Nominees will each receive a VISA gift card courtesy of Tundraland
RONNA SWIFT | Ronna has helped a Congolese refugee family and has gone above and beyond what many would do. She met the family at the Unitarian Fellowship and immediately became friends with them and helped them feel comfortable in the community. In the past year, she has:
Found out what they needed and outfitted them with mattresses, furniture, bedding, clothing, toys, buying some herself and asking friends to donate. She found 15 bikes for the kids of not only this family but another Congolese family as well.
She acts as a sounding board for them when they have problems or are suffering because of what is happening in their home country. Advocated for them with the school district and with Habitat for Humanity so they will have a Habitat Home! They really love her and she loves them!
MONICA CLARE – ST. JOSEPHS FOOD PROGRAM INC. | Imagine the problem you would have when a pandemic hits and you as the Executive Director and your agency is responsible for feeding 1000’s of people, managing backpack programs for school age children, a diaper program as well as several off chute food pantries. Well that’s what Monica found herself
dealing with back in March of 2020. She had to take a volunteer staff that normally distributed food indoors and moved them outdoors sometimes in sub zero temperatures. Not only did she accomplish that in a matter of days, she also constructed a completely new design to keep everyone safe in a system that is state of the art, user friendly and standardized for future use. She is remarkable and does not take credit for what she sees as the work of others. I think she is truly selfless and quite remarkable.
SUSIE VAN EKEREN | Susie is mom to 4 homegrown boys… AND 1000s of other children, teens and adults, teaching swim lessons to families in the Fox Valley. Keeping our community and backyards safe is not just a business. It’s been her passion for over 30 years. She graciously donates of her time and resources, offering countless scholarships to area families without the means to afford swim safety lessons. It has been her life’s mission to build strong and confident swimmers, both in and out of the water. And that love extends to her staff of over 60 teens and young adults; offering a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend and an open heart and home to all that know and work with her. She gives selflessly to her community in doing her part to heal every mind, body and spirit through her love of water. Please consider Susie Van Ekeren as our community Selfless Samaritan.
ANA & JUAN VALDEZ | Ana and Juan are a couple who are big believers in serving others. They make caring for their community a part of their everyday life. They are constantly sourcing beds for children, providing food for hungry families, assisting those facing evictions or those with no furniture or electricity, often out of their own pockets. They serve as Spanish translators. Most of all, they find ways of connecting and comforting others, bringing them hope. They speak up for injustices. They have been doing this actively for over 25 years,and we believe they are worthy of a Samaritin Award.
DAN VERMEULEN | For the past two years Dan has been driving to Portage to volunteer at the formerly closest chapter of a group that builds and gives free beds or bunk beds to any child that doesn’t have one. The beds are built out of wood by the group on build days where people volunteer to do all jobs necessary to make the bed components. All money received thru donations is used to this end. Dan also gets donations of mattresses and bedding including a pillow for the children in need. Dan then stores these beds, mattresses and bedding for the children at his home. Dan then receives notifications about children in need from various sources such as school social workers, community groups and the national group. A quick check is done and a delivery team of volunteers then schedules deliveries where the beds are brought to the child and assembled in their bedroom. As of March 18, 16 beds have been given to children in need.
The group has just become an active chapter in De Pere/Green Bay in February of 2021. Dan has spent countless hours of his time and money to make this group a reality not to mention using his home as the base of operations. The group just began and is made up of anyone in the community that wants to help. The group now has secured a building in De Pere to do their bed builds thru the generosity of the Amerilux Company and CEO Kurt Voss. The group has made 26 beds to date (all accounted for) in 2 builds and will have their next build on April 10 where they plan on making 40 beds. A summer build is also planned in conjunction with the national build day and a goal of at least 60 additional beds will be made then.
He definitely pays it forward and does this with passion and dedication. The goal is that No Child Sleeps on the floor in our town. Dan is a “THE PICTURE” of a selfless Samaritan. A nicer guy you will not meet. I know he will say that an award should be for the group but without Dan there is no group.
