By Kevin Brown, Interim Managing Editor – Lake Mills Leader


When Laura Pennington, co-owner of Bartel’s Landing, relocated to Lake Mills from the Chicago, Ill., area, she brought with her her Christian passion for a unique community giving program called “Community Purse.”


“After our daughter graduated, we decided to move here a year ago,” Pennington said. “The desire to open a chapter of Community Purse also arrived with me. Women in my former church created a ‘giving circle.’ They pooled their resources to commit a specific amount to charities nominated by members.”

That original group commits $400 per person annually toward the philanthropic organization. With about 150 members, that group in Illinois raises about $60,000 total with $15,000 awarded each quarter following a presentation by invited charity and nonprofit groups.

“That $15,000 can be very impactful,” Pennington said.

Pennington said that Carolyn Dunn, founder of Community Purse, asked her to see about starting a local Lake Mills chapter.

“I had been praying to make a difference here,” Pennington said. “Community Purse fit a lot of what I was looking for. It is low involvement but high impact.”

Members of the Lake Mills chapter of Community Purse

She started by inviting 150 people to attend an interest meeting. Of those invitees, 30 attended. Those 30 people chose 12 confirmed charities, all in Jefferson County.

“Three charities present at each meeting,” she said. “Each presentation is about 10 minutes. From those three, the members will vote which charity will receive the donation.”

Members of the local chapter commit $200 annually to Community Purse. With about 30 members now partnering, the local chapter raises about $6,000 total with a quarterly dispersal of $1,500. The group is only open to women right now, but Pennington said she is filling to gauge interest in starting a men’s group.

“I have been approached by a man in Watertown who heard about our program,” she said. “There may be interest in starting a men’s chapter there. I would be happy to get them started.”

Members meet at the Lewis Station Winery, 217 N. Main St., Lake Mills, from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. four times a year. They gathered together for the first time in November 2016, and have met also on Feb. 2, May 11, with the next meeting on Aug. 3.

“We meet at 6 p.m. for a social hour and enjoy wine and tapas,” Pennington said. “The meeting and presentations begin at 7 p.m. The social hour costs $15 per person. The meetings last about two hours’ total.”

The three organizations that presented May 11 where Community Dental Clinic of Jefferson, the Rainbow Hospice Foundation and Club 55 — Lake Mills Senior Center. Previous awardees also acknowledge how they used the funds, she added.

“The goal is to have 50 members and a quarterly giving award of $2,500,” Pennington said.

“We are simply a group of like-minded women commanded to be rich in good deeds and to share our blessings with those less fortunate. God commands us to do this.”

While most members are from the Lake Mills area, Pennington said women from Cambridge, Fort Atkinson, etc. are more the welcome to join.

“It all brings awareness and badly needed funds,” she said. She added that with Community Purse there are no committees, no raffles and no auctions to organize.

“It is truly low involvement and a great opportunity for women to network,” she said. “Many gain insight and a lot of women are moved to get involved (with organizations that present). For example, one of our members stepped up for the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program.”

For more information on this program, please contact Pennington at [email protected],
visit the group’s Facebook page at
or its website at chapter/.