We Thank YOU…

As we enter this season of thanks, we can’t help but turn our thoughts to the people who make our work possible day in and day out. We have incredible residents who are committed to the hard work of transforming their lives on a daily basis. Here are some of our accomplishments so far this year:

  • 39 residents have moved out of COTS and into safe, stable and independent housing;
  • 96% (51/53) of the former residents in our Aftercare Program have been able tomaintain safe, stable and independent housing after moving out of COTS;
  • 6 residents are currently enrolled in further education classes, while 3 others plan to enroll in the near future;
  • Our residents have given 4,194 hours back to the community through volunteer work.

None of these successes would be possible without your support. When you support COTS, you help us to provide our residents with the tools they need to begin the next chapter of their lives and be part of their own solution!

The Ingredients of Success

Cooking class of COTS reveals inner strength of residents

 “I’d been wanting to do volunteering, but I didn’t know what to do,” explains Mary Kay Maigatter, COTS volunteer. She knew that she wanted to do something hands-on, but didn’t know where to start. At a women’s retreat, she met one of the COTS Meal Ministers, who talked to her about the COTS program. That sparked her idea to start a monthly cooking class at COTS.

“It just feels very natural,” she explains. Her first class she worked with the women to make chicken noodle soup. Each class, she varies her approach based on the women who attend and their level of cooking skill. They’ve made recipes ranging from eggs and hashbrowns to homemade hot pockets. This month, they are going to make pumpkin pie.


For Mary Kay, the benefit of the class goes beyond simply teaching the women cooking skills. “Maybe for an hour we can take them out of the craziness that they’re going through,” she says with a grin. “They’re pleasant and ready. There’s this inner strength about them that I admire. I think they’re teaching me.”
Are you interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at COTS? Please contact lmacdonald@appletoncots.org or (920)268-0603 ext. 704.

Finding Home

A COTS Resident Testimonial

“I was homeless for nine days. I lived out of my car.” Tobias moved into COTS’ Young Adult Program nearly three months ago after his stint living out of his car. The 20-year-old had been kicked out of his adopted parents’ home after repeated clashes with them.

Tobias’ life has been one of constant upheaval, rarely having stability for more than a few years at a time. Tobias and his five sisters were all adopted from Poland when he was a child. Imagine being just nine years old, shuffled from country to country, state to state, group home to group home.

 Reconnecting with Family

Fast forward several years later, and Tobias was taken in by members of his church. “They made me get my first job,” he remembers, and he was able to complete his G.E.D. His foster care case worker gave him a plane ticket so that he was able to visit one of his sisters. His sister had been adopted by a family in Wisconsin, and he was able to see her for the first time in five years.

Tobias stayed in touch with his sister and her family, and once he turned 18, they told him that he could move in with them. Tobias made the move from Missouri to Wisconsin, and became a part of their family. Tobias enrolled in college, but felt overwhelmed by some of his classes, and stopped going to school. “After that, I started going downhill,” he explains. He increasingly had conflicts with his adopted parents, which led to him being kicked out of the house.

Finding Home

Tobias was able to move into COTS, and started a new job the next day. He immediately began saving up his money. “Things started turning around after that…I have a better relationship with my parents after realizing the wrong things I’ve done to them.” This week, in fact, he is going over to their house to help decorate for Christmas.

What has he learned while at COTS? “Responsibility,” he says definitively. “That was a big one. And knowing that there are people out there who are willing to help others.” He plans to re-enroll in school for business management, and ultimately wants to “travel the world for sure.” He hopes to visit his family in Poland again some day. Tobias has finally found the stability he needs in order to achieve his dreams.

Help us provide our residents with the comforts of “home” this holiday season!

