Activities/ Achievements

Since its inception, Heart of the City has undertaken many initiatives on its own or in collaboration with other entities.


Gave Lue Ehinger Big Heart Award to Kim McDarison for her contribution to local journalism with her online local newspaper, Fort Atkinson Online.

Partnered with Friends of the Library for a  Pi-Day Fundraiser, baking a number of delicious pies and handing out bookmarks about HOC.

Partnered with Fort Atkinson Chamber of Commerce for a “Brats for Bikes” fundraiser on April 15, with brats donated by Jones Dairy Farm as part of their “Sizzlin’ Saturdays” program to help non-profits raise funds for and awareness of their organizations. Proceeds will be used for bike initiatives to make Fort a more bike-friendly city.

Partnered with Sustain Jefferson for an Earth Day Education Fair on Earth Day, April 22, held at the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson, with tables about food forests, monarch protection, stormwater runoff, visible mending, recycling, No Mow May, living soil, and native plants.  There were lots of fun kids’ activities.




Big Heart Award given to Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson for its youth education programs and support of the City parks and recreation, especially the skateboard park created this year.

Wrote articles in the Daily Jefferson County Union on a variety of topics.

Financially supported various projects including:

  • Fort Farmers Market
  • Subsidizing subscriptions to the Daily Jefferson County Union via public drawings
  • Subsidized cab rides on Election Day November 3
  • Subsidized Jefferson County Clean Sweep hazardous waste disposal program
  • Donated to Community Foundation’s Covid Relief Fund


  • Big Heart Award given to Aimee Hanyzewski, organizer of the Chamber Series Concerts, recognized for bringing a love of classical music to the community through this free series. The series has been going on for 7 years, and has featured everything from string quartets, guitar trios, harpists, brass quintets, the Madison Bach Musicians and much more.
  • Partnered with Citizens Climate Lobby and Sustain Jefferson to show the film “Paris to Pittsburgh” celebrating how Americans are demanding and developing real solutions in the face of climate change.
  • Reorganized and revitalized to move forward.
  • Co-sponsored the Power of Produce (POP) program at the Farmers Market to educate young people about produce
  • President Frankie Fuller co-presented at a workshop at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair. At this workshop, Group Solar Buy Program local organizers shared their stories and successes to inspire other communities to offer such programs in their areas.
  • Celebrated our 20th anniversary in June with a party at the Soulful Toad.
  • Co-hosted a community-building event in August at La Tienda Mexicana with food and music.
  • Co-sponsored the Unity Project Dance Party in August


  • In cooperation with the Midwest Renewable Energy Assocation and Sustain Jefferson, HOC organized a program, the Glacial Heritage Solar Power Initiative, for residents in Jefferson County to participate in a group purchase to lower the cost of installing solar.
  • Awarded the Big Heart Award to Dick Wanie, whose passion for and love of nature and the environment manifests itself and overflows into things that many of us now take for granted. Dick was a prime catalyst for Fort Atkinson’s designation as a Bird City, a strong advocate for establishing and improving Mush-Ko-Se-Day Park, a builder of duck blinds, and a tireless educator, training Scouts and students, young and old, the secrets of hunting, fishing and improving our precious environment and landscape.


  • Awarded Big Heart Award to Vern Zech for his community-building Facebook page Fort Atkinson- Taking a Stroll down Memory Lane.
  • Continued to promote Wisconsin-made and fair trade food products through a Heart of the City farmers market booth throughout the winter and summer farmer’s market.
  • Underwrote the Power of Produce (POP) program at the Farmers Market to educate young people about produce and give them money to spend on it
  • Received a Solar Grant from Wisconsin Distributed Resources to hold an open application process to subsidize solar assessments to responding local businesses. Sponsored six.
  • Conducted informal focus groups at the Fort Middle School, with the Haumerson Pond supporters and Senior Center Board, to try to understand how to increase accessibility to events and downtown for the elderly, handicapped and those without access to private cars. Gathered input to see what options could be offered that either were not being offered here, or how to make better use of things we have through increased marketing of our cab service, our bike path and county services. Presented findings to City staff in an information session.
  • Compiled a spreadsheet of downtown parking usage to help understand where parking may be needed and at what times of the day and times of the year. Shared the info with the City engineering department and landscape architects.
  • Organized three Incremental Development Conversations in Jan., Feb. and March that brought together small scale developers and regulators in Fort and Jefferson to compare experiences and attempt ways to facilitate conversation.
  • Beth and Frankie attended Strong Towns National Conference in Tulsa, OK, March 30-April 1 and presented written summary to Council and city staff.
  • Helped the Friends of the Library promote the Craig Rice Awareness week in July at the Library. Craig Rice is a local author who won national renown for her mystery novels in the 30s, 40s and 50s.
  • Built a website for the Fort Atkinson Arts Council to run its bids for landscape architects to create plans for a market square, which was underwritten by a grant from the Batterman Foundation. No taxpayer dollars were spent.
  • Beth Gehred and Frankie Fuller attended 1000 Friends of WI Conference, Transportation in the 21st Century Summit, in Madison, Sept. 25 and gave written report to Council and Accessible Transit Working Group on best practices from around the state.
  • Partnered with the Unity Group and Fort Atkinson Club to organize and provide volunteers for a Community Dance with outreach to the developmentally disabled.
  • Became the sponsoring organization for establishing Fort Atkinson as a Connect Community through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s program. This program zeroes in on ways for small cities like Fort Atkinson to keep their economies, especially their Main Streets, prospering.
  • Brought a Madison architect who specializes in building passive solar homes to speak during the Fort lecture series, organized by Ben Knowles.
  • In October held a community presentation on solar energy at the Fort Atkinson Club that brought together MREA, local energy efficiency and electricians in the area, and citizens interested in solar installations. Served as the nucleus for moving along a Solar Group Buy effort.
  • In November, expressed support for City’s solar purchase for a pump station to bring down city’s operational costs.
  • In December, along with the Lions Club, Brown Cab and the Senior Center, underwrote the cost of the hay wagon at the Winter Market.
  • Also in December paid for registration and held a free public viewing of a webinar put on by the Wisconsin Economic Development Association about what Incremental Development is and why it matters.


