A new charitable fund dedicated to improving supporting early childhood needs in the Fox Valley has been established within the Community Foundation to mark the end of Dr. John Mielke’s 26 years on the Appleton Area School District’s Board of Education and to honor his service and that of Sally Mielke, his wife, to many causes in the community.
Donations to the John & Sally Mielke Early Years Fund for the Fox Valley are being accepted to build an endowment to fund projects and initiatives that will benefit children ages birth to five and their families. Of particular interest are initiatives that are preventative or collaborative in nature and benefit the broader community.
The goal is to build the fund to $500,000, Jon Stellmacher, a friend of the Mielkes, who coordinated the effort, told a gathering honoring the Mielkes before John’s last school board meeting Monday night. A lead gift from a former colleague, Dr. Gilbert Mueller, established the fund. ThedaCare will be another of the first contributors to the fund, because of the organization’s admiration for the unique contributions Dr. Mielke has made at ThedaCare and in the community.
The celebration took place at the Community Early Learning Center in downtown Appleton that the Mielkes worked to establish.
A succession of speakers congratulated the Mielkes, including outgoing Appleton School Supt. Lee Allinger, State Sen. Roger Roth, Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna, School Board President Kay Eggert, Appleton Education Foundation Exec. Dir. Julie Krause, teachers from the CELC and Stellmacher.
Dr. Mielke “is not afraid to ask the questions that may not have answers,” Hanna said.
The Mielkes are “change-makers,” Eggert said.
In a special treat, the students performed songs, including one that required the entire audience to stand a make hand motions that matched the song.
Examples of the activities grants from the fund will support include:
- Educational programs for parents and/or early educators.
- Scholarships for low-income families for high-quality childcare.
- Scholarships for development of early educators, including continuing education.
- Grants/loans to early childhood centers for various program or other needs.
- Projects including a research component for identifying and sharing best practices.
- Support for other child-related projects, e.g. at the Building for Kids Children’s Museum.
- Administrative support for community-wide early childhood leadership.
- Dr. John Mielke was one of three doctors who laid the groundwork for the open heart surgery program at Appleton Medical Center over 45 years ago.
- The Community Early Learning Center was established through John and Sally’s initiative and a lead gift from the Mielke Family Foundation.
- John was one of the co-founders of the Appleton Education Foundation and among the founders of the Celebrating Volunteers gala, both 20 years ago.
- John also was co-founder of the Community Health Action Team (CHAT) 16 years ago, established through ThedaCare.
- John fostered a relationship with the Waisman Center at UW-Madison, serving on its board.
- After a career in healthcare, Sally has been a member of the nursing faculty at Fox Valley Technical College for 17 years.
- She served on the boards of Fox Valley Technical College and the FVTC Foundation.
- Sally served for 22 years as an Outagamie County supervisor, including two years as board chair, along with countless other nonprofit boards.
- As partners for life, they seem to be at every function and support every important cause in the community.
Hugs all around