Bader Philanthropies commits itself to Harambee neighborhood


MILWAUKEE — Did you know that a catalyst is a substance that causes a chemical reaction?

The Bader family most certainly knows what a catalyst is – the family was deeply involved with the early years of Sigma-Aldrich Corp., a large chemicals company. Alluding to that history, Dan Bader talked Monday of how the family wants Bader Philanthropies to be “a catalyst for change.”

Bader spoke to more than 100 city officials, community leaders and board members at a groundbreaking ceremony for Bader Philanthropies’ new headquarters. The plan is to bring change for the better to the underdeveloped Harambee neighborhood, starting with the organization’s new home.

Dan Bader is president and CEO of Bader Philanthropies.


The organization is to move in the summer of 2018 from its current location, 233 N. Water St., to its new site in Harambee, at 3318 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Bader imagines the organization engaging with the community there. To foster that, the building will include a conference center.

The conference center will be available to Bader Philanthropies’ community partners and grantees for the purpose of convening people around issues of interest to the community, said spokeswoman Lisa Ehlke. The facility will have state-of-the-art technology, including video conferencing.

New meeting space there will double the Foundation’s current convening capacity, Ehlke said. The maximum convening capacity in the new building will be 150 people.

The new Bader Philanthropies headquarters in Harambee will be at 3318 N. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.


In all, it’s a $9.5 million project. The Bader family is paying for the construction and renovation, according to Ehlke. This means that the foundation’s grantees will not be impacted at all by the project, she added.

Total square footage will be 22,000, which will include renovating an existing building and a smaller addition.

“It’s easy to serve in glass towers and serve the peasants,” said an appreciative alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, of Milwaukee’s sixth district, speaking at the groundbreaking. “It’s another thing to put your headquarters right in the middle of the community that needs you so much.”

She said it has been a struggle attracting redevelopment to Harambee, which is just west of Riverwest in Milwaukee.

“Harambee is Swahili for let’s pull together,” she said, indicating that it’s time to do just that.

Bader Philanthropies has an unwavering commitment to working with the black community, said Frank Cumberbatch, project manager. He noted several minority contractors who have been recruited to work on the project.

Bader Philanthropies has an unwavering commitment to working with the black community, said Frank Cumberbatch, project manager.


Bader Philanthropies, formerly known as the Helen Bader Foundation, is a Milwaukee-based philanthropic organization. Areas of interest have included healthy aging, youth development, unemployment, education, creative arts and Judaism.

The organization has awarded 630 grants totaling $31 million in Israel over the last 25 years, according to Ehlke. Most of the organization’s work is in the United States and Wisconsin.

Mayor Tom Barrett spoke, thanking Dan Bader at the groundbreaking on behalf of the city.

“If you pause for a moment, regardless of what your religion is, regardless of what you believe … (and wonder) why are we here, why are you here, why are we all here?” he said. “I believe we are here for a purpose. I believe we are here for other people.”

The goal, the mayor said, should be to try to make this a better planet, city and state. He added, “I believe Bader Philanthropies embodies that core belief.”

Harambee is just west of Riverwest in Milwaukee. This is North Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, near the construction. Photos by Rob Golub.