Michelle’s Action Angels Community Outreach is a nonprofit corporation founded in 2015 in loving memory of Michelle Gildersleeve. We aim to provide advocacy and community outreach to the special needs community to help and support individuals with special needs and their families have independent, fulfilling and meaningful lives
To create community awareness, empower individuals and families, and promote independence for those affected by Autism Spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Denise Gildersleeve, Co-Founder, Board Member, President, Secretary
I am the Mom of 4 daughters. My second oldest daughter is Michelle. My unimaginable journey began when Michelle was diagnosed at the age of 3 with severe autism and mild cerebral palsy. Michelle became my teacher of patience (a whole lot of patience), determination and enjoying the simple joys of life. I learned how to do research, about endless therapies, and new methods of helping a child learn but the most valuable was the importance of giving respect and to admire those individuals with disabilities and the key was to try my very best to see life through her eyes. So with this determination I have learned over the years I intend to do my very best to continue to grow this foundation we have started in Michelle’s memory and keep her legacy thriving. We will continue to create more awareness, acceptance and cheer on those individuals moving to independence. My hope is to reach out and touch as many lives as possible. My professional skills include an associate degrees as a legal secretary, extensive banking experience and completion of several personal care/personal support for people with disabilities courses through Houlton Institute.
Jeff Gildersleeve, Co-Founder, Board Member
BS Biology, Wildlife Management, Environment Law Enforcement., 1 LT 32nd Sep Inf Bde.
Presently Receiving Manager at Hentzen Coatings Inc.
Father of Michelle, my Best Fishing Buddy ever. My wife and I, still in shock from our loss of Michelle on Christmas Eve of 2014, sat up one night in early January and said we needed to do something to help other families with young adults like Michelle to realize their dreams of someday living independently. We thought this would be a great way to fill our empty feeling and honor our daughter's memory. We are currently working with Homes for Independent Living making Welcome Care Packages for all their new residents. We are also reaching out to first responders being a resource for information and training on how to better interact with special needs individuals and families in a crisis situation. Our goal is to educate our community on the challenges that can be overcome in supporting individuals with special needs in living a productive independent life.
Rebecca Stelmack, Board Member, Vice President
Hi I'm Rebecca Stelmack. I am Michelle's oldest sister. I have my bachelor's degree in social work and psychology from UW-Milwaukee. I have 7 years of professional experience working with children with disabilities and their families. Michelle held a special place in my heart and taught me many things in my life. My family and I hope to honor her memory by passing on all the knowledge we have learned from Michelle. My dream for the foundation is that we continue to keep Michelle’s memory alive by helping individuals with disabilities and their families as well as the community become more aware, feel empowered and strive for independence.
Shannon Gildersleeve, Board Member, Chairperson
I’m Shannon Gildersleeve, one of Michelle’s younger sisters. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from UW-Stevens Point and am currently pursuing a degree as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at UW-Madison. Michelle has been a pivotal influence in my life. She has taught me the value of accepting others just the way they are. Growing up with Michelle, I learned so much about determination and overcoming obstacles. I have never known someone who could say so much with no words. Through Michelle, I met other families like ours and other incredible people struggling through the quagmire of having a neurodevelopmental disorder in today’s society. Just by being who she was, Michelle touched the hearts and minds of everyone she met. Through MAACO, I hope to reach out to other individuals like Michelle to help them achieve independence while fostering awareness and acceptance in our community. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that we are capable of so much more together than alone.
Rachel Gildersleeve, Board Member, Scribe
I am currently in school for my bachelor’s degree in nursing at UW-Milwaukee. I am Michelle’s youngest sister. Since Michelle was my older sister, I have always lived with someone who is autistic. Michelle has taught me many different lessons throughout my life. She showed me how to touch the hearts of people in many ways. She taught me how to be patient, kind, and to not judge someone based on the way they act. I have learned to always reevaluate a person before I misjudge if they are irregular because they may have a disability. There are many people who do not completely understand neurodevelopmental disabilities. So my goal for the foundation is to create awareness of these disabilities, so that people realize that there is more than the outside appearance. Michelle showed me that people with disabilities are quite special and truly amazing. They can teach you a lot more than you think. With this foundation I want not only to create awareness of neurodevelopmental disabilities but also to help individuals with disabilities. I want to touch the hearts and lives of as many people as I can as that was what Michelle did.
