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
The Spirit of Ethel Award
Challenge Grants

Building on a great relationship with Habitat for Humanity 

For more than a decade, the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity has benefited from the gift 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 two 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. 

This commitment and generosity led to the construction of the 16th Keller-funded Habitat home in 2013, this time in Menasha.  The Aguilar family home was dedicated to long-time Board member Tom Cherrier, a J. J. Keller associate, for his contributions to the Habitat chapter for almost a decade.  

The Keller family is the largest local Habitat-Fox Cities funder, having invested more than $1 million in the affiliate.  The Foundation has recently become involved with Habitat for Humanity of Oshkosh as well.

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U.S. Venture Open/Basic Needs Giving Partnership:
Keller and Schmidt families partner up to serve basic needs

The annual U.S. Venture Open golf outing was held on 5 courses throughout the Fox Valley on Wednesday, August 14, 2013, and became the second-highest fundraiser in the event’s 28-year history. A total of $2.125 million was raised as nearly 900 golfers participated in the event. In addition, the J. J. Keller Foundation provided $800,000 in funds to support the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, the group that makes decisions on where event proceeds for the golf outing are distributed. The Keller family was on hand to be recognized for their significant contributions to the success of the program to benefit needy people in the Oshkosh, Fox Valley and Green Bay areas.

This year’s celebrity guest was former Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, whose story of his poverty-stricken childhood touched the audience gathered at Van Abel’s of Hollandtown for the closing dinner. More than 950 people attended the dinner in an 18,000-square-foot tent specially constructed for the evening. Live and silent auctions were part of the fundraising effort. Now that the money has been raised, committees from Community Foundations in Green Bay, Oshkosh and the Fox Valley will get to work on distributing proceeds to programs that focus on the root causes of poverty in the area.

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Catalpa Health comes to life
The late Ethel D. Keller was an early supporter of the effort to bring a children’s behavioral health center to the Fox Valley.  She and granddaughter Marne Keller-Krikava championed the cause, which resulted in a unique collaboration of three competing area health care systems – Affinity Health, System, ThedaCare and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  The formation of Fox Valley Children’s Mental Health Center was the culmination of years of work, and Ethel was smiling down from Heaven as the doors opened in 2008. 
As the program continued to evolve, a task force was charged in 2011 with determining how to provide even better access, improved outcomes and a more-sustainable model for outpatient mental health services for children.  Their work was completed in early 2012, and resulted in the creation of a new organization to provide seamless, accessible, collaborative behavioral and mental health services. 

Catalpa Health, a stand-alone entity with the same original health system partners, now provides outpatient services including individual and group therapy, psychological and neuropsychological testing, medical management (psychiatry) and prevention services for the local public schools.  It’s a model of collaboration from many perspectives.

The J. J. Keller Foundation is proud to be the lead sponsor of a one-of-a-kind fundraiser in the Fox Valley – the “Race for a Reason” Mini Grand Prix Auto Race.  Proceeds benefit Catalpa Health’s behavioral and mental health programs.

The parking lot at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Stadium was turned into a specially designed race course with a variety of challenging bends and hairpin turns.  The event featured the “feel” of a big-time race, including pace cars, team uniforms, customized race cars and, of course, a bustling pit row.  A total of 25 teams participated in the 2013 Race for a Reason, and $176,576 was raised.

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Pantry shelves well-stocked and stacked

When the J. J. Keller Foundation began partnering with The Post-Crescent newspaper in 2009 to “Stock the Shelves” of local food pantries, no one dreamed that 5 years later the campaign would grow to epic proportions.  The 2013 holiday effort raised $288,494 in the Fox Valley, and $692,383 throughout the Wisconsin Gannett newspaper market.  Both were record-setting totals, surpassing 2012 numbers of $285,227 and $637,421, respectively.  Dan Flannery, executive editor of Post-Crescent Media, reports that the Stock the Shelves program has distributed more than $1.5 million to Fox Valley food pantries and programs in the past 5 years.  He said, “We’re blessed to live here, to have great partners who collaborate so well, to know that the meaning of ‘community’ is so well understood by so many. We are humbled by the generosity.”  Other partners in the effort include Express Convenience Centers, the Fox Cities Chapter of Credit Unions and Kimberly-Clark Cares.

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Social Innovation program gathers momentum

A unique education program designed specifically for executive directors of basic needs-related nonprofits saw its second cohort of local leaders graduate in 2013.  The Social Innovation Leadership Experience 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, 26 nonprofit executives from the Fox Valley, Oshkosh and Green Bay have participated in the Social Innovation Leadership Experience, a program of Marquette University’s Social Innovation Initiative 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 seeds of social innovation were planted by the first graduates of the program in 2010-2011, and the second group reaped the harvest of enhanced learing in 2012-2013. 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 Clinic, Appleton

Jamie Loehnis, Mooring Programs, Appleton

Cindy Sahotsky, COTS/Riverview Gardens, Appleton

Lisa Schneider, Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities

Beth Schnorr, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, Appleton

Kristene Stacker, Partnership Community Clinic, Fox Valley

Steve Vickman, Oshkosh Area Community Pantry

John Weyenberg, Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity



Amy Bertschausen, Samaritan Counseling Center, Menasha

Christine Cheevers, Fox Valley Literacy Council

Beth Clay, NAMI Fox Valley

Ann Dake, CHAPS Academy, Shiocton

Robyn Davis, Freedom House Ministries, Green Bay

Michelle Devine Giese, STEP Industries, Neenah

Julie Fevola, Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services, Oshkosh

