2021 WISCAP Annual Awards

The 2021 WISCAP Annual Awards was held virtually on May 11, 2020.  WISCAP presented these awards on behalf of its network of sixteen Community Action Agencies, the Foundation for Rural Housing, and UMOS so as to recognize individuals or organizations who have gone above and beyond in helping to improve and further the goals of Community Action in Wisconsin in fighting poverty.

William Steiger Human Services Award

Senator Joan Ballweg is this year’s recipient of the William Steiger Human Services Award, given in recognition of a Republican lawmaker for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families. The Senator was nominated by Mike Bonertz, Executive Director of ADVOCAP. Over her career, Senator Ballweg has exhibited leadership in the areas of education, business, and health care. She has served as a member of the Waupun Memorial Hospital Board of Directors, co-founder of the Legislative Children’s Caucus, and most recently, as National Chair of the Council of State Governments. In this role, the Senator has led efforts to increase legislative diversity and improve legislative ethical standards. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Committee on Human Services, Children and Families and is a member of the Joint Committee on Finance.  Previous recipients of the William Steiger Award include former Representative Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) and Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award

The Gaylord Nelson Human Services Award recognizes a Democratic lawmaker for outstanding support of Community Action and low-income families and this year’s recipient is Senator Jeff Smith, who was nominated by Anna Cardarella, Executive Director of Western Dairyland Community Action Agency. As Minority Caucus Chair and as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Sporting Heritage, Small Business & Rural Issues, Senator Smith has been a forceful advocate for those living in poverty, taking on so-called “Pay-Day” lenders and working to bring greater broadband access to rural communities especially hard hit by the COVID 19 pandemic. Previous recipients of the Gaylord Nelson Award include Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-6th), in 2019, and Senator Janet Bewley (D-25th) in 2020.

Self-Sufficiency Award

The Self-Sufficiency Award recognizes an individual who, with the aid of their local Community Action Agency, has overcome poverty and achieved self-sufficiency. Le Anne Martinez was the recipient of this award and she was nominated by Becky Koske, Assistant Department Director at Couleecap. Le Anne struggled with homelessness and was referred to Couleecap’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) Program by the Coordinate Community Services program through La Crosse County. After working with Couleecap, Le Anne was able to transition from the TBRA program to Section 8 and remain in the apartment she grew to love.

Le Anne has used her experience to help others. She is currently a member of the Consumer Advisory Council, which is a collective group of individuals who have lived experience and who advocate on behalf of those who have experienced homelessness. This group has been an active and vital part of the Coulee Collaborative to End Homelessness. Le Anne is quick to volunteer her time and her energy to help with other community events, such as the Point in Time Count and Homeless Connect. These events reach out to those experiencing homelessness to try to make connections to services that might be able to help. Le Anne’s advocacy is also evident close to her home. When the Coulee Region received funding for the Wisconsin Energy and Rental Assistance Program (WERA), Le Anne took the initiative to reach out to her landlord to share this information, along with hanging the flyer in the buildings of her apartment complex. She looks for ways to reach out to others in need whenever she can.

Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award

The Exceptional Community Action Staff Member Award was established as a tribute to Richard Strand, former Executive Director of Southwest CAP and long-time member of the WISCAP Board, in recognition of a Community Action employee who has demonstrated hard work and embodying the spirit of community action in Wisconsin. This year’s recipient was Shelly Teadt, Planning Director of Couleecap, who was nominated by Hetti Brown, Executive Director of Couleecap.

Shelly Teadt, Planning Director at Couleecap, has dedicated the last 27 years to community action. Shelly has worn many hats at the agency, starting in the Crawford County field office in prevention programming and working her way up to Director of Planning. She cares deeply about her work, her community, and her co-workers. Throughout her tenure at Couleecap, Shelly has consistently been willing to take on new challenges to better the agency and our service to clients. Years ago, she picked up supervision of marketing and fund development when Couleecap was in the early stages of understanding what that was and how it would look for the agency. Since that time, she has written hundreds of grant applications to bring in new programs that would forever shape the agency, including the original New Hope Permanent Housing grant, which became a 20-year program, Monroe County Safe Community Coalition grant for substance abuse prevention, which just wrapped up its 10th year, and Federal Home Loan Bank grant to increase affordable and decent housing. Shelly also helped to plan special projects, such as a fluoridation project in the mid-2000’s through the Wisconsin Partnership Program School of Medicine and Public Health. Shelly also helps to foster the next generation of community action advocates. She has supervised many student volunteers and interns to develop the future workforce. Additionally, she speaks to each cohort of Viterbo nursing students on rural poverty. This helps to build an understanding in future healthcare providers of the unique challenges associated with people with low income in rural parts of the state. Above all, Shelly is an exceptional team member. When anyone or any team in the agency needs help, she is willing to jump in without hesitation.

Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award

The Outstanding Friend of Community Action Award recognizes an individual or group outside of the CAA Network, whose actions have promoted or enhanced the efforts and services of community action. This year’s recipient was Central Rivers Farmshed. This organization was nominated by the Hmong UPLIFT Program within CAP Services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hmong families in Portage County, particularly elders and individuals with disabilities, have struggled with isolation and food insecurity. Although there are meal programs in the area, none are culturally-appropriate for the Hmong community. Sib Pab
(Helping Hands) Meal Project was created by CAP Services to bridge this gap. With support from the Portage County COVID-19 Relief Fund and local partners, CAP Services’ Hmong UPLIFT program launched Sib Pab meals in June of 2020. For eight weeks, the program contracted with local Hmong restaurants to provide two meals per week to 50 individuals. Knowing that the pandemic was not going to go away anytime soon, Hmong UPLIFT program staff realized they would not have the capacity to continue managing the project. In July, UPLIFT coordinator Phong Vang reached out to Central Rivers Farmshed to help continue the project. Since then, Farmshed has maintained the Sib Pab Meal Project as part of their ongoing programming. They have worked tirelessly to recruit volunteers, to provide economic benefit to area farms through the purchase of healthy local ingredients, and to secure funding to support the work of preparing, cooking and delivering meals to participants. To date, Farmshed has prepared and delivered more than 5,000 Sib Pab Meals!

WISCAP President’s Award

Each year, the President of the WISCAP Board of Directors identifies a person or an organization that deserves recognition by the community action network for going above and beyond a typical partnership. In the recent past, the winners have been individuals that have had long standing relationships with the network, and these relationships have clearly demonstrated an effort to help WISCAP and its members advance our mission.

This year, George Hinton, CEO of Social Development Commission and President of the WISCAP Board of Directors, awarded Kitty Kocol with the 2021 WISCAP President’s Award. Kitty Kocol is the State Administrator of Poverty & Hunger Relief Programs for the State of Wisconsin. She has exhibited leadership addressing poverty and advancing solutions through administration of the Community Services Block Grant. She has worked tirelessly in managing The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to prevent hunger and establish food security for low-income families

Kitty has always displayed unfailing support for the mission of Community Action and she has always shown passion and patience in her work. Commitment to social & economic justice has been a hallmark of her career and the difference she has made to the lives of Wisconsinites living below the poverty line is immeasurable.

WISCAP is honored to have Kitty Kocol as a long-time friend of community action in Wisconsin and we extend our deepest respect and appreciation for all that she has done and continues to do.