Porchlight has helped homeless individuals and people with disabilities find affordable housing, while providing meaningful work for some time. At the June 9 Waunakee Rotary Club meeting, Diane Ballweg, who served as chair of the Porchlight Board of Directors 30 years ago, introduced the club to Porchlight staff and told stories of those helped by the organization, including David, who at age 20, received his first Christmas gift from Prochlight. 

Diane noted that the average age of a homeless person in Madison is 9 years old. She introduced Karla Thennes, Porchlight’s executive director,  who explained that it is the largest provider of affordable housing, services and programs in Dane County, with 325 units mainly in Madison but also in Sun Prairie. 

Porchlight also employs individuals who produce Porchlight Products, jars of fruit spreads, sauerkraut, scone mixes and more that are sold at local grocery stores and area other retail outlets. 

In 2019, the organization raised $4 million to build a campus with 28 efficiency apartments and a commercial kitchen where Porchlight Products are made. 

Karla has been with Porchlight for 31 years, and often is asked about giving to panhandlers. She doesn’t, she said, because at Porchlight, they believe strongly in the power of work to give people a sense of self worth and accomplishment, along with income. 

Karla introduced Drew Niedercorn, the chef who came to work at Porchlight Projects. Drew said the Porchlight kitchen is accessible to all, and the ingredients are locally sourced. They sell at many Madison grocery stores like Metcalf’s, Hy-Vee, Festival Foods and Willy Street Co-op. Drew is hoping to get them on the shelves at Piggly Wiggly, as well. 

One of the workers is Wil Ayotye, who described how Porchlight helped him when he decided to give up alcohol and find a home. Wil said Porchlight saved him. 

Diane encouraged club members to remember Porchlight Products around Christmas time for gift giving. Endres Manufacturing purchased gift baskets of products to give to employees last year. Doing that provides funding for the organization, supports employment for area residents, and makes for a thoughtful present. 



Other News:

-For Rotarians who’d like to gather early, the Sunrise meeting is set for 7 a.m. June 14 at the Waunakee Senior Center. 

-On June 26, the club will sponsor the Poverty Awareness Program organized by the Waunakee Neighborhood Connection, Create Waunakee and the Waunakee Public Library, Lisa Humenik said. It will offer insight into what life is like for the 24% of Waunakee residents who live below the ALICE threshold. The acronym is for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and refers to those whose earnings are above the federal poverty level but earn too little to afford basic necessities.


Guests: Drew Niedercon, Wil Ayotye, Karla Thennes and Diane Ballweg, speakers. 


Visiting Rotarians: None. 


Birthdays: July 17, Jean Elvekrog; June 18, Dan Statz; June 20, David May; June 22, Nancy Kuehn-Thomas.


Anniversaries: June 21, Mark and Regina McFarland; June 21, Kevin and Jodi McDaniel; June 21, Tom and Beverly Kennedy.


Greeters: June 16, Chris Kenney and Bob Klostermann; June 23, Neil Kruschek and Nancy Kuehn; June 30, Drew Lawrence and David May.