Since the purchase of San Damiano by the City of Monona in 2021, the Friends of San Damiano has focused on its primary mission to advance the use of the property as a place for public recreation, interpretive programming and peaceful reflection. The purchase of San Damiano is a once in a generation opportunity to conserve this unique natural asset in a way that it best serves the community far into the future. We are steadfast partners with the City of Monona, dedicated to inclusive and ongoing event programming that encourages community engagement. And importantly, we are the committed fundraising arm that supports financing for the property’s maintenance, various initiatives and future improvements.
Even though we’re an organization still in its infancy, we have built a strong foundation and celebrated much success this past year in close partnership with the City of Monona, its departments, staff and city leadership. In 2022 we prioritized community engagement, understanding the importance of the public experiencing all parts of the property and the Frank Allis House. In partnership with the City, Ho-Chunk Nation and other incredible organizations like Gigi’s Playhouse, BIPOC Birding Club, Clean Lakes Alliance and Monona Grove School District, we held over 20 events throughout the year. Each provided opportunities to tour the house, walk the land and learn more about its environmental, historical and cultural significance throughout all seasons.
Over 1,000 people toured the house and property, personally experiencing the beauty and opportunities that lie ahead, especially during the master planning process. Together with the community we enjoyed events both small and large, including the biergartens that brought over 2,700 people to the property enjoying music, drinks, and the spectacular sunsets over Lake Monona.
I have nothing but gratitude for our passionate community of donors who continue to invest in our mission, ensuring critical resources for the projects of today and tomorrow. Overall, in 2022, we were proud to have raised over $195,000, and since our inception we have raised over $316,000 from over 520 unique donors. We’re also incredibly grateful to have built partnerships and received grants from the Madison Community Foundation, Evjue Foundation, Clean Lakes Alliance, Madison Gas and Electric and others to support our mission.
For an organization just over 2 years old and with priorities yet to be finalized, our fundraising to date has been an incredible success.
So many have stepped up to make a big impact, allowing us to simultaneously maintain the property while also planning for the future. Specifically, we were able to quickly raise the $150,000 needed to invest in a consultant to conduct the community engagement and master planning process. In August of 2022 we formally announced our accomplishment by presenting a check to City of Monona Mayor, Mary O’Connor, to cover the full amount of the consultant. We are also providing the city with a minimum of $15,000 to pay for maintenance costs in 2023. As our planning moves forward, we remain committed to sharing the costs of the initial property purchase and funding future improvements to the property.
Fundamental to our success, we’ve been humbled by the ongoing engagement of over 140 active volunteers who help with events, assist with clean up days or otherwise lend a helping hand. Monona and Madison residents, as well as out of state donors, have stepped up in a big way to provide critical resources of their time, talent and treasure. We extend our gratitude for all that has been accomplished to everyone who is making it possible.
What’s next? Last October, the initial round of community feedback from over 1,600 survey respondents and the initial public information session provided critical input which helped create three concept plans for the property. Going forward, we’re incredibly excited to showcase the concept plans with the community for further input later this spring, again through a survey and information session. This process continues to be guided by the city’s San Damiano Steering Committee, which meets once a month.
Meanwhile, we are planning a year full of events in partnership with Monona’s Parks & Rec Department including more biergartens, clean-up days, picnics in the park and more. And we are excited to announce a new, annual fundraising event on September 9th, which will bring together community supporters to celebrate the property, our shared successes and the priorities for the future.
The success of the past year has built momentum for 2023, as we develop a much clearer picture of the exciting potential ahead. We encourage you to stay connected by visiting our website and signing up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter. You’ll get notices of special events, volunteer opportunities, general news and timely updates on the master planning process. We look forward to continuing to welcome the public to this wonderfully unique piece of property and appreciate everyone who is playing a part in creating an amazing future.