Our Vision: A thriving community where all are valued.
Our Mission: Waunakee Neighborhood Connection provides programs and resources that engage neighbors to support and empower one another.
Once upon a time, a woman saw a need. A single mom was asking for help to find a safe home for herself and her two boys. Children were walking to school without warm winter coats. Another mom was undergoing intense medical treatment, limiting her ability to care for her family and herself.
In 2003, when our founder, Genna Eaton, observed these needs, she organized an effort to meet those requests by reaching out to her community neighbors. The mission of helping neighbors was embraced by the community. Before long, volunteers came forward and step-by-step developed a process of helping neighbors – first, through the schools and then by partnering with Dane County Social Worker, Bob Blankenhagen. From there, it grew quickly. Programs were developed based on the needs observed. Next steps included obtaining a space, formalizing the organization, creating a Board of Directors, coordinating efforts with other area resources and developing and cultivating community partners including schools, churches, businesses, individual families and other service organizations.
Since Waunakee Neighborhood Connection received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status on February 14, 2007, the organization has served more than one thousand families. We provide numerous free need-based programs and services, and volunteer opportunities that result in thousands of volunteer hours and lives touched each year. We moved into our current building in 2014 following a successful capital campaign that provided the resources to purchase and renovate the space. It houses our free store along with work and meeting spaces for staff, volunteers, and clients.
Who We Serve
Oftentimes, people are surprised that an organization such as Waunakee Neighborhood Connection exists in our community because they look around and do not see much evidence of need. However, we know that nearly 4% of our neighbors are living below the poverty line and another 18%, which is about 2000 households, live below what is known as the ALICE threshold. ALICE stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed, and the threshold is currently $24,492 for a single adult and $63,324 (after a $14,880 child tax credit) for a family of four. Thus, we have many neighbors who are working one or more jobs yet not making enough income to meet their expenses of daily living.
Some families are with us for a very short time during an unexpected crisis, while others are with us for many years. Regardless of the timeframe, we are here to provide programs and resources that empower them to create a life where they can feel stable and secure.
Kristina Maher | Executive Director
Kristina joined Neighborhood Connection as executive director in March 2023. She received her degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resources
Management and minors in Public Relations and Psychology from UW-Platteville. Her career spans 15 years of working in human resources, with splashes of accounting, marketing, account management, event planning, and more! She is very excited to build relationships and expand awareness about Waunakee Neighborhood Connection in her role as executive director.
Kristina and her husband moved to Waunakee in 2013 and adopted a fur-child named Coco (a greyhound/husky mix). In her free-time, Kristina enjoys reading, working out, visiting her niece and nephew in Green Bay, and tackling house projects. She’s also coached Girls on the Run for two seasons and has been coaching the Waunakee Middle School Dance Team since its inception in 2019.
Nicki Van Abel | Manager of Client Services
Nicki joined the team at Neighborhood Connection in February, 2023. She is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, having moved to the Dane County area five years ago from Green Lake County. She received her Human Service Degree from Madison College and has worked in a variety of community service programs over the past 25 years including housing assistance programs, parent/peer specialist, services for folks with disabilities, and public assistance programs. Most recently she served the Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin as the program director of client services. In her free-time, Nicki can be found camping with her fiancé; cheering on the Packers, Badgers, and Brewers; spending time with her large family; and, most recently, enjoying time with her new grandson.
Fatima Macias | Bilingual Client and Office CoordinatorFatima Macias joined the team at Waunakee Neighborhood Connection in July 2023. She is the Bilingual Client and Office Coordinator and will be working with the Spanish-Speaking clients to connect them to our resources. As a bilingual professional, Fatima has been able to bridge cultural gaps and create a safe space for her clients to express themselves fully. Her ability to communicate effectively in both English and Spanish allowed her to connect with a diverse range of individuals, fostering an atmosphere of trust and understanding. She believes that diversity, equity, and inclusion work must be integrated into the fabric of an organization from the board, staff, and volunteers. In addition to her impactful work, Fatima values her family and roots deeply. She is a compassionate and driven individual who embarked on a transformative journey from her home country, Mexico. She draws strength and inspiration from her culture and personal experiences which further fuels her determination to support those in need and create a more inclusive society.
2023 Board of Directors
Angie Rojas Agudelo | Chair
Cathy Sheffield | Vice Chair
Amy Sampson | Secretary
Joe Koss | Treasurer
Todd Schmidt | Village Liaison