Janesville59.3°

Madison attorney helps Janesville area youth and health programs

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
January 7, 2010
— Madison attorney Don Becker said he gets joy from sharing his good fortune.

“I just laugh and smile when I think about some of the things I’ve been able to help with. It is so fun,’’ he said.


Since the 1990s, Becker has helped nearly four dozen organizations throughout Wisconsin and beyond invest in youth and health care.


In Rock County, the YWCA and Community Action are richer thanks to Becker’s philanthropy.


In November 2009, Becker challenged the YWCA and Community Action to raise local funds with a promise to match donations two-for-one. For every dollar donated, Becker Law Office would donate $2 up to $2,500 per agency.


The $7,500 raised at Community Action in November went to the Merrill Housing Initiative and to the Fatherhood program, said Lisa Furseth, executive director.


Community Action was able to help one person it wouldn’t otherwise have been served through the Fatherhood program, which costs about $3,500 for each participant. At the Merrill Housing project, the money will help complete one of the houses, she said.


“Every dollar invested in our work allows us to either extend our reach or improve the way in which we do things,’’ Furseth said.


Becker’s donation in 2008 of $2,500 was used to help Community Action’s Fresh Start program, a job training and education program for at-risk youth in Beloit, she said.


The YWCA of Rock County in the past two years has collected more than $10,000 from Becker’s financial gifts and matching donations, said Kerri Parker, executive director.


Money in 2008 boosted the annual budget of the Care House, where child abuse victims are interviewed by investigators in a non-threatening environment.


“We could have not made it that year without his help,’’ Parker said.


In 2009, the YWCA used the money to provide more families access to quality, affordable childcare, she said.


Becker’s donation along with matching dollars, she said, allowed the YWCA to bridge that financial gap for child-care parents until they received their next unemployment check or first paycheck from their new job.


“When the economy is like it has been, it let us provide some consistency for young children during this uncertain time,’’ Parker said.


Becker, a Waukesha County native, denied that he’s anything special.


Parker and Furseth disagree.


“He’s a wonderful guy with a good heart,’’ Parker said.


She described Becker as a catalyst who wants to encourage other people to step up and do their part.


Furseth agreed: “He believes and invests in our work, but he also challenges us, which helps us do more and do it better.”


Becker said it’s simply about investing in the community.


“You have to find something you’re passionate about and an organization where you know the people will use the money well,” he said.



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