Plunging Into Leadership

Inge Bacon, Gay Pustaver and Dawn VandeVoort hope to be among the hundreds of New Year’s revelers gathered at Lakeside Beach Park in Jacksonport at noon on Jan. 1 to take part in the 28th annual Jacksonport Polar Bear Plunge into icy Lake Michigan.

But whether the three women take the plunge depends on external matters. To make it happen, $3,000 has to be raised by Dec. 31, 2013, for the Leadership Door County (LDC) Alumni Scholarship and Program Fund Drive.

A shot from the 2013 Polar Bear Plunge. Photo by Len Villano.

Bacon is president and co-founder of LDC, Pustaver is vice president of the organization, and VandeVoort is secretary/treasurer. They decided that if $3,000 of the total goal of $7,000 is raised by the end of the year, they would join emeritus board member Joe Jarosh and the hundreds of others who mark the new year by jumping into the lake.

“Leadership is a series of choices each of us makes every day – the choice to show up, make a statement, take a stand and get involved,” Bacon said. “Jumping into freezing water to help LDC raise funds may seem a little crazy – and it is. It’s simply a reflection of our willingness to move LDC’s mission to help people widen their knowledge of Door County and strengthen their leadership skills.”

If it happens, this will be Pustaver’s third polar plunge. “I am really hoping that it is warmer than this week (the frigid week of Dec. 8-14),” she said. “I bring a cooler full of hot water to jump into after the plunge. And it helps that I live close by.”

“I would echo Gay’s comments,” VandeVoort said. “I’ve done the plunge once before and the hot water is the biggest help. I too hope the weather warms up a smidge. I just think it will be fun to have a group of LDC alumni doing this fun and crazy thing in support of a great organization, so I’m happy to freeze for a short period of time for that!”

“Unlike Gay and Dawn, I have not participated in the Polar Bear Plunge before, although I did once ‘walk the plank’ into the icy waters of Sturgeon Bay for the DC Maritime Museum,” Bacon said. “I think that doing it for a good cause is the only somewhat-sane explanation I can come up with for even doing such a thing in the first place, that and the Bloody Marys Gay has promised us afterwards. I am mentally preparing by trying really hard not to think about it (other than praying for warm weather) and physically preparing by running back and forth from my car to my home/office in this frigid weather! Fortunately I have my more experienced colleagues to guide me through my first plunge.”

The $7,000 fund goal will support scholarships for participants in program costs for Leadership Door County, which was founded 24 years ago to help people who are interested in becoming stronger community leaders learn about how Door County works.

The monthly full-day sessions held from September through June cover topics including local government, the health care system, human services, the economy, history and arts.

“Many of the almost 250 graduates of LDC since the program’s inception in 1990 are still in the area,” said Anni Lampert, LDC program coordinator and alumnus. “I went through the first class and came away with a solid base of understanding about who does what in Door County, why, for whom and with what. My employer provided my tuition. Now it’s my turn to help support LDC financially. I invite my fellow LDC alumni, and anyone who values empowering people to become stronger leaders, to join me.”

Mail your check to Leadership Door County, P O Box 874, Sturgeon Bay, WI  54235. For more information about the LDC experience, visit