Every year, we give out awards to recognize outstanding community champions who create positive change in Washington County.

Celebrate Community Champions With Us

Event Date: Thursday, April 18, 2024
Event Time: 6:00-8:30
NEW Location:
The Prairie Center (Get Directions)
$35 per person (includes appetizers and desserts)

Every year, we give out awards to recognize outstanding community members who create positive change in Washington County. This signature event has become a way of giving even the most humble of leaders the spotlight as we recognize their contributions to important local causes.

In addition to celebrating the amazing volunteers in our community, Champions of Change serves as the Volunteer Center’s primary annual fundraiser. Help further our mission by enjoying a raffle, gift card tree, and cash bar!

Meet the 2024 Nominees

Slinger Kiwanis Club

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

As the current Co-President of Slinger Kiwanis Club, I am inspired by our founder, Desiree Rahmlow, who established this club with strong women and men that enjoy volunteering. Immediately, we started a middle school Builders Club to teach leadership and philanthropy to young kids. They help with fall yard cleanup, make pet toys for the Humane Society, make cards for sick kids, and much more. Our members oversee this club. I find great fellowship working with SKC members. It is truly inspiring to make my community better, especially helping kids. As a teacher and Student Council adviser, I work with kids all the time, but working with adults in helping kids is doubly rewarding.

Catalina DeSua

Rising Star Award Nominee

Catalina seeks to help others, and she puts her own needs aside. It is nice to see how people react to Catalina’s piano playing. The voluntary work that she does helps to lift up the residents’ and the staffs’ spirits at the Samaritan Health Center, and the smiles are evidence of that. I see a 17 year old with determination to help others and improve her world. That, in turn, reminds me of life’s possibilities and I feel inspired to help others, too.

Kim Smessaert

Power of One Award Nominee

Kim Smessaert is not just an exceptional teacher and adviser; more importantly, she is an extraordinary human being. Her positive influence has touched the lives of thousands of students at Slinger High School, a testament to her unwavering commitment to go above and beyond for every individual she encounters. Each year, I receive feedback from both past and present students expressing gratitude for the profound impact she has had on their lives.

Having had the privilege of serving as the principal at Slinger High School for 12 years, working alongside Kim has undoubtedly made me a better leader. She is an inspiration to all, not only for her exceptional work ethic and leadership skills but also for her empathetic approach. Kim Smessaert embodies the qualities of an outstanding educator and a compassionate human being, making her an invaluable asset to our school community.

Macy Fleischman

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

I am Macy’s school counselor and have known Macy for 4 years. Macy has impacted a school of 600 without even knowing it! Macy is a very impactful student at Kewaskum and always is doing the right thing whether someone is watching or not. Macy comes in early daily to meet with underclassman that need extra help in Science or Math. Macy co-facilitated our Veterans Day program beside our Principal, Scott Stier and did a fantastic job. Macy was the master of ceremonies for our National Honor Society (making it the best I have ever attended). Besides all of this, Macy’s positive attitude and smile can change someone’s day when she works at Blue Door and Three Sweets on the side. Besides the hours and hours in KHS she spends making it better, she also volunteers at her church and at the Campbellsport library. For all of the reasons above, I believe Macy should be recognized for her selfless work.

Jessica Barlament

Steward of Change Award Nominee

Jessica is a wonderful individual who leads a team in Big Brothers Big Sisters. She helps out in other organizations to help prepare things for underprivileged children in Washington County besides just in the organization she is the Executive Director of. Jessica aspires to keep the agency going no matter what the cost to herself because of how important she feels the impact is on the children the agency serves. Jessica inspires her team to help out in volunteer events and to do all they can to help more and more children in Washington County. She has helped in preparing meals and snacks with United Way to feed children, sets up school supply drives at the agency for the children, discreetly gives out feminine products to our teen females who may be embarrassed or can’t afford to get anything. Jessica did volunteer hours in helping set up a toy drive with Kapco where toys were being donated to several underprivileged children besides just those in Washington County.

Kewaskum High School Senior Technology Class

Rising Star Award Nominee

These girls inspire me because they do not shy away from a healthy risk. They embraced trying out this idea and are very protective of their classes. They are all super concerned about finding underclassmen that are willing to take their curriculum and continue the class next year when they are all off to 4 year universities. They care deeply about their students and the service they are providing.

