By Dave Zweifel, Cap Times

The program at Union South earlier this week was a reminder of just how big a role selfless volunteers play in making our community tick.

The occasion, attended by a full house in the union’s main meeting hall, was Community Shares of Wisconsin’s annual awards reception to recognize the people who go that extra mile in working for a myriad of nonprofit causes throughout the year.

Among them were 25 “Backyard Heroes” who regularly give their time to social justice efforts, the environment and the betterment of families, all causes that are among the 63 area nonprofits supported by the annual Community Shares’ fundraising campaign that is currently under way.

The Community Shares annual event also makes three major awards. Kim Hogan, an intake specialist with Disability Rights Wisconsin, received the Sally Sunde Family Advocate Award for her tireless efforts in making sure the disabled get to the proper places for care.

The Linda Sundberg Civil Rights Defender Award went to Dennis Bergren [nominated by OutReach], who in his retirement volunteers seven days a week collecting books that he in turn sends to gay prisoners throughout the country, books on everthing from history and religion to novels and non-fiction.

The annual Liesl Blockstein Community Award was given to Matt Dannenberg, with Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, who organized citizens to oppose the open-pit mining bill that was defeated in the Legislature this spring. He traveled the state explaining how “drinking water, wetlands, wildlife, lakes and streams” would be impacted by the mines.

While United Way supports more mainstream nonprofits during its annual drive, Community Shares concentrates its resources on members that deal with environmental problems, discrimination and social justice. It, too, offers payroll contributions at many local businesses, but welcomes individual contributions of any amount.

Executive Director Crystel Anders told me that despite the economic downturn, Community Shares has been able to grow and continue supporting some the Madison area’s most deserving nonprofits. You can learn more at its website



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