Cash on Hand,” VXLA

August 6, 2020, Milwaukee Business News

Sometimes, it’s just cash in hand that matters. In this story, we see a marked difference from yesterday’s report on a senior center in Amarillo, Texas, which had its move to a new facility badly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. That organization had no endowment or single angel to pull from, needing to depend upon other entities that are likely also feeling the pain of the downturn, In contrast, the Milwaukee-based Kellogg PEAK Initiative is supported by an operating private foundation whose mission is to “support the development of youth from underserved neighborhoods to teach, lead and inspire others in the community.” They run a summer camp and community programming, and they are planning to begin a $6.5 million renovation of Tiefenthaler Park and their headquarters next month.

The park pavilion building will be updated and expanded to 16,000 square feet. There will be dedicated teen space, learning labs, and a multipurpose gathering space. (No word as to whether the space’s new design will accommodate social distancing in the floorplan. Lighting will be added around the pavilion and park walking paths, along with an update of activity spaces. Other park facilities to be improved are the wading pool and sports field.

PEAK worked with the Milwaukee County parks department and neighborhood stakeholders. The work is scheduled for completion next summer.

“We love being based at Tiefenthaler Park, and thanks to our continued partnership with Milwaukee County Parks and the Midtown community, that will continue in ways that allow us to do our best work, showing our kids, families, and neighbors that they are valued” said Dan Schiller, executive director of PEAK.

The financial support for PEAK is a bit complex. PEAK, having rebranded in 2019, was originally called Lake Valley Camp, founded in 2002 by Bill Kellogg, former chief executive officer of Kohl’s, with help from the family foundation. The change to PEAK came after the organization became a year-round program serving 550 youth in social-emotional learning and leadership.

The initiative is a program of Kellogg Programs Inc., with assets of $818,199, and Schiller is listed as the executive director of Kellogg Programs. Clearly, that amount of assets would not support extensive changes to Tiefenthaler Park, which is owned by Milwaukee. Kellogg’s founding benefactor is a $27-million nonoperating private foundation, the Kellogg Family Foundation. Both organizations have the same board members, although the family foundation lists them on the 990-PF with a “care of” condition, adding the name of the legal firm of Godfrey & Kahn. The family foundation owns and operates a low-income housing property in San Antonio, Texas. The foundation has pledged $5 million for the park project and is currently raising the $1.5 million.

Renovating and updating the park has been ongoing. In 2018, a nonprofit organization, ActivateMKE, renovated the basketball courts with vibrant artwork. Other organizations contributing to the current park improvement include the Salvation Army and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity.

Construction and lighting for the project mean jobs, and at a time when the unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, that’s a positive. While this type of project takes years in planning, it does seem unfortunately incongruous that the shovels will go in the ground to improve a park during a time of pandemic, high unemployment, and the specter of eviction.—Marian Conway