Kewaskum Middle School Builders Club

Rising Star Award Nominee

As an observer and supporter of Builder’s Club, I am deeply moved by the impactful contributions they make to our community under the leadership of a dedicated and inspiring figure. Builder’s Club has proven to be a catalyst for positive change, consistently going above and beyond to support the American Legion Post 384 and Women’s Auxiliary. Their involvement in crucial community events, such as the Memorial Day celebration and the County Fair, highlights not only a commitment to service but a genuine passion for making a difference.

What stands out most is Builder’s Club’s engagement in a variety of charitable initiatives, from the Ronald McDonald House PopTab Drive to supporting the Humane Society and organizing fundraising efforts for other non-profit organizations. These endeavors reflect a compassionate spirit and a deep understanding of the broader impact that community involvement can have.

As someone who has witnessed their efforts from the sidelines, I am inspired by Builder’s Club’s ability to mobilize a group towards a common goal, fostering unity and a sense of purpose. Their story is not just one of individual accomplishments but a narrative of collective empowerment, demonstrating how a group of dedicated individuals can inspire positive change within the community. Builder’s Club’s commitment to service serves as a beacon of inspiration, motivating others to join in and contribute to the betterment of our school and community.

Volunteers at Senior Citizens Activities, Inc.

Nonprofit Excellence Award Nominee

Several key volunteers at the Senior Center have put in hundreds of hours to support the Senior Center! Through their hard work, passion and dedication, the Center collectively has reached over $100,000 in value through their donations of time, talent and treasure in 2023 – all for the highest good of the Senior Center and those 50+ers who are served.

Susan & Fred Bliffert

Legacy Award Nominee

Personally, I would not be where I am today without Fred & Susan. They have warmly taken me under their tutelage, helping me to learn, grow, and expand my capacity for leadership and service in this organization. I have learned so much from their instruction and example. Their integrity and sincerity is self-evident, and inspires me to be a better leader, better boss, better employee, and better person. It is rare to meet people who are so intrinsically, talented, and humble, or who care so deeply about the cause they serve and the people involved. They have made me feel welcomed and supported every step of the way, while giving me room to lead and listening to my ideas and questions with patient understanding. They are both amazing mentors, and I could not be happier to have them in my life.

Nancy Finnessey

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

Nancy grew up in a home consumed with violence. Nancy continues to prove to not only us as an organization but to our community what can happen when you choose to NOT be your circumstance. Nancy is the essence of forgiveness. She continues to carry light into the world. There is not one event or project we have done that has not included Nancy. She steps up over and over again without an ask. Nancy thrives in the world of giving. She gives not only of her resources, time and talent, but she gives her heart to everything and everyone she connects with. As a natural nurturer, Nancy shows us the power of love and what forgiveness can do when we choose to be free. Nancy is a behind the scene blessing. Even trying to find pictures of Nancy was a challenge. In 10 years, I could only find 2 photos. And neither of them show her face. LOL! Nancy never seeks validation or recognition. Nancy just wants to help change the world one heart at a time. In our minds, everyone needs a Nancy in their lives.

Slinger Middle School NJHS

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

Mr. Treml and our students represent servant leadership at its best. They set a high example for others to follow, while focusing on matters of the heart through their giving. They are creative and know how to help our school create a community of servitude and togetherness.

Jeff Szukalski Family

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

For over twenty years, Jeff Szukalski and his family have tirelessly volunteered to help non-profit organizations raise funds for their operations. It is a family ‘thing’ which started with Jeff and his wife Lisa and then instilled in their children, Sarah, Brian and Rita. Jeff’s motto “When you give back (volunteer), it feels good to know you have contributed to the success of an organization, and then you also feel better about yourself.” At an early age, Jeff and Lisa would include their children in volunteering efforts, such as Lisa taking Brian to the Full Shelf Food Pantry where she volunteered. Sarah volunteered many summers with Habitat for Humanity building houses and at the Pediatric Clinic at Cedar Community. Jeff’s efforts include advertising and promoting non-profit events. If you walk into Jeff Spirits on Main, the family business, you will see posters/displays for fundraising events along with donation jars for non-profit organizations.

Jeff is a very active member of the Rotary Club of West Bend. Sarah is a Board member of the Boys and Girls Club, a co-chair of the 2023 United Way Campaign as well as a Board member, and a member of the 100 Women’s Club which raises money on a quarterly basis for various non-profit organizations. Lisa and Jeff volunteer at their church. Brian is involved with various organizations in Kewaskum. The family is many times behind the scene but they make sure that the non profit organizations are front and center by volunteering to help them succeed.

Jim Brodzeller

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

Jim came to SVDP to find something he enjoys to keep himself busy. He always shows up at the best possible times! Jim has always been a positive light within our organization especially with creating close relationships with our employees and always being able to crack a joke and make smiles. As the store manager overseeing the store functions, it is truly a great feeling to see the camaraderie Jim helps bring to our day to day atmosphere.

