Al Ripp, a compassionate leader.
Mr. Middleton. The very best of our community. The right Dad for MOM. The kindest person you will ever meet. Role model. A community hero, and friend. Those are just a few of the words that have been used to describe Al Ripp over the past weeks.
Our hearts broke when we heard that Al Ripp, Executive Director of Middleton Outreach Ministry, passed away unexpectedly on June 14, 2017.
Al took leadership of MOM in the spring of 2013, just a few weeks after announcing his retirement from TDS Telecom. MOM had been searching for exactly what Al would deliver - stability, integrity, compassion and energy. Al had spent a lifetime living and making connections in the greater Middleton community and he was ready to share his passion for MOM’s mission in a way that only he could.
“Al lived and worked his entire life in Middleton and as a result was an incredible ambassador for MOM,” said Tim Carey, former MOM Board Member. “Al brought to MOM a very long, historical presence in and love for everything Middleton.”
Tim continued, “Al could walk into almost any setting and instantly make a connection. His warm personality and passion for MOM helped him engage with clients, volunteers, donors and the community at large. No matter who you were, Al had an uncanny ability to find common ground.”
Al began his work at MOM just months after MOM purchased a new building and moved to a consolidated campus on Parmenter Street. The organization left behind a small downtown office and a separate food pantry located in the Middleton Business Park. It was a time of tremendous change, excitement, and possibility.
“The first week on board, I took Al to a capital campaign seminar,” said Jim Hartlieb, former MOM Board Member. “We hired Al at the beginning of MOM's first and only capital campaign. It would be a $1.5 million effort to purchase and renovate a new home for MOM, and we knew that it would be a significant challenge.”
He continues, “In typical Al fashion, he smiled, rolled up his sleeves and got to work.” Four years later, the capital campaign had paid for the building and MOM was on solid financial ground.
As our community experienced ever-increasing need, MOM, under Al’s guidance, continued to inspire a community of givers and volunteers to join the mission to prevent homelessness and end hunger. MOM doubled the amount of food distributed from 2012-17 and expanded services in the Clothing Center and case management programs. Al promoted MOM’s seniors programming and guided several important and popular seasonal programs. In 2016 alone, 1,500 volunteers gave nearly 40,000 hours of service throughout the organization.
“Al was always looking to the future, and anticipating how MOM could grow and evolve to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” said Ellen Carlson, Marketing and Communications Manager. “He took pride in MOM’s innovative model and was constantly looking for ways to improve operations to bring more value and hope to clients.”
On any given day, one might have seen Al out and about all over Middleton, Cross Plains and Madison, from early morning until late into the evening. If one happened to catch him in the office, even if he hadn’t had a chance to sit down, a single request for help from any volunteer or staff member would be met with a smile, and a “of course, what can I do?” He also spent time with clients of MOM, listening and learning. Al was always quick to emphasize that MOM’s job was to serve clients’ needs first.
Said Donna, a MOM client, “He was always asking how he, and others at MOM, could be of better service to us. He had a big heart, and an ear to hear everyone’s situation.”
Al would also count as one of his most important achievements finding, retaining and working with a tremendous staff. A quiet, confident and compassionate leader, his team counted him as friend and mentor.
“Whether it was encouraging us or taking time out of a busy day to pull up a chair and listen to our ideas, Al was our biggest supporter,” said Ellen.
Al has left us, but his legacy radiates throughout our community – and far beyond -- to the thousands who counted him as a friend, or benefited from his constant smile and steady presence.
This past week, Kristi, a MOM supporter commented, “I don't think it is an overstatement to say that Al was the very best of Middleton.”
Al’s humble response would have reminded us that in fact, each of us are the very best of this community. He was always the first to note that simple acts of kindness and generosity, no matter the size, can make a true and honest difference in someone’s life. May his legacy inspire each of us to be that difference.
Help MOM Honor Al’s Legacy-
If you asked Al over the past few months if MOM was raising funds for a special project, he would quickly answer, “Yes, the parking lot!”
When MOM began a capital campaign in 2013 to raise funds for our new building, it was important to first pay off the building loan. As time went on, however, it became increasingly clear that the parking lot was becoming a safety issue for clients, volunteers and visitors. Water damage, combined with heavy usage by cars and semi-trucks, have made the parking lot an urgent issue. Al was always concerned that everyone who came to MOM, many with limited mobility, could do so safely.
In memory of Al and his practical and compassionate way, and with the enthusiastic support of his family, we will be using donations made in Al’s memory to fund the renovation of MOM’s parking lot, which is scheduled to begin this summer.
Please consider making a donation in Al’s memory today:
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