MOM's New Day

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MTT News Desk's picture
Matt Geiger
Al Ripp in his MOM office, just a few days before the organization moved to a new home on Parmenter Street.

Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a new face to go along with its new home on Parmenter Street. It just so happens to be an affable, local face that is already familiar to countless people throughout the community.

On the eve of last week’s move from MOM’s outdated Hubbard Avenue offices to a new facility at 3502 Parmenter Street, Al Ripp, the charitable organization’s new executive director, was reclining in a chair in an office stripped almost bare. Boxes were piled high, and volunteers were taking a break from carrying items up and down the creaky wooden steps of the old MOM offices.

Through the window, large flakes of snow were gently swaying in the breeze as they make their way down to Hubbard Avenue.

Ripp, a lifelong Middleton resident, was describing the emotional impact of MOM’s annual backpack give-away program, through which young students from Middleton, Cross Plains and Madison receive bags full of school supplies they need for the coming semester.

“The overall need is just shocking,” Ripp said. “You see so many people. The children come in with the biggest smiles, and you see the anxiety just melt away from the faces of their parents.”

Ripp retired from his prior job on the last day of 2012, after nearly 40 years of service in the telecommunications industry. During his time with TDS Telecommunications Corp., he worked closely with MOM.

“I was very fortunate to be able to work on the giving side through TDS,” he said. “Now I get to give directly to those in need.”

When Ripp retired, Dave Wittwer, president and CEO of TDS, said, “I know he did everything he could to delight others.” 

Members of the MOM Board of Directors chose Ripp for that very reason, as well as for his ability to communicate with the business community upon which MOM relies for much of its financial support.

Ripp believes his corporate experience, combined with his longstanding relationships in the community, will help him in his new capacity. “I can tell the story from both sides,” he said. “We all know the economy has been tight for most businesses, it’s getting better, but I know, from my corporate experience, that businesses always want to help an organization like MOM, even when things are tough.”

Ripp is MOM’s fourth executive director in as many years, but his predecessors all came from outside the non-profit’s service area. The new director grew up on a farm here, the second youngest in a family of 10.

“I’ve actually been thinking about that lately,” he reflected. “When I was too young to go work on the farm with my older siblings, I’d always stay with my mom and help her with the gardening, and with preparing and canning all the food.”

MOM has its own garden – a cluster of community plots where clients are able to grow fresh vegetables to feed their families. Ripp sees a connection to his agricultural roots.

“I’m really looking forward to MOM’s garden,” he commented. “There’s a certain pride and excitement that comes with learning how to grow your own food. It’s really what MOM is all about – and I mean beyond the garden. That idea, along with our new consolidated facilities, will really help with the mission – the goal of helping folks become self sustaining.”

Jim Hartlieb, president of the MOM Board of Directors, said the organization’s leadership feels “very fortunate to have someone with Al’s dynamic background” as the new executive director.

MOM’s new consolidated headquarters, which includes the main offices, food pantry and clothing closet, officially opened on Monday of this week.

Of course, a more accessible MOM could end up equating to even more demand for the organization’s services. “Yup,” agreed Ripp. “That’s what we’re looking at. It will probably drive up demand.”

Demand was already on the rise, thanks in no small part to the lengthy recession. In 2012, more than 500 households each month brought home over 60,000 pounds of food to nourish their families. Hundreds of volunteers gave more than 1,500 hours or service with MOM – surpassing the hours put in by paid staff.   Case Managers served nearly 130 families each month.

But with a new facility, MOM will have new ways to help.

“Storage is a key element,” said Ripp. “We have two walk-in coolers to store food donations, which should allow us to more easily manage the flow of food through our pantry. I think the new MOM will also allow us to expand our ability to take donations, which will help too.”

During his career, Ripp received several “TDS Telecom Inspiring Excellence” awards and served in clubs and on boards throughout the Verona, Middleton and Cross Plains areas. 

He got his start washing vehicles for Mid-Plains Telephone Company in 1974. During his tenure at TDS, he held a number of different positions before being named general manager in the late 1990’s.

In 2007, Ripp was named market manager for TDS covering Dane County and eventually working throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


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