Engage in Beloit
The people of Beloit have always worked together to build up our community. One brick at a time, one nail at a time, one block at a time.
Community involvement and partnerships have been key to the incredible success stories found throughout Beloit. Everywhere you look in Beloit, revitalization is evident; our bustling downtown, the thriving riverfront; neighborhood renewal. The people of Beloit have worked hard to make our city an attractive and exciting community where people desire to live, and businesses choose to build.
Whether it’s one individual that saw an empty city lot and envisioned the community garden that could thrive there; or a group of business leaders that saw a blighted riverfront and banded together to beautify it one block at a time; or a group of people who wanted to breathe new life into a dilapidated 150-year old gristmill and made it happen. It’s because of dedicated people like these that get involved and see only opportunity where others may see challenges. This is why Beloit thrives and grows. Be. Come. Involved.
THE CASTLE | A LEAP OF FAITH BRINGS NEW LIFE TO OLD CHURCH
John and Jody Wittnebel have always supported the arts in Beloit. So much so, they decided to take a leap of faith and purchase a historic downtown icon to help keep the arts alive.
In 2012, the Wittnebels purchased the former First Presbyterian church building at 501 Prospect St., and transformed it into a performing arts center called The Castle. The venue is available for use by the Beloit International Film Festival,Beloit College, Rock River Philharmonic, as well as special events such as weddings, corporate events, and presentations.
The Castle, which was built in 1906 and has achieved landmark status, is also home to The Youth Unite, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides wellness education and guidance to the community. The Wittnebel’s daughter, Brittnay, a Beloit College graduate, created TYU in collaboration with Beloit College. Today TYU hosts concerts and events for youth, produces DVDs to spread the message of anti-bullying, runs a 24-hour help-line website and is offering assemblies. “Kids are excited about coming here,” says Jody.
TURTLE CREEK CHAMBER ORCHESTRA | ENGAGING YOUTH IN MUSIC
“To supplement the offered music classes in the school system, we thought a summer string camp for students might be helpful in developing and encouraging young musicians,” says Greg Roy, business manager and a founding board member. “Dr. J. Ian Nie, a music professor at Beloit College, and his student, Carol Roy, called a meeting in April, 2012 along with other interested musicians and teachers of music. Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra (TCCO) was launched and quick action was taken to file incorporation papers as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit.”
Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra conducts concerts as well as a children’s music camp every summer. Nearly all operational expenses are paid from donations, an annual silent auction and performances. The funds received go to cover expenses, and to support scholarships for at-risk students interested in music. TCCO is a volunteer-driven organization; there are no paid staff members. “It’s a labor of love,” says Roy.
PROJECT 16:49 | GETTING HOMELESS TEENS BACK ON THEIR FEET
In 2010, director R.E. Burgos created Sixteen Forty-Nine, a moving documentary film about the more than 1,000 homeless teens living in Rock County. The film was shown at the Beloit International Film Festival and later won the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth media award.
Tammy DeGarmo was working for United Way of North Rock County at the time, when a colleague brought her a copy of the documentary. “Like many people, I wasn’t blind to the fact this is happening, but I had no idea that so many children were being impacted,” says DeGarmo. “It’s a very important segment of the homeless population. These are young people who have promise but may not have the opportunities other kids do. If given those same opportunities, they can be just as successful. The film was a wonderful tool to open a discussion about their situation.”
Based on those many conversations, Project 16:49, a non-profit designed to help homeless or unaccompanied youth in Rock County, opened its doors in 2014. The number 16:49 refers to the amount of hours and minutes between the end of the school day and when the school day starts again the next morning. The program aims to help homeless teens during that time.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY BUILDS NEW LEADERS
About a decade ago, some Rock County business leaders came together and determined they needed to create a leadership pipeline. With that in mind, they formed the Leadership Development Academy of Rock County (LDA), an organization that gives participants the opportunity to learn about Rock County’s history, economy, culture and government.
“It’s a wonderful concept,” says executive director Russell Lindquist. “I lived in California, Oregon, and Colorado, and I had never heard about anything like this. But it reminds me of a powerful experience I once had in high school. A philanthropic organization came to my school in Colorado and turned us into philanthropists. They gave us money and taught us skills and said, ‘Figure out where the money needs to go in order to do the maximum good.’ That left an enormous impression on me.”
LDA is made up of individuals, businesses and organizations interested in impacting local communities. The program begins each September with a two-day retreat and continues with one full-day session per month from October through May. Each class is limited to 25 people. Tuition is $1,000 per person; some scholarship opportunities are available.
Sessions consist of site visits, guest speakers, case studies, professional presentations, and role-playing activities. Each participant works within a small group to produce a collaborative project that addresses a specific community need. “We have a lot of projects out there,” says Lindquist, who graduated from the program in 2011, and became the organization’s executive director last year. “They learn to work with other people, learn about the community and deliver something of value.”
THIS IS MY HOME
Two years ago, Donna Sykora moved to Beloit for a new position. What she found here in southern Wisconsin was so much more.
Donna is key account manager for Alliant Energy. In her role, she manages large industrial customers in the Beloit area. In addition, she represents the company on a number of local boards such as the Beloit Chamber of Commerce, Blackhawk Technical College Foundation Board and United Way Blackhawk Region.
While taking care of her customers is the top priority, Donna also knows the importance of rolling up her sleeves and getting involved in the Beloit community.
“It’s vital to be part of the community,” says Donna, a Chippewa Falls, Wis. native, who moved to Beloit from Michigan. “I’m fortunate to work for an organization like Alliant Energy, which is committed to the community it serves. They not only encourage employees to get involved, they support it. That’s not always the case with some companies.” The Alliant Energy Foundation has a volunteer program that credits employees for hours worked in support of a nonprofit organization. At the end of each year, the employee receives a check, up to $400 for 200 or more hours of work, to present to that organization.
VETSROLL.ORG – HONORING OUR HEROS
VetsRoll.org was founded in 2011 by Beloit brothers Mark and John Finnegan because they believed it was important for every WWII and Korean Era Veteran and “Rosie the Riveter” to have the chance to visit and experience their memorials in Washington, D.C. Through their efforts, and the efforts hundreds of volunteers and donors, the organization has now provided a free bus trip to over 800 veterans to Washington, D.C.
Buses roll out from Beloit every May with the Veterans and volunteers. After their amazing 3-day experience in Washington, D.C., the buses are escorted back into Beloit and the veterans are greeted by throngs of people waving flags and a glorious fireworks show. That’s how we roll in Beloit!
RISING PROFESSIONALS PROMOTE BELOIT
In an effort to get more young professionals involved in the community, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce has created the Rising Professionals, an organization comprised of young professionals under the age of 40. The group was created to empower young professionals in the region, provide networking opportunities and promote civic engagement, professional development and mentoring.
“We have plenty of young people here in Beloit,” said Tim Dutter, executive director of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce. “We need to find ways to get them involved and engage in ways that will allow them to meet other young professionals.”
The Rising Professionals was launched earlier this summer by Dutter, who previously worked at a chamber in Colorado, where a similar program was formed.
So far, the Rising Professionals have more than 125 participants, who come from a variety of fields including technology, marketing, banking, education and many others.