ST. MARK’S FOOD PANTRY | The St. Mark’s Food Pantry is run by a group of older generation women (80+ year olds- even one 91 year old) serving not only Neenah, but the surrounding areas. It is a small operation, but essential to the clients it serves. When the pandemic hit last March, the Food Pantry shut down for one week to research and establish new safety precautions. This was a tough decision to make, even for that one week. After guidance from local and state agencies, the pantry re-opened. The plan was centered not only on keeping our clients safe, but the volunteers. Instead of the clients coming into the church building to shop, the volunteers organized a drive thru food pantry. People drove under the church carport, a volunteer with a clipboard (menu) visited their vehicle and took their order. The order was brought in, the volunteers inside the pantry filled their order and another volunteer then put the groceries into their vehicle-no contact. All COVID19 safety precautions were followed with the handling of food and contact with clients. Some of clients are in the high risk category and coming out even to the food pantry was not feasible. Volunteers then began a no touch delivery to those individuals’ homes. To this day, this is the procedure the St. Mark’s Food Pantry is following. Volunteers were out taking orders, with welcoming smiles, through below zero temperatures and 40 mph winds The hope is to go back to the normal operational procedures, but until we can ensure safety for the clients and our volunteers, this will continue. The one downfall, is our volunteers & clients miss seeing each other and hearing about their family joys and hardships. Food insecurity has not lessoned during these times, only increased and are numbers have increased. Funding for the operation of the St. Mark’s Food Pantry comes primarily from our congregational members, along with local grants and the use of Feeding America products. The St. Mark’s people have truly stepped up this past year, to make sure the shelves and freezers are full. This was accomplished by hosting parking lot food drives and an increase in monetary donations.
KURT EGGEBRECHT | Kurt has served our community at the Appleton Public Health Dept. for over two decades. He had announced his retirement in early March 2020 right before Covid struck our community. In a selfless manner, he stayed on and tried to keep our community as safe as possible from the pandemic and mitigate it’s wrath. His decisions have been controversial at times and have not made everyone happy. I can only imagine the stress he has endured this last year. Although the burden, every time I saw him on the news I was comforted by his clarity and resolve to solving the problem of the pandemic and leading our community to better healthier days.
KATIE KEARNY | Katie is one of the most caring people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. After losing her brother, Pat Began, to suicide a decade ago, Katie has made it her mission to help school-age children who are struggling with mental health issues in Neenah. Along with her family, she established PBnJs. (https://pbnjs.net)
She also works at the high school level with the Sources of Strength program.
She is often present at Neenah High School working on projects for the entire student body to brighten their day. Katie is a ray of sunshine through the community.
LISA GEHLHOFF | I met Lisa a few years ago when she was the volunteer den mother for my son’s boy scouts troop. I was hesitant to put him in boy scouts, but I had heard wonderful things about Lisa. My son, who was in third grade at the time, really needed a few friends and some confidence. So I decided to go for it. From the moment I met her, I was astonished by her kindness and generosity.
Lisa is generous with her time. She volunteers for tons of activities, including boy scouts, her church, various shelters, and school functions. She offers to host activities or bake for various functions. I swear she doesn’t sleep!
Lisa is generous with her energy. She is constantly giving people a smile, a supportive word, and an uplifting message. Her energy is absolutely contagious, and it’s something everybody wants to catch.
Lisa is generous with her resources. She does 40 days of kindness during lent. EVERY DAY, she gives somebody a little something to make their day brighter. She certainly isn’t a rich woman, but she makes you feel like money is not a problem. She is generous with her love. She loves her two children and her husband endlessly. She also lives with her brother-in-law and her parentsin- law living under the same roof. Her brother-in-law has Down Syndrome, and she loves him and cares for him. Her in-laws are getting older, and she is always there to care for them. If you could see the way she throws around love, like it’s an endless resource, you’d be in awe.
On a personal note, I can tell you she’s always the person who offers to give my son a ride home or to bring me a coffee if she’s out running errands. She makes me a cake every year on my birthday…for no reason! She asks for nothing in return. She makes me laugh and she makes me feel important and loved. I know I’m not alone. She makes every person she encounters feel important. It’s magical.
I promise, if you ask around about this woman, everybody will same the same thing: Lisa Gehlhoff is the living embodiment of a good samaritan. She is selfless in every sense of the word. I truly hope you will consider her despite my shortcomings in describing her ardent generosity.
