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Local YWCA receives $1 million donation


YWCA Rock County announced Monday it will receive a $1 million donation from a philanthropist who has distributed billions of dollars this year.

The YWCA’s board met Monday night to start a process of deciding what to do with the money, Executive Director Angela Moore said.

The money comes from MacKenzie Scott, described by The Associated Press as a “philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.”

Scott announced last week that she had given $4.1 billion in the past four months to 384 organizations as part of a giving pledge she announced last year.

The YWCA learned of the donation in a series of communications over the past 10 days and was initially sworn to secrecy, Moore said.

“We are thrilled and shocked beyond belief, and we are honored to receive these funds,” Moore said in an interview shortly before the board meeting.

The donation could help the organization complete building improvements at its Janesville facility that couldn’t be done because of budget constraints, and it could help fund the organization far into the future, Moore suggested, although she said she couldn’t say what the board will ultimately decide.

The money comes with no strings attached.

“Usually the larger donors will designate where they want the funds to go, but MacKenzie Scott feels we’re in the best position as a nonprofit to know where we need these funds most,” Moore said.

“We are taking this very seriously and will adhere to our fiscal and fiduciary responsibility,” Moore said.

Moore noted that 2021 will be the local YWCA’s 100th anniversary.

“This money will help us assure that we’ll be here 100 more years,” she said.

The YWCA already has an endowment fund, Moore noted, so it’s possible the board would bolster that fund with some of Scott’s donation.

The money could also enhance the YWCA’s programs, which include an emergency domestic violence shelter, 24-hour crisis line, child care, transitional living for domestic violence survivors, an economic empowerment center, the CARE House child advocacy center, and outreach activities in racial justice and immigrant outreach.

Moore said the YWCA will continue to need the support of local donors.

“We are very fortunate to have the support from our community, and we don’t want anyone to think we don’t need that support. We do,” Moore said.

Scott announced her donations on the online publishing platform Medium.

“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color and for people living in poverty.” Scott wrote. “Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

In July, Scott donated $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations and then asked her advisers to help her give even more this year, with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

The advisers used data to identify organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and low access to philanthropic capital.

The donations touch all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. They include food banks, emergency relief funds and support services for the vulnerable.

At least one other recipient— Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin—works in south-central Wisconsin. That organization touches 23 counties in Wisconsin and the Chicago area, including the Janesville Goodwill, according to its website.

Scott’s announcement can be seen as praising the local YWCA and the other recipients.

“Not only are non-profits chronically underfunded, they are also chronically diverted from their work by fundraising, and by burdensome reporting requirements that donors often place on them,” Scott wrote.

“These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and front lines of all types and sizes, day after day after day,” Scott wrote. “They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being. This kind of encouragement has a special power when it comes from a stranger, and it works its magic on everyone.”

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'Interesting challenges:' Blackhawk Tech gets flexible during pandemic


In a time when Rock County businesses and employees are examining ways to reinvent themselves and be more marketable, Blackhawk Technical College is working to provide flexible delivery of specialized training.

Mark Borowicz, director of workforce and community development for the college, said that training looks different in 2020.

“We are doing a lot of work right now with several companies to help continue to retrain and to train their workers. What the pandemic has done is created some interesting challenges for us on delivery of training,” he said.

Noncredit, general business skill training such as communication, computer applications and leadership often is conducted via Zoom meetings.

Industry-based skill training for credit has been changed to more of a one-on-one model for students and to accommodate social distancing.

In an educational model brought to the college by President Tracy Pierner, college training for area businesses is easier than in the past.

Businesses and employees can identify skills and competencies they wish to master, and instead of enrolling in a three-credit, semester-long course, they can take 36-hour, one-credit training classes instead.

“We’re kind of chunking out those learning outcomes so that it’s an industry student saying: ‘You know, what, I don’t need a three-credit class. I probably need these four or five competencies,’” Borowicz said.

“Well, those are now available in several one credit module chunks ... So an employer can select—and this is where we worked very well with our local employers—to say let’s identify the specific skill sets that your folks need,” Borowicz said.

The college has 12 to 14 employers sending about 44 student employees to receive this kind of specialized training. Classes often are split between area employees and full-time students.

Companies such as Hormel Foods are taking advantage of the opportunity.

Hunter Pagel, human resources manager for the Beloit plant, said this is the first year that the company is utilizing Blackhawk Tech’s training program. It is paying for two production employees to take credits at the college as they work to become mechanics.

The students work at the plant each day, receiving training as well as participating in the college courses.

“We partnered with Blackhawk Tech to make sure that our employees can get the tools that they need to advance themselves in their careers or even get into the maintenance field,” Pagel said.

The college’s shorter business educational model, despite classes only being 36-hours long, provides a well-rounded and comprehensive education, Borowicz said.

“It’s a very competency-based model where they have to demonstrate the skills before they can move on to the next credit versus just ‘Hey, we got content, we got to plow through it, we gotta get through it’. It’s really based on demonstrating, and let’s see how you’ve done that particular skill that you have to do. Because once you’ve mastered that, we can move on to the next skill.”

Especially in a year when the pandemic has caused uncertainty, the flexibility allowed by the educational model is important for workforce development, Borowicz said.

“I think allowing this one credit education in a pandemic situation has really allowed that flexibility for employers to identify: ‘Who can I send based on who’s here, who’s available, who’s safe, and I still want to be able to get them the training that they need to be successful in our business.’”

Pagel said the process has been enjoyed by the company students in the program.

“The interactions I’ve had with the two employees that we sent, they’re loving the program,” he said. “They’re glad that they’ve gotten into the program, and they feel that it’s a steppingstone for them to better themselves and to really develop them in their professional career.”

