Nonprofit Spotlight: Waunakee Neighborhood Connection

Posted by Samantha Haas on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 at 7:36am.

The mission of Waunakee Neighborhood Connection is to provide programs and resources that engage neighbors to support and empower one another. It is best known for its “free store,” which graciously accepts certain clothing items, accessories, shoes, games, books, media, and other household goods and cleaning supplies. 

COVID-19 Updates 

  • (3/25/2020): Waunakee Neighborhood Connection is working with Waunakee EMS to coordinate a supply drive for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If you or your company have any masks, face shields, paper gowns, or cloth gowns that could be donated for use by our healthcare providers and first responders, email at wncteam@waunakeenc.com or leave a message at (608) 849-5740. Please share your name, address, phone number and the PPE that you have available, and pick-ups will be arranged.
  • (3/20/2020): Waunakee Neighborhood Connection can help individuals and households starting to experience financial difficulties due to a job displacement or reduction in hours. Contact wncteam@waunakeenc.org

  • (3/16/2020): Donations can be made here to the PULSE Fund (supports the continuous operation of the free store, client programs, and case management) and the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Fund (provides direct financial assistance to clients experiencing a short-term hardship). 

  • (3/16/2020): Based on public health recommendations, Waunakee Neighborhood Connection will be changing its procedures until at least March 29 to do its part in slowing the spread of COVID-19. The acceptance of clothing and household good donations for the free store will be suspended, though clients will still be served with items that are currently available. Staff and lead volunteers will be working from home unless a specific situation arises. Learn more here.

  • (3/14/2020): If you are interested and available to volunteer to help the most vulnerable and lonely neighbors in Waunakee during this time, please register here.

Nonprofit Spotlight 

As spring cleaning approaches, it can be daunting to sort through closets and cupboards and decide what to keep, sell, or donate. Several local nonprofits would appreciate taking new or gently used items off your hands so they can help others in need. 

That’s why REALTOR Shelley Lazzareschi chooses to support her community’s “free store” at the Waunakee Neighborhood Connection, which graciously accepts certain clothing items, accessories, shoes, games, books, media, and other household goods and cleaning supplies

Neighborhood Connection Executive Director Lisa Humenik said that when families can come and get items like these for their home at no cost, “then it helps stretch their food budget, their ability to pay their rent, and their transportation to and from work -- so it makes a big difference.”

To mark its 13th year as a nonprofit, Neighborhood Connection recently launched a new website, logo, and tagline, “The heart of our community.” Humenik said another big change has been adding a case manager with a family services background to the staff who is well-networked with other nonprofit, state, and county social service agencies. 

Over the last 18 months, Neighborhood Connection has more than doubled the number of families it serves, from about 72 families to nearly 170 families (or about 520 individuals), and has seen an increase in the number of referrals from the school district and the senior center. Still, Humenik said, that’s only about half the families that could potentially benefit from the nonprofit’s services within the Waunakee Community School District. 

“It’s the neighbor to neighbor approach of strengthening a community, and looking at those who are most vulnerable in the community and those that have the capacity to help and bringing that together,” Humenik said, especially because sometimes it’s just a “medical bill that sets a family back for a few months, so being able to get some things here is helpful.”

That’s why Neighborhood Connection offers other services, too, including a Neighbor-to-Neighbor emergency crisis fund, vehicle donations and repairs, Build-a-Bed program to provide families with new mattresses and beds, student scholarships, literacy groups, holiday meals, and an Adopt-A-Family Christmas gift program. 

Want to help? Donations to Waunakee Neighborhood Connection are tax-deductible and can be dropped off Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on the fourth Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 208 South Century Ave, Waunakee, or anytime at the Waunakee Police Department. Monetary gifts are also appreciated to keep the building operating with the staff that make the programs possible. 

Registration is also open for the 10th annual Big Waunabowskee Bowl-a-Thon at Waun-A-Bowl on Friday, April 17, which will feature bowling, a silent auction, raffle, and games to raise funds for the Waunakee Neighborhood Connection.

To learn more, visit waunakeeneighborhoodconnection.org, call 608-849-5740, and view this video.

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