Bader Philanthropies, Inc. invests in people and their communities, here in Milwaukee, across Wisconsin, and in places throughout the world. The Foundation continues the legacy of Helen Daniels Bader’s passion for people, while furthering Isabel and Alfred Bader’s shared interests.
Bader Philanthropies embraces Cultural Intentionality, which promotes seeing ourselves and others as unique human beings in a cultural context. We aspire to understand people by seeing the integration of their personal uniqueness along with their associated group and cultural norms. As a solutions driven organization, the Foundation embraces continuous improvement to be intentional in fairness, diversity, equality, respect and culture. Although, it is an ongoing effort to intentionally understand each other, we strive to work with the community, our neighbors, our grantees, our contractors, our vendors, our board and our staff to further develop our Cultural Intentionality.
In 2018, the Foundation moved from the Historic Third Ward office into a fully renovated, state of the art global headquarters in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood. The facility builds on a multi-decade commitment to meaningful connections. To deepen its roots in the neighborhood, Bader Philanthropies renovated a historic Harambee building which now houses Sam’s Place, an African American owned eatery and jazz café; Shalem Healing, an integrated and holistic care facility that provides quality health care for the uninsured and underinsured; and Refua Medicinals, a blend of traditional Chinese medicine and modern nutritional science that Shalem Healing’s founder Dr. Robert Fox created. The building was recently named the Harpole Building, in honor of Reuben and Mildred Harpole who practiced the Harambee neighborhood’s Swahili translation, “all pull together,” in their many efforts to transform the world and make it a better place to live.
From a small-town upbringing to working with some of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable individuals, Helen Daniels Bader lived out a passion for aiding and lifting others.
Born in South Dakota, as the daughter of a pharmacy proprietor, Helen Daniels brought a strong work ethic when she headed east to attend Milwaukee’s Downer College. Not long after graduation, she met and married Alfred Bader. Together, they raised two sons while working to build the Aldrich Chemical Company into one of Wisconsin’s most successful entrepreneurial efforts of the 20th Century.
After a divorce, Helen was determined to set out on a new life path. She took up violin lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and she committed herself to completing a Master’s in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During her studies, her field work with Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee brought her up close to the crises of families and individuals facing mental illness, poverty, and homelessness.
Helen’s first social work position affected her deeply. Her role at the Milwaukee Jewish Home (now known as Ovation Communities) demonstrated the everyday challenges of older residents living with dementia. Although Alzheimer’s disease was more of a mystery at the time, Helen sought to bring joy into the residents’ lives through dance and music, believing that creativity had the power to strike a chord deep within all of us.
Following her death in 1989, Helen’s dreams for enhancing the lives of individuals were soon realized by the creation of the Helen Bader Foundation. For more than two decades, the Foundation worked to link and support partners that strengthen families across Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Israel, and occasionally in places beyond.
Canadian-born, Isabel Overton, brought a passion for drama and poetry; Austrian-born, Alfred Bader, had fled the Nazis and appreciated the finer points of Dutch art. Their relationship would intertwine over the span of decades, bringing together two individuals with varied interests, but who shared a belief in the power of arts, faith, and justice.
For Isabel, the daughter of a northern Ontario family, the spoken word was a connection to a wider world. Drama and poetry gave her the confidence to stand before others, so after graduating from Victoria University in Toronto, she went to England, where she taught schoolchildren and shared her love for performance.
For Alfred, art, faith, and chemistry were his guiding lights. As a Jewish teen who fled the spreading Nazi threat in late -1930s Europe, he came to North America, not only to survive, but to also hone his scientific talents and work toward a better life.
Isabel and Alfred’s first encounter was aboard a transatlantic voyage to England in 1949, but they went on to build separate lives. Isabel pursued a teaching career, while Alfred devoted his efforts to starting a family and building a business in the U.S. Three decades later, they would eventually reconnect, with their interests refined by their life experiences.
Just as Isabel’s commitment to drama and poetry lifted her sights, she believes the performing arts should captivate audiences, as well as elevate those on stage. Her personal passion for the performing arts has helped reach young audiences and built new venues to showcase the best the arts have to offer.
Alfred’s early personal experience with intolerance shines a light on those working to overcome injustice across the world. At home, building a business during some of Milwaukee’s most turbulent times emphasized the need for ensuring opportunity for all citizens. For youth, struggling families, and the unemployed, there are various needs across the community, while faith and values play a key role in lasting personal change.