Please introduce yourself:
Hello, my name is Joan Roehre. Many people don’t know I wear two very different hats: executive director of Visioning a Greater Racine and my own global water education organization, Adventure Kids Learning.
I met Tom Buhler though the Racine Sustainable Business Network and after a few meetings he said, “ I have this little project we’re calling Visioning a Greater Racine and we’re looking for someone part time to coordinate some listening sessions…”
Jan. 1, 2016 I started. In June 2016 I launched the first of 47 visioning sessions that went until June 2017. In October VGR announced 11 W.A.V.E. (Working- Action- Vision- Engagement) Teams as a result of the over 4,300 ideas brought forth by the community. In September 2017, I was offered the executive director position. I now oversee the operations of VGR and with it, hundreds of volunteers and a two-person staff. Our teams are comprised of so many passionate, dedicated volunteers that are working to fulfill VGR’s mission: “By 2030, we are a thriving community where everyone is proud to call home!”
Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised in West Racine and like any normal 18 year old, left for college vowing never to return . I met my now husband at school in Minneapolis and after our daughter Claire was born he received a job offer here and we moved. We vowed every five years to move but that was 32 years ago and we are not going anywhere 🙂
How did your life’s journey bring you (or keep you) to (in) Racine?
Upon moving back to Racine to raise our family, I pursued a career in educational technology. I’ve worked over 25 years in the field with Racine Unified, Kenosha Unified, a software company and even training for Apple Computer. My primary focus was always distance learning (videoconferencing in the classroom). Having family nearby when you’re young and raising a family is so important. After two daughters entered the scene, I immersed myself in their schools as well as volunteering at the 6th Street Theatre and becoming part of THAT family. I’ve been doing shows with the Over Our head Players for 17 years now and incredibly proud of the productions and the talented people there.
What do you like best about Racine?
1) Without hesitation, our beautiful Lake Michigan. The lake is my compass. I have my bearings always knowing that the lake is east. When I am traveling, I never quite feel centered without the lake to gage my position. I also am 100 percent guilty for going out of my way to drive past the lake. No view of it is ever the same and it changes by the minute with sun or shadows or storms or calm. It is a precious resource that deserves our admiration as well as protection. Too many take it for granted.
2) I will also add THE PEOPLE. I LOVE wearing my “Ask Me Why I Love Racine” tee shirt and people actually asking me- “What DO you love about Racine”? Our community is so rich in diversity and I celebrate that about us. We have much to learn about each other and I embrace that every day.
Please give some examples of how your work has made a positive impact on the community.
As a global citizen, I have spent over 10 years bringing the global water crisis into classrooms around the world. I work in Central America with several organizations: Wisconsin Water for the World and Agua para la Salud, an in-country Guatemalan NGO. Together, with villages in the highlands, we help build sustainable water systems. While we are onsite, I host video conferences to classrooms around the world sharing the story of water in a developing country. I wear a bracelet 24/7 with the words “No Water. No Life” every day to remind me of that.
As a Greater Racine citizen, I work hard every day to help build a community I am proud to live, work and play in. As the leader of Visioning a Greater Racine I have incredible opportunities to meet and work alongside so many dedicated, passionate people. My true passion is to connect people and organizations.
What’s the least understood aspect about what you do?
I think it would be how much time and effort it takes to cultivate and foster relationships. Building community takes time. Building an organization takes time. Engaging a community takes time AND trust and requires daily effort. We all have different approaches, styles and voices but at the end of the day, we ALL want a thriving community we are all proud to call home.
What would you like to accomplish during the next 6 months? 12 months?
I have a fairly large list of short and long term goals but one I make a priority is for our community to recognize that we have a great deal of work to do. I’d like to see VGR grow with more volunteers to keep momentum going and build upon that. I’d like our current team members to recognize their efforts are making a difference from Uptown Clean-ups to an international event hosted here next year. I’d like VGR to be an organization community members equate to “change” and “connectors.”
What’s the best way to contact you?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (262) 939-5813.