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The Social Justice Center, Inc. (SJC) is a cooperative partnership of progressive non profits. Wisconsin Community Fund, Madison Community Cooperative, Tenant Resource Center and Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund have joined forces to create a nonprofit center with a social justice focus. Sharing resources through the Social Justice Center will improve visibility, financial stability and accessibility for all the organizations involved. It will provide an exciting center for social justice advocacy locally, and statewide.History - building the foundations for successIn 1995 a group of progressive non profits began exploring a powerful idea. They wanted to create a space where social justice groups could share resources, network and develop into strong, vital organizations. Their idea was based on similar flourishing nonprofit projects here in Madison and across the country. Based on the successful experience of similar ventures, such as the Family Center and the Community Service Center, the group of non profits began organizing. After years of searching for an affordable, accessible building in a good location, a unique opportunity arose. A site with a long history of progressive activism, in an ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood became available. Seeking to take full advantage of this excellent opportunity, the groups incorporated as the Social Justice Center, Inc., and began negotiating for the building - the former Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative. In May of 2000, the group purchased the building. A Perfect Home -- the project takes shape Excitement about the project began building quickly. In a new spirit of cooperation, volunteers, businesses, organizations and contributors came together to make the project a reality. Dozens of community leaders lent their support. Numerous citizens made generous contributions, totaling $180,000, in order for us to close on the building. These gifts brought the Center half way to its total Capital Campaign goal of $375,000. The building, with remodeling improvements, cost $700,000. At the successful completion of the Capital Campaign, the Social Justice Center will own 54% equity in the building. A mortgage with M & I Bank will be repaid from rental revenue on a twenty-year note. The Site - building design A local architectural firm, Design Coalition, was contracted to create plans for the site's renovation. Another local company, Bachmann Construction, brings 20 years of building experience to the project. The 8,000 square foot building will supply each of the four founding agencies with approximately 1,000 square feet of space. In addition, the partners will share 3,000 square feet of common space, including a conference room, kitchen facilities, bathrooms and storage space. An abandoned house in the rear of the property will be razed to create parking for the center.Additional space in the building will become an incubator for small non profits and community groups that share a social justice focus. Providing low rents and increased networking opportunities, the Social Justice Center will help these growing organizations become strong and vital. In addition, the rental income will supplement the SJC income. A number of groups have already expressed strong interest in renting office space. Strong Growth - an exciting future All four founding organizations will have substantially improved office space at the SJC. Owned and operated as a cooperative building, The Social Justice Center will allow the owners to fix the costs of their rents. This will ensure that the agencies will be able to continue serving their constituents from affordable in-town office space. Moreover, the Social Justice Center will allow the groups involved to save substantial operating costs over time. They will also be able to share resources such as copiers, meeting space, and other essential office tools. Undoubtedly, the project will contribute to the long-term financial stability of the organizations. Benefits to the Whole CommunityFinally, the Social Justice Center will provide a central space that is visible, easily accessible, and connected to the community. The additional groups which rent space will benefit from the shared resources of the center and contribute to the overall mission of becoming a community-based center for social justice. In a high profile location, close to the clients they serve, the organizations involved will be better able to carry out their own missions, and to assist each other in building the progressive community.
- Brenda Konkel
- (608) 345-8720
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