Help for the Homeless Has Record-Breaking Year

Each year, COTS participates in 91.9/91.5 

The Family’s “Help for the Homeless” hygiene drive, and each year, we are absolutely blown away by the tremendous amount of support provided by our neighbors! This year, $157,000 worth of hygiene products was collected through the drive, which is up more than $5,000 from last year’s record of $151,509. COTS is so grateful to be one of the 17 area crisis agencies that benefited from this community-wide effort.

“We are, once again, simply overwhelmed by the generosity of this community. I wish that everyone who gave to Help for the 
Homeless could see the looks on our residents’ faces as the items were brought into our agency, knowing they could have fresh razors, 
deodorant, and other essential items. Most importantly, they know that they are part of a community that supports them and cares about their well-being. We cannot thank you enough.” -Andrew Wilson, COTS Executive Director

Thanks again to everyone in our community who played a role in making this year’s “Help for the Homeless” drive such a huge success!

Want to see how you helped to make a difference? Check out this video for a behind-the-scenes look at the results of this year’s drive.

A Brief Glimpse at the COTS Aftercare Coordinator

Written by John Polakowski

As COTS’ Aftercare Coordinator, my activities and duties vary from one day to the next and tend to keep me very busy.  Thus a typical day includes interaction with current and former residents.  I do enjoy making contact and keeping in touch with clients in the Aftercare Program.  Many of them continue to call or visit me after reaching their two-year limit for aftercare services.

One of the women whom I see on a regular basis still comes to our monthly community dinners even though she has been living on her own for almost three years.  Not long ago, Mary called me to request a visit because of a recent surgery.  When I went to her well-kept apartment, she brought me up-to-date about her recovery and the progress she has made dealing with abuse issues.

Mary sees a therapist each week and has been able to use techniques that she learned in sessions to overcome post-traumatic stress.  I complimented her for the growth that I have witnessed in her for the past couple years.  She was very happy to see me because she has been unable to drive since her surgery and misses her involvements in volunteer programs and the people she interacts with there.  I offered to bring one of our interns who would like to accompany me on some home visits.  Mary quickly agreed to arrange a visit the following morning.

She is always so proud to give visitors a tour of her apartment complex and explain the amenities that are available to her.  I left with a sense of gratitude and smile when I think about Mary’s success.

Amanda: Success in Bloom

“I separated from my parents and family because of abuse, and they did not want me anymore.”

 To the outside world, it looked like Amanda’s life was on track. She was at Lawrence University studying music education when her family’s abuse reached a new level and they cut her off financially. Without their financial support, Amanda could no longer afford to stay in school, and she had no where else to go. She had just turned 19. “In the past, I’ve lived in shelters, on the street, and on various couches of people I know,” she remembers.

 Then Amanda learned about COTS, and she moved into the Women’s Program in February. This driven young woman has quickly turned her life around and glows as she talks about all of her accomplishments. “Since coming to COTS, I’ve gained stability in my life. I have been able to begin therapy and get back on medications I wasn’t able to afford before,” she explains.


Amanda was able to find a rewarding full-time position working with individuals with disabilities. She also recently was able to purchase her very first vehicle thanks to support from the Work-n-Wheels program through CAP Services. The Work-n-Wheels program provides interest-free loans to low-income individuals so that they can purchase their own vehicles.

She is also working to start a community garden at the

women’s building. The garden will focus on growing fresh vegetables for the residents of the program. “I want to teach my peers that they can provide for themselves,” she explains. She believes that gardening will be “a good therapeutic outlet for the women here.”

Back to School

Amanda is perhaps the most excited about recently gaining independent student status. This will allow her to receive more financial aid, since prior to this, her school financial package was based on her parents’ income. Now, she can afford to return to Lawrence University. She plans to continue studying music education this fall.

Amanda’s experience has given her insight that will benefit her as she works to “pay it forward” in the future in her work in education. “I’ve learned that there are many people just like me who’ve gone through just as much or more, and they can still turn it around.”

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”!


Lindsey MacDonald
COTS Team Captain
(920)268-0603 ext. 704

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.

Andrew Wilson, Executive Director

P.S. If you haven’t already registered in the United Community Program, you can register for free at 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 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 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 or (920)268-0603 ext. 704.