The Human Race

Human Race 2015 with Date with feet

COTS is raising funds by participating in the Human Race. We are very excited to join this community-wide event!

The Volunteer Center Human Race is Saturday, May 2nd at 9 am at Thrivent Financial, Appleton. We would love to have you join our team and walk with us. Participants in the Human Race can join a team, collect pledges for COTS, then participate on behalf of COTS in a 5k walk, 5k non-competitive run or one-mile walk.

By joining our team, you can help transform the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness!

Whether you can join us or not, take a moment to look at our team page. There, you can make a pledge to our team on my page as I am the designated Team Captain or you can join our team. By joining our team, you can then solicit friends and family by sending them a link to your own personalized page or by asking your friends and family in person for cash or check. Please also feel free to download the COTS Human Race Flyer with more information.

If you would like to learn more, please call or e-mail me. Thank you in advance for supporting us in our mission of “Ending Homelessness in the Fox Valley”!

Sincerely,

Lindsey MacDonald
COTS Team Captain
(920)268-0603 ext. 704
lmacdonald@appletoncots.org

United Community

The following three businesses are offering EXTRA cash back during the month of March whenever you make a purchase with one of your registered cards in the United Community Program:

  • Culver’s of Neenah – 15% (Neenah location only)                          
     
  • HuHot Mongolian Grill – 10% (Appleton & Green Bay locations)
  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit – 10% (Appleton & Green Bay locations)

We are very excited for this opportunity to raise extra funds. Thank you for your support in the program, and thank you for choosing these businesses for your purchases.

Sincerely,
Andrew Wilson, Executive Director
COTS

P.S. If you haven’t already registered in the United Community Program, you can register for free at www.ucmission.com. There are 180 other businesses that are always offering cash back to our organization!
 

“Life is Just Better”

A former resident learns to socialize and stay sober
“Drinking is the root of all of my evil. It destroys my functionality,” says Jay. Jay came to COTS after going through six months of treatment at The Mooring House. He had spent most of his life in and

out of treatment, but this time, “[he] actually listened to what the counselor told [him] to do.” Now two years sober, Jay returns to COTS to share his story.

Jay came to COTS because he knew it was his best option for staying sober. He has been on SSDI due to back injuries, and previously had the habit of isolating himself and turning back to drinking. At COTS, he was surrounded by people who would hold him accountable.

A supportive community

When asked what he learned during his 17 months at COTS, Jay lights up. “I learned to take care of me. I learned good habits by cleaning up after myself. I never used to be that way,” he grins. He also learned to be more deliberate with his decisions rather than being impulsive.

“Financial Peace University was the best thing they made us do,” Jay continues. During the budgeting class, Jay learned how to manage his money and plan more.

He also learned to not isolate himself, describing the real friends he made while at COTS. “You learn to know each other and like each other,” he explains.

“Under One Roof”

Jay moved out of COTS at the beginning of January and became a part of “Under One Roof,” a collaboration between COTS and the Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities. “Under One Roof” provides permanent housing for four disabled, unrelated and formerly chronically homeless males who live in a house together and pay rent to their landlord (the Housing Partnership). They continue to receive support from COTS through our Aftercare Program.

Jay enjoys having a place of his own. He especially appreciates that all of his roommates work together to keep their house spotless. “Everything that has happened since I moved out has been beneficial to me,” he says. His long term goal is to stay sober, and he knows that having people around him will help with that.

Since his time at COTS, Jay has been able to strengthen his relationship with his family, something he couldn’t imagine doing when he wasn’t sober. He recently even had an extended visit with his brother in the Milwaukee area. He spends his free time volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul and enjoys the feeling of giving back to the community.

“Life is just better,” he grins. “When I look at where I came from to today…there’s a 10,000% difference.”

Open Houses at COTS

Each month, COTS invites the community in to tour our “campus of change” first-hand, and connect with our mission of “Ending Homelessness in the Fox Valley”! You will have the opportunity to hear residents’ testimonials and learn about more ways you can become involved.

Light refreshments will be offered. Open houses are held on the fourth Thursday of each month from 5:30-6:30 pm at 819 S. West Ave, Appleton.

Please RSVP to Lindsey Macdonald at lmacdonald@appletoncots.org or 920-268-0603 ext. 704. 

Help for the Homeless 2015

91.9/91.5 The Family’s “Help for the Homeless” hygiene drive will be collecting new personal care and cleaning products for  area crisis agencies…including ours…. so that we can dedicate our limited financial resources to providing  qualified personnel, safe housing, nutritious food, education, and case management to those we serve. The goal of Help for the Homeless is to provide a year’s worth of supplies to each agency.  Donations remain in the communities where they are collected.