We currently have a need for the following items as we move individuals into our programs for the winter months:

  • Valley Transit Bus Passes (10-ride)
  • $5 Gift Cards (Walmart, Shopko, Target, Gas Stations)
  • Crossword Puzzle & Sudoku Books / Playing Cards
  • Candy / Snacks
  • Baseball Caps
  • Hand & Foot Warmers
  • NEW Twin Sheet Sets
  • NEW Hand & Bath Towels
  • NEW Hats / Gloves / Mittens / Scarves
  • Bike Locks / Bike Lights
  • Ice Scrapers
  • Shovels

All donations can be dropped off at our main office: 819 S. West Avenue, Appleton, WI.
Drop Off Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm
Call 920-268-0603 (ext. 704) to make other arrangements.

“Greatest Possible Impact”

Pierce Manufacturing team teaches residents how to be effective job seekers

Hands shot up around the room as eager residents asked questions about job seeking that they had always wondered about. Throughout August and October, volunteers from the marketing department at Pierce Manufacturing, an Oshkosh Corporation Company, led job-hunting related workshops for COTS residents.

 The effort was spearheaded by Dan Meyer, Marketing Manager, and coordinated by Nick Smith, a marketing intern at Pierce. “Oshkosh Corporation strongly encourages team members to participate in volunteer opportunities. Our summer Marketing Intern, Nick Smith, took on the project of finding a local organization that we could volunteer with. He was focused on finding an organization that would allow us to use some of our strengths to make the greatest possible impact,” explains Meyer.
Creating Dialogue

Meyer and Smith brainstormed with COTS staff  about how they could best work with COTS residents, and it was determined that their team would lead a series of workshops to help residents make the best impression on potential employers. Many of our residents have strong job skills and experience, but do not present that experience effectively when job searching. The workshops focused on resume writing, social media, and interview preparation.

 “What I appreciated the most about the experience was the group’s willingness to participate, and eagerness to learn,” says Meyer. “It opened up a nice dialogue about challenges everyone faces when job hunting.” COTS residents appreciated the chance to learn about best practice as well as discuss their own experiences.
Tools for Independence
Meyers continues, “I would strongly encourage other corporate partners to reach out to COTS for volunteer opportunities. I thought the experience was mutually beneficial largely because the staff at COTS encouraged us to write a curriculum based on the needs they see most commonly. The curriculum helped the residents, and it was a great team building experience for our department at the same time.”

COTS is so thankful for the Pierce Manufacturing team and their help in giving our residents the tools they need to lead independent lives!

Want to learn more about volunteer opportunities at COTS? Please contact Lindsey at (920) 268-0603 ext. 704 or lmacdonald@appletoncots.org.

Surviving His Story

A COTS Resident Testimonial

Storm Damage Necessitates Change

Simon was living in Grand Chute when a terrible storm came rolling through. The home that he was renting, as well as both of his vehicles, suffered severe damage from a tree that was uprooted during the storm. He was left without a vehicle to drive, as he didn’t have full coverage, and the house insurance didn’t offer protection from that kind of damage.

Simon found himself with nowhere to go. As he was facing large repair expenses for his vehicles, he didn’t have enough money to move on his own without some type of financial assistance. In an attempt to rectify his situation, he contacted the Appleton Housing Authority, which wasn’t currently taking applications and had a 2 – 3 year wait. He was however provided with a list of local housing organizations, including COTS.

After entering the Men’s Program at COTS, Simon enrolled in Financial Peace University, which is offered to all COTS residents. This financial literacy class helped him to set up an emergency fund. He relates that he is “fortunate to have survived [his] story,” and now, he proudly serves as a mentor for the young adults at COTS.

A New Career Path

Simon’s career path has taken a few twists and turns. During the past several years, Simon has been feeling the effects of corporate burnout, having previously held various managerial positions requiring long hours. A new career path was in order. He turned to architectural design, as he already has a degree in the field. However, since receiving his degree, there have been some updates to architectural job requirements.

In order to land a job, Simon was faced with the dilemma of not being able to afford taking a class in Autodesk Revit, the new predominant software for architectural design. Luckily, thanks to the basic necessities that COTS is able to provide, Simon was able to save money in order to pay for tuition. “I have wanted to take this class for four years. I’m so excited about it because I will be more marketable in my field!”

