December 2012

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liveIn the Moment with Genna Eaton Turning a simple coat drive into a community-wide mission A life-changing gift waits outside the Waunakee Neighborhood Connection's donation store. It's a red van, and as Genna Eaton, executive director of WNC, hands over the keys to its new owner, tears well up in the woman's eyes. She's not the only one overcome with [this] gift," Eaton says. "It gives me great joy to see someone else happy." Th is is the seventh time in eight years emotion. "It's overwhelming … to give someone Get Involved In addition to year-round activities, WNC organizes an Adopt-a-Family program where donors act as secret Santas to ensure their "adopted" family has a merry holiday season. To learn about the program and other ways to contribute, visit waunakeeneighborhood- the organization, which strives to offer a host of resources to those who need it, has provided a local family with a vehicle. But Eaton's reaction is always the same. "I want to help my neighbors," she says. "If I can make a difference here, that's what I want to do." And that's how it all began eight years ago—seeing children in her son's third-grade class walking to school without winter coats, Eaton was overcome by an urge to help and decided to launch a coat drive. Soon, neighbors began approaching her with more community needs, and two years later, Eaton had cre- ated an offi cial nonprofi t charity organization with a board of directors and a network of volunteers. Even in a suburb few think of as a com- munity with pressing social needs, Eaton says WNC has turned into a nonstop op- eration, supporting around 800 people through an ever-expanding program ros- ter including holiday meals, supply drives, ESL classes, bed-building projects and a free store stocking everything from dia- pers to books. "I think [the level of need] was a little eye-opening for some people … but every community has needs," she says. Whether they're offering daily neces- sities or a gift much bigger, WNC's work shows how even the simplest start to giving back can blossom into so much more. "Clients are just in awe with gratitude," Eaton says. "And knowing we were able to get them simple things—that just over- whelms you." –Emily Bradley December 2012 11 Photo by Shanna Wolf

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