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 15%, which is more than 2000 individuals, live below what is known as the ALICE threshold. ALICE stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed, and the threshold is currently $19,848 for a single adult and $61,620 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.
Lisa Humenik | Executive Director
Lisa joined Neighborhood Connection as executive director in August, 2018. She jokes that while her husband got the career ladder, which took their family to a number of cities around the country, she got the career jungle gym. This interesting and varied path has allowed her to acclimate quickly to new communities and settings, create connections and partnerships, and gain a wealth of skills and knowledge that she applies to making organizations sustainable and impactful. Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management and leadership. She has served as the CEO of the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona; as executive director of a K-12 public school foundation, community gardening organization, and a school-based mentoring program; and as director of volunteer services for hospitals and hospice programs. In her free time, she volunteers for a variety of organizations including the United Way of Dane County and the Sigma Kappa Foundation.
Helyn Luisi-Mills | Manager of Client Services
Helyn Luisi-Mills joined the team at Neighborhood Connection in February, 2022. Shewas born in Caracas, Venezuela and immigrated with her family to the U.S. in the 80's. She and her partner served in the Peace Corps 2004 - 2006. She has a Master of Science in human ecology; program evaluation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Throughout her career in domestic and international settings, she has helped families connect to community resources in the midst of difficult situations. She enjoys the networks and partnerships that come from working with hundreds of volunteers, a variety of staff and other community partners. She is inspired by playing a role in closing gaps in health and economic disparities. She also loves playing high stakes board games with her nieces and chasing after her dog.
2022 Board of Directors
Anna Lezotte | Chairman
Amy Sampson | Secretary
Cathy Sheffield | Treasurer
Todd Schmidt | Village Liaison