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.

Our Story

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 October 2023, putting us in the same building as the Waunakee Food Pantry, making it easier for clients to get help from both organizations and allowing us to better collaborate on services.  Our current space 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.

Our Staff

Verónica Castillo | Executive Director

Verónica Castillo joined Neighborhood Connection as Executive Director in June 2024. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Art History with a Minor in Non-Profit Administration from the University of Iowa in 2005. In 2015, Verónica received her Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education from Edgewood College, where she had the honor of graduating the same weekend as her mother who completed her BA in Spanish at UW-Green Bay after 38 years of not giving up on school.
Verónica has lived in Madison since 2010. At that time, she was starting her career as a Bilingual Teacher for the Madison Metropolitan School District, where she had the honor of teaching students from 4-year-old Kindergarten to 5th grade. In 2017 she transitioned to the non-profit world and has enjoyed various roles including the Director of Outreach for Madison Ballet to most recently the GED Coordinator at Latino Academy of Workforce Development.
Verónica was born in El Paso, Texas and was raised in Iowa City, Iowa. Her many experiences within her career and personal life have driven her to represent and be an advocate for communities of color that lack the resources and support they deserve. Verónica believes that it takes a village to uplift and take care of one another and help each other grow. She is excited to lead WNC into its next chapter and continue its growth and support of the community of Waunakee and their ever-changing needs.

Kristin Larson | Fund Development Manager

Kristin Larson joined WNC as its fund development manager in May 2024. She fell into a career in fund development while living in the Seattle area and developed a passion for telling the story of what philanthropy makes possible. Her experience includes annual giving, direct mail and coordinating galas, walks and golf outings for organizations like City of Hope National Medical Center, the University of Washington dental and medical schools, Meriter Foundation, the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance and the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science. She jokes that she organized at least one golf tournament a year for 20 years!
A Wisconsin native, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in Mass Communication. She’s an avid reader and dreams of writing a novel. On summer weekends you can find her on the golf course or riding area bike trails to local coffee shops with her husband, Scott.

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.

Now Hiring | Bilingual Client Services Specialist

¿Hablas español? We are hiring for a Bilingual Client Services Specialist! This role provides case management and oversees programs and services for Neighborhood Connection’s clients, particularly those who are Spanish speaking. This team member serves as the organization’s representative in relevant coalitions and organizations, always representing the organization in a professional manner. On a daily basis, the client services specialist interacts with staff, clients, resource partners, and the community. Please click on the "We're Hiring" image to see the full job description on Indeed.com and then you can apply through the blue "Apply Now" button!

Lindsey Helt | Office Administrator

Lindsey originally joined Waunakee Neighborhood Connection as a member of their Board of Directors in October 2023 before being hired as Office Administrator in February 2024. In this role, she manages daily tasks as it relates to the business functions of the organization, including communication, finances, event planning, and other special projects as they arise. Her educational background includes a degree in Business Administration from Indiana University and an Elementary Teaching Certificate earned at Alverno College. With career experiences in both the Business and Education fields, as well as many years of volunteer work, Lindsey brings a wide variety of organizational and interpersonal skills to her role, in addition to her eternal optimism! Lindsey and her family moved to Waunakee in 2022, and they chose to live in Waunakee because of the strong feeling of community here. Lindsey is a proponent of neighbors helping neighbors, and she is excited to help Waunakee Neighborhood Connection continue to grow as a valuable resource for the Waunakee community.

2024 Board of Directors

Angie Rojas Agudelo | Chair

Cathy Sheffield | Vice Chair

Amy Sampson | Secretary

Joe Koss | Treasurer

Tiffani Drake

Anna Lezotte

Kelley Kochendorfer

Karen Garcia

Monique Mobley

Christine Erickson

Todd Schmidt | Village Liaison