Chamber selects Foundations for Living
By Angie Landsverk
The passions of two sisters resulted in the formation of Foundations For Living.
In 2010, the state recognized it as an organization.
The following year, Foundations For Living (FFL) received nonprofit status.
Today it is the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Rising Star.
“I was really surprised. It just shows that the community is embracing what we do, because the community voted for us to be the Rising Star. I’m very humbled,” said Robin Madson, executive director of FFL. “Everybody plays a role in the success of this. We are a team. My sister and I started it, but we wouldn’t be where we are without everyone involved and the community support.”
FFL received the award during the chamber’s annual awards program, held Tuesday, Jan. 26, at Waupaca Ale House.
“Foundations For Living really portrays a Rising Star. Since the inception in 2011, each year they have added programs and services to fill their mission, providing basic services to residents facing poverty and homelessness in Waupaca County. Robin Madson and her board of directors are making a difference in our community,” said chamber President Terri Schulz.
Madson said, “To be honest, I don’t how the conversation between my sister and I began.”
Her sister, Lynda Babino, was working on a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in nonprofit management when they decided to start FFL.
“I had just graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in family life education, director of Christian education, with a ministry minor,” Madson said.
Babino had a passion to create a crisis center in Waupaca, and Madson wanted to give people in churches the ability to be missionaries in their own backyards.
Initially, the two sisters wanted to open a domestic abuse shelter in Waupaca.
After Jurnie’s Shelter received its nonprofit status first, Madson and Babino decided to switch their focus and begin with transitional living.
In August 2012, FFL opened its first transitional living house in Waupaca.
“We had $1,500 in the bank, a failed fundraiser and a true belief this was what God wanted us to do,” Madson said.
In December of that same year, the nonprofit opened two more transitional living homes.
People may stay in the homes for six months to two years.
“We still have the three houses and are looking at getting another one, because we have a great need for family homes,” she said.
Madson said a $5,000 grant FFL received in 2012 from the Waupaca Area Community Foundation proved to be instrumental in keeping the nonprofit going during its first two years.
“We are grateful for the foundation to take a chance on an organization with no history,” she said.
FFL also has a supported independent living non-resident program, which involves working with landlords and renters in need of extra help with budgeting.
There are currently three people in that program, with participants typically staying in it between six months and a year, Madson said.
In December 2013, FFL moved into its current location on Churchill Street, with a goal of making part of it a warming center.
That happened last Nov. 8, and FFL is working with Waupaca Taxi to transport people from downtown to the center. FFL covers the taxi fare.
“I think the warming center has been instrumental in putting us on the map here. It points to a need,” Madson said.
FFL also has a community closet, which is open to everyone and always at a cost of $5 a bag.
“Shop, save, support” is the new tagline for it, and beginning on Feb. 1, the community closet will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
FFL also has a furniture ministry and does not turn away those in need of furniture or clothing but unable to pay for the items.
“I’m amazed at how quickly we’ve grown,” Madson said. “I’m very, very thankful that the community now looks at us as an organization with integrity and as a viable organization.”
This year, a March 31 banquet is planned, as well as a new fundraiser next fall which will involve people getting pledges and agreeing to sleep outside in a tent for a night or two.
“It’s been a very humbling experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about perseverance, faith, people … what a small group of people can do who have a passion and are not willing to give up,” Madson said of starting FFL.