Editors' Choice Awards

Madison Magazine editors honor community treasures

Food, Faith and Dignity

Meeting basic needs has always been a strong suit for this community, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is a cornerstone of that foundation. The economic collapse of 2008 upped the ante. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul stepped up to meet the challenge. Staff and volunteers did their usual good work providing $1.7 million in local aid to 26,680 Dane County households through the Food Pantry & Service Center.

But in the last year the Society opened the doors to its new Center for Vincentian Charity, a $4 million facility that will house Dane County's busiest food pantry as well as a new reception area and offices for providing assistance to people in need. It is a significant new addition to the area's basic-needs infrastructure. Yet executive director Ralph Middlecamp calls it "just a tool that enables us to accomplish our mission of serving our sisters and brothers in need." One of many tools, we'd add, including respect for human dignity and the good will of hundreds of volunteers.

Helping the neediest in Madison is indeed the Best of Madison.

-- Neil Heinen

Soldiers' and families' fortune

"He's one of their best assets."

"I know him and I trust him."

"These officers are so caring of the families left back."

"My brother … is there and this is his third tour to Iraq; he is very happy to be with the 32nd. His previous two tours we didn't receive nearly this much information."

When the citizen soldiers of the Wisconsin Army National Guard began their ten-month deployment to Iraq this spring, among them for the first time was Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, the longtime public affairs officer held in the highest regard by private citizens, journalists and colleagues alike. While he normally stays back to support the families and community of the 32nd Infantry Brigade and liaison with the media, he and his public affairs troops are now shoring up communications from Baghdad. It's no small task, as the 3,200-plus soldiers--part of the largest National Guard deployment since WWII--are scattered throughout the combat zone and operating under different command units outside the 32nd. In addition, security issues limit the kind and amount of news and information Donovan can relay back to the States.

But by all accounts, Donovan, a former journalist, is the right person for the job. Since his arrival in Iraq, he's been working hard to establish regular contact with and provide updates on members of the 32nd through traditional news releases, media interviews with brigade leaders and soldiers, and colorful dispatches on life in Iraq. Says John Karcher, who knew Donovan in his TV anchor days and worked with him in 2004 as an embedded journalist with the Wisconsin National Guard in Iraq, "There's nothing a soldier needs more than knowing that his or her family back in Wisconsin is being taken care of, and there's no one more responsible for taking care of family than guys like Tim Donovan."

-- Brennan Nardi

Bearing the Water

Every year for the past six, Today Not Tomorrow, Inc., an innovative non-profit, has bestowed Water Bearer Awards to twelve deserving community activists. And yet it is the tireless and humble leaders of Today Not Tomorrow, which produces the terrific weekly television show, "Club TNT," and "Listen, Hear! Radio" show on WTDY, who also deserve the very honor they bestow on others.

Water bearers, bridge builders, tireless advocates for children, families and the elderly … the work of Betty Banks, Gaddhi Ben Dan and Jeanne Erickson is so far-reaching and effective that you wonder why they aren't household names. It's probably because they aren't in it for the glory or the recognition; they're in it for change for the better.

Every Saturday at 11 a.m. on My Madison TV 14, the youth-produced "Club TNT" program promotes positive lifestyle choices that build self-esteem and confidence. Every Sunday the "Listen, Hear! Radio" talk show promotes engaging discussions on youth issues and community resources. Youth Safety First "Lock It Up" campaigns against childrens' access to prescription drugs, alcohol and handguns inside the home. Project Babies health and wellness program provides a support system for at-risk families. And this is just a sampling of their good work.

The energy and compassion Banks, Dan and Erickson approach each undertaking with is contagious. Wearing their hearts proudly on their sleeves, their sharp minds move mountains for the people who need it most.

-- Brennan Nardi

No Sieve Here

UW--Madison hockey goaltender Jessie Vetter is the best women's hockey player in the nation. And those of us who remember when Vetter was the goaltender on the Monona Grove boys' (that's right--boy's) hockey team can all say we knew her when.

Did we know she was going to be this good? Tell the truth. The truth is Vetter is very special, leading the Badgers to three national championships and setting NCAA records for victories, shutouts and shutouts in a season. All while exhibiting uncommon confidence, according to her coach (and fellow Best of Madison Editors' Choice winner) Mark Johnson.

"The more pressure," says Johnson, "the more relaxed she is." Which means Vetter should be very relaxed next year when she is expected to lead the U.S. women's hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Best in Monona Grove to best in the nation to best in the world? Could be. Of this we're certain: Jessie Vetter is Best of Madison.

-- Neil Heinen
 

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