Stories Of Hope

Positive change very frequently comes from the bottom up.

Individuals and small groups experience a problem in their own lives and among the people they know.

They put up with it for a while, but somewhere along the way,

they decide that things have to change for the better,

not only for themselves,

but also for their friends, their neighbors, their city, their state, and/or their country.

In this section of the website, we will share successful stories of hope from the bottom up.

I will start with some of my stories,
but I invite you to share your success stories.

Share Your Thoughts

A Steger woman wanted to give her kids an opportunity ‘to fix what they see wrong in the world,’ an effort that snowballed into the bustling Community Closet

By Carole Sharwarko Daily Southtown Nov 17, 2021

Laura Hensley receives a hug at a Community Closet event. Hensley founded the organization as a way to help her children do good works and it's grown over the last decade and now operates out of a church in Lansing.

Laurie Hensley didn’t know exactly what to do when two empty funeral urns got dropped off at the Community Closet of Steger and the Southlands.

Having operated the charity for nearly a decade, Hensley is a pro at processing donations of heaps of clothing, small furniture and appliances. So, however unexpected, she knew the donation of two urns presented a unique opportunity to help community members in need.

“We posted on the Facebook page: ‘This is an odd one, guys, but we’re looking for two specific individuals who need these,’” she said. “Maybe for a loved one they couldn’t afford to put to rest nicely.”

In less than two hours, the Community Closet gave one urn to a man who had been keeping his wife’s remains in a cardboard box, and the other to a woman who couldn’t afford a burial for her adult son.

The Community Closet, which sprung up out of Hensley’s Steger home, had its origins in a desire by her then-young children to help a local family in need. The effort “snowballed,” Hensley said, as she and her family continued aiding neighbors.

“This gave (my kids) the opportunity to fix what they see wrong in the world,” she said. “You can’t keep complaining about things if you’re not willing to go out and fix it.” To read more, click on this link:

How this Racine program helps kids understand the Root River, the water itself, and living things in the water

Lauren Henning, Racine Journal Times, Nov 6, 2021

21st Century WATERshed field trip

21st Century Preparatory School teacher Devron Bostick, left, helps LeRon Willis identify the creatures he looked at with his magnifier.

As the program director for WATERshed, Nancy Carlson and her wagon full of buckets of water and critters and magnifying tools help students understand where our drinking water comes from along with the life forms that call the Root River home.

“The watershed program uses the Root River and Lake Michigan as living laboratories to help students make personal connections to the freshwater resources in their community,” Carlson said. “They explore human relationships with our watershed and we provide education about watersheds to help foster students who both understand and care about freshwater resources.”

The program connects with the students at the elementary level and then again during their senior year of high school. Using survey results, Carlson said that 95% of students remember their first experience, even if it was years later and the student came to the center only once.To read more, click on this link: How this Racine program helps kids understand the Root River, the water itself, and living things in the water | Local News |  To watch a 3 ½ minute video of students learning, click on this link:

The life of Vevlon Days-Kimmons: Racine's first-ever black alderwoman

Dee Hölzel, Racine Journal Times, September 30, 2021

Vevlon Days-Kimmons died on Sept. 23 after a lifetime of serving the community of Racine. The first black woman to serve on the City Council, she also served on the Police and Fire Commission and was the director of George Bray Community Center.

RACINE — Her life was rich with important firsts: the first person in her family to earn a college degree and the first African American woman to sit on the Racine City Council.

She was kind but tough when she had to be, as when she fought back against critics of the Alternatives to Prison program, which she coordinated.

Vevlon Days-Kimmons, 69, died on Sept. 23 after a lifetime of kicking down barriers, lifting up those who needed a hand, and giving unconditional love to friends and family…Al Days, a younger brother of Days-Kimmons, spoke of her as a civic-minded woman who sought to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.

She was a petite woman, perhaps 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds…Despite her small stature, her brother said she leaves a giant legacy.

