If you've never been to the ICAA, east of Spooner on Highway 70, you'll want to stop in this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Everything priced over a dollar will be reduced to a dollar, and items under a dollar will be four for a dollar.

This massive clean-out sale precedes the store's closing for a week for remodeling and revamping. That's the good news.

The bad news is that the most dynamic woman in Washburn County, Dawn Schliesmann, will be gone when the store re-opens. She's off to Arizona for a few weeks visiting her parents until she decides on what's next for her.

When she started ten years ago, started only because her job at Rice Lake's County Market closed, ICAA was located in a very small space on Round House Road in Spooner and was a small food pantry distribution center, and it shared its space with a county weatherization program.

She started in February, and three months later in May, the operation had been moved to a building on Highway 70 that was considerably larger almost 5000 sq. ft., and a burgeoning thrift store and a much larger food distribution area was created.

Today, not only are both services exceeding expectations, but at least six programs are up, running, and successful, thanks to Dawn's passion for helping people however she can, from food to housing, whatever would make their lives easier with a hand up and not simply a handout.

The Indianhead Community Action Agency is a private non-profit serving Burnett, Clark, Rusk, Taylor, Sawyer and Washburn Counties in Wisconsin. It was incorporated in 1966 and is a recognized leader for ending poverty and creating sustainable communities through self-sufficiency in rural areas by assisting individuals with the resources, education, and services necessary to develop healthy families, sustainable communities and strong local businesses.

Dawn not only embraced the mission statement but expanded it to include developing a Continuum of Care program that even has Madison sitting up and taking notice.
Almost from the day she arrived, she went door to door introducing herself to business leaders and established outreaches. Not only did that one-to-one approach to the problem work, but it also grew from a handful of people to over fifty organizations, all existing to offer aid to the public.

Service groups like the Aging and Disability Resource Center, the Alzheimer's Association, the Compassion Connection, Faith in Action and on and on and on.
Once a month this large group meets to discuss the needs of the county and how they can work together to meet those needs.

That's how the Alban house was created. Dawn brought the need of homeless to the care group and the Washburn Co Homeless Coalition and, working together with St. Albans Church, they obtained the use of the church parsonage to be used as a temporary home shelter for families in need.

Connections also networked to help create the Fall Fashion Show each year at the Trinity Lutheran Church, which raised funds for scholarships through donations during the show.
The fashions were provided by Dawn, using Connections thrift store clothes, along with coordinated outfits that were used around the room that were for sale after the show. Add snacks, coffee, and entertainment, and for the past six years, this show has been a hit.

Another program that was well above her job description, Dawn coordinated with a local grower for a four-acre plot which was readied by the owner and then planted, weeded and harvested by volunteers. This past summer of hard and sweaty work garnered over 10,000 pounds of fresh food available to the many food pantry users. Dawn even contracted with Wilma Johnson, the U.W. Extension agent to come up with recipes and demonstrations on how to use the fresh food. Fall often ended up with a party of fresh vegetables hot off the grill for clients.

It takes a woman of passion for making time in her busy life to spend it on others. Dawn has three daughters and four grandchildren, and yet she made time to do the homeless count for the state twice a year. It's hard to believe that people are living in their vehicles or in a tent in the woods in our area, but there are. These are the people that Dawn works exceptionally hard to help.

And the veterans with various support services, and anything she can do to help all people get the help they need.

Dawn is excited about the new food program. It will be run on a self-serve basis. “Even though we had a huge supply of food, canned, fresh, packaged and frozen meats, there were so many people with various food allergies that it took longer to serve their needs. This way they can 'shop' for what they and their families can eat. Besides all of our other nearby ICAA centers have already changed to the new delivery system.”

Something that Dawn didn't expect has been the number of people who have emailed, phoned or stopped in just to tell her how much they'll miss her and wonder what they'll do without being able to “pick her brain.”

If this news that she's leaving is new to you, and you'd like to stop in and say good-bye, this Saturday, November 3, between 9 and 2, DrydenWire.com is supplying cake and coffee to honor a woman who will be sorely missed. We hope you can come to meet one of our personal heroes.


About the Author

Diane is a features writer for DrydenWire.com. She started her fifteen-year career as a features writer for the Washburn County Register and has written for assorted newspapers and national magazines. She has also just released the third novel in her Chicago series of books – Scott Free in Chinatown. You can visit Diane's website at www.dianedryden.com or her facebook page at facebook.com/authordianedryden.


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