Mike Falkner

Power of One Award Nominee

Roots and Branches is proud to nominate Mike Falkner for the Power of One Award. Mike not only volunteers his time as Vice President of Roots and Branches Board, but is also Chairperson of the Business and Mayor Beautification Awards and volunteers on several committees. His efforts have helped Roots and Branches positively impact the natural environment of West Bend.

Katelyn Kauper

Rising Star Award Nominee

My name is Amy Kauper, I’m the mom of Slinger High School Junior Katelyn Kauper. Most people would describe her as a hardworking, determined, strait “A” student, who loves ballet, yearbook club, band, babysitting, teaching, and tutoring. However what most people don’t realize is that she loves to volunteer and the simple act of giving makes her heart happy.
As a result I would personally like to nominate Katelyn for the Washington County Rising Star Community Champion Award. She has personally been inspiring me from a young age with her passion, drive, tenacity, and purpose driven life to give her time and talents unconditionally.
I believe she is deserving of this award not only for one specific organization that she supported but rather for the countless hours she has given all over Washington County. She is an inspiration for others the way she chooses to serve her community in big or small ways. She is the ripple effect that brings energy and enthusiasm to any event. Her wholehearted and sincere efforts makes her friends, family, and peers give more too.
My first example of Katelyn’s giving heart began in the 4th grade, 8 years ago, as a Girl Scout service is a core value however there is one particular award that allows a group to go above and beyond the normal project. They refer to that as the Bronze award at this level. Katelyn insisted that we pursue this award which would have required endless additional hours work to complete. Several months later Katelyn and her peers had created a video (which Katelyn personally directed and edited) to provide awareness to Washington County Foster Care program – that drove hundreds of donations and items to build over 50 back packs filled with comforts of home for kids in new placements. If I had to pick one moment in time that became the catalyst that drives her to give back, it would be this one.
Once Katelyn hit high school, and the covid years were behind us, she actively pursued clubs and activities that could fill her philanthropic spirit. As a member of Peers for Peers she was able to collaborate with Elevate in Jackson and volunteer with the Adrenaline Race each summer. In addition she has logged over 120 hours with St. Kilian’s Catholic Church in Hartford to play her flute in the Youth Music ministry and became an assistant to the catechist aid. She volunteered her time with the Cedar Springs Summer Camp in Slinger, an example where she sacrificed her paid job opportunity to give back to her community. In addition, she is on her third year of taking time off of school to volunteer at the Annual Kindness retreat in the Addison/Allenton Elementary School.
She has connected with elderly by decorating pumpkins, veterans by making Valentine’s Day cards with youth in the Slinger school district, collecting food for the Slinger food pantry in the neighborhood. Katelyn even helped with her brother’s soccer tournament (Kick some Grass in Hartford) by organizing the registration sign ups and check-ins last 2 summers, this takes weeks of her spare time to make for a smooth tournament. After hearing a call from help from her ballet instructor 3 years ago, at Schauer Art Center (Hartford), she helped design, order, and distribute T-shirts to commemorate the annual showcase, a job that again takes months to do. Furthermore, she increased the price of the shirts to aide in raising money for costumes during this year’s program.
I truly believe Katelyn’s figured out life’s hardest question “What’s our purpose?” She finds endless joy in giving her time and talents with enthusiasm and passion unconditionally. I believe this award is fitting for Katelyn because she doesn’t do it for the glory or the pat on the back she does it because she loves it. She does it for the ripple effect. She does it to make a difference.

Gary Britton

Legacy Award Nominee

Gary is an exceptional person and volunteer. He generously donates his time to events and causes throughout Washington County. Gary is a member of Sunrise Rotary in West Bend, and supports Lac Lawrann Conservancy, United Way, City of West Bend events, and countless other causes. He is always positive and willing to lend a hand to anyone.