FOX VALLEY MEMORY PROJECT | Fox Valley Memory Project (FVMP) serves people living with dementia and their care partners. This nonprofit has done a great job of staying connected with those who used to gather at our memory cafes that were offered 9 times every month in different locations. Soon after the pandemic shut everything down, FVMP pivoted to using Zoom and it now offers a Zoomed memory cafe twice a week. It is a national leader in doing this. Each cafe has a different theme and is led by trained volunteers. We just had a memory cafe today to talk about “wind” and 11 people Zoomed with us. This afternoon, the On a Positive Note (OaPN) chorus will gather on Zoom to sing Irish songs in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. OaPN is a program of FVMP, also for folks living with dementia. In addition to these regular programs, FVMP has been creative in developing ways to have virtual field trips. People sign up, pay $10 for lunch, and then we deliver gift bags before the field trip containing lunch and souvenirs. For our last virtual field trip, we visited Door County and a camp in the north woods of WI. In addition to lunch, people received cherries and crescent rolls. We taught them how to make cherry handpies. For the north woods camp experience, everyone got a package of S’Mores Girl Scout Cookies. Throughout the pandemic, we have stayed in contact with people by phone, written notes, emails, and by delivering other goody bags. We have been able to obtain tablets for people who didn’t have them and we’ve taught them to use Zoom. This has been especially helpful to people in the middle stages of dementia who are enrolled in our Mindworks program which is now online. We have also conducted online support groups for care partners. This organization deserves the award for its creative efforts to connect with people living with dementia. Even before the pandemic, many were socially isolated because of the stigma of dementia. FVMP has worked hard to help people realize they live in a dementia-friendly community that cares about their well being.
JULIE GAMM | Julie is full of positive energy and gives tirelessly of her time. She is an active member of our church, serving on our Church Council as our Vice Moderator. She has traveled to Kenya as part of the Kenya Partnership Team and maintains active involvement with that committee in addition to sponsoring a Kenyan student, making it possible for that student to attend high school. Julie had dedicated countless hours to our refugee family as part of our Good Neighbor Team, maintaining personal contact with the family and supporting them with milestones in their lives such as weddings, graduations, and now new babies.
She and her husband serve meals at Pillars and donate time and money to numerous community agencies. When I needed someone to take notes during our Racial Equity Exploration Group Julie quickly volunteered and has done an incredibly thorough job of documenting our discussions in the past weeks.
As a former teacher she is motivated to continue learning and to help others as they learn and live. She has served as a mentor to young people at church and just this week I was asked to deliver a message to her from a fellow church member saying that she is her “hero.” Julie is loving, caring, enthusiastic and fun!
NAN PAHL | Social Services Team, Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay — The social services team at The Salvation Army was deemed an essential service provider when the pandemic began because the team provides basic needs services–food and shelter and other services. While we did close our doors and pivot how services were provided, the social services team never stopped coming into the office to make sure that basic needs were met in our community. The Salvation Army is an agency that depends on volunteers to help us do what we do for those in need. When the pandemic began, for the safety of our volunteers and our staff, we sent our volunteers home. The social services team made a commitment to one another that they would be safe, follow all guidelines and consider each other their family and not act to put each other at risk–especially in the beginning months when we did not know much about the virus and we knew we had a lot of work to do for our community.
Nan worked countless hours to reconfigure the free noon lunch program at the Salvation Army of Greater Green Bay’s Corps Community Center. The program served about 200 lunches daily (M-F) in a spacious, climate-controlled lunchroom indoors, BC (before Covid). Nan, her team, and volunteers transformed the distribution into a touchless drive-thru process in their parking lot. In every weather condition known to Wisconsin, the volunteers continue to give out an average approaching 300 meals a day. Five days a week. Rain, sleet, snow, or shine.
Nan, her staff and volunteers have relentlessly, and successfully, risen to every challenge posed by the pandemic. They persevere in order to meet the basic needs of our community, as well as provide some holiday happiness.
JAN & DAVID LaCOUNT | Dave and his wife Jan have lead the event called “Sunday Supper” for many years at our parish. It started as a Sunday evening FREE meal in our parish school gym once a month, that provided a free meal along with fellowship and music to bring joy to those who were maybe alone or low income, and it was open to anyone in the Appleton/Kimberly area communities. Even free transportation was provided to pick up people around Appleton and beyond and bring them to the supper. No need to be Catholic or a member of our parish community. When COVID hit Suppers became drive thru only. People line up in advance and pick up the meals they need. Even though the face to face community time is not currently possible, he and his crew continue to feed the people. The planning that goes into this, the logistics, the volunteers needed (20-25 for each meal), not only in the kitchen but sign ups to drop off desserts, etc. is quite amazing. It is a well oiled/organized event. We are blessed to have someone so committed to the needs of those in our greater community be part of our parish life. I think this award was named for them, as they would not want it. The LaCounts are Selfless Silent Samaritans. Currently, the Sunday Supper feeds approx. 300+, and they are held one or two times each month. This ongoing event has come to be so known is our parish and beyond that it has been consistently supported by individuals, families and companies, such as US Venture. Thank you for the opportunity to nominate this wonderful couple and their team in their volunteer efforts to be “Good silent selfless Samaritans and Disciples of Christ in our community.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – NEENAH SEWING GROUP | This group of approx. 15 women transformed a quilting group into
a sewing group that focused on creating facial masks for the Fox Cities community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In roughly six months, the group produced over 7,500 masks for individuals and small businesses in the Fox Cities and beyond, and became a significant supplier to the Wisconsin Face Mask Warriors network.
