photo of Rebecca Nicholson

Rebecca Nicholson

Community Connector for the Door County Partnership for Children and Families, a program of the United Way of Door County.

I was college bound on a partial scholarship after graduating high school and the trajectory of my life changed that summer when I became pregnant. Today I have four living children and one son who received his angel wings early due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As a parent of four, I have experienced domestic violence, homelessness, and job loss. I’ve been a recipient of welfare, FoodShare, and Medicaid. I have had my fair share of phone calls from schools and day cares about my children’s challenges. Two of my children were expelled from day care before the age of five. My children were all diagnosed with at least one mental health condition, and one has autism.

My journey to serve as a community connector really began as I struggled to find available supports and services for my family. When my youngest child was 6 years old, she was struggling with many social and emotional challenges and was exhibiting extreme negative and dangerous behaviors both at school and at home. I didn’t know how to help her or who to ask for help. I reached out to a family member to take her, as I felt I was failing her and they contacted Child Protective Services (CPS). While at the time I was horrified, I quickly learned that it was exactly what we needed to get her the necessary services to thrive and succeed. The staff was wonderful and very supportive. Through those services we gained access to many resources I didn’t know existed; we received empowerment tools and strategies on how to utilize both formal and informal supports. After a few years of receiving support, I became passionate about helping other struggling parents get the supports they needed. Today I am fulfilling my purpose, as a Community Connector for the Door County Partnership for Children and Families, a program of the United Way of Door County.

Door County, similar to many other counties around the state, has taken note of an increase in the need for formal supports for children birth to age 5. The Door County Partnership for Children and Families was started to fulfill this need and I feel so blessed to be a part of the change we want to see in our community. We are very fortunate to have so many organizations and agencies that naturally take a collective impact approach; understanding just how important it is to work together to assist Door County families thrive.

As a Community Connector I provide free and confidential services to connect families to resources in Door County. It has been a very rewarding experience, especially working with families who are reluctant to seek support because of the stigma associated with needing support and with some of the agencies that provide that support. I have also been able to identify gaps and services and worked collaboratively with partner organizations and government agencies to find creative solutions to meet the needs of the families I work with.

I meet families where they are at, and present myself as their peer – as a parent who understands firsthand a lot of the challenges they are facing. I help guide them through the process of obtaining services. Some families merely want to know where to get assistance for their needs. Others want and appreciate someone who can walk alongside them until they feel comfortable moving forward on their own.

Many of my families are struggling to find childcare, to the point of soliciting for childcare on social media platforms such as Facebook. I know Door County is not the only county struggling, just like I know Wisconsin is not the only state struggling in this area. We need to ensure enough funding is being put toward affordable and quality child care for our families and a sufficient wage is offered to early education providers so parents can work and children can get the proper education needed in the first 2,000 days of their life. Yes, there are roughly 2,000 days between a child’s birth and their first day of Kindergarten. These 2,000 days are hands down the most important time in a child’s life. By the time a child turns 5 years of age habits for lifelong learning are set. If they cannot read by 3rd grade their chance of graduating high school drastically decreases. We are fortunate enough to have a fully funded Dolly Parton Imagination Library program here in Door County that provides a free book every month to any child residing in Door County and is between the ages of 0 and 5. We have had 70% of eligible Door County children either currently enrolled or graduate from the program. Reading is so important for children and I would love to see more counties in Wisconsin offering this program to their residents.

I used to question why I struggled so much as a parent and in life in general. Now I know the answer. I was in training all along, to serve others as a guiding light. My choices and actions changed my life path all those years ago, but I am convinced I have been traveling the path I was supposed to. I am happy to share more about my personal story or to discuss how to use Collective Impact in your community for change. Please feel free to reach out to me at