Program Highlights 2015

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Help Us Reach Our Goal!

In 2016, we anticipate serving approximately 150 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Fox Valley. Each of these individuals is provided with the following items upon move-in:
  • NEW twin sheet sets
  • NEW pillows
  • NEW bath towel sets

Please help us to provide these comforts of “home” for our residents as they work on discovering the path to a new life!

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

  

“Just Go Out and Do It”

Young adult resident gets his life back on track

“I was kind of spinning my wheels,” Ryan says of his life before COTS. The now 23-year-old had, “a very sheltered childhood.” Once he went to college, however, he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. “I didn’t understand I would end up paying for it later on,” he explains.

After his freshman year, he was unable to return to college. He began withdrawing from others, which he said happened easily since almost all of his friends were away at college. That’s when his drug use increased. Around a year ago, Ryan overdosed on drugs, and he found himself in an AODA treatment program.His counselors recommended COTS as the “next logical step”—he knew that he still needed a structured environment that would support his sobriety.

After he moved into COTS, what once seemed impossible to Ryan quickly fell into place. He found a job in the nursing field as a CNA, a job which he finds extremely fulfilling. He is also back in school at Fox Valley Technical College in order to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant. Balancing work and school keeps the young man busy and focused on his goals—his day starts at 4am and doesn’t end until 5pm.

Being at COTS has helped Ryan stay on track with school. “It’s helped me get better grades,” he grins. “It’s made things a lot easier…I’m definitely thankful for the people who deliver the meals.” His goals moving forward are to finish his degree, maintain his sobriety, and to stay fit and healthy—Ryan regularly works out at the YMCA (COTS residents receive complimentary memberships). He has learned to “not listen to the excuses [he’s] made up for [himself]…just to go out and do it!”

A Season of Gratitude

The holidays are a time to show gratitude. This holiday season, we asked our residents what they are grateful for:

‘Tis the Season of Giving

During this year’s holiday party, COTS residents, staff and board members were welcomed by a plethora of delicious food, festive music, and last but not least an enthusiastic volunteer dressed as an elf!

Thanks to the wonderful donation of Festival Foods gift cards from Avenue Jewelers, the meal consisted of favorite recipes prepared by residents. By choosing recipes from past holidays, residents were able to conjure up fond memories with friends and family. Among the most popular dishes at the party were egg rolls, cheesecake and death by chocolate.

After finishing up with the delectable feast, everyone sang “Jingle Bells” before the much anticipated raffle drawing and gift opening. Gifts were provided by countless supporters throughout the community: JanSport, 91.9/91.5 The Family, Thrivent Financial, St. Mary’s Parish, St. Bernard Parish, First Presbyterian Church Neenah, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Atlas Coffee Mill & Café, First English Lutheran Church and several individuals donors. We are so grateful to belong to such a giving community!
The raffle was perhaps the highlight of the evening, with many residents winning prizes. One young adult was excited that he was able to pick out a prize of beautiful earrings to give to his sister for Christmas, as he couldn’t afford to buy her a gift.

Our holiday party succeeded in bringing residents together to experience the joys of belonging to a community. There was constant laughter and merriment throughout the entire evening, as our residents were provided with the comforts of “home” during a time that is difficult for many of them.One resident exclaimed, “I never had anything like this before!” Thank you again to our many generous supporters throughout the Fox Valley for making this special evening possible.

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.