Fulfilling the Diverse Needs of the Door

For its limited space and sparse permanent population, Door County offers residents and visitors a number of opportunities to better their lives through healthcare, the arts, and recreational and learning activities. Take a quick look at how these five nonprofit organizations are enhancing the community.

Crossroads at Big Creek

Crossroads at Big Creek, Len Villano

Photo by Len Villano.

2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay

(920) 746-5895

Why does this organization matter?

Crossroads at Big Creek, a 125-acre preserve featuring free public trails, a learning center, a historical village, and observatory, offers learning experiences, both indoors and out.

“Our mission is to provide experience-based learning for all ages, from pre-school to retirement,” says Coggin Heeringa, director of Crossroads at Big Creek. The complex focuses on three areas of learning:  environmental studies, history, and science.

“There is a really strong need to learn history, to teach history and learn how it impacted the environment so we can do better,” says Heeringa.

Who does it benefit?

“We say we are for residents and visitors of Door County, really we want to focus on residents. They are the decision-makers,” says Heeringa, who is quick to add, “Of course we still want visitors to come!”

Essentially, Crossroads at Big Creek benefits everyone, by providing a variety of activities and programs. “We offer school programs for all Door County schools, lectures for Wild Ones, the Master Gardeners,” she says. “We also have a lot of research going on here – lake studies, invasive species. We learn about the environment and teach what we learn.”

Why will it still be making an impact in the next 10 years?

“We are on the right track and plan to do more – more programs, expanding hours,” says Heeringa, who believes that providing a center for learning and activity may be more important in 10 years than today. “One of the reasons we opened was to get children away from electronic screens,” she laughs.

The complex also appeals to a wide range of ages with a variety of interests – which will never cease to be relevant or needed. And, Crossroads at Big Creek, “rarely charges for anything,” says Heeringa.

Kimberley House

Kimberly House, Len Villano

Photo by Len Villano.

33 N Joliet Avenue, Sturgeon Bay

(920) 746-9224

Why does this organization matter?

This Sturgeon Bay-based facility provides a transitional living arrangement for adults suffering from chemical dependencies “who desire to get clean and sober,” says House Manager Lynn Schuster, who lives in Kimberley House, overseeing the residents and their progress with husband and fellow House Manager Paul Schuster.

Residents stay in the four-bedroom facility from three to six months, participating in a rigorous recovery program that requires they attend a 12-step meeting a day and visit a professional counselor.

Whether by self-referral, Door County Community Programs, or probation arrangements, residents of the house are “family,” says Schuster. “Once a resident of the Kimberley House, always a member of the Kimberley House family.”

Who does it benefit?

Most obviously, the organization benefits those recovering from chemical dependencies, but it also serves family members, significant others, and children of people who stay at the house.

“We help [residents] return to the mainstream population,” says Schuster. “We offer structured, sober living. We help them find jobs, apartments. We help them stay out of jail. Jail does not teach them how to live, that is a consequence. We are solution-oriented.”

Once residents leave the facility, they are still welcome to tap into Kimberley House’s many resources and unwavering support. “Past residents will come for dinner, or stop in, or call,” says Schuster.

Why will it still be making an impact in the next 10 years?

“Whenever anyone stays [at the Kimberley House] they are exposed to an alternate, better way of living,” says Schuster. “Our very first resident is still sober, married, holds down a job.” That resident entered the doors of Kimberley House in 1997, over 10 years ago, offering hope for those embarking on a journey of recovery today – with the help of the Kimberley House, their quality of life can and will improve.

Midsummer’s Music Festival

Midsummer's Music Festival

Photo courtesy of Midsummer’s Music Festival.

10568 Country Walk Lane, Suite 109, Sister Bay

(920) 854-7088

Why does this organization matter?

“We offer a community activity – music is a social event, [it] brings people together,” says Jim Berkenstock, co-founder of Midsummer’s Music Festival. “We bring it to the next level.”

Throughout the Door Peninsula, the organization presents 35 chamber concerts a year. “Chamber music is performed in small spaces, spaces not meant for music,” explains Berkenstock, offering a few examples of where they perform:  art galleries, museums and private homes. “Audience members are close to the music and the musicians; [they] feel the music-making happening, see connections between musicians.”

