Dr. Chris Domes and his wife, Mary, have devoted their careers to making a positive impact in the lives of students.
Now, they’re expanding those efforts to Manitowoc County as a whole.
Chris, the president of Silver Lake College, and Mary, a longtime teacher, recently were named co-chairs for United Way Manitowoc County’s 2014 campaign.
United Way’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our community through volunteer and resource development, partnership building and advocacy. This is the first year that the campaign — with the foundations of education, health and income — is being led by Silver Lake College representatives.
“With Mary and I, our work as educators has really been about lifting people up, helping them develop their skills and making a difference so they can make their own way in life,” Chris said. “Whether it’s, in Mary’s case, elementary kids, or in my case, college students, an essential theme in our lives has been education.
“The other big reason we’re involved in the campaign is that the community is very important to both of us. We grew up in small communities, and our families were all involved at some level, whether it was being on the town council, serving on the school board or owning businesses in the communities. My grandma even drove the same school bus route for 45 years. Being involved in the community is part of our DNA. It’s just who we are.”
Chris and Mary each grew up in western New York in towns of less than 10,000 people — Chris in Sardinia, and Mary in Salamanca.
They moved to Manitowoc last summer after Chris was hired to lead Silver Lake College. Previously, Chris worked at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., and Mary served as an elementary school teacher for 28 years, including 11 in New York and 17 at Fairfax County public schools in Virginia.
“We’re fortunate to be here in Manitowoc County,” Mary said, “and we’re honored and humbled to be part of this campaign and help as much as we can.”
Mary is especially looking forward to utilizing her knowledge in literacy. She received her master’s degree in reading from St. Bonaventure University and also served as a coordinator for Literacy Collaborative, a comprehensive school literacy program.
“Education is an important part of United Way, and that’s my passion — to be able to help someone who’s struggling with reading and open that door for them,” Mary said. “Research has shown that if we don’t have students reading on grade level by the third grade, there’s a good chance they’ll be struggling in many areas for the rest of their lives. And that’s something we want to change.
“I see this opportunity with United Way as a way I can give back to the community here that’s been so welcoming to us. We can all work together on literacy to benefit children and adults.”
Chris said Silver Lake College is among the campaign’s Pacesetter organizations, meaning that it’s starting its campaign efforts before the official kickoff event, which is scheduled for Aug. 9 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Dermatology Associates of Wisconsin, 801 York St., Manitowoc.
“I see Silver Lake College as a resource for the community,” Chris said. “As United Way looks at sponsoring collaborative efforts to improve literacy, help in education and help in lifting people out of poverty, the college is certainly more than willing to look at opportunities that could support any of those efforts.”
He encourages people to support the campaign.
“The United Way campaign is about impacting as many people as possible and really lifting up people in the community and making a significant difference for individuals in the areas of health, education and income.
“When you talk about the campaign, it’s certainly about the financial resources, but we also need people’s time, talent and participation. It’s a community effort, and Mary and I are pleased to be leading this campaign as co-chairs.”
Tracy Geenen, executive director of United Way Manitowoc County, visited Silver Lake College last week and, during a faculty and staff forum, said she was excited to have the Domes serving as campaign co-chairs.
Silver Lake College recently received a $40,000 Community Impact Grant from United Way Manitowoc County. The grant will help fund the college’s Look Ahead Lakers program, which, since forming in 2010, has helped more than 750 students in Manitowoc County who are at-risk or from underrepresented populations.
For more about United Way Manitowoc County, call (920) 682-8888 or visit www.unitedwaymanitowoccounty.org.