Every year the United Way of Dane County (UWDC) recognizes local organizations and people who have made a difference in Madison. These difference makers impact our world through their volunteer efforts, donations, or partnerships. The UWDCs most prestigious award goes to one recipient who embodies the spirit and volunteerism of long-time local leader Mike McKinney.
Professionally, McKinney was a news anchor for Madison’s local NBC affiliate (NBC15). But he was so much more.
McKinney raised thousands of dollars for Aids research and victims through his participation in an annual bicycle ride from the Twin Cities to Chicago. He served on the Mayor’s Task Force for Human Relations. He also started one of the country’s largest food drives, Share Your Holidays (SYH). In 2020 SYH, in conjunction with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, celebrated its 25th anniversary. To date, the food drive has provided more than 50 million meals to people in need. Sadly, McKinney passed away in 2006.
Professionally, Carola Gaines is Quartz’s BadgerCare Plus Community Liaison Manager.
And, just like McKinney, Gaines is so much more.
In her role as Community Liaison Manager for Quartz, Gaines gets to do what she is most passionate about––help others. For the last 10 years, Gaines has been a very active volunteer with Families Overcoming Struggles To Encourage Restoration (FOSTER). FOSTER works to ensure families in Dane County have the tools and resources they need to raise healthy and successful children –– with special emphasis placed on Black families. Gaines has donated her time to many of the organization’s community-focused events like FOSTER’s Pre-Mother’s Day Brunch, Dinner with Soul Santa, and Back 2 Skool Bash.
Because of her work with FOSTER, Gaines has been awarded the Mike McKinney Award from the UWDC.
She says, “I saw the email. I was like, ‘Oh, they must have the wrong email.’” Gaines adds, “Then I re-read it. It said Mike McKinney! I was like, “‘What?’” Gaines could hardly believe she was receiving the honor. “I was just really shocked and grateful.”
After the shock wore off, Gaines says one of the first people she called to share the good news with was McKinney’s mother, Barbara. Gaines says, “I called Mother McKinney. I said, ‘Did you see this?’ She was very happy and very proud.”
For now, Gaines will savor the victory. But she says there is still a lot of work to be done.
“I am very humbled and very honored to be acknowledged in this way. But, I also recognize that we still have work to do.”