Staff

Kate Laird, Interim Executive Director

Kate Laird is a co-founder of Milkweed Connections, LLC and Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance, Inc. She has an educational background in community organizing and has been involved in mental health consumer-led advocacy and peer-delivered services since 2012. She has a passion for building community and forming healing relationships.

Victoria Welle, Peer Run Respite Program Director

After many years in the worlds of activism and theological studies, Victoria became involved in peer support and advocacy for people diagnosed with mental health conditions. Victoria is passionate about helping create alternative ways to support individuals during times of crisis and distress, and is a proud co-founder of Milkweed Connections, LLC and Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance.

Mark Wacek, Financial Manager

Mark Wacek has worked as an accountant and administrative professional for four years in the greater Chippewa Valley area. He has degrees in accounting from CVTC and UW-River Falls. One of his interests in college was working in the not-for-profit sector, and he enjoys working with people on a collective mission to help others. Mark served as the treasurer for The Master Singers, another not-for-profit organization out of Eau Claire, WI, prior to accepting this position, and looks forward to contributing his skills to the Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance. Other interests include singing in community choirs, directing a church choir, and spending time with his family. 

Sae Kim, Program Coordinator

Sae has background in social work and public interest law. Through her own experience with more traditional mental health services, Sae became a strong believer of peer support movement and peer run respites and is thrilled to be a part of Monarch House family. Sae is also passionate about fitness and animal welfare. 

Cassie Jasper, Peer Supporter

Cassandra Jasper, from Colfax, is a peer supporter, photographer, and future educator. She has a passion for energy work and spiritual healing.

Board of Directors

Melissa Smith-Tourville, Chair

Melissa Smith-Tourville, from Menomonie, is a midwife with a background as an educator and life coach, and has extensive experience serving on nonprofit boards.

Daniel Soler, Treausurer

Daniel Soler, from Menomonie, has a background in nonprofit work as the executive director for the Menomonie Theater Guild.

Mellie Artema, Milkweed Liaison

Mellie Artema, from Menomonie, is a member-owner and manager of Milkweed Connections, LLC and provides peer support and holistic health services to those in the CCS program within the region.

Sam Ahrens, Vice-Chair

Sam Ahrens, from Eau Claire, was involved in the advocacy work that led to the State of Wisconsin funding the peer run respite program. She previously worked for Grassroots Empowerment Project, and was charged with opening the first respite in Menomonie.

Tom LaMartina, Secretary

Tom LaMartina, from Chippewa Falls, is the clinical supervisor for crisis services in Chippewa, Buffalo, and Pepin Counties. Tom has worked with the Milkweed Connections CCS team since the beginning.

Paulette Anderson, Member-at-Large

Paulette Anderson ran a flower garden maintenance business for 24 years. After passing the garden business onto two of her employees she started a community education program in her school district and has been director for the past 11 years, which has led to her teaching, yoga, gardening and unicycling.  She stays busy on numerous boards and director of an arts alliance. 

Staff

Sae Kim, Executive Director

Sae has background in social work and public interest law and has worked with children and families as well as undocumented folk. Sae entered the more traditional mental health care system as a young adult and continued the exploration on and off but found herself craving for alternatives, especially after a particularly dehumanizing hospitalization. Sae stumbled upon the concept of peer support when Monarch House was first recruiting team members and found it utterly liberating and empowering. Sae initially joined the organization as a program coordinator and has assumed the role of executive director since then. Sae hopes that WIMA will continue to grow and support our community and will eventually become part of our collective consciousness in any dialogue about mental health and wellness.

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Sae is a fitness enthusiast and a proud pet-parent of a rescue dog and three rescue bunnies.

Mark Wacek, Financial Manager

Mark Wacek has worked as an accountant and administrative professional for four years in the greater Chippewa Valley area. He has degrees in accounting from CVTC and UW-River Falls. One of his interests in college was working in the not-for-profit sector, and he enjoys working with people on a collective mission to help others. Mark served as the treasurer for The Master Singers, another not-for-profit organization out of Eau Claire, WI, prior to accepting this position, and looks forward to contributing his skills to the Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance. Other interests include singing in community choirs, directing a church choir, and spending time with his family. 