College employees typically visit area businesses to work with them and identify training modules before the academic leaders approve courses.

In a time when the state chamber of commerce is asking technical colleges to be more flexible to help rural communities, Borowicz said Rock County’s flexible college learning model makes sense.

“From our standpoint, I think it’s that vision of we need to be more responsive. I think that goes to some of that rapport of being responsive to industry needs, whether they’re short-term training, or whether they’re credit modules or whatever that platform looks like, as a technical college, we really take our pride in being flexible and being nimble.

“To me, this really allows us to be at that next level because it’s condensed more, but it’s very selective for the employers.”

Borowicz hopes more industries will join the college’s talent development model.

“In that advanced manufacturing area, that’s really how a lot of our curriculum is being delivered. We’re looking at now, how do we incorporate that in it? How do we incorporate that in our business programs? How do we make that model a little bit more available to employers, as well?”

Obituaries and death notices for Dec. 22, 2020

Roberto Ayala

Thomas E. Bogard

Barbara Jean Guttschow

John Leonard Hale

Lawrence Richard Harding Sr.

Myra Jean (Kobs) Heller

Harlan W. Larson

Virginia M. “Ginny” Mork

Roy John Preuninger

Karen B. Rousseau

David E. Squire

Daniel R. Twardowski

Ruth Weber

Dorothy J. Wittenberg

Rock County’s vaccine watch continues

Representatives from Janesville’s two leading health care systems say they are still awaiting information on when the systems will receive COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers.

Mercyhealth and SSM Health, in partnership with Dean Clinic, have not yet received vaccines or word from the state on when they will receive vaccines, representatives said.

Beloit Memorial Hospital faces a similar situation, according to reporting from the Beloit Daily News.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tony Evers on Monday announced the state received its first shipment—about 16,000 doses—of the vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Moderna, the second vaccine to receive approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The state is expected to receive 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in the coming weeks, but details have not been shared publicly about what health care systems or regions might receive the vaccines.

State officials on a media call Monday said about 25 hospitals and health care systems will receive Moderna vaccines today and Wednesday, but officials did not give additional details regarding receiving locations.

Some Wisconsin hospitals began immunizing health care workers last week with vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Janesville hospitals were not included in the first round of distributions.

Mercyhealth has begun vaccinating workers at its Rockford, Illinois, hospital campuses. More than 1,900 workers were vaccinated last week.

Distribution schedules and amounts of doses per hospital differ between states.

SSM Health has vaccinated some of its health care workers at its Madison campus. Some Madison facilities were among the first in Wisconsin to receive doses.

More than 10,358 vaccine doses have been administered in Wisconsin as of Monday morning, officials said.

Health care workers, who have direct patient contact, are the first group to be prioritized for vaccines in the state.

The general public will likely not receive vaccines until late spring or summer of 2021.

Residents and workers at long-term care facilities have also been recommended for the state’s first round of vaccines, but vaccines will be distributed differently than for hospitals.

Long-term care facilities will partner with national pharmacy providers for vaccine distribution, including CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.

CVS Pharmacy will begin distributing vaccine to 1,829 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Wisconsin next week, according to a news release.

A representative from CVS told The Gazette it would not be releasing localized distribution information.

Wisconsin is not included among 12 states Walgreens began sending vaccinations to this week.

COVID-19 activity remains high in Rock County.

On Monday, there were 1,284 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Rock County, which is the lowest total in the county since Oct. 18, but still 177% higher than the 463 active cases reported Sept. 21.

Hospitalizations also improved Monday, decreasing three from 40 on Friday to 37, according to data from the Rock County Public Health Department.

Monday’s total hospitalizations was more than four times higher than the nine hospitalizations reported Sept. 21.

In Rock County, 105 people have died from COVID-19.

Of all COVID-19 test results reported Monday, 31% were positive.

Local health officials aim for 5% positivity rate. The county’s positivity rate has been in double digits all December.

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Dream on: No white Christmas expected in southern Wisconsin

Santa should wear a mask on Christmas Eve to avoid frostbite on his nose, but he won’t have to deal with snow, as southern Wisconsin probably will not see much white this Christmas.

“It’s not looking that likely,” said meteorologist Rebecca Hansen of the National Weather Service in Sullivan.

A weather system moving through Wednesday is likely to bring rain, with just a dash of snow as temperatures fall Wednesday night, Hansen said.

So it’s possible some crusty bits of snow will remain on the ground from that snow earlier this month.

Then Thursday, temperatures will start a dive to their lowest point so far this fall and winter.

The high temperature on Christmas Eve will be about 15, descending to single digits on Santa’s biggest night of the year, Hansen said.

Revelers might even be tempted to wear that ugly sweater again on Christmas Day. Hansen predicted 3 degrees early Friday morning, warming to 19 that day.

Wind chills will drag the feels-like temperature down below zero on Christmas Eve and to minus 13 by Christmas morning, Hansen said.

Hansen expects snow will happen sometime this winter, but so far, those who receive snowshoes or sleds on Christmas will have to wait.

“I love snow, too, so I’ve been pretty ticked off,” Hansen said.

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for below-normal precipitation through the end of the year, returning to normal precipitation in January.

But January temperatures are likely to be above normal, so snow could be possible at night, but temperatures could be too high for daytime snow, Hansen said.

John Whitcomb, operations director for the city of Janesville’s public works department, is hoping Wednesday’s rain doesn’t turn roads icy. And he has a solution for the lack of snow:

“If you want a white Christmas, all you’ve got to do is drive about three hours north.”