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Watch now: Madison Reading Project moves into new home on South Side
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Watch now: Madison Reading Project moves into new home on South Side

Madison Reading Project

Rowan Childs, founder and executive director of the Madison Reading Project, talks about bookshelves recently donated from the Belleville Public Library in the nonprofit's new Greenway Cross location on the South Side.

Going from a 10-foot wall of books underneath a Downtown bank to a “very cute and very small” third-floor office in a Far West Side building, the Madison Reading Project has now moved into a bigger and brighter space of its own on the South Side.

The nonprofit, which provides books to children in Dane County and beyond, is in the process of making a new home out of a 2,500-square-foot, first-floor space at 1337 Greenway Cross #186, which is already filled with thousands of books and supplies still needing to be sorted. The former Madison Reading Project headquarters was a 700-square-foot third-floor space with a small storage area in the basement of a building on the Far West Side.

Founder and executive director Rowan Childs said it’s a “total game changer” to have a place of their own with the accessibility and functionality of being on the first floor as the organization is headed into its seventh year. People will be able to pull up to the front and easily donate books or pick up bulk orders, and staff and volunteers will be able to better load and unload the Madison Reading Project’s Big Red Reading Bus.

“Those things alone will save us so much work, and it’s going to be so much easier for us to operate,” she said. “And also just letting people actually see us working, whether that means the sign outside or our book bus. It’s just something that I think people will be able to recognize very quickly where we are and what we’re doing.”

Madison Reading Project

Children's books on display in the Madison Reading Project's new space. The nonprofit is in the process of sorting and placing donated and purchased books of different reading levels and genres.

Childs said the organization was looking for a “particular neighborhood that we would fit into” that was accessible to most anyone whether people are coming by car, bike, bus or on foot. She said a big selling point for the new space is that there is a bus stop nearby.

The new space will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Childs said the organization eventually will host a variety of activities during the day, at night or on a weekend, but for now, operations will mostly be by appointment. She hopes to have a “virtual grand opening” at the end of May and either give people tours of the space that way or eventually start having small in-person tours throughout the day.

She said the staff of 10 people, including Childs, and volunteers are “so excited” about the new space and to actually come in and work there.

Madison Reading Project

The Madison Reading Project's new 2,500-square-foot space at 1337 Greenway Cross. The nonprofit had been looking for a "particular neighborhood that we would fit into that was easy and accessible to many different people," said founder and executive director Rowan Childs.

There also are plans for a mural on a large white wall in the back of the space and a donor wall on an adjacent wall.

A lot of the books and other office items were donated to the organization, from doormats and cleaning supplies to a new microwave and fridge. Childs said the nonprofit’s Wish Lists were a big help in filling out the new space and making it a home.

The Belleville Public Library recently opened a new library and reached out to the Madison Reading Project to see if some of its older shelving could be donated, which is now being used for a lot of the picture books and similar-level readers at the new space.

Madison Reading Project

Founder and executive director Rowan Childs with boxes of books that need to be unpacked and put on shelves in the Madison Reading Project's new Greenway Cross location. She said about 30,000 books were donated to the nonprofit last year.

Besides by reading level, books will be organized by category or genre. There is a Spanish book collection, which Childs said is mostly filled with books the Madison Reading Project purchases because such books are not donated as often. There is also an “educator’s corner,” where books recommended for school-age children will be displayed.

“We’re looking forward to having more people here whether they’re volunteering or if it’s for a community event or our own event that we’re able to actually host,” Childs said. “Eventually it’ll be more of a community space where people can come and go.”

In the last year, the Madison Reading Project gave out 76,000 books, while adjusting operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Childs said she hopes more space will also mean more books for the community, though she also hopes to not outgrow the new space “for several years.”

Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces

Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.

WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.

The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:

In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.

Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:

Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.

Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.

To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.

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