Our Partnerships




Partnering Up to Spread More Good

The J. J. Keller Foundation, Inc. has been fortunate to become involved in a number of partnerships and collaborations that help maximize its impact on organizations from Green Bay to Appleton to Oshkosh. These partnerships have addressed children’s behavioral health, food pantries and a host of other programs that work to meet basic needs.

Keller-Habitat Collaboration Continues
Basic Needs Giving Partnership
Catalpa Health
Stock the Shelves
Social Innovation Leadership Experience
Challenge Grants

Building Homes and Hope with Habitat for Humanity

For more than a decade, the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity has benefitted from the gifts of time, talent and treasure thanks to the Keller family and to associates of the company founded by the late Jack Keller, J. J. Keller & Associates.  Jack and his wife, Ethel, had a special place in their hearts for Habitat, and a long-standing relationship between the couple and Habitat was forged.  Funds from both the family foundation as well as the John J. and Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region have been designated for this important work over the years.

In 2014, this long-standing commitment was evidenced by the completion of the 20th home touched by the Keller family’s generosity. A record number of three different building projects received major funding, including the first-ever house renovation sponsored by the local Habitat affiliate.

To begin the year, J. J. Keller’s associates provided the manpower behind the Tamayo family home, weathering the effects of a long and snowy winter during the build. Next, the Lorentz family was the grateful recipient of the refurbished house that featured a yard with a tree perfectly suited for climbing by the boys! Finally, collaborative funding was provided to a high school youth build in Kaukauna called “Operation: Hope,” benefitting the Thao family.

The Keller family is the largest Habitat-Fox Cities funder, having invested more than $1.3 million in the affiliate.  The Foundation is also involved with Habitat for Humanity of Oshkosh.

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U.S. Venture Open/Basic Needs Giving Partnership:
Something Ventured . . . Something Gained

From duffers to pro-tour dreamers, the U.S. Venture Open sees them all. But no matter your skill set, everyone knows “it’s not about the golf.” It’s also not about the featured speaker – though this year’s keynote was delivered by baseball’s all-time-great Henry Aaron. What it IS about is an effort to raise money to address the root causes of poverty in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The legendary success of the U.S. Venture Open – one of the largest one-day golfing fundraisers in the country, now in its 29th year – was enhanced in 2014 when demand exceeded capacity and a 6th golf course was added. That expansion resulted in an all-time record of $2.314 million raised, and ensured a larger distribution of grants to nonprofits in the Fox Valley, Oshkosh and Green Bay areas.

Proceeds are disbursed through the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs at the Community Foundations in the three areas. Each year, J. J. Keller Foundation matches the granting budget of the Basic Needs Fund up to $800,000. Over the past seven years, the Kellers have given $5.1 million to the fund, and are very proud to be the lead funding partner in the collaborative initiative. Committees of community volunteers from the region’s Community Foundations and the J. J. Keller Foundation determine where the funds will have the greatest impact.

In 2014, the Fund for Basic Needs distributed 104 grants and made new grant commitments of more than $2.8 million.

At the August dinner that followed the picture-perfect golfing day, the Keller family received a double standing ovation as they announced the commitment of another $2.4 million over the next three years to the Basic Needs Giving Partnership.

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Little Cars Race for a Big Cause

Catalpa Health prides itself on providing the utmost in pediatric outpatient mental health services to the Fox Valley region, thanks to an unusual collaborative effort undertaken by three local, competing health organizations: Affinity Health System, ThedaCare and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. But without the foresight of a determined and spirited Neenah woman – namely, Ethel Keller – the whole concept of children’s behavioral health center might still be a dream in this region.

Ethel and granddaughter Marne Keller-Krikava championed the effort to bring a clinic called Fox Valley Children’s Mental Health Center to life in 2008. Ethel was smiling down from Heaven as the doors opened to the facility on the Goodwill Industries campus in Menasha. As the program continued to evolve, a task force was charged with determining how to provide increased access, improved outcomes and a more sustainable model for outpatient mental health services for children. That work was completed in early 2013, and resulted in the creation of Catalpa Health, a new entity that provides seamless, accessible, collaborative behavioral and mental health services for area youths and their families.

