Linda E. Benfield
Billy & Ethel Heller Award
This award is a special recognition to Billy and Ethel Heller who were prominent contributors to the Milwaukee community in both their professional and personal lives.
The purpose of the Billy & Ethel Heller Award is to foster and promote voluntary community service to United Way and its agencies. Annually, the Board of Directors selects an individual, family, or family foundation that best epitomizes outstanding service to the community and leadership in financial support of United Way, including service to one or more of United Way’s funded agencies.
Linda E. Benfield is managing partner of the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP and is an environmental lawyer with the firm. Linda has over 35 years of experience in litigation and counseling in all aspects of environmental law. Passionate about giving back to the community, Linda serves on several local nonprofit boards, including United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County (present Board Chair), Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and Building Brave. Linda was named to Milwaukee Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” list, BTI Consulting Group’s coveted Client Service All Star Team, and has been listed among the Best Lawyers in America© since 1995.
Gwen T. Jackson Community Service Award
This award was established in 1981 and is presented annually to the United Way volunteer who best exemplifies a spirit of volunteerism and dedication to one’s community.
Colleen Foley is executive director of Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, a public interest law firm in its 105th year that provides qualifying Milwaukee County residents with free civil legal services. Legal Aid is now engaged in a public-private partnership with United Way of Greater Milwaukee &Waukesha County in the launch of Eviction Free MKE to change the landscape of evictions in Milwaukee.
Colleen previously worked at the Milwaukee County Office of Corporation Counsel. Colleen’s tenure with that office included successful arguments before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on constitutional issues related to mental health and eviction law. Colleen is the proud mother of Leah, Mara, and Natalie, and ever grateful for the steadfast support of her husband, Kent Redding.
John A. Puelicher Award for Loaned Executive Excellence
This award recognizes the achievements of an outstanding Loaned Executive in honor of John A. Puelicher.
Jack Puelicher gave generously of both his time and charitable dollars to United Way and other civic and cultural institutions. He served as the 1963 United Way Campaign Chair and as a member of the Board of Directors from 1955 to 1963.
Gunna Middleton is a retired executive with over 30 years of experience working for nonprofit organizations. She graduated with a master's degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2019 she became a loaned executive with United Way and is inspired by the work United Way does in changing people’s lives and in improving our community. She greatly enjoys connecting with businesses and community leaders during the annual United Way Community Campaign and feels privileged to be a part of this amazing organization. Gunna enjoys spending time with her two grandsons and spending time outdoors doing physical activities from hiking to kayaking and everything between.
Linda McFerrin African American Nonprofit Leadership Award
This award was established in 2018 by United Way’s Board Chair Cory Nettles and his wife Michelle Nettles. The award recognizes an outstanding African American nonprofit executive who has provided exemplary leadership in the community.
Like Linda, individuals honored through this award have made extraordinary strides in leadership, volunteerism, mentoring, and philanthropy in greater Milwaukee and Waukesha’s nonprofit community. Award winners are publicly announced on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and recognized at United Way’s Annual Meeting.
Mark Thomas joined the American Red Cross of Wisconsin in December 2018 as both regional CEO and Southeast Chapter executive. Mark has deep nonprofit and for-profit executive experience, with strengths in sales and operations management, and strategic leadership skills. Thomas has led or participated in fundraising efforts for The American Heart Association, United Performing Arts Fund and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. Most recently, he served as vice president and COO for the Sojourner Family Peace Center. A Milwaukee native who lives in Mequon with his family, Thomas has and currently serves on numerous nonprofit boards, and has been widely recognized for his contributions to the community.
Loaned Executive Service Award
This award honors an outstanding individual who has served as a Loaned Executive for ten consecutive years, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to the mission of United Way.
Joanne Williams’ journalism and media career began in high school when she hosted the teen talk show on Milwaukee’s WAWA Radio. This kicked off an illustrious career as a reporter, anchor, producer, and host with many prominent media organizations, including WTMJ TV in Milwaukee, WGN in Chicago, WITI, and Milwaukee Public Television where she hosted and produced segments for the regional EMMY winning program “Black Nouveau.” Joanne was a regional director on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists, a founding member of the Wisconsin Black Media Association, past president of the Milwaukee Press Club and has served on many boards and committees of agencies in Milwaukee. In her “retirement” Joanne has worked with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and has become associated with Milwaukee Film as an independent documentary filmmaker, currently producing, writing and directing "The Exchange. In White America. Kaukauna & King: 50 Years Later”.