Jessica Frederick

Steward of Change Award Nominee

I had known Jessica for many years before I ever truly saw her in her element. Back when I worked for the Volunteer Center of Washington County, I managed the Camp Super Hero program. It was really important for me to show the middle school and high school students what it was like to participate in the Citizen Advocates school and respite programs. Jessica arranged for about 6 of her young clients to join us for a morning of activities at Ridge Run Park. Together we did crafts, played yard games, created sidewalk chalk art, played with a giant smiley face parachute, and so much more. Jessica did an incredible job educating the Camp Super Hero students about our guests for the day. She emphasized that while we all may have different needs, at the end of the day, our similarities far outweigh our differences. When one of her young clients was having a hard time, I watched Jessica take him aside and help relax him, all while mentoring a young camper who had quickly formed a bond with this little boy. When one of Jessica’s teenage clients found great joy in launching the same toy rocket over and over again for hours, a few of the teenage campers happily obliged. Together they fell into the grass with fits of laughter. It was truly an impactful day, where both myself and the campers got to experience firsthand the power of what Citizen Advocates does in our community.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far would be enough to nominate Jessica for the Steward of Change award, but Jessica continues to inspire me more than she will ever know. A few years ago, Jessica was diagnosed with appendix cancer – a very rare form of the disease. Through surgery and countless treatments, she continued to run Citizen Advocates – during a pandemic while raising two teenage daughters, no less. Things were going well after she completed treatment, but in the fall of 2021, Jessica was diagnosed with a recurrence. This led to another surgery with a long recovery over the summer of 2022. But, she kept on plugging away – running Citizen Advocates from home and sending emails during the many sleepless nights. And as soon as she was well enough to leave her house, there she was at a Volunteer Center networking event, taking the time to connect with, learn from, and teach her peers. Did I mention that at some point during it all, she started a new program called Fusion, where community members of all abilities come together to sing, dance, play instruments and experience joy together?

I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector for 14 years now, and sometimes, it can feel like a thankless career. There are often long hours, difficult client situations that weigh on your heart whether you are working or not, anxiety about where the next donation will come from, and the pressure to do more. When you have a tough day, it’s very easy to have thoughts like “why am I even doing this,” “I can make more money doing something else,” or “would anyone even notice if I walked away?” And yet, there’s Jessica Frederick. With a small board of directors and occasionally one part-time employee to assist, she’s making an incredible impact on the lives of individuals with a disability and their families, despite her own unimaginable circumstances.

I know it is hard for her. There are sleepless nights. Days when getting out of bed isn’t an option. And yet somehow, she finds the strength to keep moving the mission of Citizen Advocates forward. Those of us who follow Jessica on social media know that her motto for the year is to THRIVE in 2023. When I’m having a tough day, Jessica inspires me to dig a little deeper, work a little harder and not just get by and survive, but to THRIVE. To me, Jessica exemplifies what it means to be a Steward of Change.

Silverbrook K Kids

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

K kids are a group of 5th and 6th graders at silverbrook school who volunteer within the school and West Bend community. Each month we do a volunteer activity that includes doing a good neighborhood project, salvation army bell ringing, helping at enchantment in the park, putting flags out at the cemetery for Memorial Day, etc.

Mike Detzer

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

When I think of volunteers, Mike has always been a big part of the reason our Read to Succeed program in Hartford is so successful. Mike has been volunteering for over 3 years for our program in Hartford. Mike has time and time again been such a consistent volunteer for us that sometimes he is the only one who is there for the day. He will walk through the cold weather to ensure that the students have a volunteer for the day to work with on reading and homework. Although he will say this, he doesn’t want to receive any credit; he is one that we feel deserves the most credit. The way he interacts and connects with the students is so inspiring to us all. Even in the hardest of times when the students are having a rough day, he can change their attitude almost immediately. When they speak to him only in Spanish, he tries his best to understand and respond. He problem solves and is so inclusive of all the students that most of them are drawn to his table during their free time. His passion for helping others see their own successes helps to empower all our students. Mike is one of a kind and I can’t thank him enough for his dedication to our organization, Casa Guadalupe. Our hope is that he receives the recognition he deserves. Mike, if you win, we just want to say a big THANK YOU! Mike is definitely an Unsung Hero!

Analena Peterson

Rising Star Award Nominee

My daughter, Analena, is pure inspiration. She has been through so much in life. Overcoming a reading disability, being bullied by fellow classmates, exposed to emotional abuse from loved ones, and experiencing daily headaches with frequent ER visits. With all this, Analena remains poised while leading life through a smile, confidence, and a kind heart to all those around her. Analena’s work ethic is disciplined and productive. She balances AP classes in high school, competitive / high school track, dance, and community servics. Analena is the first to support a friend, volunteer, give to others, and lend a hand. Analena remains optimistic of future opportunities and determined to make a difference in her communiworld. As a mom, I am so proud of the young woman Analena is becoming. I see first hand the difference she is making in her community through her continuous asks of service and volunteer work. Analena is a BRIGHT rising star.

