The Many Roles of John Collins

If we at Crossroads at Big Creek had to select a name for our environmental center today, we would call it The John and Helen Collins Learning Center. Fortunately, that is the name we gave the center almost a decade ago, because even then, we wished to honor John and Helen.

Last Tuesday we became aware of the death of John Collins and the amazing story of how Rob and Cathy Vuksanovic were able to assist Helen Collins as she landed their airplane. By noon, a news helicopter was hovering over the preserve and camera crews from all of the major networks descended on the Collins Learning Center to learn more about this remarkable couple. At that point, we didn’t know the half of it.

Most people correctly assume that Crossroads was the recipient of John and Helen’s amazing generosity, but few know the leadership role he played in the fundraising and construction efforts for the learning center. Or how he helped the Door County Historical Society create the Historical Village at The Crossroads. Or how, with his business experience, he was able to guide the fledgling Crossroads board into making sustainable financial decisions. More recently, John saw to it that the center was painted and the parking lot was regularly maintained, and he was planning to start fundraising for our proposed maintenance building as soon as he got back to Sturgeon Bay.

Since his death, countless people in the community have been sharing their “John stories” with us. How he flew people to destinations throughout the country if they had a need….how he contributed to countless worthy causes…how he quietly helped folks with financial troubles…..of the many ways he and Helen served their church…and how good he was to his employees.

Our tribute to John Collins will be to continue to use the Collins Learning Center. In the coming week, we will continue to pursue our mission of life-long learning by offering school field trips, hosting Fruit School through UW-Extension and the Peninsular Research Station, an organic chemistry class through NWTC, and presenting a continuing education class for teachers call “Water and Wildlife” through the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.