On September 20, Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) will celebrate the work of three incredible leaders working to build a better community for all at its 2018 Community Change-Makers event. (Tickets and more information available here.)
CSW’s 2018 Community Change-Maker Awards honor people making a difference at Community Shares of Wisconsin member nonprofits—65 organizations working to advance social and environmental justice in Wisconsin. These nonprofits work to build safe and sustainable communities for all Wisconsin residents.
The 2018 Community Change-Makers are:
Kevin Magee, Nominated by Legal Action Wisconsin, Winner of the Sally Sunde Family Advocate Award – sponsored by Zendesk;
Nestic Morris, Nominated by Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Winner of the Linda Sundberg Civil Rights Defender Award – sponsored by Heartland Credit Union;
Mario García Sierra, Nominated by Sustain Dane, Winner of the Liesl Blockstein Community Leadership Award – sponsored by UW Credit Union.
“The Change-Maker awards honor some of the most impactful leaders in our community, and this year’s winners exemplify that,” said CSW Executive Director Cheri Dubiel. “They are not only making a difference in people’s lives, they are reshaping entire institutions to foster lasting change.”
Small Victories, Big Impact
Looking back on his long career, Kevin Magee may be the last person to call himself a “change-maker” but talk to the many colleagues he’s supported through his decades of service at Legal Action of Wisconsin, and it’s clear that his impact has been profound and lasting.
“Kevin is a great leader,” said Legal Action’s Office Manger Alicia Olivas, “You want to do excellent work because he does excellent work.”
Kevin’s style is one that focuses on listening and building trust—skills that he honed as Director of Legal Action’s Migrant Law Project. For over twenty years, Kevin travelled around the state partnering closely with Wisconsin’s migrant workers to ensure they received the pay and benefits they were due.
“You see people are doing their best and trying to help their fellow workers even if they don’t have much themselves,” Kevin said.
As he prepares for retirement, Kevin is most proud of the partnerships he’s fostered and what he and his co-workers have accomplished together, one small victory at a time.
“If you work with a client to prevent an eviction, that means their kids won’t have to change schools.” he said. “Something like preventing a car repossession can save a client’s job.”
“It’s not for everyone, but I think the people doing this work feel lucky,” he added. “It’s good work to do and it’s worthwhile.”
Change Starts with A Conversation
For Nestic Morris systemic change often starts with an uncomfortable conversation.
In her role as Outreach Coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), Nestic provides resources, training, and support to WCASA partner programs across the state so that they can effectively serve survivors of sexual assault.
In her time at WCASA, Nestic has emerged as a statewide leader in anti-oppression work within the sexual assault field.
“At WCASA we understand that in order to end sexual oppression, you have to end other forms of oppression,” she said. “We want our member programs to understand that sexual assault services are not one-size-fits-all.”
During the anti-oppression trainings Nestic leads for her statewide partners, she prioritizes authenticity and collaboration.
“I don’t have all of the answers even when I’m presenting or facilitating conversations,” she said. “I want people to understand that. But I feel as a community we’ll be able to come up with those answers together so it’s not always on people of color to educate white people. It’s not always on women to educate men.”
Ultimately Nestic is trying to build a service-provider community that fully supports women of color—those who seek services as survivors and those who work in the field.
“We have to start with advocates that look like the community—particularly Black and Brown advocates,” Nestic said. “I want Black and Brown woman to seek out services without any barriers.”
From Vision to Reality
It’s not hard for Mario Garcia Sierra to describe his vision for Madison: it’s a city that’s great for everyone. It’s a city where all kids receive a high-quality education that inspires them. It’s a city where all neighborhoods are desirable and vibrant. And it’s a city that simply doesn’t exist yet.
But for Mario that city can exist when more institutional resources are built around the needs of communities, especially communities of color.
“We’re slowly but surely getting there,” Mario said. “People are not only able to raise their voice and call out the realities they see, but people have venues to get involved and create the change that is needed.”
For several years, Mario has been committed to changing the face of the sustainability movement in Madison. As a Community Services Manager at MGE, he co-leads their Living in Balance initiative. Living in Balance is directed by the needs and interests of communities of colors and aims to foster conversations about what sustainability means to them.
The aim is to not only share the perspective of people of color, but to amplify their voices within the sustainability movements. That why Mario partnered with CSW member group Sustain Dane on the Megaphone project, which provided storytelling training to local sustainability advocates.
“Storytelling is at the heart of Living in Balance,” explained Mario. “We learn through the stories that motivate us, make us laugh, that challenge us, and make us cry.”
It’s by building those personal connections that Mario sees Madison becoming a community that fully embraces all its residents. “It’s going to take all of us coming out of our comfort zones and putting ourselves out there.”
Learn more about these community leaders and others making a difference by attending CSW’s 2018 Community Change-Maker Awards Event on Thursday, September 20, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Union South. CSW will also honor 24 Backyard Hero Award Winners for their volunteer work at Community Shares’ member nonprofits. The event is presented by MGE with proceeds supporting the work of Community Shares of Wisconsin and its members. For more information and tickets visit: bit.ly/2018CSWAwards or call 608-256-1066.