The Blue Lotus Center

Nonprofit Excellence Award Nominee

It’s been nearly 12 years since the first time that I walked down the long driveway of Blue Lotus, wondering what I was in store for, and certainly not expecting it to be the life changing experience it has been. Up until that time, I had limited experience working with large groups of people, and especially with some having disabilities.
Prior to I had heard a radio broadcast on NPR given by Susan Bliffert (a cofounder) explaining what Blue Lotus’ mission was, and that they were always looking for volunteers. I had just left a (soon to close) food pantry as a volunteer, and was looking for a new place that would fill an empty part of my heart. Being the country guy that I am, I was pleasingly surprised to see an old farm house, barn, pond, and gardens of beautiful flowers. A place of tranquility, peace, and opportunity spoke to my being. I knew that I would fit in instantly. A slice of heaven tucked back in the woods I thought to myself.
I began by assisting our guests in various ways, helping them with bicycling, swinging, fishing, boating, and just being near to listen and smile. I also got to meet other volunteers, some who have since became great friends, and who may also be there to either fill a spot in their hearts, or to witness the pure goodness of others. But most importantly, I was there to humbly view the world through the eyes of our guests, manifested in the forms of innocence, curiosity, patience, and wonderment, perhaps in ways that I have never seen myself. It has been the encouragment that I needed to look at what’s “under the surface” of others, one might say.
Being an avid fisherperson, I long to see what mysteries dwell below the surface, so to better understand the hidden life of fish. One day I was given the gift of what was under the pond’s surface at Blue Lotus, in a most literal way. Two of our guests with cognitive disabilities, along with their group leader, wanted to venture out in a canoe. After securing their life jackets, we helped them board, and gave instruction on the art of balancing and being careful. The young man in the front of the canoe looked eager but also a bit scared. We assured him everything would be alright and that he was in safe company. No sooner did we say that, he leaned towards me from his seat, losing his balance and overturning the canoe. All three went in head first and got totally submerged. While another volunteer helped the other two out of the water, I grabbed the young man by his shoulders, and in one fell swoop, lifted him on to the dock. I have to admit that I was also terrified seeing the expression on his face, and wondering how he would react in his moment of shock and fear. Standing there completely disheveled, we helped remove the seaweed from his clothes, as he wiped his dripping face of the water. As he tried to gather his composure and fight off his fear, I had to wonder if he would leave there never wanting to go near water again. As soon as we removed his life preserver, a stoic look came over his face. He then said loudly and confidently words that I can still hear to this day…. “I’ve seen it, and it exists….Atlantis”. The pureness, innocence, and conviction of his words left an indelible mark on my heart, and from that moment on I have learned to look below the surface, not only to see a lost city/continent, (or what’s at the end of a driveway,) but what lies within a person’s imagination. It is moments like these that keep me coming back to Blue Lotus.

Roxann Long & Bonnie Skadahl

Stronger Together Award Nominee

On behalf of the Senior Center, we extend our deepest gratitude to you for your incredible dedication and generosity in running Bingo at our senior center every 2nd Saturday of the month throughout the year. Your commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of our seniors does not go unnoticed!
Your enthusiasm, kindness, and tireless efforts have created a joyful and engaging atmosphere that the seniors truly appreciate. The sense of community you’ve helped foster is invaluable, and we are incredibly fortunate to have someone as passionate and selfless as you! Thank you for going above and beyond to bring smiles and laughter to our seniors. Your contributions make a significant difference, and we are truly grateful for all that you do.

Cindy Zimmer

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

I’m a coworker of Cindy, and she has inspired and energized me to get more involved in the community through volunteering and supporting organizations that are volunteer based. She makes sure to recognize individuals who do volunteer and the community is better because of Cindy. She is an inspiring and energetic woman that I look up to both personally and professionally. Delta Defense and West Bend are better because of Cindy and the work that she does and the inspiration that she spreads.

Roots and Branches

Nonprofit Excellence Award Nominee

I retired from Cedar Community in 2019 and was recruited out of retirement as executive director of Roots and Branches in 2020 and it truly has been a pleasure working with this organization (I’m retiring from R & B Feb. 29, 2024). They are such a hard-working group of volunteers who literally take each project and run with it. Their love of gardening and helping to make the City of West Bend is evident in everything they do. In my 40+ years of working in development and marketing, I have never experienced such commitment and hard work. Roots and Branches deserves this award.

Christa Jung-Kersten

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

Christa stands out as a person of inclusivity and understanding. She has most recently connected with a community member who is learning English, offering support and encouragement and a welcoming environment for this individual to work on her language skills. In doing so, she championed for this community member with many employees at the library and as a result the community member gained employment on our team.

