Wisconsin Heroes

  • November, 2014

    Debra Sadow Koenig of Milwaukee, WI

    Debra Sadow Koenig

    Debra joined the Meta House Board of Directors in 2009 and has served in a variety of positions, including Treasurer and Chair-Elect. Debra was an important part in guiding the agency through a monumental change in leadership when its Executive Director of nearly 30 years retired. In 2012, Meta House faced its toughest financial year in decades. By leveraging her personal and professional networks, Debra’s efforts yielded a tremendous impact, resulting in more than $100,000 dollars in sponsorships and donations. Also during this time, she single-handedly created a new way for Meta House’s stakeholders to engage with the agency. In conjunction with agency staff and the Board of Directors, Debra led the development of twice-annual ExecConnect events, programs offering insight into the agency’s strategic vision and current financial status. To date, Debra has personally hosted all six of the agency’s ExecConnect events at the law firm she works at. By the end of 2012, and in large part because of Debra’s leadership, Meta House was able to close more than half the gap left by fund reductions.

    Today, Debra is still an active member of the Board of Directors, which she will chair starting in 2015. Her passionate advocacy and support makes it possible for Meta House to continue to offer Milwaukee women an opportunity to overcome drug and alcohol addiction and empower them to reclaim their lives and rebuild their families.

    For Debra’s years of volunteer service, and in honor of her hard work with Meta House, he is awarded the November Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • October, 2014

    Daryl Standafer of Hudson, WI

    Daryl Standafer has volunteered hundreds of hours in the St. Croix Valley area and in support for the State of Wisconsin. He also serves on several boards, and volunteers with many organizations. Notably he has spent time over his 20 years of advocacy working on securing support and funding for the replacement of the lift bridge connecting Wisconsin to Stillwater, Minnesota. After his years of hard work he had the honor of speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the bridge in March of 2013.  

    For Daryl’s years of volunteer service, and in honor of his hard work on the Stillwater Lift Bridge project, he is awarded the October Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • September, 2014

    Donald Vineburg of Green Bay, WI

    Wisconsin Hero Donald Vineburg

    Donald Vineburg is the former principal of Ocean Township Intermediate School in New Jersey and is a retired supervisor for student teachers at St. Norbert College. Donald currently volunteers as a reading coach for the Reading Coaches for Kids program two hours each day at Aldo Leopold Community School. He was recently awarded the runner up of the Green Bay Packaging Volunteer in Education Award. Each person who interacts with Donald says that he effortlessly brings happiness and smiles into the classroom simply by showing up. He is an expert at helping children to feel special. Donald, who no longer drives, enjoys the classroom so much that he does everything in his power to make sure he is in school on a daily basis. He believes that working with the children has a positive effect on his health and well-being, but his time in the classroom is truly about making a difference in the lives of children.

    For Donald Vineburg’s unwavering dedication to improving students reading abilities and academic success, he is awarded the September Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • August, 2014

    Vicki Holten of McFarland, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Vicki Holten with the August 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Vicki Holten is the co-founder of Shared Table community meal in McFarland, which started in May of 2012. She currently serves on the steering committee and is the meal coordinator for the program. Shared Table serves a free community meal every week on Thursday evening. The program is not just for feeding the hungry, but creating a sense of community. The food is made by a rotating roster of volunteer groups, which is all coordinated by Vicki. These weekly dinners provide food for more than 100 people. Vicki volunteers her time weekly to assist with the dinners, as well as immeasurable hours spent to coordinate the dinners. Vicki is also involved with fundraising efforts for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids’ Sake, and she serves on the committee to coordinate McFarland Chocolate Fest.

    For Vicki Holten’s ability to repurpose resources in all of the volunteer activities she is involved with to benefit her community, she is awarded the August Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • July, 2014

    Bernard Vandenberk of Green Bay, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Bernard Vanderberk with the July 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Bernard Vandenberk is a retired teacher who volunteers as a tutor at House of Hope, an emergency shelter for homeless young mothers 18 to 24 years of age, and their children. Each year approximately 50 percent of the residents at House of Hope do not have their High school diploma when they move in. In 2008 Bernard approached the House of Hope and asked if he could start a General Education Development (GED) tutoring program. His idea was welcomed and he began to plan and organize a tutoring program. Bernard goes to House of Hope every week to tutor residents for GED exams and college classes. Additionally, there are residents at House of Hope with learning disabilities and Bernard works through these challenges and individualizes each tutoring sessions.

