United Way of Door County

When Amy Kohnle became the executive director of United Way of Door County in 1999, the organization’s budget was $297,000. In 2012, the budget of $457,000 funded 38 programs offered by 23 non-profit agencies.

“Our grants go to specific, non-profit sponsored programs,” Kohnle says, “so that we can tell donors that their money is helping this many people in these ways.” Currently, more than 9,000 people are being helped to build better lives through long-term solutions with measurable results.

Under Executive Director Amy Kohnle, the United Way of Door County is currently funding 38 programs, helping 9,000 people build better lives. Photo by Katie Sikora.

As executive director, Kohnle is responsible for all aspects of United Way’s operation, from accounting and working with volunteers, the board and many committees to strategic planning, marketing, and fund raising. Kohnle works in conjunction with administrative assistant Ruthi Henrichs, who works 27 hours a week, and fund development director, Sara McKillop, who works 23 hours a week. Together they coordinate the funding of a vast array of services that have been helping Door County residents for more than a half century.

Just 11 percent of United Way’s annual budget goes to overhead expenses, so the rest is poured into community services, either through funding strategic partners or through services the United Way staff provides.

For example, in 2012 United Way collaborated behind the scenes with the YMCA to help launch a summer program that provided more than 4,000 free lunches for children. They also provided staff and resources to help start Door-Tran, a service where volunteer drivers transport residents within the county and to Green Bay for fares based on household income. Free transportation is available for veterans to VA clinics as far away as Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Under Kohnle’s direction, the United Way of Door County is not resting on its laurels; rather, the organization is pushing forward for an even broader impact. The current fund-raising campaign that ends on Dec. 31, 2012 has a goal of $480,000 to support 40 programs operated by 26 agencies in 2013.

“We live in a very giving community,” Kohnle says. “The level of support United Way receives reflects that, and we are very appreciative.”

United Way’s 5 Community Impact Areas

“For the last few years, we have moved into something we call Community Impact,” says Kohnle. “We look at problems in five general areas and determine what is at the root of them.”

• Basic Needs:

“In the Basic Needs impact area, one of the obvious needs is food, but this doesn’t mean that we fund food pantries,” said Kohnle. “For example, if a man comes to a food bank every month for several years, we talk to him to see if he has an underlying problem we can help with. Maybe he’s unemployed because he can’t read. We can hook him up with a literacy program and with a job center that can help him become work certified. They will look at occupations that have the highest demand for employees and train him in the needed skills.”

Kohnle continued, “Teaching people to garden and to can and freeze the food they raise also falls under the Basic Needs umbrella, as do the services provided by Door-Tran.”

• Community Wellness:

The Community Wellness impact area focuses on helping neighbors, individuals and families build strong relationships by caring for each other and understanding the roles and challenges each faces.

Grants to childcare programs like Northern Door Children’s Center come under this category, as does the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program that provides wheelchairs and other home health equipment to county residents.

Programs that offer counseling and other help to victims of domestic abuse and rape also fall under the community category, and the United Way also funds FISC, the Financial Information Service Center that provides budget counseling and is licensed to work with credit card companies on consolidation to lower monthly payments.

• Health Care:

The Health Care impact area encourages healthy lifestyles. Funding provides access to dental, hearing, mental, vision and primary health care for people who would otherwise go without it.

For example, for the last six years, a dental clinic at Ministry Door County Medial Center has served children whose families could not afford it. In August, the service was expanded to adults with mental illness.

The Community Clinic of Door County receives funding from United Way for primary and mental health services for uninsured and underinsured persons.

• Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse:

The Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse impact area challenges the community to embrace change in the culture involving alcohol and other drug use. The United Way funds programs to educate people on the effects of alcohol use on brain development from prenatal to age 25 and to make parents aware of the consequences of serving liquor to underage drinkers.

Project 180 in county high schools encourages students to commit to a 180-degree turn away from alcohol and drug use. Programs also try to change the culture of accepting alcohol and drug use and emphasize not drinking and driving.

• Communication/Collaboration:

The Communication/Collaboration impact area promotes awareness of what the various non-profit agencies are doing and encourages collaborating, rather than duplicating programs.

United Way works with the Door County Community Foundation and the Raibrook Foundation to offer a series of workshops to train non-profit employees and volunteers.

The United Way office is located on the lower level of the Associated Bank of Door County, 57 N. Third Ave., Sturgeon Bay. For more information call 920.746.9645, email [email protected] or visit



United Way also sponsors the 2-1-1 non-emergency help line that works like 9-1-1. No matter what kind of help people need – after-school programs, counseling, elder care or any other non-emergency service – calling 2-1-1 will put them in touch with an agency near them that can provide the needed service. It can also be used to help a family member or friend anywhere in the country. Just call with their zip code and age (since some programs are age-restricted), and a list of applicable services in their community will be provided.

Family Wize Prescription Discount Cards

Another service United Way provides directly to the public is the distribution of Family Wize prescription discount cards. They are available to everyone, regardless of income level, if they have no prescription insurance or need medications that are not covered by their other provider(s). Since 2008, use of these cards has saved Door County residents more than $750,000.