David B. Jr. (Skip) Clark

Inspire Award Nominee

Skip reached out to The Volunteer Center of Washington County to inform us that we were being included in the 2024 Charity Week. Of course, we are honored and grateful, but we would have nominated Skip regardless. Once I learned more about his involvement and the history of this program, I knew that Skip was someone very special. The ripple effect that comes from inspiring thousands of students over the years, not to mention the additional influence on faculty, businesses, families, and the many others involved goes beyond monetary contributions. His efforts are about fostering a culture of awareness, empathy, and active involvement and I believe he deserves to be recognized for his incredible efforts!

Boy Scout Troop #762

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

Boy Scout Troop 762 is a friendly, reliable and trustworthy group that is always willing to help out and give back to their local community. It has been a pleasure getting to know each member that has volunteered. They are selfless and embody the Boy Scout motto and oath of being prepared and helping other people at all times. Volunteers like them make our community a better place to live in and inspire us to give back of our time and talents.

West Bend Power Hockey

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

The West Bend Power Hockey team volunteers are a friendly, reliable group that have gained a great reputation for being willing to give back to their community with their time and energy. We sincerely appreciate Kris Marion, who always spreads the word about our large group volunteer needs to the team, and if they don’t have a hockey game on a day that we need volunteers, there are always members who sign up to help out. Volunteers like them make our community a better place to live in and inspire us to give back of our time and talents.

Barbara Prust

Power of One Award Nominee

We have the pleasure of working alongside Barbara as she is a volunteer at FRIENDS, INC. This nomination means so much to not only us and our LEP ( Limited English Proficient) clients, but to the community as a whole as she is truly a maker of change. There is a huge barrier when it comes to seeking help if you are LEP, and thanks to Barbara and her skills and heart, we are able to provide support services for this population that may be experiencing violence. This includes interpretation services during advocacy appointments and also translating our documentation so we are more accessible for all. She has not only made a difference in her time at FRIENDS, but with her 15 years volunteering at Albrecht Free Clinic, the lives she touched in the countless years she spent as an educator, and the fact that she travels the world to provide free education as well. While her community reach is huge, it is truly remarkable the impact she is making for those around the globe. Barbara’s compassion and empathy she has for others radiates through the room. This is shown by not only the experiences above, but also the small things as well. Walking in with a huge smile, the kiddos running over to her to give her a hug. Jumping into action, even with last minute notice, to come help our advocates and clients. She sets the bar for community service high and we are blessed to have her on our team.

Debbie Spaeth

Unsung Hero Award Nominee

Debbie is definitely an unsung hero. She is very passionate about raising funds to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. She worked hard as a co-chair for the Washington county walk. She brought great ideas and enthusiasm and was always willing to do community outreach. As a co-chair of the walk, I was honored to be her partner. She’s a shining example of a servant leader committed to a worthwhile cause, a Champion of Change for a group of people who can’t advocate for themselves. We dream of a white flower, representing the first person to be cured of Alzheimer’s. Debbie doesn’t just dream though – she actively works for that goal.

Robb Steiner

Volunteerism in Business Award Nominee

Robb is my brother-in-law, friend and employer. I have known him since he was in middle school. It has been a pleasure to see him become a successful businessman, devoted husband and proud father. He knows he has been blessed and his desire to share those blessings is apparent to everyone who gets to know him. I know he always feels like he can do more, but I feel recognizing him with this award with only fuel that desire and be greatly appreciated.

Robin Jasinski

Inspire Award Nominee

Robin is someone who you immediately associate with service. Her countless hours and complete devotion of self culminate in a community impact that cannot fully be captured. Her level of care for her fellow neighbors and her commitment to leave the world better than she found it can be seen in everything she does. There are very few who achieve the volunteer milestones that she has (5,000+ hours!) and we truly do not know where we would be without her hours of service and dedication to our organization.

Peter Rettler

Power of One Award Nominee

Volunteers are special people. They sacrifice their time and offer their talents to make our communities better places to live and raise our families. Sometimes there are volunteers who go way above and beyond for the causes they serve. Pete is one of those volunteers. I witnessed firsthand the amount of work that went into securing donors, lining up individuals to run in remembrance of, and promoting each day of Pete’s 30 Runs to Remember. It felt like a full-time job for awhile. And that’s on top of having to run more than 1.5 miles each day during the winter. Pete’s passion for this cause and his commitment to his running streak exhibited a level of dedication very few are willing to uphold.