Days-Kimmons was one of six siblings whose parents left Mississippi in the 1950s looking for a better life in the North. She and her siblings were born and raised in Racine, on Memorial Drive. To read the entire article click on this link: The life of Vevlon Days-Kimmons: Racine's first-ever black alderwoman | Local News |

Not Going Quietly

Nell Minow August 13, 2021

A man in a wheelchair rolls toward the Capitol Building. It is social justice and health care activist Ady Barkan, one of TIME magazine's 2020 most influential people, and he is on his way to testify before Congress. "Ady's been fighting like hell for his life and for all of ours," says Committee Chair Jim McGovern as he introduces him. 

Barkan has been speaking in public since he was in high school. But as he tells the committee, this time is different. It is the first time he is not using his natural voice. He has ALS, a "deadly debilitating disease with no cure and very little treatment," and he can now only "speak" through a Stephen Hawking-style mechanical device directed by his eye movements. He is using it to speak on behalf of everyone who is in need of health care, meaning everyone, and he is urging Congress to adopt Medicare for All.  

"Not Going Quietly" is about Barkan's activism, a combination of old school grassroots organizing and new-school social media. When someone raises a question about whether he is exploiting his disease for political gain, he has no hesitation in answering, "Absolutely!" He is a savvy enough strategist to know that an attractive but sick young guy with a wife and toddler is a more powerful argument than a bunch of statistics in a binder. But when his voice finally fails and he has to use the mechanical voice synthesizer, he wonders if he should make that appearance before the committee. Maybe, he says, it would be better to have his remarks read by someone else. To view a 2 ½ minute video about the movie, click on this link:

How a public-private partnership is bringing dividends in Racine

Adam Rogan   Racine Journal Times, Sep 26, 2021

Dave Giordano, right, spends time with his daughter on Sept. 14 at Pritchard Park in Racine, WI

RACINE — Five years ago, Pritchard Park was a prime example of what happens when you ignore the land. Overrun with an invasive species, prone to flooding, ugly, damaging to Racine’s water supplies. Negatives all around.

During a volunteer day about five years ago, attempting to make a dent in removing the invasive and damaging buckthorn, a woman said aloud: “This is never going to happen.” That pessimism steeled Dave Giordano’s resolve.

Looking back, that volunteer couldn’t have been more wrong. The rooting-out process is simple but challenging. Giordano described it as “hack and squirt” — cut down the invader, spray a bit of herbicide at the base. Then you repeat that, on plant after plant, year after year.                                                                                       

There’s still buckthorn in the park, but it’s now a tiny minority of the plant population as opposed to the predominant resident. Five years ago, as much as 90% of plant life in Pritchard Park’s 15 acres was buckthorn and dead ash trees.

You’d be hard pressed to find a bee in here,” Giordano said. Much less an endangered bee, such as the rusty patched bumblebee discovered for the first time in years at the park along Highway 11 (Durand Avenue) last month. “When you eradicate buckthorn and bring back the natives, all the natives come back and they find their food sources.”

To read full article, see additional pictures, and view a 1 minute video, click on this link:


By the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation

SOMERS, WI – Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network’s (WIN) Executive Director has been awarded “Land and Water Conservationist of the Year” by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. Presented on August 21st, 2021, this prestigious award honors individuals for outstanding contributions to the conservation of land and water within the fields of watershed management, soil conservation measures, wetlands conservation, wild rivers protection, and protection of surface or groundwater water quality. To read more


2021 Community Partnership Award: 10,000-49,999 Population

Move Toward the Badge, Grandview, Missouri 

Protestors and police faced each other in the streets of many U.S. cities in the summer of 2020, including in the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area. While activists called for defunding police in nearby cities, in the minority-majority community of Grandview the Pastors Alliance was praying with and for Grandview Police Officers, and residents were thanking officers for their service and inviting them to engage in real community conversations. These are the positive results of a long-term commitment to community through partnerships from a police department project implemented years earlier.