Summer 2023 Survey


In 2022, the Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County’s (FRC) parent education and distribution center services served 158 families corresponding to 367 children. However, in the last five years, these services have helped over 800 families and approximately 2,000 children. Among these populations served, over 90% of the families live at or below the federal poverty line, while 88% of the children live in a household with a net income of under $10,000.

To further investigate the issues faced by those vulnerable in the Fond du Lac community and understand the populations served by our services, the FRC held its first survey. The survey was held from June to August. It was filled out by 87 families including 53 single parents, corresponding to 238 children.

Understanding the participants.

Among those who were surveyed, we put together some background demographic information about this group. This data is put together from the in-take process each family goes through to access our services. It is important to note that this data is from when the families first filled out their in-take form (new families 2023) or from their updated yearly in-take form (families pre-2023), which means that the background information and situation that families find themselves in may have changed during the time between filling out the forms and taking the survey. For example, a parent renewing their intake form information in January indicating that they are living independently will differ from when they fill out the survey in July indicating that they are now homeless.

Parent Ethnicity
Child Ethnicity
Education Level
Annual Income
Living Status
Relationship Status
Disability / SSI
Services Used
What stands out?

Over 90% of the families polled are living at or below the federal poverty line according to the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines. single parents, corresponding to 238 children.

Among the parents who participated in the survey, 26 %, about a quarter of respondents, did not complete high school.

The potential risk families and children face associated with housing insecurity with 9% indicating that they are homeless, another 21% live with a partner (only 9% are married), and 16% live with a parent or friend.

The Survey

The survey asks a series of yes or no questions along with a few open-ended questions about services in the community and family needs. The goal was to examine a few topics including childcare, healthcare, housing, transportation, and other factors potentially impacting sustainability and stability. The results of the survey will help us narrow our focus and investigation into community problems in future surveys.

Out of 87 families, 40 families and 23 single parents indicated they had trouble finding childcare, while those increased to 44 families and 26 single parents having difficulty affording childcare.

34 Families and 23 single parents indicated that access to childcare is impacting their ability to work.

Only 11% indicated having difficulties affording healthcare, which translates to 10 families, 7 single parents, and 32 children.

14 Families indicated that they were currently homeless, 13 were single parents, corresponding to 37 children living homeless.

16 Families indicated that their family was staying with a friend or a family member, 11 were single parents, corresponding to 40 children.

If respondents answered “yes” to the transportation question, they were then asked,

If respondents answered “yes” to the “Is having difficulties with transportation or no transportation impacting you and your family’s ability to work, make it to appointments, or get ahead?”

25 Families answered “Yes,” while 9 answered “No.”

15 Parents indicated that these health issues were impacting them and their family’s ability to meet basic needs.

What are you and your family struggling with or finding the most difficult right now?

“Transportation, I cannot walk places with a 1, 2, and 3 yr old.” – Single Mom

Survey Takeaways:

Fond du Lac is feeling Wisconsin’s childcare crisis, with parents struggling to find and afford childcare. An issue that is impacting parents’ ability to work and provide for their families.

Housing is among the top issues with 51% of respondents indicating that they struggle to find affordable housing. According to the survey, 44 families, 31 single parents, struggle with housing, which corresponds to 106 children.

Programs like WIC, FoodShare, and BadgerCare are being utilized by a majority of families. Based on the open-ended question, there appears to be a lapse in knowledge of the resources available to get ahead with “knowing resources” and “saving money” repeatedly listed.

Learn More About the Community

One Student’s Community Impact

Zainah Ott – High school student whose community drive strengthened an entire safety net for families, children, and babies living at or below the federal poverty line.

The Formula Crisis of 2022 had families across the country and the state of Wisconsin scrambling to find formula to feed their babies. Here in Fond du Lac County, it was no different. The Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County (FRC) focused its resources to ensure families across the city, county, and beyond were able to feed their babies. This shift in resources had left the FRC’s Distribution Center susceptible to shortages in other areas serving women, children, and infants. Annually, the Distribution Center delivers about 30,000 essential infant and child items to the most vulnerable in the Fond du Lac communities. This community safety net was left unstable until Zainah Ott came along.

Zainah’s first exposure to the FRC came when she was very young. Born at St. Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac, Zainah’s mother came to the FRC for services and received formula during a similar crisis when Zainah was just an infant. But it was years later, shopping with her mother for baby supplies for her new brother that she had the idea to give back. Zainah couldn’t believe how much it cost to provide the basics and wondered how families in tough financial situations could afford to meet their child’s needs. Coming full circle, Zainah was directed to the FRC by her mother.