Who does it benefit?

“In the broadest sense, [Midsummer’s Music Festival] benefits the community as a whole, contributes to the quality of life,” says Berkenstock. “People don’t come just to swim or fish; most want other things to do. What we do accompanies all the scenic beauty, adds another dimension.”

Midsummer’s Music Festival also works in conjunction with many other organizations, presenting various facets of the community.

“Our activities publicize a lot of Door County,” says Berkenstock. “We have worked with any number of organizations in joint benefits:  The Ridges, HELP of Door County, YMCA, Land Trust, Birch Creek, The Clearing.”

Why will it still be making an impact in the next 10 years?

The growth of Midsummer’s Music Festival has been remarkably consistent says Berkenstock. “We started out our first year doing five concerts in a week. We were gone before people knew what happened,” he says.

Now Berkenstock calls the festival “one of the best chamber music festivals in the country.

“When I talk to some of our regular attendees, what I hear is how important this has become in their lives. It’s obvious when you talk to them – they look forward to it each year.”

Sturgeon Bay Skatepark Initiative

Matt Young, Len Villano

Photo by Len Villano.

Why does this organization matter?

The Sturgeon Bay Skatepark Initiative plans to offer Door County residents and visitors a professionally-designed public skate park for beginner to advanced skateboarders to practice their skills.

“Our organization is dedicated to promoting an activity that is underserved in our community,” says Matt Young, co-chair of the Sturgeon Bay Skatepark Initiative.

Who does it benefit?

“Our project serves experienced skateboarders or new skateboarders who would like a public, safe place to recreate,” says Young, who took up the sport 10 years ago, at the unconventional age of 32.

“There is always a new challenge, a bigger, better trick to learn,” he says of the appeal of skateboarding. “It’s amazing to drop in a seven-foot bowl, go around and get back up.”

The skatepark will not only benefit those looking to develop their skills or pick up a new hobby, but Door County tourism as well. “We would serve the entire skateboard community and draw visitors,” says Young. “There are only five or six skateparks in Wisconsin that are high quality.”

Why will it still be making an impact in the next 10 years?

Though the Sturgeon Bay Skatepark Initiative is still working on designing the park and funding the project with the help of the Door County community, it has garnered tremendous support in its infancy. With a premier skatepark in place, the county will likely experience an influx of youthful, atypical visitors – who will return again and again over the years.

Exercise and social interaction will also impact those who utilize the park regularly, and perhaps provide them career opportunities. For those who dream of going pro some day, Young says, “a safe, high quality park would allow young skate boarders to develop their skills.”

Unity Hospice

Unity Hospice, Len Villano

Photo by Len Villano.

30 N 18th Avenue, Unit 9C, Sturgeon Bay

(920) 743-6440

Why does this organization matter?

In an aging population, Unity Hospice “fills a niche for the people of Door County,” according to Unity Medical Director Dr. Rance Hafner, though the organization “serves anyone from birth to 100 years old.”

“A lot of people are unprepared for the reality of death,” he continues, “and don’t want to acknowledge it. We help with the unique needs at this stage of life.”

Unity staff and volunteers fulfill these needs in a number of ways – offering palliative and hospice care to patients residing in a hospital, an assisted living facility, or in their own home.

Who does it benefit?

With the help of skilled nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers, Unity benefits the patients and the patients’ families in a variety of ways – physically and emotionally.

“Typical medicine does not prepare a family for the changes,” says Dr. Hafner. “It can be a huge shock to get through; we help them with what is going on in their family. We offer companionship, someone to check in.”

Why will it still be making an impact in the next 10 years?

According to Dr. Hafner, Unity will continue to be more necessary in 10 years than even now. “Door County’s population is older than a lot of places,” he says, adding that family structures are not what they once were.

“Many families don’t live in the same area anymore,” he says. “They need help to care for their loved ones. Let’s say someone in Kansas City wants to make sure that their family member eats their meal or takes their medicine. We serve as the connection between the family and the patient to ensure they are doing okay.”

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