In 2014, Catalpa made many strides as it managed an ever-increasing patient load. A new Access Center opened in April, cutting wait times for families from 54 days to no more than 5 days, and ensuring that children in crisis are seen within 24 hours. In addition, Catalpa extended its reach into schools in the Fox Valley and Oshkosh, providing on-site treatment through the PATH and HOST programs.

To help build support from the community for Catalpa, the Kellers became the founding sponsor of the “Race for a Reason,” a unique annual fundraising event. Patterned after the Grand Prix auto race, mini race cars take to a specially designed race course at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Stadium. The event provides the feel of a big-time race, featuring pace cars, team uniforms, customized race cars careening around hairpin turns and, of course, a bustling pit row. A total of 22 teams participated in the 2014 Race for a Reason, and $149,122 was raised for Catalpa.

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Feeding the Need for Pantry Supplies

The J. J. Keller Foundation began partnering with The Post-Crescent newspaper in 2009 to Stock the Shelves of local food pantries and, since that time, the program has exceeded virtually everyone’s expectation. The community fundraising campaign has grown well beyond the Fox Valley into other Wisconsin Gannett newspaper markets and, over the years, J. J. Keller Foundation has extended its matching dollars to the Green Bay and Oshkosh markets as well as the Fox Valley.

The 2014 holiday effort raised $284,404 in the Appleton area, $147,206 in Green Bay, $91,248 in Oshkosh, and $794,509 throughout the Wisconsin Gannett newspaper market. Jamie Mara, managing editor, Post-Crescent Media, reports that the Stock the Shelves program has distributed nearly $1.8 million to Fox Valley food pantries and programs in the past 6 years. Since the program went statewide 5 years ago, a total of $3.2 million has been raised. He said, “We make a major difference in the lives of thousands of people in our communities – and that’s the true purpose of this longtime endeavor.” Other partners in the effort include Express Convenience Centers, the Fox Cities Chapter of Credit Unions, Kimberly-Clark Cares, Festival Foods and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.

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Helping to Bring Innovative Ideas to Light

Fourteen local nonprofit leaders were chosen for a unique education program designed specifically around basic needs-related organizations. The Social Innovation Leadership Experience (SILE) focuses on successful social innovation and social entrepreneurship concepts, frameworks and models, specifically for nonprofits. The program’s primary goal is a mind shift: less contentment with managing social problems and more leadership devotion to solving them, resulting in positive, measurable social impact.

Since the introduction of the program in 2010, 40 nonprofit executives from the Fox Valley, Oshkosh and Green Bay have participated in the Social Innovation Leadership Experience, a program of the Midwest Social Innovation and J. J. Keller Foundation. The effort is funded by the Foundation and the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs at the Green Bay, Fox Valley and Oshkosh Community Foundations.

The program gathers participants on a monthly basis to study social innovation topics and concepts, analyze case studies, do site visits of various entrepreneurial initiatives and hear presentations by experts in the field. The goal is to develop a “social entrepreneur mentality” – to become “people with new ideas who are relentless in the pursuit of their visions, people who simply will not take no for an answer, who will not give up until they have spread their ideas as far as they possible can.” (David Bornstein, How to Change the World, Oxford University Press)

Dr. Jeff Snell of Midwest Social Innovation leads that aspect of the program, and Steve Kuper of Innovative Learning Strategies provides leadership development opportunities for the executive directors. Together, they help participants explore foundation-building strategies, learn from 360-degree feedback, benefit from one-on-one executive coaching, and engage in new collaborative learning partnerships.