Zainah approached the FRC months prior to the 2022 Formula Crisis and received approval to organize a community drive for the Distribution Center. Zainah put together a business plan and wrote proposals to businesses and schools across Fond du Lac to host donation drive boxes. Boxes were placed around the community from St. Mary Spring’s Academy to local groceries stores and maintained by Zainah. In May 2022, Zainah came to the FRC with two pick-up truck beds packed with essential infant and child’s aid. Zainah made a donation of over 2,000 infant and child items including diapers, wipes, sippy cups, etc.

Zainah Ott

“Without a doubt, Zainah’s charitable project and donation made this community safety net stronger at the time of the crisis, especially when our funds were focused on addressing the Formula Crisis. I remember the donation; it was not your typical everyday donation. It filled an entire conference room and took staff several days to inventory. Absolutely amazing stuff.”

Jessica Schowalter, Officer Manager

Zainah’s contribution is impressive, but even more so when considering the challenges that she has had to overcome. Zainah has had numerous medical challenges that have drastically affected her education. From sixth to eighth grade, Zainah was missing up to 80 days of school each year due to medical issues and surgeries, which caused her to fall behind in her education and social life. Zainah transitioned from public school to E-Achieve Academy out of Waukesha, WI. There she was still able to receive a quality education while prioritizing her health. Zainah is a co-president of the National Honors Society at the academy and is graduating early this spring. Passionate about children and mental health, Zainah will be pursuing Psychology at Michigan Tech this upcoming fall.  

Zainah Ott


SSM Health Greater FDL Supporting FRC

Katherine Vergos (center), SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital president, presents a $5,000 donation to Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County representatives (left to right), including Jessica Schowalter, Sarah Mauthe, Genesis Sieckman, Natia Higgs, Sara Szatkowski, and Kaniala Aragon.

SSM Health Greater Fond du Lac is giving $5,000 to the Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County to support their services for families and children.

             The Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County Inc. is dedicated to the healthy development of children and families through a variety of services and parenting programs. Our services include a Connection Center (services for the Department of Social Services and Family Courts of Fond du Lac County), a Distribution Center (providing families aid, free of charge, to meet basic needs), and a Family Resource Center (access to free parenting classes and mental health services).

            The Family Resource Center’s parent education services and Distribution Center have served more than 800 families and just about 2,000 children in the past five years. Among these populations served, over 90% of families are living at or below the federal poverty line, while 88% of the children served are living in a household with a net income between zero and $10,000. In 2022, these services served 158 families corresponding to 367 children among this demographic.

The Family Resource Center has a direct role in addressing multiple community health needs, most notably social determinants of health, through economic stability, education, and social and community contexts. Our team’s role in enhancing public health in Fond du Lac communities cannot be understated and is accomplished through parent education, SOAR (Support Observe Achieve Read) and the distribution of aid.”

Kaniala Aragon, Interim Director
Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County

The Family Resource Center’s mission to support area families during difficult times closely matches many SSM Health Greater Fond du Lac efforts to provide the community with vital resources that enhance overall health and well-being.

“The services that the Family Resource Center offers allow provide parents the opportunity to focus on their child’s well-being instead of economic hardship,” says Katherine Vergos, SSM Health St. Agnes Hospital president. “It’s critical that we do anything possible to help our children get a great start. This is an important time for there to be support.”

In 2022, SSM Health Greater Fond du Lac’s community benefit ministry totaled more than $400,000 across the communities it serves. This investment helps ensure access to health care for patients who are uninsured or underinsured, train the next generation of health professionals to care for those in need, and fund programs to address the most pressing health needs of our communities.

“The services that the Family Resource Center offers allow provide parents the opportunity to focus on their child’s well-being instead of economic hardship. It’s critical that we do anything possible to help our children get a great start. This is an important time for there to be support.”

Kathrine Vergos, President
SSM Health St. Agnes

Altrusa FDL Promoting Literacy

Altrusa International of Fond du Lac, WI has been committed to the healthy development of families and children throughout the Fond du Lac county communities. Altrusa’s contributions have furthered our educational mission and helped us bridge disparities in children’s books available. The Family Resource Center (FRC) has been to supply our SOAR program with motor and cognitive activities that help children build on the skills that underlie and support literacy, while also working on reading, writing, and speech. These activities are integral to children’s strong educational foundation when they start school. Additionally, the FRC was able to purchase high quality books as well as Spanish children books for our families.

This March the Interim Executive Director, Kaniala Aragon, was the speaker at Altrusa’s March 2023 meeting. Kaniala shared his journey from Manoa Valley, Hawaii to his time at Marian University, and the evolution of the Family Resource Center. After speaking, Kaniala was presented with Altrusa’s contribution of $750 from the Fond du Lac Altrusa’s President Barb Zink.

Valentine’s Cuddle Bear & Book

The Family Resource Center of Fond du Lac County would like to thank those in the community who donated Valentine’s popcorn and chocolate, which was distributed to our families during the week of Valentine’s day. We also hosted an event “Bear & Book” where families were able to stop in and pick up a stuffed Cuddle Bear & Cuddle Bear book by Claire Freedman and Galvin Scott. Over the course of the week, we gave out 40 Cuddle Bears and 46 Cuddle Bear books.

