Rotary donates to Friends of Neighborhood Navigators

President of the Rotary Club of Sun Prairie, Aaron Oppenheimer, presented a $1,000 check to Sun Prairie Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department Director, Kristin Grissom, to support the new Friends of the Neighborhood Navigators group.

The Friends of the Sun Prairie Neighborhood Navigators, Inc. is a newly formed not for profit designed to provide support to and collaborate with the Sun Prairie Neighborhood Navigators expanding, enhancing, advocating for, and promoting the Navigators’ programs and services.

The Friends of the Neighborhood Navigators will advocate for the program and receive and encourage gifts, endowments and bequests to benefit their work.

The Neighborhood Navigators program was formed in 2018 and is a direct result of community needs identified by the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission.

The Navigators support neighborhoods in need and foster community by connecting neighbors to one another. The program focuses on two goals — increasing community engagement and increasing community outreach. These are accomplished by building strong relationships with residents and partnerships with local resource providers.

By building relationships with residents, the Neighborhood Navigators are able to identify individual needs and connect to resources that exist within the community.

The Neighborhood Navigators team of Katrina Collins, Teran Peterson and Thedora Smith and Neighborhood Navigator Program Specialist, George Chavez are made aware of needs in the community. They then reach out to partnering agencies for a referral or deployment of resources.

The Navigators help residents access resources and assist in navigating barriers that may exist.

“Whatever the need is, whatever needs exist, we try to meet them,” Neighborhood Navigator Program Specialist Chavez said.

Through trying to meet the needs of the community, the Navigators have identified a need for their own program – outside funding and support. Sustainability is one of the top priorities for the program, and while the current program funding is established in the operating budgets of both Dane County and the City of Sun Prairie, the budgets only support the staff wages.

Donations and support from partnering agencies provide resources such as gas vouchers, baby supplies, emergency rent assistance and more.

Seeing this need and being involved in the inception of the Neighborhood Navigators program, community advocate and Chair of the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission, Mary Ellen Havel-Lang sprang into action.

Havel-Lang and a core group of supporters developed the plans for an official 501©3 non-profit group, the Friends of the Sun Prairie Neighborhood Navigators, Inc.

The group met for the first time as an Executive Team on Oct. 22. The Executive Team is comprised of community members and program advocates, including former Sun Prairie Police Chief Pat Anhalt, Juanona Brewster, Lamont Crockett, Mary Ellen Havel-Lang, Rich Holsinger and Dan Presser.

The formation of the Friends of the Sun Prairie Neighborhood Navigators, Inc. was made possible by a $1,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Sun Prairie.

“The impact of this donation will span far beyond the initial startup of this organization,” Havel-Lang said. “The donation allows the Friends to begin their mission, which will directly and positively affect the lives of so many within our community. The ripple effect of Rotary Club’s contribution will be felt for years to come as we are able to support our community members in times of greatest need.”

For the Rotary Club, the donation fits with the club’s motto of “Service above Self” and aligns well with the mission of the Neighborhood Navigators and the new Friends group.

Rotary Club President, Aaron Oppenheimer echoed that.

“The Rotary Club of Sun Prairie is built on the principal of service and promotes the humanitarian spirit,” Oppenheimer said. “As a club, we are happy to be able to provide this opportunity to the Friends group and look forward to seeing their service to the community in action.”

The next steps for the Friends group are officially obtaining its non-profit status, establishing a website and developing a plan to implement advocacy and fundraising efforts.

For more information on the Neighborhood Navigators Program, please contact Kristin Grissom, SPPRF Director, at

For more information on the Friends of the Sun Prairie Neighborhood Navigators, or to get involved, please contact Havel-Lang at

For more information on the Rotary Club of Sun Prairie, visit

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