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United Way’s Volunteer Center Announces 2018 Volunteer Nominees

This year the Volunteer Center received 46 nominations for volunteer recognition for the 2018 Volunteer Breakfast that will be held April 17, 2018 at the Hotel Mead.  Each volunteer - and volunteer group – that was nominated will receive a certificate and special recognition during the event.  Wisconsin Rapids Mayor Zach Vruwink will give a proclamation for National Volunteer Week, which will be April 15 – 22, 2018.  We thank our event sponsor, Gannett Foundation; and also Hotel Mead for hosting this year’s event.


Joe Ancel:  Joe is the co-founder and current Chairman of Clean Green Action working on environmental and sustainability projects in the Wisconsin Rapids area.  Clean Green Action is a local grassroots group dedicated to creating a sustainable community through education, recycling and conservation efforts.

Alexander Middle School Morning Greeters: This group of volunteers takes time to greet students and staff at Alexander Middle School (AMS) with a smile! The connections with the students that are made by this dedicated team is making a positive difference in the atmosphere at AMS! The staff at AMS can’t thank them enough for spreading the joy they bring.

Association for All Handicap Citizens Special Event Helpers: The Association for All Handicap Citizens Board would like to recognize four volunteers that help at every social activity that is put on for special needs people. They are always willing to help and hardly ever say “no.” They have always been there for the clients and deserve recognition. The board cannot thank them enough; especially for their help at the monthly dances.

Backpack for Kids: The Backpack for Kids program has been in existence since March of 2010. As of right now they are filling 28 backpacks full of food for the weekend; which helps a total of 139 people. Inside the backpack there is enough food for two dinners, two breakfasts, nutritional snacks and a $12.00 voucher for the local Piggly Wiggly for perishable items.

David Ballerstein: David is a wonderful volunteer who goes above and beyond the call of duty. At Wisconsin Rapids Community Media, he is an IT person, videographer, producer and engineer. David produces his own show "Day Trip in Wisconsin" on a monthly basis along with other numerous programs throughout the year.

Lisa Borre: Lisa puts in countless hours attending both Board and Meal Team meetings monthly as she performs her role as liaison for The Neighborhood Table. Lisa makes herself available, often stopping in at The Neighborhood Table meals to lend a helping hand or share a meal with guests. She goes above and beyond assisting the Meal Team with their efforts in providing a hot meal and friendly atmosphere for guests to enjoy with their family and friends. Her caring personality and warm smile makes everyone’s day a little brighter.

Scott Brueggen: Scott has been a volunteer with Heartland Hospice for a year. Scott has a huge heart for giving back and spending time with those who enjoy visitors. Scott enjoys singing and going for walks with patients which brightens their days. Scott is always finding ways to bring smiles to patients and families. Scott is always dependable and great with communication! The Heartland Hospice team, patients, and families appreciate the time that Scott spends with patients each week making a difference.

Central Wisconsin STEM Academy Governance Council:  The Central Wisconsin STEM (CWS) Academy Governance Council graciously donates their time and energy to help create opportunities for students to learn in a different way. They guide this project-based STEM school by making decisions about sustainability and instruction with CWS! On behalf of the families you serve, Thank you!

Theresa Chao:  Theresa began her duties as a meal coordinator at The Neighborhood Table soon after the program began in 2003. She works with sponsors from beginning to end, planning and executing her meals with precision. Everyone working with Theresa will find their experience at The Neighborhood Table satisfying and rewarding. She takes the time to visit with guests and makes them feel welcomed at each meal. Theresa is compassionate and willing to step in anywhere she is needed. The Neighborhood Table is fortunate to have her as part of their meal team.

Bill Clendenning: Bill founded and leads the “Choose to Reuse” effort in the Grand Rapids township. Citizens donate unused items which are then claimed by others who have a use for them. This keeps tons of usable items out of the landfill.

Mary Dahm: Mary volunteers her time as the secretary for the Clean Green Action Group.  Clean Green Action is a local grassroots group dedicated to creating a sustainable community through education, recycling and conservation efforts.

Carol Davis:  Carol is the founder and leader of the Recycling Rangers that makes recycling containers available to community events and provides a crew that separates recyclables from waste. Tons of materials have been recycled rather than ending up in the landfill.

Jennifer Dolan: Jen started and has been very involved in gleaning - or recovering unsold produce - from the local Farmer’s Market which is transported to The Neighborhood Table and South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf for redistribution to families in need.   Gleaning is the process of harvesting leftover produce in order to use again.  At the Farmer’s Market, produce that is deemed edible but not sellable for another day is donated.

