“We started this program mainly to elevate the individuals and the groups that are doing this work,” said Leo Ries, executive director of LISC Milwaukee. “A lot of these groups – they work so hard and they’re very tenacious but…they don’t get up to celebrate their victories. And so this was a way for us to acknowledge them and thank the groups and the individuals for all their work.”
Finalists for five MANDI award categories were announced during a program held at Botana’s Restaurant and attended by about 100 community leaders.
Each finalist was selected from a pool of public nominations vetted by a volunteer committee. Winners will be named and celebrated during a gala on April 15 at Potawatomi Hotel and Casino.
*Holton Bridge Swing Park, HOME GR/OWN’s Ezekiel Gillespie Park and The ARTery for the Brewers Community Foundation Public Space Award, which calls out a public space that re-energizes a neighborhood.
*Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Express Yourself Milwaukee and the Pan-African Community Association for the BMO Harris Cornerstone Award, which highlights an organization effectively impacting the city.
*La’Ketta Caldwell of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Venice Williams of Alice’s Garden and Todd Hutchison of Impact Seven for the Northern Trust Navigator Award, which salutes an individual for excellence in leadership and collaboration.
*Cream City Gardens and Rain Harvesting Project, Guest House of Milwaukee; Sisters Diversion Project, Benedict Center; and Mobile Bike Hub, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors for the PNC Bank Trail Blazer Award, which recognizes an innovative strategy to a community issue.
*ICAN2 LABS, Veterans Administration Community Resource and Referral Center and the Zilber School of Public Health for the State Farm Building Blocks Award, which praises a real estate project that adds value to the community.
LISC Milwaukee has also added another award to the 2015 program. The Wells Fargo People's Choice Award will be given to one finalist from the pool of finalists selected by the independent committee. The award winner will be determined through a community voting process facilitated by a social media campaign.
Additionally, LISC’s local advisory board has named Wells Fargo winner of the Vision Award, which recognizes sustainable financial investment in central city neighborhoods.
Along with calling attention to change agents in Milwaukee’s central city neighborhoods, the MANDIs also serve to inspire “optimism” within the broader community, Ries said.
“It’s also to send a message of optimism and hope to the rest of the community that, yes, our neighborhoods have challenges but you can’t help but be inspired by the people who are working so hard to turn things around,” Ries said. “And that’s fundamentally what we’re trying to accomplish.”