 “Last year, it was so inspiring to see our community come together to support our residents. It is amazing how much dignity can be afforded to our residents simply from them having the necessity items they need.”  - Andrew Wilson, COTS Executive Director

Families (or people) come to COTS who have had to share a toothbrush, gone without soap for their faces, hands, and hair, and some working parents in tight times who are washing and reusing their baby’s disposable diapers at home in order to have enough unused diapers to send with their child to day care – children are not admitted to daycare unless parents supply new disposable diapers.

Thanks to hundreds of local churches, businesses, and schools for joining together to collect for the drive!  Please donate generously at church, work or school, or at any area Festival Foods Stores, Shopko, or Walgreens from Feb. 22 – March 15  and help us help our neighbors in need right here in Appleton.  Thank you!  

 PS:  People who have access to WIC or Food Share (Food Stamps) cannot use these programs to obtain any hygiene items or diapers. These are expensive items for non-profit organizations like ours to purchase.

 More at thefamily.net or call their studios at 800-236-9364

or download the Help for the Homeless 2015 Flyer 

A video Valentine from COTS

We wanted to “share the love” by creating a video Valentine for all of our amazing supporters! Click here to watch the video on YouTube. Thank you for all that you do to help our residents transform their lives! 

Volunteer Spotlight: Katie Daw

“I just wanted to do something,” says Katie Daw, COTS’ volunteer Activities Coordinator. Katie began volunteering at COTS three days a week at the beginning of December. “I wanted the experience,” she says.

Katie first learned about COTS when she was looking for an ongoing volunteer opportunity. A friend gave her a booklet of local volunteer opportunities, and after reading about COTS, she thought it would be a good fit for her. She approached COTS with a willingness to do anything, and staff quickly came up with the idea of having her serve as Activities Coordinator.

Katie had previously worked at AT&T for 10 years, but received her human services degree in 2013. She was looking for opportunities to get more experience in the human services field. “Volunteering here is the best thing I ever did because I’m now 100% sure I’m in the field I want to be in,” she grins.

Bringing the community together
 

As Activities Coordinator, no two days are the same. Katie is currently working on starting a book club, a creative writing class, a movie night, and a pool and dart tournament. She’s able to meet with residents to learn about what they would like to do.

“We want to give our residents as many opportunities as possible to come together as a community,” explains Andrew Wilson, COTS Executive Director. “Since we also work with our residents on budgeting, it’s important for us to show them that it is possible to have a good time with minimal expenses. It’s wonderful having Katie here because she is able to focus on creating low-cost, fun activities that also ideally make our residents better human beings.”

 For Katie, the best part of her volunteer experience is “just talking with the residents.”

 If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at COTS, please contact Lindsey at lmacdonald@appletoncots.org or (920)268-0603 ext. 704.

New Collaboration Generates Hope for Homeless Veterans

For the past few years, COTS has sought to initiate programming for area veterans in need. Towards the end of 2014, COTS began collaborating with the Fox Valley Veterans Council in order to provide a safe and stable place for veterans as they wait to receive a government housing voucher and search for independent housing. In order to qualify for a voucher, veterans need to have a physical mailing address for a short period of time. COTS is able to provide this necessary component, while simultaneously providing the space and attention that a veteran experiencing homelessness needs.

The three veterans who are currently receiving services through this collaboration were previously considered homeless and also suffer from combat injuries, not to mention PTSD. As the only provider of transitional shelter in the area, COTS is the most viable option when taking into consideration the health needs of our vets. At COTS, we provide individuals with the tools needed in order to achieve self-sufficiency, while other housing providers in the Fox Valley serve emergency and crisis needs. 

Each veteran that is referred to COTS through the Fox Valley Veterans Council is expected to participate in all aspects of COTS programming, including paying a monthly program fee to cover the cost of case management and basic needs. The council will fund up to three months of program fees for each veteran that moves into the COTS program.

A closer look at the life of a vet experiencing homelessness

As an active member of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Josh was the first veteran referred to the COTS program through the Fox Valley Veterans Council. Josh served in the army for about six years and now suffers from physical limitations that forced him to let go of his job as a mechanic. But this was only the beginning of a tumultuous series of events.

While struggling with his medical condition and unemployment, Josh was also undergoing marital issues, which would later lead to a divorce. He now has designated visitations with his daughter and attends child support court. After the separation, he experienced financial hardship, making it difficult to rent on his own. As a result, he spent time couch surfing from one place to the next. Eventually, he decided to seek help from the Fox Valley Veterans Council, which resulted in a referral to COTS. This was a turning point for Josh.

