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The Thingamajigger House – My Leadership Green Bay Experience


As those of you who read this blog know, I am a registered dietitian. However, not all of my work is directly related to nutrition. At Festival, our company is built upon 5 values. Those values are servant leadership, execution, community involvement, associate development, and service. Last year about this time, I was given the opportunity to apply for Leadership Green Bay, a formalized training program put on by the Green Bay Chamber. The program lasts nine months, and is broken into monthly sessions in which pertinent are issues are discussed, including heritage, history, environment, human services, cultural awareness, government and economy. The large group of participants is organized into several small groups to work on team projects throughout this same time; these small group projects are designed to build our team-working skills and enhance our community in some way or another.

I am a proud member of “Leadership Green Bay Team 5.”  As a group, we met to brainstorm what we could do to make a difference.  We learned about the Family Services’ Healthy Families program when fellow group member Joe Smits, from Associated Bank, made a connection during a United Way rally at work. We met with Bonnie Phernetton from the program to learn more, and we really wanted to be a part of what she and her staff were doing for families. She specifically wanted a playhouse for the backyard at Family Services, where parents and their children interact. She probably wasn’t expecting a Dr. Seuss house!

Inside our group, we knew from the start that we wanted some structure and some clarification of roles. Joe Smits, of Associated Bank, was our group president. John Smith, of Georgia-Pacific, managed our production schedule. Tim Rinn, of Ganther Construction, oversaw the development of blueprints and coordinated getting construction materials. Tom Swiecichowski of Cellcom and Relene Townley of United HealthCare were in charge of fundraising. Kristin Suchalla, of MCL Industries, provided a safety perspective and kept us focused on the children’s perspective. Susan Baranczyk, of Wisconsin Public Service, took care of communications. And I was our group secretary. Throughout the project, we all participated in all aspects of the project, including painting and construction, but having these formal roles based on our experience and interests kept us organized.

We started building the playhouse on weekends in the winter, inside a local warehouse. Then, when the weather permitted, we moved the house on site to Family Services and continued our work there. Weeknights were added to weekends, with someone there almost every day until the house was completed. You can check out pictures of the project as it progressed and a link to the story that Fox 11 did on it on our group Facebook page!/pages/The-Thingamajigger-House/156169244431923.

It’s been a rewarding project in so many ways. Most rewarding is the happiness we saw on the faces of Bonnie Phernetton and her staff at the Healthy Families program as the project progressed. If we were working in the dark, rain, mud or cold, all we needed to do was think of all of them, and that was enough to keep anybody going. We also had the great pleasure of creating a vision together and then seeing it come to life just as we imagined it, and hearing kids playing inside the playhouse. And finally, within our group, we have found amazing friends, and we have a connection with Bonnie and her program. Those rewards will never end.

As you can see, the Leadership Green Bay experience paralleled Festival’s Five Values – servant leadership, execution, community involvement, associate development, and service. I had a great time, learned a lot, and grew a lot as a person.  I would recommend this Green Bay Chamber program to anyone!

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