After enrolling in the Revit class, Simon relates that “[his] confidence level increases as [he learns] more.” He is hoping that by demonstrating his skill to catch on quickly, he will later be able to take advantage of his instructor’s connection to Miron Construction.

Although Simon suffers from depression from his previous experiences in life, he is happy to report that he is 26 years clean and sober. His overall goal in life is “continuing to get the movement going so [he doesn’t need to] live from paycheck to paycheck.” As an important person in his life once told him, “COTS is a good place to grease your skids…to get movement, to get going.”

COTS Honors Meal Ministers at Chili Cook-Off

Monday, September 21st marked COTS’ second annual chili cook-off to thank our wonderful Meal Ministers, who graciously prepare home-cooked meals for individuals residing at COTS every Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the year. Meal Ministers attending this special event were greeted by the overwhelming gratitude of COTS residents: “It is said, ‘home is where the heart is…’ Although COTS may be a ‘homeless shelter’ of sorts, the meals you provide us with have made it feel much more like a home. “ COTS staff and Board members were also present at the cook-off, contributing to a successful turnout.

Residents and staff members worked together on teams to see who could concoct the tastiest chili. Some of the individuals in our Women’s Program were excited to show off new skills learned during a volunteer-led COTS cooking course. Krista Krueger, our Women’s Case Manager, relayed that “residents greatly enjoyed interacting in a positive event to give back to those who give so much to our community.”

A total of five different varieties of chili were prepared: Santa Fe chicken, turkey, vegetarian quinoa, beef and a special garden blend with a kick. Most attendees tasted each kind of chili, as they were then given the opportunity to place a vote for the best one. And the winner was the chicken chili, with the vegetarian quinoa and turkey chilies following at a close second! As recalled by John Polakowski, COTS’ Aftercare Coordinator who helped to prepare the winning chili, “Those in attendance raved about the food choices and enjoyed each other’s company.”

Thank you again to our Meal Ministers, who truly serve as a valuable part of the COTS Team! As expressed by a COTS resident, “Bless your hearts for all the hearty food!”

Need a new recipe for a tasty chili? Here’s the link for the winning Santa Fe chicken chili: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/01/santa-fe-chicken-chili.html

A Purpose-Filled Life

Written by a resident of COTS’ Women’s Program

I came to live at COTS after being in treatment for my alcoholism.  I knew that I couldn’t return to my old surroundings, so I made the decision to separate myself from my grown children and recreate myself.  Due to my disease, I knew that living alone was not an option.  After researching many avenues that offered a structured community living environment, COTS offered the ultimate opportunities for my success.

I have lived at COTS since October of 2013.  When I first walked through the door my intentions were to only stay one year but I have benefited so much from this program that I decided to stay the entire two years.  I will walk out this door with all the tools necessary to live a very productive, successful, happy and sober life!

The benefits of this program are immense!  I am an older middle aged person and thought that I knew enough to live a productive life.  In hindsight, I only had the mindset to get by, but now I have the skills to succeed!  This program addresses every aspect of life.  My personal experience is one of pure gratitude. I have learned to budget and save money effectively.  I actually have a savings account for the first time in my adult life.  I overcame codependency issues through meetings with my case manager, resources offered by COTS and living with others that can relate to my past experiences.  I learned what is required to transition into an apartment and what the monetary expectations are to move.  I learn something new every day.  May it be in general conversation with another resident or in casual conversation with my Case Manager or other members of the staff.  Through my hard work, dedication, setting healthy boundaries and being receptive to feedback from a well-educated staff, I will be able to apply all that I have learned to my future after the COTS program.

One of my biggest accomplishments since being part of the COTS program is my 2 plus years of sobriety!  One of the rewards from this feat is that I am gainfully employed and have made retirement provisions with a retirement account.  Along with this, I have insurance benefits and will not be at the aid of the State or County.  For me, this translates into being a great member of society and having a purpose filled life.

My plans for the future are bigger and brighter than I ever thought to be imaginable. I know for a fact that when I move into my own apartment that I am armed with all the tools for success.  I will continue my full time career until retirement.  Within the next 4-6 months I would like to visit my elderly parents before they become my Angels.  I have a five year goal to take a cruise and to continue to save money to do some traveling.  And at my age, I have a “bucket list” that I will be checking off.