Ryan Leckel, House Coordinator and Community Outreach Coordinator

Ryan has spent several years working as a community activist and peer researcher in the Menomonie community, specifically focusing on gendered violence and survivor support systems.  After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Stout, Ryan joined the team at Monarch House to continue his passion for peer support and active change.  Ryan is also passionate about his family and healing through the art of cooking!

Gabbie Allee, Program Coordinator

Gabbie Allee has been a part of WIMA since February of 2019 as a peer supporter with both Monarch House and in the Comprehensive Community Services (CCS) program with Milkweed Connections, LLC since April of 2018. Gabbie also co-facilitates trainings on LGBTQIA+ identities to both mental health professionals and community members.

Cassie Jasper, Peer Supporter

Cassandra Jasper, from Colfax, is a peer supporter, photographer, and future educator. She has a passion for energy work and spiritual healing.

Ryan Sawyer, Peer Supporter

Ryan likes to play video games, golfing, guitar, and basketball. He enjoys listening to others' stories and helping in any way that he can. He also enjoys traveling and being around friends and family.

Tony Hoffman, Peer Supporter

Tony is easy-going, easy to talk to, but difficult to beat in games.  He is always trying to live his best life and will always tell you to follow your dreams.  In his free time, you can find him biking on country roads, cooking, or sleeping.

Alex Schalte, Peer Supporter

Alex enjoys deep conversations that go on for longer than expected. They're easy going and interests include reading, drawing, video editing, writing, video games, and social issues. They have had a myriad of experiences that have made life talks their favorite past time, along with finding laughter in unexpected places.

Founders

Kate Laird

Kate Laird is a co-founder of Milkweed Connections, LLC and Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance, Inc. She has an educational background in community organizing and has been involved in mental health consumer-led advocacy and peer-delivered services since 2012. She has a passion for building community and forming healing relationships.

Victoria Welle, Board Secretary

After many years in the worlds of activism and theological studies, Victoria became involved in peer support and advocacy for people diagnosed with mental health conditions. Victoria is passionate about helping create alternative ways to support individuals during times of crisis and distress, and is a proud co-founder of Milkweed Connections, LLC and Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance.

Milkweed Connections, LLC

The member-owners of Milkweed Connections, LCC were instrumental in the creation of Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance and the opening of Monarch House Peer Run Respite.  This organization would not exist without the dedication, inspiration, and hard work of those at Milkweed Connections.

Board of Directors

Melissa Smith-Tourville, Chair

Melissa Smith-Tourville, from Menomonie, is a midwife with a background as an educator and life coach, and has extensive experience serving on nonprofit boards.

Daniel Soler, Treasurer

Daniel Soler, from Menomonie, has a background in nonprofit work as the executive director for the Menomonie Theater Guild.

Victoria Welle, Secretary

Victoria Welle is the co-founder of Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance, Inc. and the former Program Director of Monarch House. Victoria now serves as the board secretary and provide valuable insight and the sense of continuity as WIMA grows.

Gretchen Yonko, Vice Chair

Gretchen Yonko, from Menomonie, is a Business Manager at the University of Wisconsin - Stout who believes in the power of collaboration and connection.

Tom LaMartina, Member-at-Large

Tom LaMartina, from Chippewa Falls, recently retired as the clinical coordinator for crisis services in Chippewa, Buffalo, and Pepin Counties. Tom has worked with the Milkweed Connections CCS team since the beginning.

Tom Diel, Member-at-Large

Tom Diel has over 30 years of work experience in community mental health for Chippewa County. Tom’s passion is to reduce barriers that exist to accessing mental health services , through promoting resilience and emotional strength of individuals.

Rachel Hayden, Milkweed Liaison

Rachel Hayden is a member-owner and part of the coordinating team of Milkweed Connections, LLC. Rachel provides peer support and holistic health services to those in the Comprehensive Community Services program.

© 2019 by Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance, Inc.

1700 Tainter St., Unit D

Menomonie, WI 54751

info@milkweedalliance.org

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