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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

CORE/El Centro: Impacting Global Healing

May 01, 2012 04:07PM ● By Linda Sechrist

(L-R) Madeline Gianforte, co-executive Director, Jayne Ader, co-executive Director, & Stephanie Calloway, Food & Health Coordinator

This grassroots organization is returning the world to its natural state of health and wholeness—one individual, one family and one community at a time.

We don’t accomplish anything in this life alone… and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something. ~ Sandra Day O’Connor

In the weaving of our life’s tapestry, hindsight gracefully offers us a higher perspective of the greater design of its patterns. In retrospect, we get to see when our threads of possibilities, unique talents, imagination and skills were destined to intersect with those of another weaver. If we were fortunate enough to be awake and open to the moment of intersection, we were blessed by grace to have understood that when those threads were interwoven, more than the fabric of our own lives was strengthened—it is through the intersecting and interweaving of these strands that we experience the greatest possibility for making a difference in the lives of others.

Only in retrospect is it obvious that the concept for CORE/El Centro had its design already woven into the hearts and minds of Madeline Gianforte and Jayne Ader, long before it was visible to human eyes.

Creating a ‘Core’ Model

The guidelines for a master’s degree in holistic health education from the John F. Kennedy University, in Campbell, California required Gianforte to include a plan that could be put into action. “I had to use my own story of healing as the basis for creating something that would allow others to heal,” says Gianforte, whose thesis described a “core” place where people of all classes and incomes could come together to benefit from natural health services and learn how to connect with the nucleus of their true self. “From experience, I knew that when people reach this place within, they naturally want to give of themselves to the world,” she explains.

More than 2,200 miles away in Milwaukee, Ader was attending a leadership conference and writing a five-year plan for nearly the same concept, which included ideas for how a community could become its own resource. After the conference, Ader began working at a free medical clinic for the uninsured. She also enrolled in and graduated from a massage school. “That’s where I learned just how powerful natural health therapies are,” says Ader.

Although both women attended a Call to Action conference in Milwaukee after Gianforte returned to the city in 2000 to rejoin her community, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Augustine, the two didn’t directly cross paths even though several individuals recommended that they meet. Thanks to a local radio program on breath work, Ader and Gianforte finally connected and began discussing their shared vision for offering individuals of all income levels access to natural healing therapies. Fortunately, Gianforte already had a grant for

Zumba attracts many in the community to enjoy exercise.
Zumba attracts many in the community to enjoy exercise.
launching the process for the CORE/El Centro concept. “I had the grant, and Jayne had the community connections, and she was already established in the healing work she was doing at the clinic,” says Gianforte.

Building Community through Healing

The women spent the following year networking, conducting focus groups, and working with Latino community leaders. By introducing individuals to natural healing modalities, they would determine if their outside-the-box concept for creating a strong sense of community was acceptable to the Southside Milwaukeeans they intended to serve. “We discovered that our community, which is 70 percent Latino, was already accustomed to having access to natural healing modalities such as massage and energy work,” advises Ader.

Not only did the women attract the support of the wider Latino community, they also drew to their dream the personnel needed to open the center, as well as the start-up funds. After securing a location on the fourth floor of the Esperanza Unida Building, in Milwaukee, they invited the Madison Street Clinic, a free clinic for the uninsured and underserved, to relocate to the same space. The clinic responded to the invitation and is now known as the Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic.

In 2004, The Healing Center, a program designed for those affected by sexual assault, moved to the fourth floor of the same building. Together, The Healing Center, Walker’s Point Community Clinic and CORE/El Centro, in the heart of Milwaukee’s Hispanic community, formed a healing collective and collaborative for the health and well-being of the Milwaukee community.

In 2007, a program committee identified eight programs that have organically evolved during the past five years: Integrative Health, Community Health and Fitness, Special Needs, Trauma and Recovery, Children’s Wellness, Thriving with Cancer, Leadership Development and Outreach Education. Combined, all programs of CORE/El Centro serve some 2,900 clients and provide approximately 26,000 one-on-one service hours annually. “My, how we’ve grown,” muse the women, who recall their first day in 2002. Sitting in a small, 300-square-foot room with a table, two chairs and one telephone line, they were surprised when the phone rang for the first time. “We looked at each other and wondered who was calling us,” says Gianforte. “In 2002, CORE/El Centro programs served only 60 individuals, with 600 service hours.”

Realizing Systemic Transformation

Today, CORE/El Centro programs are embraced by a variety of the community’s populations: women, men, children, individuals with chronic health issues and survivors of trauma and cancer. “The environment, which our community is creating with the contributions of a dedicated, professional staff and on average 100 volunteers who come to help every year, is one that integrates body, mind and spirit by nurturing self-healing and community well-being,” say the women, who add that the wellness plan offered there integrates conventional

CORE/EL Centro’s new home, one of the greenest buildings in the nation.
CORE/EL Centro’s new home, one of the greenest buildings in the nation.
medical care with natural healing practices and holistic exercise.

An exciting joint project of CORE/El Centro and Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic is Proyecto Salud, an initiative that has been underway in the Latino community since 2006. Creating new avenues for social change and fostering a community that embraces spiritual, mental and physical health, the project’s philosophy and ecological approach to public health is one of collaboration and civic capacity building. “We work to create avenues to shift the paradigm of ‘power over’ to ‘power with’ and ‘power within,’” explains Ader. The project addresses social determinants of health by taking into account neighborhood contexts, immigrant concerns and other systemic and institutional factors that influence health.

The latest stir of activity is CORE/El Centro’s new location, which it shares with The Healing Collective: CORE/El Centro, Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic and The Healing Center. Designed by developer Julie Kaufmann of Fix Developments, the building is one of the greenest in the nation. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett applauded the efforts of Kaufmann, who contributed, along with the tenants and donors, to transforming the vacant brownfield into a productive, environmentally sustainable “living” building with a rooftop garden, under the supervision of Stephanie Calloway, a master gardener. Calloway, who will be assisted by interns, will use the engagement model to help members of the community learn how to organically grow their food. “We’ll be showing them how to use container gardens, permanent beds and mobile containers. We are even hopeful that some of them may turn their gardening efforts into a mini-enterprise and sell their produce to their neighbors,” advises Calloway.

“We are seeing systemic change,” say Gianforte and Ader. “Individuals, families and communities are transforming themselves and restoring their world to a natural state of health and wholeness.”

CORE/El Centro, 130 W. Bruce St., Milwaukee. For more information, call 414-384-2673 or visit

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