Community Service Organization Award

The Family Resource Center (FRC) was presented with the 2022 Community Service Organization Award by The Arc Fond du Lac. The Arc comes to the Family Resource Center to volunteer. Integral to the success of the services we provide is the helping hands that provide it. Through our partnership with Arc we have been able to increase the amount helping hands serving families and children in the Fond du Lac Community. A partnership that has provided perspective-building experiences through volunteer work. Present at the award banquet was Kimberly Oreck, former Executive Director and now consultant for the FRC, and Kaniala Aragon, Interim Executive Director.

Fond du Lac Community Christmas Success Story

The Family Resource Center opened a Christmas distribution as a safety net for the county of Fond du Lac. And a safety net it was. The distribution was opened between December 5th – 23rd and multiple families were referred to us by various organizations. Most of the referrals were similar, a parent had missed the deadline for Toys for Tots and did not have the funds to get gifts. Many of the families served by the distribution live pay check to pay check and do not have the financial flexibility to get gifts given the ecomomic climate. The distribution was designed to have flexible pick up times that specifically cater to families schedules. Toys were donated throughout the year by charitable individuals and organizations. The toys themselves were wrapped by the Campus Ministry Club from Marian University.

  • A total of 655 gifts were given (303 large toys & 352 small toys / stocking stuffers)
  • A total of 40 families were served by the Christmas distribution.
  • A total of 107 children with Christmas presents

Enabling Success – One of Our Own Graduates

Kaniala Aragon, a four year employee, just graduated this December from Marian University with his Bachelors of Science. Kaniala also known as Kani, had first volunteered with the Family Resource Center (FRC) in 2018 as freshman helping with respite care. Kaniala joined the staff in 2019 as a visitation supervisor, supervising visitation between children and their families. His role would evolve over the years as he would continue to take on more responsibilites for the organization. Kaniala would help out in the distribution center, oversee respite care, and fill in as receptionist when needed. In the summer of 2021, he took a more direct role, expanding the infrastructure and capabilites of the FRC. He developed the FRC’s data and analytics, enabling our organization to track demographics, the amount of aid distributed through the distribution center, and additional data gathered from a varitey of our services. That summer he also began writing grants for organization and helped the FRC to bring in more than $25,000 in grant money bolstering our parent education and distribution programs. Kaniala has also served to provide opportunities for others to volunteer at the FRC by organizing and providing volunteer opportunities through his connections at Marian University and as a club organization leader.

Kaniala was able to forward the mission of the FRC, while accomplishing an incredible amount of things outside of the organization. While working part-time at the FRC, he also works at a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) during the summers and for the Green Bay Packers in game operations during the season. As a full-time student at Marian University, he led the Campus Ministry Club as President for two years, organized and led a mission trip to a Navajo reservation, and accumlated over 650 hours of community service through his college career. In the same semester he organized a mission trip across the country, Kaniala set out to address a need within the Fond du Lac community for a volunteer resource. He recognized the difficulty he had upon coming to Marian to identify and compare volunteer opportunities and organizations. Kaniala reached out to and sat down with over 20 organizations from hospitals to non-profits and learned about the volunteer opportunities available. He then organized the volunteer opportunities into a document called the Stand Out Sabre page, which also contained information about the organizations, volunteer requirements, and how to apply. The Stand Out Sabre page would then be translated into a web page on the Marian University’s website, which Kaniala held the responsibility of updating the page and adding one-time volunteer opportunities. Later that semester, he was awarded the Program of the Year by Marian University for founding the page. With much experience under his belt, he was selected by the university to be the Class Commencement Speaker at the 2022 Winter Commencement Ceremony. He delivered a speech to his peers about self-reflection and finding the time to learn from your experiences. Kaniala graduates with 4.0 GPA and plans to apply to medical school where he will pursue his aspirations of becoming a physician.

“Honestly, working here at the FRC has profoundly changed my views and some of the assumptions I had. As a freshman in college, I was niave in my own thinking and this place has certainly helped me mature. I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the struggles of parents and play a role in helping them and their children. When I help families, I think of my own. Back when we lived in Hawaii, we lived in poverty. Coming to Wisconsin, were intially homeless and then I watched my parents work their way out of poverty to provide for me and my brother. The assistance they got, set them up for success, enabling my own success. But to see and look into eyes of a child who has been through so much trauma or to listen to a crying single mother about the struggles of raising children in poverty is sobering. Working here has given me so much perspective that has been invaulable to me. A perspective on poverty and social issues that I will take with me as a physician.”

– Kaniala Aragon, Visitation Supervisor