Turning life “180 degrees around”

On December 6, 2014, Josh moved into COTS, where he has been given time to reflect and learn more about himself. When asked what he has taken away from his time at COTS so far, he hopefully replied, “There’s more help out there than I thought there was…I honestly didn’t know there was a program like this.”  He is currently learning valuable lessons about budgeting through Financial Peace University, which is offered to all residents of COTS.

After only a month and a half, Josh has already received a government-issued housing voucher, and is taking the necessary steps towards self-sufficiency. If everything goes as planned, Josh will be moving out of COTS by the end of February. He is also looking forward to the possibility of going back to school to get a degree in a new field. After everything he has been through, Josh now realizes that “Even when your life is in the dumps, you can still turn it 180 degrees around.”

This story undoubtedly sheds light on the importance of the collaboration between COTS and the Fox Valley Veterans Council. There is a newfound hope for veterans in our community: Josh may represent the first of many who will succeed in breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Home for the Holidays

When asked what their plans were for the holidays, many residents at COTS had similar responses. They didn’t have any special arrangements with family, or it just wasn’t possible to go home. This is the case every year for our residents, which is why it’s so important for COTS to serve as a place to call “home.”

On the evening of Tuesday, December 16th, we held our annual resident holiday party. To open up the night, our Outreach Coordinator announced resident milestones, celebrating everything from anniversaries to birthdays. A festive meal, provided by the Holiday Inn in Appleton, Rotary Club of Appleton West and Network Health, was served shortly thereafter. Residents gazed upon the hearty buffet of chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, rolls and dessert of course, wide-eyed.

Upon finishing the delicious meal, it was time for the much-awaited gift opening. We would especially like to thank 91.9/91.5 The Family for coordinating their annual Christmas Care Program and Thrivent Financial for donating the special backpacks filled with goodies, not to mention the enthusiastic volunteers from Christ the King Lutheran Church who single-handedly stuffed the additional gift bags for each resident. Thanks to everyone mentioned, in addition to the numerous kind-hearted individuals and organizations in our community who support COTS, we were able to give our residents a holiday to remember!

It is impossible to describe the amount of joy and gratitude that filled the air that night. Residents were simply overwhelmed by the generosity of those around them. In fact, while opening gifts, one resident exclaimed, “This is too much…I may never come back down to earth!”Others let their faces do the talking. Looking around the room, every face was lit up, mimicking the colored lights that adorned the tree. Even the simplest of gifts, like a pair of winter gloves, did not go unappreciated.

Because of the overwhelming support and generosity of our neighbors, the residents of COTS truly felt at home for the holidays.

An Opportunity to Grow

Resha was a typical college student who, in her own words, “wasn’t great at budgeting.” She graduated without having a job lined up or a concrete plan, and moved in with a friend. After a series of financial missteps, she found herself with a lease that was almost up, a newborn son, and no place to go.

Fortunately, someone at her church told her about COTS’ Single Mothers with Young Children program. The Single Mothers with Young Children program focuses on the specific needs of single mothers with children under the age of 12. COTS can serve two families at a time. Resha was accepted into the program the week her lease was up.

Building up Savings

“There was a lot of support there, a lot of opportunity to grow,” says Resha of her time at COTS. While at COTS, Resha soaked up what she learned through Financial Peace University, a budgeting course, so that she didn’t repeat her past financial mistakes. She paid off all $4,200 of her debt other than student loans and saved up enough money to purchase her own car with cash. She built up a savings which she was able to use for the downpayment on her apartment.

She also enjoyed that she was able to stay in a duplex with her son; “You get to feel what it’s like to be responsible for a house and a kid.” At the same time, she enjoyed being able to socialize during dinner time with the women next door in the Women’s Program.

Resha stayed at COTS with her son for the full two years, and now continues to stay involved through our Aftercare Program. She has worked full-time since being at COTS, and recently started a new job with higher pay and benefits. She is proud to show off her lovely two-bedroom apartment complete with a Christmas tree.

“There’s Always a Solution”

“When I first came to COTS I worried about being a burden–letting my son down, letting myself down. Needing to breathe. Finding that ladder out of the ditch. COTS made sure I didn’t have a reason to feel hopeless. There’s always a solution,” she states as she puts the finishing touches on dinner for her now two-year-old son.

“Things are good right now…For the first time, I’m not stressed about money. I’m actually prepared if a hiccup were to arrive.”