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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

Upcoming Events

Please join us for any of these upcoming ESTHER events!

  • To learn more about a particular event, click on its title
  • To see the complete ESTHER calendar, click on More at the bottom left of the listing
Monday, November 26, 2018 - 5:00pm ESTHER Finance Committee First Congregational UCC Church, Appleton/Upper Lounge
Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 11:30am - 1:00pm ESTHER Executive Committee Meeting NOTE TIME CHANGE ESTHER Office, Neenah
Monday, December 3, 2018 - 6:00pm ESTHER Prison Reform Task Force St. Mark's Lutheran, Neenah
Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 4:00pm Oshkosh ESTHER B'nai Israel, Oshkosh
Thursday, December 13, 2018 - 4:30pm ESTHER Leadership Board First Congregational UCC Church, Appleton / River Room Downstairs

2018 Banquet Sets New Record

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2018 Banquet Crowd - image by Joel SchlachtenhaufenMore than 350 people—a record!—gathered at Liberty Hall in Kimberly on Sunday evening, November 4, for ESTHER’s 15th annual banquet. The room was full, and overflowed with an amazing spirit. During the program, ESTHER recognized Lisa Hanneman for her Individual Leadership in prison reform work, focusing on medication reform at the Outagamie County Jail (story here). Mayor Tim Hanna and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Karen Nelson accepted the Community Leadership award for bringing the national Dignity & Respect Campaign to Appleton (story here).

Leonard Pitts, Jr., speaking with banquet guest Sharyn GawlickKeynote speaker Leonard Pitts, Jr., in a powerful and personal talk covering racism, immigration, the #MeToo movement, and our hope for change, challenged us to act, but first to listen. The Appleton Post-Crescent covered the event in a story you can find here.

ESTHER is particularly grateful for the generous support provided by the 2018 banquet sponsors – the William J. and Barbara A. Schmidt Family Foundation and John Schroeder – which made it possible for ESTHER to bring Leonard Pitts, Jr., to Appleton again, and for dozens of people to attend the banquet as guests of ESTHER.

Big, big thanks to Banquet Committee members Trish Brehm, Chris Calhoun (chair), Sara Companik, Sheryl De Hart, Joan Jensen, Joanne Swoboda and Bill Van Lopik, whose hard work and dedication deserve major credit for the quality of the banquet this year.

2018 ESTHER Leadership Award: Lisa Hanneman

Lisa HannemanThe 2018 Individual Leadership Award was presented to Lisa at our 15th Annual Banquet on November 4, 2018.

Lisa’s involvement with ESTHER in 2016 came out of a deep tragedy in her life. Her son Nathan died from a brain tumor. While he was terminally ill and in the state criminal justice system and county jail, his terminal cancer diagnosis was not fully acknowledged, in spite of Lisa’s repeated petitions. He was improperly given his anti-seizure and chemotherapy medications. He died shortly after being released from jail. Lisa has turned her grief into advocacy. Though hesitant at first to accept the formal role of chair of the ESTHER Prison Reform Task Force, and she has excelled in it.…

2018 ESTHER Leadership Award: Dignity & Respect Appleton

The 2018 Community Leadership Award was presented to the Dignity & Respect Campaign Appleton at our 15th annual banquet on November 4, 2018.

Appleton Diversity and Inclusion Director Karen Nelson and Mayor Tim HannaWith the launch of its Dignity & Respect Campaign on January 16, 2018, the City of Appleton became the 101st city in the country, and the first in Wisconsin, to participate in this nationwide program. ESTHER has chosen this campaign to receive its Community Leadership Award for 2018, recognizing both Mayor Tim Hanna and Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Karen Nelson for their imagination, leadership and sustained support to build a community that celebrates inclusion of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.

Dignity & Respect Campaign Appleton LogoWhile Appleton has had a diversity and inclusion position on staff since 1997, the campaign represents a new level of focus and outreach. Dignity and respect have become watchwords in the management of the city. The campaign has strengthened the city’s connection with existing community organizations focusing on diversity and inclusion, and it is encouraging public participation in a variety of offerings – conversations, films, concerts – that lift up diversity and model inclusion. Most important, the campaign has encouraged a community-wide focus on “making our world a better place for all to live—with all of our differences.”

Introducing Melissa Ludin, EXPO Fox Valley Organizer

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Melissa LudinEXPO (Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing, a project of WISDOM) works to end mass incarceration, eliminate all forms of structural discrimination against formerly incarcerated people, and restore formerly incarcerated people to full participation in the life of our communities. Previously imprisoned women and men lead EXPO, which has active chapters in Milwaukee, Madison, and Eau Claire and is developing chapters in Racine, Kenosha, Beloit, Green Bay, the Fox Cities, and Wausau. Melissa Ludin is the new EXPO organizer in the Fox Cities. She works closely with ESTHER and its Prison Reform Task Force, as well as providing state-wide support.

Here is how Melissa describes herself and her work:

I am very excited to take on the Lead Organizer position for Ex-incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO) in the Fox Valley. I have been a leader and a board member of the organization since May 2016. As a formerly incarcerated woman, I lead with an unrelenting passion for criminal justice reform and reentry peer support. My first-hand experience of leadership and peer support started while I was incarcerated more than 11 years ago. Once incarcerated, I quickly became a leader by galvanizing women from extremely diverse backgrounds to open up about their paths and learn from each other. My goal is to build trust and provide support. After my release in 2007, I held true to my mission and continue to provide peer support to women who are still incarcerated or have been released.

My goal as your community organizer is to build relationships and to motivate and empower formerly incarcerated men and women, as well as their families. I am also determined to change the narrative and biases of formerly incarcerated men and women and strive to see our criminal justice system change from a one of punishment to one that is restorative.

Madison Action Day 2019

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019 (All day)
Madison, WI

Save the Date!

Affiliates of the WISDOM network and many others will gather in Madison on March 26, 2019, to learn about issues facing our state, meet with legislators and administration officials, and advocate for a state government and policies that reflect the humane values we hold. Join us!

Help spread the word! Download and share the attached flyer.