Neenah is now the place where I've lived the longest period of my life. It's a good place to call home.
As a child, my father's job involved several corporate moves. I found it hard to make friends in school because every time I found a close friend, we moved. Finally, my dad changed his profession and life became more stable. My grandparents bought an Airstream so they could travel the country and they sold their house to my dad. I was able to stay in one place for middle school and high school, where I met my future husband. We were married three years after we graduated.
My husband had lived in the same town all of his life until after we were wed. He got a job with an international company that moved us seven times. Our last move, before my husband changed jobs, was to this area. We picked Neenah because its schools were highly rated and we had three school-age sons.
At the time, we knew nothing about this area so, when our neighbors asked if we were from KC, we said yes. We were talking Kansas City. They meant Kimberly-Clark. We had a good laugh with the neighbors on our first day here.
I discovered during our many moves that I acclimated to a new place faster by becoming a volunteer. Throughout our moves, I was a volunteer for schools, scouts and community. I had worked with a "Main Street" organization in Missouri so my first stop in town was to Future Neenah to see if it had similar needs.
There are many ways to help the community through Future Neenah so I got involved. I helped with many of its events. Since Future Neenah does its work in cooperation with the City of Neenah, I branched out and began going to city council and committee meetings. I enjoyed having a say in the future of Neenah.
Neenah has so many good qualities that have only improved since I moved here in 1998. Downtown Neenah has evolved to be a vibrant place with unique shops and restaurants. The addition of several businesses choosing Neenah for their world headquarters has provided the downtown businesses with a steady stream of customers. The new library and the redo of Shattuck Park provide everyone a place to relax and enjoy the riverfront. Concerts at the park are truly community events.
The communication between the city and its citizens has been profoundly enhanced. There are quarterly newsletters sent from city hall. City council meetings are shown on cable TV. The city has a website that can provide answers to many questions about city services and provides contact information. You can sign up to receive meeting minutes or agendas via email. The Neenah Library has a great website that allows me to find what I'm looking for and have my items held for me without leaving my house.
Facebook is my favorite choice for receiving information from the City of Neenah, Neenah Police Department or Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue. Anything new that the public needs to know is posted quickly on these pages. Facebook, by design, is meant to be interactive so I'm able to make comments on the postings.
My ability to volunteer for community activities slowed after I was diagnosed with cancer. Having gone through the Livestrong program at the Neenah YMCA, we've helped with various events when asked. We also volunteer to walk dogs for the Neenah Animal Shelter. The non-profit most dear to me now is the Fox Valley Brain Tumor Coalition. I help with publicity and fundraising.
At this point, you're probably wondering why I wrote this. I started my years of volunteerism to avoid being lonely each time we moved to a new place. Volunteering is a great way to meet people and make a difference. There so many organizations that could use a dedicated volunteer. Every Sunday, there's a list of opportunities listed in The Post-Crescent. Churches, schools, hospitals, libraries and more need help.
Sure, monetary help is great for non-profits, but they also need warm bodies to carry out their missions. I could never afford to give money to good causes but that never stopped me from giving my time. Please find a cause that interests you and find out how you can help.
I've been a volunteer for many a cause in many a place much of my life. I'm grateful for the ways I've been able to help since moving to Neenah. I'm extremely proud to call Neenah my home.
- Darlene Hengels is a Neenah resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org