In 1928, John H. Harris, the manager of the Sheridan Square Theatre in Pittsburgh, found a month-old baby girl abandoned in one of the theater chairs with a note asking someone to take care of her. He took her in, dedicated his social club—the Variety Club—to underwriting her support and education, and named her Catherine Variety Sheridan. Harris’s efforts drew support from other entertainers internationally, who joined together to provide aid to disadvantaged youth and children with disabilities. Today, Variety – The Children’s Charity has chapters in 14 countries and 10,000 members and works to enrich the lives of children around the world.
The Wisconsin chapter was started in 1935 by businessmen with ties to show business, and it assists children with disabilities through three programs. The Freedom Program funds durable medical equipment to grant youth greater mobility, and the Caring for Kids program donates medical equipment and therapeutic devices to local clinics and hospitals. The Future Kids program provides educational experiences for young people, including trips to museums, sporting events, and shows.
With the help of hundreds of volunteers, The Gathering of Southeast WI, Inc. serves 10 free meals each week to those who might otherwise go hungry. In 2011, the breakfast program—the only service of its kind in the area—gave away more than 50,000 meals from three inner-city locations. The sites also serve dinner twice a week, as well as lunch on Saturday. All food is prepared fresh daily. All told, The Gathering provides meals to approximately 100,000 people experiencing homelessness or hunger each year.
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The Center for Resilient Cities strives to create healthy, robust communities through projects and programs that promote healthy, sustainable lifestyles while fostering new opportunities and social networks. Upon completion this fall, its Resilience Research Center will act as an LEED-rated neighborhood center on Madison's south side, housing world-class researchers and a sustainability-focused charter middle school in a once-vacant school building.
The Center for Resilient Cities’ staff and volunteers advocate for sustainable, just food systems, and revitalize local parks and open spaces. Its urban-resilience project and 2-acre farm, Alice’s Garden, hosts plots for roughly 100 families and 10 community organizations. Amid its soil and greenery, dozens of free programs take place, including yoga and aerobics classes, weekly reading circles, harvest-specific cooking classes, and a youth environment-and-farming-education group led by the Urban Farm Manager.
On Saturday, September 22, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett will gather local businesses, community leaders, and citizens between the two bridge houses of the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge. There, he will ceremonially raise its steel structure and announce a mission to revitalize the street. Following the ceremony, more than 20 motorboats and sailboats will surge down the river and under the bridge, each decked out in Milwaukee-themed decorations and bright colors. Near the bridge, Historical Society members will stage a reenactment of the Milwaukee Bridge War of 1845 and initiate a game of tug of war across the street; on the bridge, meanwhile, trainers from Gold’s Gym will lead lightly sweating groups through yoga poses.
Visitors drink and dine to the sounds of live music and multicultural dance performances as well as the sights of a one-act play on two stages on the Riverwalk. They can browse local vendors at a craft market, explore permanent sculpture installations, and stroke their chins while gazing at art pieces in paint, photography, blown glass, and other media from more than 50 local artists at booths along both sides of the river. As the crowd mills about throughout the event, artists from the Plein Aire Painters’ Association make art live, painting the beautiful city skyline and buzzing groups of people. A complimentary water taxi runs between both Riverwalks throughout the day’s festivities.
Make A Difference – Wisconsin trains students to become financially literate to help ensure that they make sound decisions as adults. The organization recruits volunteers from the business community and teaches them how to interact with the students during educational sessions held throughout the school year. Volunteers teach the students a variety of money-management skills during seminars on budgeting and saving, understanding checking accounts, and understanding credits cards, reports, and history. Make A Difference has delivered its program to 26,000 students in the last six years. The results it has collected from the last three years include reports from graduates who have been inspired to open savings accounts and who share tips from the program with friends and family members.