JEANETTE POTTS | Jeanette volunteers her time with Prevent Suicide Fox Cities providing care, support and compassion to people who have lost a loved one too soon to suicide. Jeanette is the co-facilitator of the Prevent Suicide Fox Cities suicide loss support group. This work involves meeting with families one on one initially to understand their loss and where they are presently on their journey of grieving, mourning and healing. Sometimes these initial meetings are three hours long and the people are at their most vulnerable moments and in the throes of grief so deep and so strong it is palpable. The concern for the mental health of those being seen runs deep as these folks are also at the highest risk of suicide themselves as they have just had a severe shock to their psyche and are experiencing shock, sadness and trauma. Jeanette knows the right words to say, the right behavior to use, and provides the gentle understanding they need to start to heal knowing it will take years. She expresses to these individuals that grief is hard work and that the hard work will pay off. She stays connected to these people 24/7 providing them with all of her contact information for when they might need it. She has gone above and beyond the work of a volunteer often speaking to the survivors in the middle of the night, going to their homes and visiting with them, meeting them if they are at risk where ever they may be. She has helped survivors stay alive by talking to them for hours in the middle of the night and also tracking the language someone was using that indicated they were stock piling medication to end their life. She was able to have them give her the medication and she disposed of it, shared the information with the family and this person received the care they needed. She is a friend to so many. When Jeanette says she has
your back, she has your back, she is a friend, a confidant and cohort that can be trusted. She is a volunteer extraordinaire. As mentioned, grief is hard work and Jeanette helps survivors walk their grief journey to healing so they can once again see the light and live their lives. She helps them to understand that healing from grief does not mean forgetting the loved one lost. She has helped many families and the recovery timeframe is usually about three years. The families move on from the support group and live. She has helped dozens of people work through their grief and live again, be able to laugh, enjoy the things they did prior to the death and move forward. It’s a remarkable process to witness and experience. She has also created an eight-week Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Book group that she facilitates to give survivors a deeper dive into their grief for greater understanding and healing. About 50 people have participated in this course offered each fall, even a hearing-impaired individual touched by suicide was able to attend with the aid of an interpreter. This eight-week course and support are offered free to the community. She is truly a gift to our community, she is a gift to the individuals and families she serves as a volunteer and she is a remarkable grandma, parent and friend. We are truly blessed to have her in our community.
JENNIPHER JANNES | Jenn is a wonderful social worker. I was a tenant at the COTS Women’s Program in Appleton, WI for 1.5 years. I graduated as a success. I hit rock bottom with my mental/physical health. Jenn is a great teacher and mentor. I’ve learned life-long skills and cultivated self-hope and self-resilience through this Amazing program that offers low-income housing and mental support.
Jenn Janness is a SUPER wonder person!
KAY ZASTROW & SUE KECKHAVER – BETHAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, GREEN BAY | Kay and Sue,(members of Bethel Lutheran Church) have spent the months since March, 2020 putting together services on YOU TUBE for the members of Bethel Lutheran Church, 1350 Bond Street, Green Bay, WI 54303. This has included arranging and taping readers from the congregation, pianist/organist and three ladies to sing, pastors from area churches, and occasionally, Kay, has given sermons. This has enabled members of the Bethel Lutheran Church to partake through YOU TUBE, our ELCA Lutheran services every Sunday, Advent services, and also Lenten services currently . This has helped enormously to keep our members together during this Covid pandemic as we are not able to attend our church in person.
Bible study offered and great educational lessons to all ages.
Pastor Jon Kuske is a great mentor in the Fox Valley. Help and support to all.
