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Helping Love, Inc.
The proudest mom on Mother’s Day: 11-year-old spurs fundraiser

ROCHESTER — Nobody wants to take credit for this flower-selling, toy-collecting, money-raising fundraiser.

Everyone knows that it was 11-year-old Bella Olsen’s idea, but she doesn’t brag about it. Her mother, Jessica Olsen, gives all of the credit to her daughter, even though Jessica lends a hand in coordinating, promoting and growing the flowers they sell together.

It started three years ago. Through her mom’s volunteering with Love, Inc. — a Burlington-based nonprofit that serves disadvantaged families on the west side of the county — Bella came to realize that there were kids who didn’t get Christmas gifts like she did.

So Bella, then 8 years old, postponed her birthday celebration (which would have been in September) and asked her friends and family to donate toys to Love, Inc. during the Christmas season.

Love, Inc. then gave out gifts to families who couldn’t afford holiday presents of their own. Last year, 315 parents with 915 children were aided by Love, Inc.’s Christmas program, according to Diane Huck, the president of its board of directors. Another 10,700 clients utilized the food pantry.

The organization relies on people like the Olsens. More than 24,000 hours were volunteered through Love Inc. last year, Huck said.

When asked where she got the idea, Bella said: “I think about how I get gifts on my Christmas morning, and then some kids don’t ... that just made me sad.”

“Bella wanted to fill a truck with toys, and she did,” Jessica said, beaming with motherly pride.

After filling one truck with donated toys in 2016, Bella wasn’t satisfied.

“I want to double it,” she told her mom.

The next year, she did.

In 2018, Bella started selling flowers for $1 each to raise money that could be donated to Love, Inc., in addition to toy collecting.

She raised $1,500. After hearing the total, Bella didn’t break character. She wants to double that total in 2019, up to $3,000.

“It’s catching on, what an 11-year-old is doing,” Jessica said, confident the $3,000 goal would be reached.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Olsen 

Eleven-year-old Bella Olsen smiles as she plants upwards of 1,000 flower seeds in February. The flowers that grew in her family's basement will go on to be sold, with the proceeds benefiting the Love, Inc. nonprofit.

Bella and Jessica planted 1,000 flowers in their basement in February — “It looked like a jungle down there,” Jessica laughed — and have started selling them, now that the snow is finally gone.

The big event is coming May 19, when the Olsens will set up shop outside Crossover Cantina, 28023 Kramer Drive, Town of Waterford. Starting at 11 a.m., they’ll sell the rest of their crop, bolstered by flowers donated by the Burlington Garden Center and Thomas Greenhouse & Gardens in Mukwonago.

Miguel “Jesse” Aguirre, the owner of Crossover, gave all the credit to Bella too, even though he’s helping by giving the Olsens the venue they need to sell their flowers.

“She’s got a great heart,” Aguirre said. “Jessica helped her out, but it’s not my idea or Jessica’s. It’s all hers.”

Photo courtesy of Jessica Olsen 

Bella Olsen, now 11, poses with a truckload of toys she collected to be donated to Love, Inc., the Burlington-based support organization, last year.

The full circle

Bella’s generosity also is in honor of her mom.

Years ago, Jessica Olsen needed help after getting out of an unhealthy relationship. She turned to Love, Inc., which allowed her to get back on her feet.

“I needed help, and they helped me,” she said.

It’s not unusual for people like Jessica to give back after receiving aid.

“Oftentimes those who have been our clients come back and work with us, volunteer with us, and help to provide for others,” Huck said.

Now a business owner with two kids, Jessica has made sure to instill the virtue of charity in her children.

“They were raised to take care of what you have,” Jessica said. “They learned the value of things ... and more importantly just to give back.”

Riding for good

Although the toy and monetary contributions end up in the arms of Love, Inc., the toy donations are handled by the Tri-County Riders, a motorcycle club that raises money year-round and hosts an annual Toy Run to benefit Love Inc. The 25th annual Toy Run is scheduled for later this year.

Bella still isn’t old enough to get a motorcycle license, but the Tri-County Riders made her an honorary member after her third year of supporting Love, Inc.

Submitted photo 

Bella Olsen, fifth from left in the front row, smiles for a photo with the Tri-County Riders. The motorcycle club made her an honorary member in recognition of her fundraising.

