Bader Philanthropies, Inc. leaders and supporters gathered Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of its new Harambee neighborhood building at 3338 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.
The development, which houses a jazz café and health and wellness services, has been named the Harpole Building in honor of community advocates Reuben and Mildred Harpole.
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The couple, known by many as the “Black Mayor and First Lady” of Milwaukee, were advocates for the city’s youth and vulnerable residents, with Reuben working as an outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Extension and later a program officer for the Helen Bader Foundation (now Bader Philanthropies). Mildred advocated for education and racial housing equal rights, and worked at Milwaukee Public Schools as a reading specialist and an administrator at Harambee Community School. She went on to serve as director at the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for the Milwaukee Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she advocated on issues concerning fair housing and homelessness for several years before finally retiring in 2002.
The Milwaukee-based foundation announced two years ago its plan to renovate the two-story former bank building on King Drive – located across the street from its headquarters – into a wellness center and café. Its tenants moved in earlier this year. They include Sam’s Place, a jazz-themed eatery and café; Shalem Healing Inc., a nonprofit clinic offering integrated medical and holistic care; and Refua Medicinals, which blends traditional Chinese medicine and modern nutritional science created by the founder of Shalem Healing.
“Reuben and Mildred spent the majority of their lives serving our community on many levels – in our schools, neighborhoods, philanthropy and through countless civic endeavors,” said Daniel Bader, president and chief executive officer of Bader Philanthropies. “This building and its tenants were born in response to what we heard directly from our neighbors. It’s only fitting we name a community building to honor their determination, perseverance and courage to make the lives of others better. It is a testament to their legacy that continues to inspire so many people today.”
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Reuben was presented with a plaque honoring his wife Mildred, who died in October 2019 at 84 years old. The plaque will be installed on the building.
“I’m honored to have our name on this building, in a community that has meant so much to us throughout our lives,” said Reuben Harpole. “It was my wife, Mildred, who inspired me to become an activist in the community. And I’m humbled by how it has inspired the community.”