  • awarded Big Heart to Amy Lutzke, reference librarian at Dwight Foster Public Library, for her tireless work behind the scenes — connecting dots between people, ideas, opportunities and projects, as well as being an ambassador for sustainable living and the health of the Rock River.
  • sponsored Urban Planning film series
  • donated to the Jefferson County Clean Sweep program to deal with disposal of hazardous waste.
  • HOC founding member Beth Gehred elected to City Council


-sponsored Emerald Ash Borer workshop and Urban Forestry film series

-awarded Big Heart to Joan Jones, the force behind the Fort Atkinson Club.


Many members attended Chuck Marohn’s of StrongTowns Curbside Chat held in January in Fitchburg.

-teamed up with Fort Health Care to sponsor the second “Green Gardens, Good Neighbors,” featuring a food demonstration and self-guided tours of sustainable gardens in Fort Atkinson.

-donated to the Jefferson County Clean Sweep program to deal with disposal of hazardous waste.

-awarded Big Heart to Joe Nehmer, Jefferson County Parks Director


-awarded the Big Heart Award to Dennis Kuchenmeister for his work in researching and facilitating energy-saving initiatives as the school district building supervisor.

-sold fair trade products from Family Farm Defenders and cheese products from Wisconsin dairies at the Saturday Farmers Market, as well as at the December Winter Market.  Winter market included the annual egg nog sale run by Beth Gehred in conjunction with Town and Country RC&D.

-donated $150 to Eagle Scout Nick Peters in support of his project to locate fishing line disposal tubes in areas along the Rock River.  Fishing lines are destructive to wildlife.

– donated money to help pay for city to have urban planning student Thomas Fleming work as an intern on certain projects, including the storefront survey conducted to get citizen input on what should go into the empty stores.

-donated to the Jefferson County Clean Sweep program to deal with disposal of hazardous waste.

-teamed up with Fort Health Care to sponsor “Green Gardens, Good Neighbors”, featuring a food demonstration and self-guided tours of sustainable gardens in Fort Atkinson. This event offers an opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and become inspired by your neighbors.

donated to, volunteered for, and some members participated in “Cranksgiving”, a bike race/ scavenger hunt during which participants purchased at local stores items on wish lists of local non-profits which were then distributed to those organizations.

Hosted the following speakers:

  • Heart member and former councilperson Leslie LaMuro to discuss running for and holding local offices.
  • City Manager Evie Johnson
  • Claire Carlson and Frankie Fuller of the Friends of the Glacial Heritage Area at picnic meeting at the Mason Farm.
  • Planning intern Thomas Fleming to discuss the work HOC helped fund him to do with the city manager, particularly the Empty Storefronts project.
  • Biologist Mary Linton at picnic meeting at Dorothy Carnes Park.
  • Prairie restoration specialist Ron Martin at a picnic at Mush-ko-se-day Koshkonong Town Park.
  • Friends of Haumerson’s pond spokesperson Steve Mode to discuss the project in the works there.
  • School board members Kristin Wallace and Roger Thomann to speak about issues facing the district.

-screened the films “Happy” and “The Economics of Happiness” at Fort Health Care Auditorium.

-hosted a 24-hour video streaming on climate change from The Climate Reality Project