“If you really want to address issues, it's not enough just to provided the direct services. You have to be working on solving and addressing the root causes of the problems,” says Madison-area Urban Ministry Executive Director Linda Ketcham. “William Sloane Coffin is a theologian that I particularly like and he has a quote, 'Charity, yes always, but never as a substitute for justice.' So, when we look at what happens with people who come back from prison, it's important that there are programs to help people rebuild their lives. But, it's also important to challenge systems that throw barriers in their way. It's important to challenge bad and stupid public policy that continue to put more and more non-violent offenders in prison when we could be investing in the communities.”
Madison-area Urban Ministry (MUM) will celebrate 40 years of amazing social justice work at a gala event titled “Celebrating our Past, Looking Toward Our Future” at the Concourse Hotel in downtown Madison on Saturday, May 18.
For four decades, MUM has been a prophetic voice for justice and has worked collaboratively with community partners for social change. A private, non-profit interfaith social justice organization founded in 1973, MUM has focused on fair and affordable housing, homelessness, economic justice, poverty, racism, quality education, health care reform, and criminal justice system reform over its four decades in Madison.
The May 18th anniversary gala will begin at 6 p.m. with cocktails and music by Jan Wheaton. Featured speakers will include Rabbi Renee Bauer, the director of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, two program participants in MUM’s re-entry programs, and Everett Mitchell, pastor at Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church and director of community relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Reverend Stephen Marsh, who is one of our co-pastors at Lake Edge Lutheran Church and the vice president of our board of directors, will be the emcee for the event,” Ketcham says. “A couple of our mentors from Mentoring Connections will speak.”
Sponsors of the event include the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW Health, Edgewood College, CUNA Mutual Foundation, M3 Insurance, and the Farley Center. There will be a silent auction with something for everybody — arts and crafts, pictures, restaurant and hotel gift certificates, and more.
“We're hoping that we have a really nice attendance,” Ketcham says “It's going to be a great event.”
For the past 40 years Madison-area Urban Ministry has been a strong voice for justice. Whether serving as an incubator for innovative ideas for social change, or providing direct services for children who have an incarcerated parent, MUM has been committed to planting the seeds of social change. MUM now looks forward to continuing the work of advocacy and service — offering a voice to neighbors who have been disenfranchised and engaging the whole community in social action for justice.
In addition to its advocacy work, they have several direct service programs. The Mentoring Connections program matches caring adults as mentors to children ages 4-17 who have an incarcerated parent. MUM's Circles of Support, Journey Home, and Voices Beyond Bars programs assist individuals returning to the community from jail and prison.
Since 2003, with the support of the United Way of Dane County, MUM has provided services and support for families and individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. MUM’s prisoner re-entry initiatives (which also include Communities Against Violence, Windows to Work, the Phoenix Initiative, or Returning Prisoner Simulations) have put MUM at the forefront of providing support to men and women returning from prisons or jails. Through MUM’s efforts, a client’s chances of returning to prison have diminished from 66 percent to 14.9 percent.
In the Mentoring, Family and Reading Connections program, MUM connects caring volunteers with children who have an incarcerated parent. Some volunteers accompany children on bus trips to visit their mothers at Taycheedah Correctional Institution on the third Saturday of the month, while others record moms reading books on video to their children.
“We take kids [to Taycheedah], but we can also take caregivers,” Ketcham says. “So if there are family members out there who are raising a child, they can go on the bus to visit as well, as long as they are on mom's waiting list. That's just a quick call to our office. We have room on the bus. It's free and we provided breakfast and lunch.”
MUM has a couple of new projects that they are focused on this year. They recently received some funding from the City of Madison and individual donors to begin working collaboratively this summer and fall with the Northside FEED (Food Enterprise & Economic Development) program to teach baking to MUM clients. Those employees will receive training to become bakers and the income from the bakery will help support MUM.
“It will be a line of artisan breads that we are selling and they will be ready in the fall,” Ketcham says.“We have a network of congregations that sell fair trade coffee on Sunday mornings that we hope would consider letting us take orders for bread [along with the coffee] and we could delivery the bread to the churches later in the week. It will be seven different kinds of bread.”
The bakery, Ketcham says, will be called “Just Bakery”
MUM is also working on meeting the community need for a medical shelter. “Right now, if you're homeless in Dane County and get discharged from the hospital and you don't have family who will advocate for you and insurance, you can get discharged from the hospital [after a surgery] with orders for bed rest for two weeks,” Ketcham says. “You might get put in a hotel for four or five days, but where are your meals coming from? Who's coming to check on you to make sure you are getting medication and changing your dressings? That's not happening.”
So, MUM recently formed a task force made up of clergy, agencies, the medical community, and people who have been homeless to really look at how they could create a medical shelter right here in Madison. There are models all over the country including the longest running one in Washington D.C. since 1985 — the Christ House. “It can be done. It can be done as a collaboration with money coming from private and public partnerships and especially with the health communities,” Ketcham says. “We have three great hospitals here [in Madison]. A medical shelter will save them money and ER [emergency room] visits.
Other exciting collaborations on MUM's horizon include the co-hosting of the White Privilege Conference in Madison in 2014 with YWCA that will bring more than 2,000 people to the Madison region for four days for a national conference focused on racial justice. “We're very excited about that,” Ketcham says. “There should be some amazing speakers at that event.”
MUM has evolved tremendously over its 40 years and Ketcham sees that evolution continuing over the next 40 years. “It's a good time to do some strategic planning to map out internal capacity building, directions we want to go, and partnerships we will want to form,” Ketcham says.
“We're looking forward to doing some great things in our next 40 years. Although, I don't think I'll be the director at that time [in 40 years],” Ketcham adds, laughing. “Depends on what they do with Social Security.”
In the meantime, MUM will continue to serve an important function of spurring social change in the Madison community and in the Dane County area.
“We know that education is a way out of poverty and we know that education is a way of keeping kids out of trouble,” Ketcham says. “We know that we have kids who are not succeeding in school. One of the things that I have liked that MUM has done over its 40 years is helping people connect those dots. This is all related. You can't say that the achievement gap is unrelated to poverty that is unrelated to economic justice …. it just all connects.”
Last Friday, Ketcham was sitting at the MUM offices in the Villager Mall on Madison’s south side when a former MUM client that she had known for five years and who had participated in MUM’s Circles of Support and worked in MUM’s Journey Home program popped in. “He said things were going well. He'd been off paper for two years. His wife just had twins two years ago. He's been working steadily and his family was set to leave for Missouri,” Ketcham says. “He came in and he said, 'I just can't leave without saying good-bye.' This was the day before he was moving. It was very emotional. Those are the days that make it all worthwhile for me. Five years out, he's clean and sober and married. He's an engaged dad. He's working hard. He's on the right track. He's giving back to the community. I love stories like that.”
Community members are invited to come celebrate MUM’s 40th anniversary gala May 18 at the Concourse Hotel. Tickets are $75 and include a dinner selection of salmon, chicken, or a vegetarian option. Purchase tickets online at www.emum.org. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to support the programs and Endowment Fund of the Madison-area Urban Ministry.
For more information, contact Linda Ketcham at email@example.com or (608)256-0906.