Home Madison “They listened to their hearts.” Karen Garcia reflects on impact of foster...

“They listened to their hearts.” Karen Garcia reflects on impact of foster parents


When Karen Garcia heard about the “Be the Good” storytelling project at Goodman Community Center, she couldn’t wait to shine a light on June Anderson. More than two decades ago, June and her husband Scott took Garcia in as a foster child when she was 17 years old.

“She already was fostering another teenager, but she offered to foster me as well,” says Garcia. “And my baby, so that, to me, was very special.”

Garcia says the Andersons fostered some 30 children along the way, providing a roof over their heads—and so much more.

“That was the first time of me really being in a two-parent household, where there was some normalcy,” says Garcia.

Not only did the Andersons provide the safety net of a home and basic needs, they helped secure a future for Garcia, whose mother was living in Colombia at that time and whose father was incarcerated.

“June was the one that took me to my college visits in Milwaukee,” says Garcia. “If the school needed a payment to get me going and enrolled, she would write the check. I couldn’t live in the dorms with my baby so she wrote the security deposit check for my first apartment. She moved me down to school and bought me all my stuff. She went above and beyond what any foster mom would ever do.”

Fortunately for Garcia, the Andersons weren’t the only caring people in her life when she needed it the most.

Deenah and John Givens “took me in for some time when I was in high school.”

Nereida Martinez and Gail Healy “always welcomed me as one of their own, and still do.”

And Pat Wongkit: “my forever mentor.”

Garcia says her community has been her greatest resource.

“Because of my community I can and will be my authentic self,” says Garcia. “These people have done it time and time again. They listened to their hearts.”

After graduating from East High School in 2003, Garcia attended UW-Milwaukee, raising her daughter—now 21–and earning a degree in criminal justice. Today, she is an intellectual property paralegal for Quarles & Brady, and has made a commitment to paying it forward.

Her own community involvement focuses on women’s empowerment and financial independence. Organizations she has supported include Midwest Mujeres, a mentorship collective; Waunakee Neighborhood Connection, where she serves as an interpreter; and Northport Community Learning Center, where she served as the program coordinator. She is also currently an Ambassador for the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it goes back to just being there for each other,” she says. “We need to be the good.”

Goodman Community Center’s “Be the Good: Celebrating Kindness in Our Community” storytelling event is Thursday, April 27, at the Brassworks building, 214 Waukesha St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Hear stories from Goodman CEO Letesha Nelson, other local leaders, youth and neighbors. Click here to get your tickets on a “pay what you can” basis.