Paula Beyer, Board Member, Treasurer
Hi, I’m Paula Beyer, Michelle’s aunt. I have an Accounting degree; however, I choose to help people daily as a Housewares Associate at Elliott’s Ace Hardware. Through my time as a volunteer with KLOVE and the Brewers Community Foundation, I have enjoyed making people smile. One of my favorite memories of Michelle is that whenever I would laugh, she would get a big smile and start laughing too. My primary goal in all that we accomplish with Michelle’s Action Angels is to encourage people to smile and to spread joy.
Julie Schulz, Board Member, Fundraising Director
I am a Finance Operations Administrator in the Credit Division for Kohl’s Department Stores. Through my employment with Kohl’s, I have been involved with several local non-profit organizations including Brewers Community Foundation and Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin. I bring fundraising experience and a passion for volunteerism to Michelle’s Action Angels. I also have a personal connection with MAACO, as I am a close family friend and had the wonderful privilege of knowing Michelle for most of her life. My desire is to see this organization accomplish its mission of keeping Michelle’s precious memory alive and providing the much needed awareness in the community to aid individuals with disabilities in achieving independence.
Chris Tarnowski, Board Member
Retired employee of Milwaukee County for 32 years in the field of Information Technology. Currently working part-time for Weight Watchers as a Coach/Mentor. That role includes responsibilities for maintaining a retail store in New Berlin Wisconsin. Graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and Business Administration from the University of WI -Milwaukee. I was fortunate to spend much time with Michelle Gildersleeve in her childhood years. During that time I learned many different aspects of the challenges that families that have children with disabilities face every day. It is my mission, through this organization, to help make other families facing these challenges, have as many resources as possible available to them.
Linda Wetterau, Board Member, Community Outreach Co Chair
I have an extensive background as a registered nurse, comprised of more than 30 years of clinical practice within emergency services, and 10 years within case management. I currently manage a team of field based case managers delivering personalized professional assistance in managing complex health issues. I enjoy sharing my professional knowledge as an associate professor of nursing at the University of Phoenix Southern California campus where I facilitate courses in public health nursing. My experience has heightened my awareness of the unique needs of individuals and families struggling to function comfortably at their highest level of self-care, and in conjunction with my love for my god-daughter Michelle, inspires my work within the MAACO Foundation. I look forward to increasing community awareness and support in our mission to empower those affected by autism in their achievement of optimal independence and a sustainable enjoyable lifestyle.
Lisa Seiler, Board Member, Community Outreach Co Chair
I have the privilege of being the aunt to several nieces and nephews one of which is Michelle. During Michelle’s life, she taught our family many things caring and acceptance to name a few. Michelle grew up with Autism and in the mid 80’s we surely did not know all that we know today regarding Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. As Michelle grew family became her advocates, protectors, and best friends. I could write a book on the positive impact Michelle has had on our family. Our Family and many others have been forever positively changed because of Michelle. It is my wish through Michelle’s Action Angels Community Outreach for Michelle’s Legacy to live on as MAACO helps other families and individuals who may deal with communication challenges. MAACO has already positively affected numerous lives from providing Welcome Baskets through a partnership with Homes for Independent Living as well as being a part of several community outreach events providing educational support and awareness.
My background includes 30+ years of work/volunteering in youth services with several agencies as well as serving as an EMT in many first responder roles. Since 2008, I have worked as a Dispatcher for Police, Fire and EMS, which gives me a unique perspective. In my role with MAACO it is my desire to expand and provide specialized training to 1st Responders, Police and EMS, so that when an emergency happens the responding emergency services will have a better understanding of how to best work with individuals who may have Autism and, or Developmental conditions; as well as how to best assist their families. In these situations, emergencies with the addition of communication challenges can make emergencies far more traumatic to Individuals, families. The need for training of responders regarding the various range of communication, social and behavior that may be exhibited and/or heightened during an emergency are in great need. With the high need, high expense of training and the challenged budgets of the EMS services MAACO wishes to collaborate with agencies to provide high quality trainings with little to no cost to the agencies. If you have an interest in this area please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading of MAACO Training.