by Natalie Sparacio
MARSHFIELD-- North Central Wisconsin is a great place to live and raise kids.
Volunteers set many of the communities apart from others. At Newsline 9 we're proud to join in an effort to recognize some of them.
Over the next year you'll meet a dozen people honored with a Jefferson award.
Established in 1972--it recognizes businesses, schools and individuals who answer the call to action for volunteers.
This months winner is Gina Mattheisen, a Marshfield woman who created a project known as "Sweet Dreams", that's gained statewide attention.
In the fall of 2008, Gina Mattheison of Marshfield set out to help children who lived in abusive households.
It's a project she called "Sweet Dreams", a charity effort to collect pillowcase care packages for little ones across the state.
Kristen Reigel, nominated Gina, she says, "... I knew when she started this that she was just going to fly.. fly with it, because once Gina starts something she does not stop... I knew when it was dealing with children who come from these terrible situations ... that she was going to be the light at the end of their tunnel."
The project took off, in just one year, Gina's collected over 3,500 pillowcase care packages.
She's started receiving feedback from children who've been touched by her efforts..
Gina says,"...I even received a thank you note from a little boy who thanked me for his Spiderman pajamas... and I just think these people need to know they made such an amazing impact in children's lives and thanks so much for being a part of this."
Her compassion and dedication to making a difference, prompted community members to nominate her for the Jefferson Award.
Cherri Thom, also nominated Gina for the award. She says, " She's touched thousands and thousands of lives, not just the children who received these packages but the people who hand them out, and the foster parents who are taking these kids in, and every person who's created one."
Kristen says,"... she gives you this warm feeling...and for her to do this for these children for these kids.. coming from these terrible situations... we need more people like her."
The project has been a dream come true for Gina and she's far from finished.
Gina says, "... the enormity of this has blown me away and I think it's only going to get bigger... because the need is big, and so as the need grows my mission is going to be make sure each and every one of those children get the opportunity to have sweet dreams... if only just once... that's my mission."
Congratulations to Gina, she and our other upcoming winners will be eligible to move on to the national competition.
Newsline 9 Jefferson Awards are presented by Marshfield Clinic.
Online Reporter: Natalie Sparacio