says. “I know there are a lot of kids that might not feel secure with themselves and that’s the space I come from myself.”

Young people find themselves through Mentoring Positives’s many programs that include a dance group, a chess club, and a music club. Funds raised at the 11th anniversary event will go directly to these programs.

Mentoring Positives’ Off The Block Salsa, designed and made by young men at Darbo-Worthington, continues to be an amazing venture. Mentoring Positives kids grew their own tomatoes and peppers on an acre of community garden and cooked them into big batches of salsa. “We have a 3-year business plan and we hope to double sales at stores in Madison, Milwaukee and Minnesota. We will be announcing our Off the Block Salsa capital campaign at the fundraiser event.”P_OfftheBlockSalsa

Off The Block Salsa not only raises revenue for the programs at Mentoring Positives it also gives young people an important taste of entrepreneurship and business.

“It’s been an amazing ride so far for Mentoring Positives. I just see us continuing to grow,” Green says. “There are some really incredible things that are going to happen in the next 5-10 years. Even though we’ve been around for 11 years, it’s still like we’re newborn babies. We’re about to get after it.”

The 11th annual Mentoring Positives Fundraising event will be held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in downtown Madison on Saturday, Dec. 5. For more information, click here.