Connie Greenawald, CASA of Brown County

Noel Halvorsen, NeighborWorks Green Bay

Lori Hill-Schiebel, Friendship Place, Neenah

Kathy Hinkfuss, YWCA Geen Bay-De Pere

Bob Johnson, American Foundation of Counseling Services, Green Bay

Lisa Kogan-Praska, Catalpa Health, Appleton

Caroline Lasecki, Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Appleton

Gail McNutt, Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes

David Pietenpol, Ecumenical Partnership for Housing, Green Bay 

Participants gathered 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 possibly can.”  (David Bornstein, How to Change the World, Oxford University Press)

Dr. Jeff Snell leads the social innovation aspect of the program, and Steve Kuper of Innovative Learning Strategies is charged with providing 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 culminates in a sharing of what has been learned with community leaders and nonprofit Boards of Directors at a “culminating experience.”  In addition, in November 2013, the social innovation knowledge base of nonprofit staff members and Boards of Directors, as well as local funders, was broadened in an “Encore Presentation” of the program, presented to 140 people gathered at Riverview Gardens in Appleton.  It was described by attendees as informational, inspirational and transformational. 

A number of socially innovative ideas have surfaced as a result of Social Innovation Leadership Experience, and in 2013 the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs awarded planning grants for three high-potential projects: 

  • “Driven to Empower:” a collaborative effort by Christine Ann Center and Harbor House domestic abuse programs.  Lack of reliable transportation is a significant barrier for women who have been victims of abuse.  To achieve self-sufficiency, they need access to transportation to go to school/work.  This project will look at ways to provide affordable car repair services, education on car repair, and maintenance and empowerment through potential automotive career opportunities. 


  • “The Farmory:” a collaborative program by NeighborWorks Green Bay, WaterWorks Garden Supply, E-Hub and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.  Goal is to create a self-sustaining indoor farm and agri-business to train unemployed and underemployed individuals, with a focus on veterans.  The project includes renovating the Armory building to house an indoor farm that will generate proceeds from the sale of produce to local restaurants, food service operations and local markets.  The plan is to engage veterans and other low-income individuals to learn farming, business modeling and other entrepreneurial skills to allow those individuals to build their capacity for self-sufficiency.


  • “Sober Living Houses:” a collaboration of STEP Industries, Mooring Programs and NOVA Counseling Services.  The group is exploring the creation of sober living houses in Northeast Wisconsin.  Sober living is an interim step on the path to sobriety where substance abuse addicts live in a supervised and sober environment with structure and rules.  Without sober living homes to bridge the gap from total-immersion residential care facilities to the unrestricted environments that addicts came from before entering care, substance abusers are far more likely to revert to their old patterns of use soon after discharge. 

A third Social Innovation Leadership Experience is scheduled to begin in late 2014. 

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The Spirit of Ethel lives on

The J. J. Keller Foundation takes a very strategic and research-based approach to its funding, but occasionally a request doesn’t fit the usual criteria.  Other evaluation tools will be used, but one carries special 2013 Live Your Dream Calendar Winnersmeaning to the Grants Committee and Board of Directors.  Invariably, someone will ask the question, “What would Ethel do?”  Ethel Keller, the matriarch of the Keller family, was known to “vote with her heart” on occasion.  And members of her family have continued that philosophy with the inception of “The Spirit of Ethel Award.” 

Agape of Appleton was the first recipient of the award in Ethel’s honor in 2013.  Agape provides community-based residential services to people with mental, cognitive and physical disabilities.  Their philosophy centers around “being conscious of the dignity and uniqueness of each individual while remaining cognizant of their personal rights.”  

Agape’s program, “Live Your Dream,” was the recipient of the inaugural “The Spirit of Ethel Award.”  The program offers experiences and opportunities that residents might never realize.  Many of these small dreams came true in 2013, like Ryan Matuszak visiting the City of Oshkosh Fire Department, where he dressed up like a real-life2013 Live Your Dream Calendar Winners firefighter.  And Mary Bekkers enjoyed an afternoon of fishing during a picnic in a park.  Other residents experienced a Packers game, a karate lesson, a boat ride…all simple pleasures that might not have happened without Ethel’s spirit continuing to guide the Foundation.

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Partnering Through Challenge Grants 

Over the past six years, the J. J. Keller Foundation has become known in the Fox Valley for its challenge grants.  In 2013, 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:  

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

  • The Salvation Army Fox Cities – December 20-21 Red Kettle Match Days $25,000 

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

  • The Salvation Army Oshkosh – December 20-21 Red Kettle Match Days $8,000  

J. J. Keller Foundation

  • American Red Cross-East Central Wisconsin – Disaster Response Equipment  $15,000
  • CASA of the Fox Cities – “I am for the Child”  $15,000
  • CHAPS Academy  $6,180*
  • Clarity Care through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region/Post-Crescent Do It! campaign  $10,000
  • Stock the Shelves Do It! campaign through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region/Post-Crescent  $40,625
  • Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley  $10,000
  • Fox Valley Literacy Council  $3,866*
  • Stock the Shelves Do It! campaign through the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation/Press-Gazette  $15,000
  • Housing Partnership of the Fox Cities  $7,429*
  • Living Healthy Community Clinic through Mercy Medical Center Foundation  $12,500
  • NEW Mental Health Connection  $10,000
  • Clarity Care through the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation/Oshkosh Northwestern Do It! campaign  $10,000
  • Stock the Shelves Do It! campaign through the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation $15,000
  • Rawhide – Fox Cities Youth & Family Counseling Program  $25,000
  • STEP Industries  $10,000
  • Tri-County Community Dental Clinic – “Focus on the Children” $40,945*
  • Women’s Fund Fox Valley  $10,000  

*Carry-over amount paid out in 2013

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