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Announcing our Paul & Elaine Groth Mentoring Award for 2021!

Congratulations, Jean Blaney McGinnis!

(By NBC26) We could all use someone to help us through a tough time or just have them there to listen. As a part of our Celebrating Volunteers series with the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, meet someone helping our youth through mentoring. Now, those mentees say, they’re trying to follow in her footsteps.

“It’s awesome to have a role model so close to you,” said Elle Blaney.

“I think she really, kind of shaped my world view as far as what I want to do in life,” said Amberlyn Nourse.

For Jean Blaney McGinnis, mentoring was like a calling.

“Seeing the growth in the students is probably one of the most inspirational things,” Jean said. “One of the reasons why I keep doing it.”

Jean began mentoring when her daughter Elle was in middle school in 2015. She continued to mentor students as they transitioned to Appleton West High School. It was during that time in which she met Amberlyn.

“I was struggling in school pretty hard,” Amberlyn said. “I was failing most things.”

Raised by a full-time working mom, Amberlyn said, she didn’t realize just how much Jean would impact her.

“I definitely needed Jean,” she said. “I didn’t really have room in my life at that point to keep a commitment, but she just stayed there. That’s been one of the most valuable things, having Jean in my life.”

Now Amberlyn is graduated with a good job and hopes to be a mentor for kids someday, just like her.

Jean’s ability to show up for kids to help them through tough times, or just to chat, is one of the reasons she was chosen for this year’s Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award. As you can see in the video above, it’s an honor even more special because her daughter Elle was the one to nominate her.

“I don’t know if I have the words…it makes me feel really good about, not what I’m doing, but what she’s [Elle] is seeing,” Jean said.

“I think every kid deserves someone to look up to and I think she’s a great person to have, and I’m very lucky in that I can’t wait to share what she taught me just by being there for someone,” Elle said. “I hope when I’m older I can help kids like she did.”

With the award, sponsored by the Mielke Family Foundation, Jean received $5,000. She said she will be splitting the money to donate to two groups: Miracle League and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She chose these two groups because of the mentoring opportunities they provide to for the area.

Thank you to our Celebrating Volunteers partners, NBC 26 and The Post-Crescent, who are featuring our winners this week. View the Post-Crescent’s story here.

Here’s Jean’s reaction when she learned that she was this year’s winner of the Paul & Elaine Groth Mentoring Award:


This award recognizes an individual (or individuals) who has served as a mentor in the community over time and has, by example, made meaningful contributions to the quality of the life in the Fox Cities. An award of $5,000 is presented to the recipient’s Fox Valley charity of choice.

Award sponsor since 1998:

Who Qualifies?

An individual or individuals that meet the criteria above and have a beneficial presence within Outagamie, Calumet, Waupaca or northern Winnebago counties.

Nomination form


  • Nominations are evaluated on the nominee’s involvement of helping others.
  • Nominations are evaluated based on the nominee being a respected community leader.
  • Nominations are evaluated based on mentoring in a quiet and wise way and how the nominee has been a counselor or consensus builder to make positive things happen in the community.


The Paul and Elaine Groth Mentoring Award was created to honor Paul and Elaine Groth, community leaders who were tragically killed in a car accident on April 30, 1997. This award celebrates their legacy of making the Fox Cities a better place to live.

At the time of his death, Paul Groth was the president of the Mielke Family Foundation, a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The Mielke Family Foundation sponsors the Paul and Elaine Groth Award to recognize individuals who serve as mentors in the community, awarded at the annual Celebrating Our Volunteer event. Celebrating Our Volunteers is a one of a kind occasion that conveys sincere thanks to many local volunteers for all they have contributed to making the Fox Valley a great place to live.

Past recipients

2020: Walt Zerrenner
2019: Dick Calder
2018: Bob DeKoch
2017: Sally Podoski
2016: Mary Poulson
2015: Sue Kinde
2014: Maung Win
2013: Rev. Will & Ruth Bloedow
2012: Ruth Haviland
2011: Joyce & Len Hanstedt
2010: Jeff Knezel
2009: Tri-County Community Dental Clinic dentists
2008: Fred Gaines
2007: Thomas Scullen
2006: Dr. Bill & Paula Chandler
2005: Doug & Carla Salmon
2004: Jane Williams & Alice Zeiss
2003: Margaret M. Walsh
2002: Pat Boldt
2001: John Reeve
2000: Philip Keller
1999: Charles Lingelbach Jr.
1998: Winton A. Schumaker