The year-long journey concludes with a sharing of what has been learned with community leaders and nonprofit Boards of Directors at a “culminating experience.” At the event, grants are awarded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs and J. J. Keller Foundation to socially innovative ideas that have surfaced as a result of the Social Innovation Leadership Experience.

The seeds of social innovation were planted by the first graduates of the program in 2010-2011, the second group reaped the harvest of enhanced learning during 2012-2013, and the third cohort began the journey in 2014. Individuals and organizations benefitting from the program thus far include:


Bill Breider, YMCA of the Fox Cities
Marc Dosogne, Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh
Bob Glass, Tri-County Dental
Jamie Loehnis, The Mooring Programs
Cindy Sahotsky, Riverview Gardens
Lisa Schneider, formerly with Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities
Beth Schnorr, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs
Kristene Stacker, Partnership Community Health Center
Steve Vickman, formerly with Oshkosh Area Community Pantry
John Weyenberg, Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity


Amy Bertschausen, formerly with Samaritan Counseling Center
Christine Cheevers, Fox Valley Literacy Council
Beth Clay, formerly with NAMI Fox Valley
Ann Dake, formerly with CHAPS Academy
Robyn Davis, Freedom House Ministries
Michelle Devine Giese, STEP Industries
Julie (Fevola) Keller, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
Connie Greenawald, CASA of Brown County
Noel Halvorsen, NeighborWorks Green Bay
Lori Hill-Schiebel, Friendship Place
Kathy Hinkfuss, YWCA of Green Bay
Bob Johnson, American Foundation of Counseling Services
Lisa Kogan-Praska, Catalpa Health
Caroline Lasecki, Sexual Assault Crisis Center
Gail McNutt, Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes
David Pietenpol, Ecumenical Partnership for Housing


Sonia Barham, SOAR Fox Cities (formerly The ARC)
Kathy Cornell, Literacy Green Bay
Dawn Gohlke, Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha
Bill Gosse, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Green Bay
Terri Green, Oshkosh Area Community Pantry
Patti Habeck, Feeding America Northeastern Wisconsin
Kelly Hicks, Youth Go
Joe Mauthe, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities
Steve McCarthy, N.E.W. Curative
Karen Michaels, Golden House
Mary Parsons, LEAVEN
Scott Peeples, Fox Valley Warming Shelter
Andrew Wilson, COTS
Greg Woller, Big Brothers/Sisters of the Fox Valley

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Partnering Through Challenge Grants

Over the past seven years, the J. J. Keller Foundation has become known in the Fox Valley for its challenge grants.  In 2014, a number of local nonprofits were offered the opportunity to double their Foundation gifts by having them matched by other funders.  Individuals and corporations accepted the challenge, and the result was a win-win for the participating nonprofits and those who invested in them.  This year’s successful challenges included:

J. J. Keller Foundation:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley – $25,000
  • Center for Grieving Children through the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley – $10,000
  • Christine Ann/Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs – $60,000
  • Clarity Care (Green Bay) – $10,000
  • Clarity Care (Oshkosh) – $10,000
  • Friendship Place – $5,000
  • Homeless Connections – $15,000
  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities – $25,000
  • Infant Welfare Circle on behalf of Catalpa Health – $15,000
  • Rawhide – $25,000
  • St. Joseph Food Program – $25,000
  • Samaritan Counseling Center – $15,000
  • STEP Industries – $10,000
  • Stock the Shelves campaign through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region – $35,000
  • Stock the Shelves campaign through the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation – $15,000
  • Stock the Shelves campaign through the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation – $15,000
  • Tri-County Dental – $75,000

John J. & Ethel D. Keller Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region:

  • Salvation Army Wisconsin & Upper Michigan – $25,000

J. J. Keller Foundation Fund at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation:

  • Salvation Army Oshkosh – $10,000

A number of organizations were offered challenge grants by the J. J. Keller Foundation in 2013 that were paid out in 2014: 

  • Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services
  • Fox Valley Literacy Council
  • NEW Mental Health Connection
  • Tri-County Dental

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