By: Roberta Baumann, originally published in Waunakee Tribune
For the past five years or so, Waunakee’s Wine Walks have drawn hundreds to the downtown area to visit the shops and experience a night out.
But many may not realize that the event, organized by a small group of energetic women, raises funds to help the community.
The Waunakee Professional Women’s group, or WPW, is a 501 © 3 nonprofit and uses the proceeds for college scholarships and to help Waunakee residents in need.
One is a patient of a local dentist facing extensive dental work he cannot afford. WPW is donating funds to cover a portion of the cost, said Sheryl Schroeder, one of WPW’s board members.
With Schroeder, Rena Ripp, Kristy Crosby and Mary Horras also serve on WPW’s board of directors, and together with volunteers, they plan events throughout the community.
“Anyone can join. There’s no charge, We focus on raising money for people with various needs,” Ripp said.
This year, WPW will award three $1,000 scholarships to young women with entrepreneurial aspirations. These will be the eighth scholarships WPW has awarded.
Selection is based not on grade point averages, but entrepreneurial spirit and community involvement.
“We look at what’s their passion?” Schroeder said. “We just look at it as where’s their heart, where are they giving back?”
Giving the scholarship is rewarding, and the recipients march with WPW in the WaunaFest Parade.
Horras, who owns Simply Unique stores in Waunakee and Shullsburg, heads up the Waunakee Wine Walk. As the owner of the Main Street store, she’s easy to find in the community and has been successful in securing sponsors for the event, Ripp said.
The Wine Walk has also been a means to bring people to Waunakee’s downtown business district during the holiday season. Tickets to the Wine Walk sell out quickly, but with a horse-drawn wagon ride and food carts downtown, the event is an attraction with or without the wine tasting.
WPW members are busy professionals. Ripp is a Realtor with Realty Executives Cooper Spransy, Crosby owns Moonstruck Media Production, and Schroeder is with Coldwell Banker Success.
But all are Waunakee area residents who want to be involved and give back to their community.
They’re planning new events, as well, such as the May 11 Marcella Fun Run at Schumacher Farm Park, named for Marcella Schumacher Pendall, who donated her family’s farm to Dane County for the park. Sarah Whitley of Old National Bank and Kelly Haas from Orange Shoe Gym are both helping to head up the run.
“We try to engage local businesses in the community,” Schroeder said.
Sponsored by Old National Bank, TDS and LSM Chiropractic, it will include a 5k trail run for kids at 1 p.m. followed by a 5k relay at 2 p.m. A portion of the proceeds from the race will be split between Schumacher Farm Park and WPW.
WPW has organized other community projects, such as sewing groups to provide blankets to Waunakee seniors, and has provided funds for the Waunakee Public Library’s capital campaign. WPW has also assisted community members in need, including seniors behind on their utility bills or who need an appliance replaced.
The group is open to women who live, work or own their business in the Waunakee school district.
For more information visit the website,