Building community: New leadership with can-do vision

IB Publisher Jody Glynn Patrick blends work and life in this very clear departure from both her column for In Business magazine, and the other bloggers. Awarded national recognition for her previous work as a newspaper columnist, she brings us all back "Closer to Home" with her insights and remembrances. A nice place to be "After Hours." Check back often! Read Full Bio

Imagine constructing a big dog using cans of vegetables and fruits and some packages of Scott toilet paper (would that make the dog a Scottie?). Then picture in your mind a ship constructed primarily of cans of beans. Could you make a model Lambeau Field with cans of fruits and vegetables, juice, and boxes of breakfast cereal? Or replicate the Capitol building before a night scene?

It can be done with a little creativity, building smarts, and attitude, as these photos prove:

A gymnasium full of such clever building feats translated into a donation of 4,255 (full) grocery bags to feed the hungry last Thursday. Middleton Outreach Ministry’s charismatic leader, Jackson Fonder, challenged the Greater Madison community to participate in the organization’s “first annual” Canstruction event, and 19 organizations answered with a resounding “Yes!”

“I’d thought if we had 10 entrants and gathered 15,000 pounds of food, it would be a huge success,” an astonished Fonder told the event audience gathered at Keva Sports Center. “Instead, we’ve got 19 entrants and you brought in over 38,000 pounds of food!”

Pictured above are entries by American Girl (“Canned Coconut … Can’s best friend [dog]); Roberts Construction (“Pirates of the Can O’Beans”); Globe University-Madison West (“Champions Tackling Hunger”), and Flad Architects (“WisCANsin CANpital”).

Other participants included actionCOACH Business Coaching, Asbury United Methodist Church, City of Middleton, CUNA Mutual Group, Deloitte, First Business Bank, Park Bank, Springs Window Fashions, Wegner CPAs & Consultants, and WTS Paradigm.

The cost of admission for spectators was a can of food. I was so entranced with the outcome that I couldn’t stop snapping photos, so here are a few more – entries from: CPM (“In the Lab” with Muppets Bunsen and Beaker), Clifton Gunderson (“If It Only Grew on Trees”), Thinking Outside the Can (“Wishing for a World Without Hunger”), and J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. (“Bucky CAN Build”).

Judges Abe Degnon (Degnon Design Builders), Jonathan Robelia (HRD Architects), David Vogel (Vogel Brothers Builders), Jason Pelletier (Mean Hunt Architects), and Ginny Gilbert (Gilbert Cost Controls) had to decide which projects to name “Most Nutritious,” “Best Use of Labels,” “Structural Ingenuity,” “Most Cans,” and “People’s Choice”. The Great Dayne Award was selected and presented by former Badger and 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, who stayed afterward for photo ops with event goers.

The judges singled out Zingg Design Inc. for a special award because they felt the characters at the table and the slogan “Hunger Hits Home” best illustrated MOM’s mission in the community.

The entire awards event, hosted in Middleton by KEVA Sports Center, was just a lot of fun for spectators. Gold sponsors Stephen DiTullio (DeWitt Ross & Stevens) and Donna Gray (Total Awards & Promotions) joined Fonder on stage to present the specially crafted awards, promising not to make a short joke as Gray presented a trophy that stood as tall as her – which you can see in the photo below being kissed by an in-the-moment recipient on the winning team of Globe University.

In its debut, the first annual CANstruction production was a solid hit, and personally, I’d like to thank AIA of Southwest Wisconsin and all of the many sponsors of the event for making it happen. I think it’s going to be even bigger and better next year, and it’s going to prove to be even another example of what the city of Middleton is doing right, too – not only in embracing another community cause, but in participating in this event as well.

And it shouldn’t go without saying that a big pat on the back obviously goes to Jackson Fonder. Last year he came to the job of executive director of Middleton Outreach Ministry with big dreams for the human service agency. It was my pleasure to have interviewed him on our radio program, and to be impressed by his passion and vision for MOM, and I look forward to learning what he’s going to do next.

The enthusiastic and committed “new blood” nonprofit leaders we’re seeing emerge in Greater Madison – people like Fonder and the Urban League’s Kaleem Caire, to name a couple of standouts – should excite all of us to dream bigger and better for our communities.

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