City of West Bend staff

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

The City of West Bend team is always willing to go above and beyond their required day job. Our team volunteers their time at library events, non-profit events and our own park events. We make an intentional effort to be very present in our community and represent a positive vibe of local government employees. We hope that our presence and visible volunteerism inspires others to do the same. The Lac Lawrann Luminary hikes have been a personal favorite of mine. Several city volunteers find great joy in providing residents and visitors with this unique and awesome outdoor night experience.

Justice Madl

Power of One Award Nominee

Justice Madl has the biggest heart. Justice is genuine and not afraid to put himself out there. He is always helping those in need and volunteering in the community. He is seen everywhere and at almost every event in the City of West Bend. Justice is very supportive of city staff and advocates for their well being during his alderman role. Justice has often been affectionately referred to as the unofficial “Mayor” of Barton. Justice is one of my nine bosses. He has inspired me to promote the “Barton” area of West Bend and to support their thriving businesses. He has been a great friend and motivator for me. He brings out my best cheerleading efforts to continue to improve the former village of Barton and the entire City of West Bend.

Pat Seghers

Power of One Award Nominee

I started as the volunteer manager at Riveredge in February 2023, but I met Pat for the first time the day of my final interview at Riveredge in November 2022. I was waiting patiently in the visitor center octagon for my interview to begin while Pat was beginning his front desk volunteer shift for the day. He asked me questions about myself, my interview and immediately made me feel welcomed. I have had the honor of working with Pat at the front desk and events for the past year, during which I have seen others have the same welcoming and warm interactions with Pat. Pat always has a smile, he is willing to help, and deeply cares about the wellbeing of others. In addition to volunteering with Riveredge, Pat volunteers at Blue Lotus and always speaks so highly of that experience. Pat uses his time and skills to help others. It is inspiring to me to see someone not only making time for community service and engagement, but putting thoughtful and care into that service. I’m so thankful to have Pat as a Riveredge Volunteer.

Donald & Sharon Mann & Family

Legacy Award Nominee

In the wake of tragedy, the human spirit often finds ways to shine through the darkness, illuminating paths of hope and resilience. Such is the story of the Mann family, whose journey from grief to action serves as an inspiring testament to the power of community and determination.

On January 21, 2003, in Washington County, Wisconsin, the Mann family’s lives were forever altered by the loss of their beloved son, Michael, in a snowmobile accident on Big Cedar Lake. As if the heartache of his passing wasn’t enough, Michael tragically drowned, highlighting a critical gap in emergency response capabilities – the absence of a dedicated dive team in the area.

For perspective, Washington County has over 50 lakes and 3,000 acres of lakes, rivers, streams, and retention ponds. Our county has over 130,000 people and countless visitors to it that can enjoy boating, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, jet skiing, tubing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, atv riding, and water skiing among other things year round.

Determined to prevent other families from enduring similar anguish, the Mann family embarked on a mission to establish a dive team in Washington County. Despite the immense pain of their loss, they channeled their grief into action, propelled by a steadfast commitment to honor Michael’s memory and ensure the safety of their community.

Remarkably, just 49 days after Michael’s tragic accident, the Mann family received approval to establish the dive team. With unwavering resolve, they wasted no time in rallying support and resources to bring their vision to fruition. Fundraising efforts became a central focus, as the Mann family tirelessly worked to secure the necessary equipment, training, and infrastructure for the dive team.

For the last 21 years, the Mann family has been raising funds for a Washington County Dive Team, also known as “Michael’s Angels”. The past 11 years have included their annual bowling fundraiser, requiring countless volunteers who have dedicated their time and efforts to make it a success. Through their tireless commitment, they have raised over $300,000 dollars (and counting), providing vital funding to outfit the divers with the necessary equipment and ensure the team’s continued operations.

Their dedication and perseverance soon bore fruit, as the dive team began to take shape, fueled by the generosity and solidarity of the community. What began as a personal tragedy transformed into a beacon of hope, uniting individuals from all walks of life in a shared mission to protect and serve.

The Mann family’s journey serves as a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times, there exists the potential for profound transformation and positive change. Through their courage, tenacity, and unwavering commitment to service, they have not only honored Michael’s memory but also forged a lasting legacy of compassion and resilience.

As the Mann family continues to champion the cause of water safety and emergency response in Washington County, their story serves as an enduring testament to the transformative power of love, community, and the human spirit. May their example inspire us all to turn tragedy into triumph, and to always strive for a brighter, safer future for our communities.