Jennifer Dolan: Even though Jennifer is now completely disabled, she continues to do what she can for her community. Jennifer primarily works behind the scenes supporting the Central Wisconsin Literacy Council through fund development, writing and editing. Jennifer has been a constant force for positive change in south Wood County and she continues to make an impact on the community through the many projects she supports.

The Family Center’s Donation Team:  The Family Center’s Donation Team is the greatest! They organize, sort and systemize all donated items from generous community members, throughout the entire year. This is vital for providing clothing, household items, and food to the many outreach clients and shelter residents. Because of their dedication, The Family Center is able to serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and supply them with all they need for free. Between the six of these amazing ladies, they have logged not only more than 2,300 hours of volunteer service, but service with a smile. Thank you for all you do!

David Gorski: David started and organizes a bi-annual summit called “The New People Environmental Summit” which brings speakers and environment groups together to network and share information. The first summit was held in October of 2017 at Ho-Chunk Gaming Nekoosa.  Speakers presented on a number of topics such as environmental protection, food sovereignty, and “foodscaping” which is landscaping that grows food.  The summit also included a traditional Native American lunch consisting of buffalo, rice, white corn mush and cranberries.  The summit is dedicated to the idea of protecting the earth for future generations.

Steve Hessel: Steve has been a volunteer for Heartland Hospice for over three years. Steve has a heart for making a difference and providing support for patients and families. Steve is always going the extra mile with volunteering extra, sitting vigil at the bedside with patients during their final hours, providing support for families, and volunteering at all hours during the day and night. The Heartland Hospice team and families are very appreciative of the time Steve spends with the patients.

Historic Point Basse Master Gardener Volunteers: These Master Gardener Volunteers are starting their seventh season at Historic Point Basse. They will again be taking care of the certified monarch station, bee and butterfly garden, “quilt block garden,” and historic vegetable gardens. The volunteers not only plan and maintain the gardens, but teach about gardening at every opportunity. Along with demonstrating at events, they participate in over 350 school visits where they invite students to identify, feel and taste the plants, and learn about pollination. Each year they plant extraordinary crops that can be used on-site, like peanuts, broom corn, flax, cotton, mushrooms and more.

Sandy Hoefling: Sandy displays a servant heart to make a difference in many ways to the students, staff and families at Immanuel Lutheran School. If staff needs an extra hand for recess duty or help with special projects, Sandy is willing to push up her sleeves and accomplish the task with a smile on her face. She is willing to take the time for students if they need help with academics or just be there to lend a supportive ear. Sandy is truly a humble and self-sacrificing person.

The Honeybees: LeAnn Gotz started The Honeybees musical group in 2005. She, Clara Elsen and others play and sing, bringing old-time accordion music to many assisted living facilities and nursing homes in the Wisconsin Rapids area. The Honeybees are a favorite among residents at Hilltop Affiliates.

Chris Jardine: Chris Jardine has been a long-time member of the Boy Scouts of America’s Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Exploring Program. Chris’s explorer post works extensively in the engineering and technology fields, including software and hardware skills training.  He also has always been heavily involved with district events. He helps staff at Cub Scout camporee summer events and takes care of all of the finances every year.  He always attends - and contributes to - the Ahdawagam District Committee meetings offering his ideas and advice. The Ahdawagam District covers the south Wood County and Adams County areas of the Boy Scouts Samoset Council.  Chris has always had a positive attitude and has been encouraging to all!

Ron and Deb Krings: Ron is on the Board of Directors for the South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf, or SWEPS. Ron and his wife Deb volunteer every morning at the pantry doing whatever needs to be done. Their main focus is processing all the produce that comes in through a direct connect program; and showing new volunteers the ropes. They also help with processing bulk items, checking in donations, stocking shelves, and help with Mobile Food Pantries. Ron and Deb are also involved in many other ways around the community as volunteers.

Clara Kubisiak: Clara was a founding member of the Wisconsin Rapids Bird City certification and an active volunteer in Bird City projects and events.  The Mission of Wisconsin Rapids Bird City is “To encourage all communities in Wisconsin to implement sound bird conservation practices by offering public recognition to those that succeed in (a) enhancing the environment for birds and (b) educating the public about the interactions between birds and people and about the contributions birds make to a healthy community.”

Learning for Life Reading Mentors at Mead Elementary Charter School: Mead Elementary Charter School would like to nominate 26 community members who come into the school and read with students weekly. The Learning for Life Reading Mentor program is an important part of Mead School. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday you'll see the library buzzing with students reading to mentors. These mentors are building relationships, being role models, and sharing compassion with students just by opening up a book and spending some time together. The staff at Mead School appreciates the time they give to the students and are honored to have them be a part of the school.

