Ask Jeff Gustin who will tell you his decision of helping others has become a labor of love that helps him in more ways than he can measure. Ask others who are in the program and they will tell you he helped them find and renew their own life with a new sense of purpose.
When Jeff realized that many of his Vet son’s friends were coming home to find that they didn’t have the resources they needed, he jumped into action and started collecting food and furniture donations in his garage. By 2014, the operation had grown to the point where bigger facilities, a broader reach and a non-profit status were born.
Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin served our heroes in its first few years as a food pantry and furniture/housewares donation and delivery organization- complete with volunteers and vehicles to help set up a Veteran when he/she acquired housing.
By 2016, Jeff couldn’t stand still and do nothing as the crisis of veterans experiencing homelessness escalated. He developed a plan to build a village of 15 tiny homes and a community center in Racine to offer Vets “a hand up, not a hand out.” The James A. Peterson Veterans Village opened its doors in 2017 and has proven itself to be a national model for other organizations seeking to surround Veterans with the resources and dignity they deserve.
Of course Stephanie Hartleben, the Director of Program Services has her own twist on how she got here.
Stephanie joins us as the Director of Program Services. She connects our Village residents with resources and wonderful opportunities, welcomes new Veterans to the Village, and oversees all the great things happening in the community center and tiny homes.
Stephanie is, in her own words, a 3rd generation Army brat, born and raised in “the home of the hamburger,” Seymar, WI. She’s the mother of two and a UW-O graduate in human services.
“Since the age of 5, all I ever wanted to do was wear the uniform. After I took off that uniform, I felt lost. I found my calling when I received a phone call from a Vet friend in need. After that, Vet outreach and advocacy became my passion. I have a deep respect and understanding of Veterans.”
While Fiona Murphy – the Director of Development an admitted transplant from California and Illinois is proud to call Racine home.
VOW volunteer since 2016 and a Northwestern University Wildcat
She took one look at Downtown Racine 20 years ago and thought, “This would be an incredible community to live in!” Turned out to be right on that.
Lifelong volunteer with a focus on and certifications in at-risk populations experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges.
Business experience includes consulting and commercial redevelopment.
Local board involvements include: Eastern Racine County Transportation Task Force Advisory Board, Veterans Health Coalition, past Executive Board of Downtown Racine Corporation, and others.
Past chair of events including DRC Festival of Trees, HALO’s Santa’s Workshop, American Heart Association Ball, Finding Your Tribe, YMCA Big Apple Bash, and more.
Co-leader of the Northwestern University Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity alumni association
Renée provides administrative support to the Executive Director, manages the office staff and ensures that the books are up to date and accurate, as well as working fundraising events. Renée is a native of Racine, born and raised, and has been involved with Veterans support organizations for over six years. Renée developed a strong sense of devotion for Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin while volunteering to stock the food pantry and delivering furniture back in 2013-2014 and then again in May of 2018, when she left the for-profit corporate world and came to VOW as a part-time bookkeeper. This experience has given her a deep appreciation for how Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin seeks to improve the quality of life for our Veterans; one program at a time.
Renée has 7+ years of experience in the aviation industry as a buyer, material analyst and repair supervisor. She also was a clinic manager and assistant to a renowned Chinese Medicine physician who provided alternative medical therapies to patients suffering from a wide range of debilitating and common conditions. She has experience in banking and bookkeeping as well. All of these skills have enabled her to wear many hats and fit perfectly into the non-profit world.
Shannon began as a volunteer at VOW several years ago to fulfill internship requirements for her human services degree from Gateway Technical College. She has always been a huge supporter of Veterans because of the role they have played in her life. Shannon’s grandfather and father are both U.S. Navy Vets. She also spent over a decade moving around the U.S. and overseas as a military wife, giving her a special understanding of the challenges that service people and Veterans face.
Shannon feels that it is an honor and privilege to give back to those who have sacrificed so much for all of us and plans to dedicate her life to doing what she can to continue expressing gratitude.
We Also SALUTE THE VETERANS OUTRIANCH OF WISCONSIN BOARD OF DIRECTORS LISTED BELOW.
We SALUTE ALL of you along with our veterans who make our world a better place from all the sacrifices offered in the past and still being done today.
To learn more about the great work being done by this amazing TIANM log on to http://www.vetsoutreachwi.us