    For Bernard’s initiative and passion to change lives and create brighter futures, he was awarded the July 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • June, 2014

    Elton Peterson of Green Bay, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Elton Peterson with the June 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Elton Peterson has been involved with the De Pere Community Center since 1999. His volunteer efforts at the center consist of helping with the Nutrition Program, meal delivery and seasonal events. During his almost 21 years of service at the Red Cross he has volunteered more than 5,500 hours and has provided approximately 10,000 rides to clients over the age of 60 or otherwise disabled. He also has volunteered hundreds of hours delivering blood and blood products to patients in need at area hospitals. Additionally, as a member of De Pere Area Men’s club, Elton served as a captain of one meal route, delivers meals every week and heads a paper pick-up in De Pere every month. On top of everything, Elton is a volunteer musician with three local bands, all of which he has played with for at least 25 years.

    For Elton’s dedication to volunteering in his community, he was awarded the June Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • May, 2014

    Ruth Gullerud of Eau Claire, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Ruth Gullerud with the May 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Ruth Gullerud has been a leading advocate for people with disabilities for the last four decades. She believes her life’s calling is to help people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities recognize their potential and achieve their life’s goals. Her focus is on the abilities of people, not their limitations. Like many of the children and adults United Cerebral Palsy of West Central Wisconsin serves, Ruth was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheel chair for her mobility. Her personal experience and unique perspective on the challenge of living with disabilities benefits people throughout Wisconsin and the United States. In addition to her strong advocacy for people with disabilities, Ruth voluntarily reads to 1st graders at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, is a board member of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities and is President of Friends of the UCP Foundation.

    For Ruth’s unwavering advocacy for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, she was awarded the May Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • April, 2014

    Kevin Stewart of Racine, WI

    First Lady Tonette Walker presented Kevin Stewart with The Wisconsin Heroes Award.

    Kevin Stewart is a hero to those in the greatest need of the basics in life and a friendly face. He is tireless, sincere, and truly committed to a noble cause as the Director of the Hospitality Center of Racine. The Hospitality Center provides Racine's largest meal program and offers hospitality without agenda. The center began in May 2011 and provides a safe place for all who are lonely, alone, homeless, near homeless or mentally ill to "drop-in" to rest, refresh and relate. He goes above and beyond his position by dedicating 80 plus hours to the center on a weekly basis. Everything Kevin does is about relationships; the participants of the center, volunteers, neighbors, other churches, other faith communities, service organizations, business partners, and many more.

    For Kevin’s dedication to the needs of his community, he was awarded the April 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • March, 2014

    Carol Nuernberger of Oconomowoc, WI

    Wisconsin Hero Carol Nuernberger

    Carol is a volunteer driver for the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services. Carol has been a volunteer driver for more than two years, and on average, volunteers 14 hours per week in this position alone. She has more than 420 hours of volunteer service for Waukesha County Health and Human Services. Carol connects clients to family visitations, medical and court appointments, therapy sessions, counseling, education offerings, and mentoring programs.  Many of these appointments are vital in helping people to ensure safety for their family, and to enhance their emotional well-being. Carol also volunteers to deliver meals to seniors through Aging and Disability Resource Center’s Meals on Wheels program and reads to children at Cushing Elementary School.  


    For her dependability, dedication and always having peoples’ best interest in mind she was presented with the March 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.

  • February, 2014

    Barbara Knopf of La Valle, WI

    For years, Barbara Knopf has been running Luvs Morgan Horse Rescue with funding from gracious donations as well as out of her own pocket.  She and her husband have poured their heart and soul into every horse that they have rescued from situations such as starvation, abuse and neglect.  These rescued horses have in turn rescued veterans through a non-profit weekend program called V.E.T.S (Veterans Equine Trail Service).  Barbara’s mission to help doesn’t stop there.  She is also involved with Inner City Slicker, where rescued horses from Luvs Morgan work with disabled children.  


    For Barbara's compassion and commitment to making a difference, she will be presented with the February 2014 Wisconsin Heroes Award.