It should be noted that the Mann family was humbled by this nomination and wanted to call attention to the Dive Team members who are responsible for the rescue of people involved in water accidents and recovery of evidence within bodies of water. Currently, there are 8
full time sheriff department deputies and 21 full time and volunteer fire fighters
that are members of the Dive Team throughout Washington County. (Contributing
departments are Kewaskum, West Bend, Slinger, Richfield, Allenton, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. All divers are certified as: Basic and Advanced Scuba Diving, Rescue Divers, Ice Divers, Dry Suit Divers, Night Divers, Deep Water Divers, Search and Rescue Divers, Public Safety Dive Rescue Specialists. Additionally, some of the 29 divers have additional certifications in: Equipment Specialists, Certified Service Technicians, Master
Divers, Dive Masters, and Scuba Diver Instructors. The Mann family is grateful for their dedication and is committed to supporting their continued efforts.

Members of our Volunteer Fire Departments in Washington County

Stronger Together Award Nominee

Many communities within Washington County rely on a dedicated group of volunteers who not only share their time and talent, they literally put their lives on the line to help others in times of danger! These volunteers operate our local volunteer fire and rescue departments and are quick to respond when there is an emergency, from house and building fires, automobile accidents, to medical emergencies, these dedicated people save lives, protect our properties, and serve our communities.

This nomination calls attention to ten of our Washington County volunteer departments who serve the following communities: Allenton, Boltonville, Fillmore, Hartford, Kewaskum, Kohlsville, Newburg, Richfield, St. Lawrence, and Slinger.

It should be noted that we also reached out to Germantown and Jackson who have migrated to fully paid-staff operations and opted to not be part of this nomination. Even some of the volunteer department chiefs questioned if they should be considered because some have had to incorporate a “paid-on-call” model to ensure they have enough staff to respond to local emergencies. However, we learned that their very small stipends (when applied) do not come close to the value of their service or the additional volunteer hours required to maintain their departments.

Most members also work full-time jobs, care for their families, and serve the community in other ways. Yet they are still willing to set aside time to be “on-call” if/when needed. The members of these departments volunteer their time for training, practice, maintaining equipment, maintaining their facilities, and for fundraising efforts for equipment and operational needs. Moreover, their proactive involvement includes educating the community on fire safety, visiting schools and daycares, and taking a holistic approach to fostering a culture of safety and preparedness.

It’s important for us to acknowledge and support these volunteer fire and rescue departments. The “Stronger Together” award is appropriate because these departments also assist each other. Geography doesn’t matter when they are called upon to assist in major fires that require multiple departments to serve. These individuals are true local heroes, and their sacrifices should not go unnoticed.

As an example of their dedication, here are a few 2023 stats we were able to gather: 340+ active volunteers who collectively served 71,300+ hours of volunteer service and responded to 4,100 fires and/or medical emergencies! Please note that these figures are understated as we were unable to confirm stats from 3 of the 10 stations at the time of this submission.

West Bend High Schools Youth Impact Club

Rising Star Award Nominee

To me, there is nothing more inspirational than having a group of young people who are passionate about taking care of themselves and others. To have a group of teenagers who are invested in keeping people alive and making our world a better place is the essence of being a good human, which is what we all should strive for. Their advisor, Jackie Schmoldt, has shown remarkable resilience to overcome personal tragedy and create a program that is saving lives every day. The value that she and the Youth Impact Club put on every life sets a standard we should all be reaching for.

Joe Swanson

Legacy Award Nominee

After four decades at Regal Ware and SynergyOps, Joe is retiring, and the entire organization would like to recognize Joe for his outstanding service commitments and express our gratitude to him for being an amazing steward of the community. Joe’s genuine passion for people has made him a tremendous mentor at home, work and in the community, and he will leave a legacy of inspired and driven people who care about each other and their communities. Joe’s is the epitome of humanity. His involvement demonstrates a true admiration for making the world a better place and helping enrich life by bringing families together.

Quilting for a Cause

Ziegler Team Spirit Award Nominee

We were thrilled to work with Bonnie Johnson for 10 weeks to complete this project! She taught the students problem solving as well as the skill of quilting. The students were dedicated to the project and always gave it their all. They were excited to complete the quilts and are eager to see them being used for a good cause; Quilting for a Cause has been a life changing opportunity for our students and a trend we will continue from year to year now.

Dave Daude

Power of One Award Nominee

Dave has contributed his time and experience for many years to help St. Vincent de Paul of Washington County. His cheerful attitude and caring heart are an inspiration for all of us here and his contributions help make Washington County a better place.

Search the volunteer needs of local organizations, or sign up directly with the Volunteer Center of Washington County.

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