Butler to release documentary on legal marijuana industry

The legal marijuana industry has taken off, with the key word being “legal.”

While many businesses are vying for customers in states that allow it, a documentary is looking at groups that are left out of the industry.

Racine native and retired NBA player Caron Butler, along with several partners, is preparing to release a documentary regarding minority involvement in the legal marijuana industry called “The Green Dream.” The film is to be released in September or October of this year.

“You look at the people that are benefiting the most off of the marijuana industry, you don’t see any minority-owned individuals, they’re all Caucasian- owned,” Butler said. “I wanted to bring light to that, because if you’re making billions off of that industry but the laws are still affecting the black and brown people the most, shouldn’t that be a perfect segue for minorities to get into that space? Because we’ve been hindered by it the most.”

Butler, an executive producer on the project, originally wanted to do a project on mass incarceration and marijuana, but the project shifted toward the involvement of minorities in states where cannabis is legalized.

“It’s been a generational curse for black and brown people for years,” Butler said. “I look at the marijuana industry and how we’ve been kind of neglected from that space.”

Across the country, Butler said, prisons contain a high number of black and Latino inmates because of marijuana violations; he believes people in those demographic groups should be more involved in the marijuana industry.

“We want to put a magnifying glass on what’s happening in the cannabis industry, where people of black and brown descent are being excluded from that space,” Butler said. “We’ve been hindered in the past the most by that industry (marijuana).”

The documentary cost about $500,000 to make. Butler said he put in some of his own money toward the project.

Butler said they have finished filming and are currently looking for the right venue to release it. Among the possible locations being explored are Netflix, Hulu, CNN Films and theaters.

“We’re still in the process of pushing it, but it’s going to be well worth it,” Butler said. “It’s not a money thing or capital gains thing. I think most importantly, it’s about making a difference and bringing awareness to a cause that’s bigger than us.”

Butler said this project has been close to his heart, and that the team that put it together are looking forward to the film’s release.

“We’ve been passionate about this,” Butler said. “We always wanted to be able to put out content that’s meaningful.”

Mick Burke / MICHAEL BURKE, 

Ryan Brath, president and chief operating officer of Fischer USA, 3715 Blue River Ave., is shown in the new, 10,000-square-foot addition. The addition allowed the company to install two overhead cranes, including the one in the background here.

Problematic property at 2214 Washington sold

RACINE — The apartment complex at 2214 Washington Ave. has been sold to the Illinois developer that renovated an Anthony Lane complex.

Kinzie Racine, LLP — an offshoot of Evanston, Ill.-based Kinzie Realty Corp. — expanded into Racine in 2015 when it purchased and redeveloped apartment buildings on the once-blighted street now known as Anthony Lane (formerly known as Jacato Drive). In total, it owns and operate 340 units in the Maples complex.

The company purchased the Douglas Gardens at 1803 Douglas Ave. about 18 months ago, and the apartment complex next door to 2214 Washington, Parkview Manor, 2200 Washington Ave., last August.

Kinzie paid $1,065,000 for 2214 Washington Ave., according to the reported property transfer.

Company representative Charlie Clarke said they have almost finished renovating Douglas Gardens, are working on Parkview Manor and will start working on 2214 as well. He said they plan to work with the city to get the buildings up to code and get them to “safe, clean, leasable condition.”

“What we like to do is improve the properties we purchase. We like to create value so that, in the long run, we hope to have a profitable investment,” said Clarke. “Invest in them to get them to realize their potential as clean, safe apartment buildings.”

Clarke said 2214, which it owns under Kinzie 2214 LLC, already has quite a few vacancies; but for the remaining tenants, he said, they’re going to “honor all the leases that are in place.”

Once renovations are complete, Clarke said, Kinzie hires locally for on-site management and maintenance.

Still on the hook

The former landlord, Ratko or Rajko Sindjelic of Pleasant Prairie, had accrued $628,639.22 in forfeitures for failure to bring the building up to code 30 days after a multi-departmental inspection that found 38 building and plumbing code violation and 46 health code violations.

Attorney Nhu Arn, who handled the case for the City Attorney’s Office, said once the property is transferred, the owner can request a court date to ask for a reduction in the forfeitures, though that decision would be up to Municipal Judge Rob Weber.

Sindjelic is required to pay $300 a month toward the forfeiture. Failure to do so would result in the city sending the debt to a collection agency.