We’re very excited to share that the SURJ “Barrier Busters” Endowment, a scholarship/educational fund will be one of the organizations benefiting from the proceeds of this amazing event. Enjoy a variety of delicious Mac and Cheese dishes cooked and shared by many local hospitality industry partners.
La Crosse, WI
Everyone is welcome. This is a family friendly tasting, not a competition. A donation of $5 serves as an entry fee and all proceeds from will be split to benefit three local non-profit organizations, including the SURJ Endowment Scholarship Fund.
Keep reading for additional information about the SURJ Fund and how the monies are used:
In 2018, SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) partnered with The Western Foundation at Western Technical College (WTC) to implement the SURJ Endowment, a scholarship/educational fund. The SURJ Endowment funding helps remove financial barriers for people of color who have been incarcerated as they transition to the community by providing educational and vocational opportunities.
Funds are directed to people of color participating in Project Proven, a re-entry program at WTC. Project Proven works in the La Crosse County Jail and on the WTC campus to assist currently and formerly incarcerated individuals with obtaining the GED, transitioning to college-level programming, and /or gaining or improving upon skills to assist in obtaining employment such as filling out applications, interviewing, resume development, job search, and networking. Project Proven also helps participants with budgeting and financial management, interpersonal skills, and basic computer skills training.
SURJ’s original goal was to create a fully endowed fund of $10,000 that would be self-sustaining, generating monies annually beginning in 2020. Because of the generosity of so many individuals and groups in our community, the fund developed more quickly than anticipated and currently stands at $21,164. This generosity allowed us to help more people sooner than anticipated. In 2018 and 2019, SURJ funds, through Project Proven, have assisted students with rent, gift cards for clothing for job interviews, a used computer for school and job searches, and other necessities that can help people find employment and finish school. The SURJ funds are an additional resource for Project Proven participants as they navigate significant systemic barriers in re-entry while pursuing education and employment, and will help increase the likelihood of a successful transition from jail into the community.
Why Is It Important to Support People of Color in Our Community in Their Successful Re-entry?
A criminal history can present a major obstacle to obtaining employment, housing and other crucial services, the very things needed to prevent recidivism. More successful re-entry and less recidivism make our community a healthier, safer place for everyone. Since people of color are disproportionately incarcerated in our society, including here in our state, they are faced with these challenges at much higher rates. For example, Wisconsin incarcerates the highest percentage of African American males in the country, and Wisconsin Department of Corrections records show incarceration rates for African American men at epidemic levels throughout Wisconsin. While African Americans make up less than 6% of our state’s population, African American men account for 42.7% of those incarcerated.
When prisoners are released, they face an environment that is challenging and full of obstacles that actively deter them from becoming productive members of society. Within three years of release, 67.8 percent of ex-offenders are rearrested, and within five years, 76.6 percent are rearrested.
According to the American Prospect, the number one barrier to a successful re-entry into the community, often, is finding a job. Approximately 60 percent of ex-offenders remain unemployed one year after their release. The Urban Institute notes that service providers and community leaders consider employment to be the primary factor in a successful re-entry.
Race is a factor in finding employment, particularly when combined with a history of incarceration. One study found that African-American offenders were two-thirds less likely to receive offers, and African-American non-offenders were half as likely as white non-offenders to receive an offer. So African-American ex-offenders face a huge double challenge: Even if they hadn’t committed a crime, racism significantly restricts their job opportunities; since they have committed a crime, they must somehow overcome the racism and convince the employer that their ex-con status does not make them a risky hire.
Because employment is so crucial to successful re-entry, Project Proven works closely with local law enforcement officials and agencies to provide instruction and services related to finding employment to formerly incarcerated individuals; the SURJ Endowment Fund is an additional resource for Project Proven participants as they navigate significant systemic barriers and will help increase the likelihood of a successful transition from jail into the community.
We hope to see you at March MACness this Saturday!
If you can’t make it to the event, but want to donate to the fund:
To contribute online go to the Western Foundation online donation form:
Under DONATION INFORMATION select “Other” as the Designation, then enter
“SURJ” in the “Other” free text field.
Contributions can be sent by mail to the below address. Make checks payable to
Western Foundation, and include a note or a check memo stating “SURJ”.
Coleman Center Room 130
400 7th Street North
La Crosse, WI 54601