Mentoring Positives, a non-profit organization that mentors vulnerable youth to become leaders in their community, has moved into a new space dedicated solely to their mission, in the newly constructed Ella Apartments. The space is called Muriel’s Place, to honor Muriel Pipkins, the mother of co-founder Will Green.
This new space has a small commercial kitchen where Mentoring Positives youth will produce and sell Off the Block pizzas and salsas, as well as a multi-purpose room designed for mentoring sessions, employment training, community events, and dining. It’s the commercial kitchen part of this endeavor that’s in need of community support to bring in the last remaining pieces of necessary equipment, including a commercial grade six-burner stove, work tables, and roughly $13,000 worth of small kitchen wares, utensils, and accessories.
“While we are unbelievably grateful for the community development funds made available to Mentoring Positives through Regions Bank in partnership with New Year Investments, we still have a way to go financially,” Mentoring Positives co-founder Will Green said in a statement. “This is where we’re hoping the Madison- area community will step in to help.” Green went on to explain that sponsorship and name recognition are available for the remaining equipment, providing donors with their name or business logo attached to the item(s) they donate. The kitchen is surrounded by glass walls, allowing the public to see the equipment, and how it is used by youth in the Mentoring Positives program.
For more than 19 years Will and his wife, Becky, have worked with youth from Madison’s Darbo-Worthington neighborhood, which is known as a high crime area that leaves kids at risk and often in challenging situations. Through their social enterprise, Off the Block, they mentor and teach important job and leadership skills. Purchase of Off the Block pizzas and salsas from area stores and pop-up sales support the Mentoring Positives mission, including leadership training and job skills.
“We are so close to opening our doors, and the youth are so excited to see their hard work paying off,” Becky Green said in a statement. “Once we have the remaining kitchen items secured, we will be able to continue the production of our Off the Block products in our own space, which will provide job training and a working stipend for youth in our program, in a location that is much more accessible to them. We hope the community is able to help us get there!”
The location for this space is thought perfect to help with the revitalization of the area, while re-envisioning what a low-income neighborhood looks like. The Darbo-Worthington neighborhood has been an ethnic oasis of cultural diversity in Madison for many years. Mentoring Positives is helping to prevent gentrification of the area by hiring youth from the neighborhood, providing a space for neighbors to gather, and strengthening relationships with area residents. All to build the health and well-being of the neighborhood and its residents.
“We see this space as a bridge,” said Will Green. “Our history, culture, and pride in our people will be evident. This is a teaching and learning space that will impact our youth, as well as everyone in our community.”