Sophia Foundation Inspires Caring Community

January 20, 2012

What do you hope the Fond du Lac community will be like in the next twenty-five years?  That is a question that nineteen Fond du Lac area community leaders explored in early 2011.  The hope from this group was that Fond du Lac would be a community where civility, family, children, innovation, possibilities, sustainability, inclusiveness, inspiration and dreams are valued and nurtured – a caring community.  Creating a caring community that embodies these ideals is challenging, at best. 

In the face of many collapsing and polarizing systems, community leaders are being asked to lead in very different ways than they have in the past.  The Sophia Foundation, founded by Virginia Gilmore, is committed to creating a caring community based on dialogue and new ways of organizing that help propel the Fond du Lac community forward.   Christa Williams, Executive Director of the Sophia Foundation says, “We believe that by bringing together leaders for learning and dialogue around relevant issues, we can help foster an environment of collaboration, engagement and transformation that improves the lives of all citizens in our community, including the most vulnerable.“

The focus of the Sophia Foundation is on providing learning opportunities that ensure that leaders from across the community are prepared to lead and develop solutions required of diverse communities in the next decade.  Since its inception in 2002, the Sophia Foundation has invested more than $750,000 in grants and programming to support individuals and organizations in the Fond du Lac area that build awareness for, and put into practice, leadership principles that inspire a more caring community. 

In 2011 the Sophia Foundation, through various full and partial scholarships, supported community leaders to attend the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership International Conference in Dallas, Texas as a way of supporting leader development and community collaboration.  Christa Williams said of the scholarship program, “We believe that by supporting leaders in this way, we are creating a community of stakeholders with a common language and dedication to creating a vision for the best Fond du Lac community for all its citizens.”   Williams went on to say, “Attendance at this particular conference provides a unique opportunity for current and emerging leaders from the Fond du Lac area representing business, higher education, healthcare, government, non-profit, and faith sectors.  The conference focuses on the ethical, practical and meaningful benefits of leading in a way that seeks to nurture the spirit, dignity and potential in each person, which is the mission of the Sophia Foundation.”

As a catalyst for communtiy dialogue and learning, the Sophia Foundation sponsors a number of learning opportunities throughout the year.  A leadership learning series, attended currently by ten communtiy leaders, and monthly book discussion group, provide an opportunity for leaders to learn and discuss how the practices of servant leadership and dialogue increase their own leadership capacity, foster community engagement and build collaborations.  With strong partnership from the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, the Sophia Foundation as been instrumental in bringing national leaderhsip experts and speakers to the community. 

The Sophia Foundation was established by Virginia Gilmore as a supporting organization under the Fond du Lac Area Foundation.  Foundation board members include Founder and President Virginia Gilmore, Jim Gilmore, Terri Sexton, Cathy Wolfe, Ginger Timchak, Gary Boelhower, Linda- Selk-Yerges, Barb Senn and Jim Sebert with Executive Director, Christa Williams and board advisors Sandi Roehrig, Maureen Oster and J Lewis Perlson.  To learn more about Sophia Foundation initiatives contact Christa Williams at

June 2011 International Servant Leadership Conference
Fond du Lac Attendees

2011 Dallas Servant Leadership Conferance Attendees

Front row L-R: Erin Gerred – FDL County; Julie Pieper – MPTC; Sophia Foundation founder Ginny Gilmore; Linda Selk-Yerges – ASTOP; Lindsay Blumer – Ripon College; Sue Roettger – Mid-States Aluminum. Second row: Jim Gilmore – retired FDL Country Sherriff; Susan Kolb – Cedar Valley Communities; Lindee Kimball – Solutions Center; Sandi Roehrig – FDL Area Foundation; Cathy Wolfe – Agnesian Healthcare; Leslie Jaber-Wilson – Marian University; Kate Treichel – Agnsian HealthCare; Christie Trinoskey – CitizensFirst Credit Union;

Back Row: Sophia Foundation Executive Director Christa Williams; Barb Senn – St Mary’s Springs; Yung Pin-Lu – Marian University; Steve Thiry – FDL Police Department; William Wuske – CitizensFirst Credit Union.

Fond du Lac Caring Community

The image of a caring community created by nineteen Fond du Lac attendees to the International Servant Leadership Conference in Dallas, Texas June 2011. The image was worn by Fond du Lac attendees during a community service activity.