Learning for Life Reading Mentors at Port Edwards Elementary School: The Learning for Life Reading Mentors have become such an important part of the elementary school. There are nine wonderful women who serve the students by volunteering to read. Not only do they help give these kids an extra boost academically, they are positive role models that give them individual attention and love. The students love the hugs from these volunteers just as much as they love reading with them!

Lincoln High School Sportainment Night Organizers: Desiree Alu, Cassidy Kohls, and Bryson Einerson were the leaders of this year’s Sports and Entertainment Marketing Class. These three individuals and their classmates organized Sportainment Night - a night of fun and entertainment in conjunction with a basketball game. These students organized and promoted the event in order to raise money for a Lincoln High School alumni who was severely injured in a car accident and was left with a lifetime of rehabilitation needs. The goals for their event included the following: community involvement, increased attendance at the basketball game, improved school spirit, creating awareness for distracting driving, and raising funds for someone in need. Overall, the event was a success and the students were able to raise $11,226.

Mystique Macomber:  Mystique is a wonderful volunteer at Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre (WRCT). Aside from performing on stage, she has worked as a stage manager, an usher, and worked concessions for shows. She makes herself available whenever needed at WRCT, and that’s why the staff wants to nominate her for recognition during the Volunteer Breakfast.

Don Mancl: Don Mancl is a very humble man. He is very active in the community and has been instrumental in keeping the Growing Friends Community Gardens neat. He regularly weeds the pathways, adds mulch and takes care of the compost bins and watering system. He is at the garden working nearly every day of the growing season. This is just one of a multitude of volunteer activities that he is involved with and why he is so deserving of being recognized. The following is a list of the numerous other organizations he volunteers for on a regular basis: Ruby’s Pantry, the Mobile Pantry, South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf, The Neighborhood Table, Special Olympics, Toys for Tots, the Association For All Handicap Citizens, and United Way of Inner Wisconsin.

Taylor Mancl: Taylor is a Sophomore at Lincoln High School. She has earned 120 volunteer hours over the last year through youth softball and basketball camps, Caring Closet, The Neighborhood Table, Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign, Winnie the Pooh Visits at Aspirus Riverview Hospital as well as numerous local recreational tournaments and banquets. Taylor was a very active member of East Ambassadors while at East Junior High and is currently part of the Teen Leadership 2.0 program.

Diane and Jim Nickel:  Diane and Jim produce the Historic Point Basse program for Wisconsin Rapids Community Media on a monthly basis along with City Band and Fire Memorial events. They have learned how to use the media lab to edit and produce their own shows.

Opportunity Development Center (ODC) Community Connect/Job Volunteering Group:  Every Monday afternoon, volunteers from ODC come and work on projects at Mead Elementary Charter School. The teachers and staff appreciate the extra set of hands to get projects complete. These volunteers and ODC staff members work on all sorts of projects from sorting, cutting, stapling, box-tops, and a couple even stay to help with the after-school program. Without the volunteers from ODC, many of these projects wouldn't get done. Thank you for helping the school and always being so positive while you are there!

Port Edwards Elementary School Reading Volunteers:  The reading volunteers consist of community members that give of their time to come into the school and read to kids. The morning reading volunteers come weekly to the before-school program to read to students. There are also volunteers that come in during the school day and volunteer their time reading with kids. Having these community members in the school is invaluable to our teachers and students alike.

Rick Potter:  Rick volunteers his time as Treasurer of the Clean Green Action Group. Clean Green Action is a local grassroots group dedicated to creating a sustainable community through education, recycling and conservation efforts.

Random Acts of Kindness Committee of Name It Claim It Stop It: These young people give of their free time every month to do at least one major “Random Act of Kindness” every month for the whole school at Lincoln High School. These activities so far have included notes on every student's locker, a “Kindness Tree” in the front lobby with hand written notes for students to take or give to someone else, recognition of staff and students in the building, notes on the bathroom mirrors and throughout the building reminding students how special each one is, and more. They are trying to create a positive environment at the school with students and staff.

Veronica Royer: Veronica came to the Central Wisconsin Literacy Council before she retired from Skyward and said that she would be retiring soon and that she wanted to help out. As soon as she retired, she joined our team.  She also joined the Board of Directors and was voted in as Treasurer. She has worked tirelessly to modernize the accounting system and raise money for the organization. She deserves thanks for her hard work and dedication through the chaotic change of a new Board and Executive Director.

