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Heroes of the Week: Common Ground’s Collective of Volunteers

Nov. 24, 2013
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An affiliate of the national network Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), Common Ground is a locally led, volunteer-run nonprofit that teaches regular people how to be nonpartisan leaders and create positive change in their own communities.

Comprised of 45 dues-paying member organizations and more than 2,100 individuals (totaling over 40,000 people) from Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties, Common Ground Southeastern Wisconsin identifies problems and concerns in communities and works collectively to resolve them. Some successes include receiving a $56.4 million loan from the Affordable Care Act to launch the nonprofit, member-governed Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative (available in 19 counties in eastern Wisconsin; about 260 Wisconsinites have signed up since Oct. 1); having the five biggest banks in the world commit $33.8 million to rehabilitate 100 foreclosed properties and more in the Sherman Park community; and extending Sunday hours for Ozaukee County’s Shared-Ride Taxi (effective April 2014).

“Our iron rule: We don’t do for others what they can do for themselves,” says Kathleen Patron, associate organizer for Common Ground Southeastern Wisconsin. “With Common Ground, we’ve created a base of people so they can have power, instead of organizing around one issue, in which people tend to come and go. We are teaching people how to do it—how to be political—here in our communities so they can make change. If it wasn’t for them, our volunteers, we wouldn’t have an organization. There is no way we could do half of the things to the capacity we do without such a broad citizen base.”

For information about joining Common Ground as a member, donating, signing up for Common Ground’s health insurance, available houses in Sherman Park, or current projects, visit commongroundwi.org or email info@commongroundwi.org.


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