Life as an Intern: Creating Vision at COTS

Written by Amelia Bemis

I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and came to Appleton to attend Lawrence University in 2012. I started out as a music major, but realized that I didn’t want to pursue music as a career. After that, I ended up taking a few psychology classes and really loved it. I think my love of psychology stemmed from having a history of mental illness in my family.

I learned about COTS through a recommendation to take a tour of the facilities during a resume builder at Lawrence University. I thought the program was fascinating and very helpful, so I contacted COTS and ended up receiving an internship.

I loved interning at COTS. I met a lot of great people and learned a lot. My internship involved talking with residents, working on documents and running errands. I learned to appreciate every person for who they are. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a bad person, and this internship really drove that home for me. Meeting everyone and hearing their stories was truly inspirational. It also drove home the point that, even if you are struggling, there is truly help available and there will always be someone there to try and pick you back up.

My favorite experience from the internship was teaching a vision board life skills class to residents. I truly believe that thinking positively andvisualizing good things for oneself can change the direction a person’s life is going. I thought that it would be interesting to give people another way of thinking about things. Instead of just jumping to the easy thought process, which would be to think about things in a negative manner, maybe they could try something a little harder and think about most things in life positively.

Now that I have completed my internship at COTS, my plan is to graduate from Lawrence University in June of 2016 with an undergraduate degree in Psychology.  I also hope to eventually go to grad school and move out to the west coast.

“Learning How to Live Again”

A young man’s journey from addiction to independence

“Don’t ever use drugs….they caused me financial, legal, relationship, and emotional problems.” Garret is a 23-year-old resident of the COTS Young Adult Program. He came to COTS after going through treatment for his addiction at The Mooring House. His life journey has been a winding one, but now he finds himself staying on the path to a successful life.

Garret comes from a family background of addiction and mental health issues, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of six. He began experimenting with drugs at an early age, but it wasn’t until he graduated from high school that his addiction became more serious. He had a falling out with his father, and finding himself with no income, he resorted to dealing drugs in order to pay his rent. He stopped taking his medication for his bipolar disorder, and instead began to self-medicate with more and more drugs.


His life began spiraling out of control, and one night he wound up in the hospital after taking a mix of hallucinogens and ecstasy. He woke up in the hospital with no memory of what happened, and looked down to see that he was wearing a bracelet with the word “lucky” in beaded letters. “I’ve never missed a day wearing it…it reminds me that I’m lucky to be alive,” he explains.

He went into treatment at the Mooring House. “At first, I wasn’t ready to be clean. But then I heard how it had changed peoples’ lives…from then on, I never looked back,” Garret remembers.

Garret’s counselor at The Mooring House referred him to COTS after he completed his treatment. He moved into COTS in January 2015, and has been taking steps towards independence ever since.

“Learning to live without drugs”

At COTS, he says he is “learning to live without drugs.” Garret has learned how to save money, how to control his spending (he now focuses on “needs” vs. “wants”), and “how to stand up for [himself].” He has been paying down his debts and saving up for school.

This hard-working young man currently has two jobs and works around 60 hours a week. One of those jobs is at STEP Industries, a company that employs and supports people who are in recovery. He has been sober for over a year, and continues to go to Narcotics Anonymous every night. He is back on his medication, and says that his mental health is stable. He is in the process of enrolling in school, and plans to study biology. He hopes to one day move to Florida in order to become a marine biologist.

Perhaps most importantly to him, he has been repairing his relationship with his family. “I thought I had it made…in doing all these drugs, I didn’t realize how much I had pushed away the people who actually mattered,” he explains. “I’ve finally been getting my family’s trust back.”

Garret has learned many powerful lessons in his young life, but perhaps his most poignant lesson is this: “You have to work for the things you want. You can’t just coast. I coasted for years and never got anywhere. You’re behind the wheel of your own life.”