Ruby’s Pantry Leadership Team at Immanuel Lutheran School:  This leadership group is responsible for the coordinated efforts to distribute food to people in the greater Wisconsin Rapids community monthly on every third Saturday at the Boys and Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area - Pitsch Center. This group has been providing this service for three years to the families who participate in this program each month.

Diane Scheunemann:  Diane joined the American Red Cross as a disaster volunteer in May 2017. Since that time, Diane has supported disaster clients locally by responding to home fires in Wood County and nationally by deploying to Florida for Hurricane Irma and California for the wildfires near Napa and Sonoma. Diane continues to develop her skills by training to support the Home Fire Campaign, which aims to install smoke alarms in homes that need them. Diane has been a wonderful addition to the organization and they would like to recognize her efforts to support disaster victims.

Sharon Schwab:   Sharon is the leader and organizer of the annual Central Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival. The festival includes Greater Prairie Chicken viewing, grassland birding tours, a movie viewing, exhibitors and vendors, and guest speakers.

Destini Sparks:   Destini is a fifth grade student who has started a school-wide student volunteer program at Mead Elementary Charter School. Destini worked with the School Counselor, Principal, and Behavior Aide to design student jobs and to train students for the program. She created a power point to explain the program to staff and others. Destini also heads up a weekly meeting with the students to remind them of their jobs and help problem solve where needed. The “Mead All-School Volunteers” would not be possible, without Destini.

Sativah Ray St. Claire:   The Native Youth Leadership Group at Lincoln High School has a mission to encourage the Native American students to get involved in the community - not just to help others but to inspire all to be future leaders and participate in creating a positive difference in the world and within themselves. Of all the students that volunteered the past two years, Sativah has been there through the whole journey. With her helping hands and spirited enthusiasm, Sativah can rise and become an incredible value to this country.

Ron and Karen Tlachac:   Ron and Karen joined Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM) as new volunteers in 2017 and are learning new ways to volunteer. They chose WRCM because they want to learn something new and meet new people. Karen and Ron are learning iMovie to edit their programs and how wireless audio works in their video projects. WRCM is excited to see new citizens like Karen and Ron join as volunteers!

Dawn Turner:   Dawn Turner helped establish the Career Closet in 1999 for the purpose of providing clothes at no cost for women living at The Family Center who were seeking jobs; or currently working, but in need of appropriate clothes. As the program grew, Dawn supported the Career Closet as a volunteer and board member. Nearly twenty years later, Dawn and her family continue to be involved in the activities of the Career Closet.

Justin Wefel:   Justin is a Junior at Lincoln High School. He has earned over 220 hours of volunteer service through the Incourage Community Picnic, Hearts Apart, Trick-or-Can, East Junior High School’s FBLA snack cart coordination and many Lincoln High School events including graduation, golf outings and sporting events. He also serves as a youth group leader at Christian Life Fellowship, and helps shovel for elderly community members during the winter.

Tom Wilkes:   For all of his help with gleaning at the Wisconsin Rapids Farmer’s Market, the Glean Central Wisconsin - in partnership with the Central Wisconsin Literacy Council - wishes to nominate Tom Wilkes. For most weeks through the summer and fall Tom would come to the Wisconsin Rapids Farmer's Market to collect, weigh, and record produce donations from local farmers and take it to South Wood Emerging Pantry Shelf.

Becky Winter:   Becky Winter has many talents. She works at Mead Elementary Charter School as the Parent Partnership Coordinator and also owns her own business called “I Heart Canvas,” which provides in home painting parties and instruction. Becky also uses her business as a venue to do fundraisers and last November she raised money for United Way’s campaign! Becky also sang the National Anthem at the Rafters Baseball game last June during the UNITED WE CAN food sculpture and hunger awareness event. Becky manages the Learning for Life Reading Mentor Program at Mead School and participates at United Way’s Youth Success Coalition. Becky Winter exemplifies LIVE UNITED in our community.

Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team:  The Wisconsin Rapids Ice Fishing Team donates their time besides fishing. These students realize how lucky they are. This past winter they donated over $400 worth of fishing equipment to "Christmas is for Children" in an effort to get kids outside. Last spring they organized the annual “Campus Cleanup” at Lincoln High School, coordinating over 200 students to clean the campus and surrounding community. On the weekend of February 24th, they cleaned fish for the annual fishing tournament "The Battle On Bago." It is the Midwest’s largest ice fishing tournament where proceeds go towards youth programs in the state. The team cleaned over 1,500 donated fish, which were delivered to various charities including The Family Center in Wood County. In January, the team took second place in a charity tournament and won $500 for the Central Wisconsin Struttin Toms of the National Wild Turkey Federation. They will also be raising funds for the “Hunt for the Hungry” program in April.