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NMES History

The Neenah-Menasha Emergency Society (NMES) was founded in 1906; however, the 8 founding members were a very active group of women who were already establishing a positive presence in the community. In 1885, Lucy Pleasants organized the establishment of a library for Menasha. In 1901, Maggie Shiells received a Carnegie Grant of $12,500 for the establishment of the Neenah Library.

1906: The group adopted the name of the Emergency Society and grew to 25 members. They joined the community’s efforts in sending aid to the victims of the San Francisco earthquake. They sewed clothing and blankets for the 300,000 people who were left homeless.

1908: The Society formed the Visiting Nurses Association of Neenah and Menasha. Members raised funds by hosting teas to help finance the new organization. Eventually it became its own independent entity. It is still in existence today and is known as the Valley VNA Senior Care.

1909: The Emergency Society members were instrumental in establishing the Theda Clark Hospital. The Society provided all supplies for the nursery from 1923 until 1958.

1917: The Emergency Society assisted in establishing the Red Cross relief in Neenah.

1928: The Emergency Society purchased an operating table and powerful electric light for surgery for Theda Clark Hospital. An electric cautery knife and a therapeutic whirlpool tank were also gifted to the hospital. They also paid for an endowed bed which was provided to those residents who could not afford health care.

1930: A resale shop was opened for the sale of donated items and was open to the public. The proceeds from this shop were a prime source of funds which supported the Emergency Society’s projects and relief efforts.

1932: During the months of the depression, the Emergency Society donated 3,305 quarts of milk, 6 cases of cod liver oil and 500 toothbrushes to the community. It also paid for 35 tonsillectomies.

1943: The Emergency Society opened a Family Service office at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. This was to provide emergency relief and case work services to families and individuals within the areas of Neenah, Menasha, and townships. The Family Service became incorporated in 1955 with the official title of Neenah-Menasha Family Services. In 1956 it became a member agency of the Community Chest with the continued financial aid from the Society. The Community Chest later became a part of the United Way Fox Cities.

1946: The Society pledged $25,000 to completely equip the nursery at Theda Clark Hospital. A fundraiser titled “Follies” was thrown. The proceeds were used to fulfill the nursery needs as well as equip the entire maternity wing. A book cart was started as well as the receptionist service, which later was adopted by the hospital’s auxiliary.

1957: In collaboration with the Visiting Nurses Association Auxiliary, the Emergency Society established the Dental Clinic for residents who could not afford dental work.

1958: The Emergency Society incorporated and became the Neenah-Menasha Emergency Society, Inc. (NMES).

1959: NMES organized the first Theda Clark Hospital Auxiliary. It donated funds to furnish three rooms and equip three conference rooms in the guidance center. In the following years NMES also provided playroom equipment, twelve bassinets and an isolette. NMES members volunteered in the hospital nursery under the hospital auxiliary service.

1966: NMES began the Meals on Wheels program which continues today in collaboration with Theda Clark Medical Center and the VNA to provide diet controlled menus to the elderly and homebound.

1970-1990 NMES donated funds to the Regional Domestic Abuse Center, Best Friends of Neenah/Menasha, Youth Go, Inc, Family Services, Winnebago Public Health, Goodwill along with many other community agencies and also provided funds to many individual and families in financial emergencies.

1999: NMES established its Shoes for Students program after school teachers and principals approached its members for help in providing shoes for students who were coming to school with ill-fitting and worn out shoes.

2001:Snow Pants for Students program was created to provide snow pants to school-aged children who could not afford them so that they could play outside during the Wisconsin winters.

2006: NMES took over the Back to School Fair from the Winnebago County Health Department. The Back to School Fair provides school supplies, a backpack, a shoe certificate, and a Shopko gift card to students in need.

2009: Realizing that the majority of requests for financial assistance requests it received were to prevent homelessness, NMES established the Homelessness Prevention Program. This program specifically addresses keeping residents in their homes by assisting residents with rent, security deposits, mortgage payments and utility bills.

2012:  NMES began a coat program in addition to our already established shoes and snow pants programs.

2014:  The Back to School Fair served 450 students in our first year and this year has risen to over 1,300 students.

2015:  NMES worked with Neenah High School to establish Orbit, the in-school community closet which provides clothing, food and personal hygiene products for students seeking assistance with the most basic of needs.   Personal donations from our group stocked the closet well beyond expectations and we plan to continue support. 

2019: NMES began a partnership with Pillars’ Neenah-based, young adult supportive housing program, Ascend, to provide welcome baskets containing basic supplies for their new residents. We also celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Kitchen Tour.

2022: NMES, along with First United Methodist Church of Neenah, formed the Neenah-Menasha Affordable Housing Taskforce and purchased a duplex in the City of Menasha. The duplex was donated to Pillars who will operate the duplex as affordable housing as part of their Stable Housing unit.

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