By Meghan Reistad NBC15 Anchor | Photographed by Valerie Tobias
The top of an informational pamphlet Diane Hanson hands out about the non-profit she founded in November 2016 reads, “There is more that unites us than divides us.” And that’s the message behind everything she does.
Hanson first started thinking about creating a nonprofit after Tony Robinson’s death. The young biracial man was shot and killed in 2015 by a white police officer in Madison—an event that spurred protests by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I wanted to do something to bring people together during a divisive time and try to help lessen the disparities between us,” said Hanson.
Now, almost three years later, United Madison advocates for and promotes good things happening in our community.
When The Beacon, a day shelter for homeless people, needed polo shirts for people to wear during job interviews, United Madison connected with staff at Lands’ End to fill the need. And when Healing House, a shelter for homeless families recovering from a surgery, needed help with a logo, United Madison found a business to make it happen.
Hanson says sometimes it is the other way around; businesses will reach out and ask how they can make a difference. Her team helps make the connections.
The nonprofit also provides positive service announcements, highlighting nonprofits and causes. Hanson has a background in media, including time at NBC15. Media partners match the investment value of the sponsored messages.
United Madison is making mental health a priority as well through a new positive service campaign that provides resources to help people get started with seeking out care.
“I know mental health is a significant issue and it does not discriminate. It impacts our schools, work, family and communities and is an underlying issue for many experiencing joblessness, homelessness and addictions. These PSAs will help people identify, learn what to do and where to turn in a mental health challenge or crisis,” says Hanson.
Moving forward, she says there is interest from the Milwaukee area in a similar effort. She hopes to one day expand United Madison’s reach, always with the goal of bringing people together.
It’s about “neighbors helping neighbors,” Hanson says.