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, NEENAH | Svdp recently moved their pantry into the store and expanded it. They brought in freezers and refrigerators, offer hygiene products and they continue to practice safe social distancing by offering contactless donating. They go above and beyond to thank their volunteers and staff.
THE VILLAGE – FOX VALLEY COVID-19 ASSISTANCE FACEBOOK GROUP | Laura Kuehl started a Facebook page in September, 2020, when numbers of positive cases were rising. The purpose was to provide shopping/meals help to individuals or families who were in quarantine who didn’t have family or friends in the area to help them out. Laura would screen the needs and then post on the FB page about the needs and create a mealtrain. Volunteers could do a contactless meal or grocery delivery or Instacart a grocery order to recipients home. There haven’t been needs identified since November, when numbers began going down. Here is the introduction to the Facebook page: This page is dedicated to the immediate needs created by coronavirus. If you are sick and without a village, we are here to support you! Primarily a network for meal trains, our members are excited to lift your burden. We may also help deliver medications, a few groceries, or other needs at your doorstep – all stigma free.
Helpers: First, you’re amazing. Thank you! When you see a post please feel free to do as much or as little as you’re able. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you post it so we all know what’s being taken care of. Drop offs MUST be contactless. You will drop items off at the door and walk away. Where to leave items will be in the original post. Feel free to post photos of your drop offs, too. We all love a heartwarming community help story. Be sure to include only what you’ve left on the ground, with no possibility of identifying which home or neighborhood it came from.
VICKI VOGEL – THEDACARE MASK MAKERS | When the pandemic began, a group of volunteers came together to sew masks, under the direction of Vicki Vogel and Jean Blaney McGinnis, who oversees Thedacare’sCommunity Health area. The group has grown to over 300 volunteers. 35-40 of the volunteers have been certified in the sewing and/or inspection of medical grade masks. The remaining volunteers are involved in making cotton masks that are dropped at various locations in the community. Volunteers are involved in all different facets of mask making, from material procurement, cutting, sewing, scissors sharpening, ironing, driving materials between volunteers, inspection of masks, etc. People of all skill levels have come together to ensure our essential workers and others at-risk in the community have masks.
STEPHANIE BOWERS – JAKE’S NETWORK OF HOPE | Jake’s Diapers started with a primary focus of providing cloth diapers to orphanages in third world countries who were using and reusing disposable diapers and plastic grocery bags for diapers. They have evolved over the years and are now the largest diaper bank in the nation. But, they are so much more, and Covid brought that to light. When Covid hit, people found themselves without money to purchase hygiene items, whether that was period products, diapers or incontinence supplies. Some elderly found that folks had stockpiled incontinence supplies and the store shelves were bare, or, the pandemic made it hard for them to go to the store to get their incontinence supplies. Enter Jake’s Diapers, now Jake’s Network of Hope. They pivoted to offering drive through services to puck up incontinence supplies for folks in need. They spearheaded fund-raising efforts to enable them to purchase more diapers, period products and incontinence supplies. They worked with local, statewide and national nonprofits to help meet basic hygiene needs of vulnerable populations, and those financially impacted by the pandemic, and unable to buy these basic necessities. They even worked with organizations to provide toys for children who were feeling down due to the pandemic, to bring a bit of joy to their world. Additionally, Jake’s depends on their volunteer corps to get things done, many of whom are retired folks, who were unable to help due to stay at home orders. So more work had to get done with many fewer people. A look at their Facebook page (Jake’s Network of Hope), and their posts since 3/2020 sheds a bright light on the amazing things accomplished. In 2020 13,427 children were diapered, 612,989 disposable diapers were distributed, 491,002 period products were distributed, 542,274 adult care essential products were distributed, 10,174 cloth diapers were distributed, with 36,598 lives being impacted by this local non profit with a big heart! While I do not know exactly how these numbers differ from 2019, I do know the demand was up significantly from 2019, as people were unable to afford these essential products, or were unable to get out yo find them. They even moved to a larger warehouse facility in early 2021 to accommodate their growing inventory of products.
STEFANIE ELDREDGE | Stefanie has helped our entire school deal with COVID this year. She works countless hours, and does it all for the children. Stefanie NEVER complains or shuns away from work. Stefanie is a team player, and Wild Rose Schools became a better place of education when she joined our team. Stefanie puts children’s needs above her own and has put kids needs first. She never misses work, and is dependable in every way possible.