It is a great opportunity to work for NAMI FV because the organization provides help for the Latino community facing mental health struggles. It is a place full of empathy, kindness, and a place where there is always support from others who have lived through similar experiences.

Surid Lasso Blanco

Latino Program Specialist

Surid joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2021 and serves as the agency’s Latino Program Specialist. Surid is trained in many of NAMI Fox Valley’s spanish-language education programs, with her involvement with the agency dating back over 5 years. In her spare time, Surid enjoys riding bikes with her husband, playing the piano and singing.

Becoming a part of NAMI as a Parent Peer Advocate is a great way for me to help parents and their families get the support they need. With this role, I can help lift the stigma that can surround mental illness.

Amy DeBroux

Parent Peer Advocate

Amy joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2018 and serves as a Parent Peer Advocate in the Little Chute Area School District and Menasha Joint School District. Amy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and an English Language Learner (ELL) Certification.
Amy has taught in Connecticut early in her career, in addition to teaching in the Kaukauna and Appleton school districts. She lives in the Village of Harrison with her husband and two children. Amy enjoys gardening, biking, running and spending time at her cabin.


I love working with people at Iris Place and the relationships I encounter on almost a daily basis are the best paychecks I could receive. I never knew that years of pain and shame from my own mental illness would turn into something so beautiful. Some of the darkest times in my life - commitment, hospitals, institutions, and sickness - I now use as a story of recovery and hope for the individuals I cross paths with. I hope my story can inspire others to keep going.

Amanda Farrell

Peer Companion

Amanda (“Manders”) joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2015 and serves as a Peer Companion for the Iris Place program.  Manders has attended pastoral training and is a CNA and a certified peer specialist. In her spare time, she enjoys aqua zumba, scrapbooking, singing, and dancing. She resides in the area with her unconditionally loving husband, Craig, and two “fur babies” Baily and Lolly.


NAMI, through years of challenges, helped my family navigate the roller coaster rides that mental illness presented to us. I am in awe of the combined efforts that make NAMI Fox Valley the successful organization it is today. That is why I work here. My desire is that my experiences will give others hope.

Vivian Flanagan

Family Program Coordinator

Vivian joined NAMI Fox Valley in 2017 and serves as the Family Program Coordinator. Vivian holds a degree in human growth and development from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a teaching certification for early childhood and grades K-6.

Vivian, who taught 4K for 30 years in the Kaukauna School District, served as a volunteer receptionist for NAMI Fox Valley’s Franklin Street office before joining the staff and continues to fill that volunteer role one morning per week. When not working or volunteering, Vivian enjoys getting exercise, spending time with friends, and following the academic and athletic pursuits of her grandchildren.


Before I found NAMI Fox Valley and the peer movement, I was unable to see any point in recovery. Upon meeting certain people within NAMI FV, I was able to finally begin to work on myself. I attribute the beginnings of my recovery to NAMI and the unique atmosphere of Iris Place Peer Run Respite; that is why I am ecstatic about being able to potentially be the persona that people look back on and say that I was instrumental to their recovery. I simply want to return the favor and help make individuals' lives authentically better.

Patrick Laycox

Peer Companion

Patrick joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2018 and serves as a Peer Companion for the Iris Place program. Patrick, who is a certified peer specialist, enjoys gaming and studying japanese in his spare time. Patrick has lived experience with mental illness and strives to help others with similar struggles.

After working at NAMI Fox Valley for a couple of years, I am amazed at the great work being done here by everyone involved. My co-workers are very caring and work hard to make a difference in people's’ lives. I am grateful to work with these people and to do my small part to help our mission.

Sammie McDonald

Finance Manager

Sammie joined NAMI Fox Valley in January 2019 and serves as the agency’s Finance Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and worked on a Masters in Human Resources from UW-Madison and a Masters in Business Administration from UW-Green Bay.

Sammie lives in Two Rivers with her husband and enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing with grandchildren, reading, and traveling.

I really feel we need to do whatever we can to support our community and people dealing with mental illness. We are on the front lines fighting stigma!

Megan McLachlan

Parent Peer Advocate

Megan joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2014. She has served a variety of roles at the agency, and currently serves as the agency’s Parent Peer Advocate for the HOPE program (Neenah Joint School District). In this role, she helps parents with children with mental health challenges navigate their family’s journey.

Megan holds a Masters in Education from North Carolina State University. She is the state trainer for NAMI’s Ending the Silence program, and co-creator of Mental Health Chat.  A Minnesotan who has lived all over the U.S., Megan currently divides her time between Appleton and Madison, and her role there at NAMI WI as the program coordinator.


I struggled for many years with addiction and mental health issues, but when I finally asked for help I found an army of people there to help me. NAMI and Iris Place give me an opportunity to enlist in that army and help other people.

Brian Miller

Peer Companion

Brian joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2019 and serves as a Peer Companion for the Iris Place program. He is currently working on his AODA Counseling Degree through Fox Valley Technical College. In his spare time, Brian enjoys giving back and participating in the local recovery community and playing guitar.

I am passionate about mental health education and disorder prevention. I believe in the mission of NAMI and am honored to play a role in destigmatizing mental health concerns.

Kristi Nielson

Outreach & Peer Program Specialist

Kristi joined the NAMI Fox Valley team in 2021 and serves as the agency’s Outreach & Peer Program Specialist. Kristi has a Masters degree in Public Health. In her spare time, Kristi enjoys hiking with her husband (Ryan) and two dogs (Beau and Cricket), cooking, and reading. With roots in North and South Carolina, Wisconsin continues to be a fun new adventure for her.

As someone who has felt the devastating impact of suicide, I'm very grateful to be a part of a team that provides mental health support and education to our community.

Morgan O’Connell

Marketing & Development Coordinator

Morgan joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2017 and serves in a multi-faceted role as Marketing & Development Coordinator. Morgan holds Associates Degrees in both marketing and business management from Fox Valley Technical College. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughters (Grace and Evelyn), and her dogs.


Much of the incredible passion and energy of NAMI Fox Valley's staff and volunteers stems from the fact that the vast majority of those who work or volunteer here live with mental illness or have a close loved one living with it. Breaking down stigma and creating a community that promotes mental health and recovery is, for many of us, deeply personal.

Maren H. Peterson

Executive Director

Maren joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2015 and serves as the agency’s Executive Director. Maren holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Grinnell College and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law. She is a 2017 graduate of the Nonprofit Leadership Institute at Fox Valley Technical College.

Maren returned to her hometown of Appleton in 2014 after nearly twenty years away, most of which she spent living and practicing law in New York City. She has greatly enjoyed her return to the “Little Apple” and particularly loves taking advantage of the many local gems of downtown Appleton, where you’ll often spot her reading or, come football season, cheering on the Packers.


NAMI Support Groups have always been a safe space for me to find support and connect with others. If I had this support in my teen years, I believe it would have been a vital resource for my recovery. I now have a drive to be that support for teens in the community.

Amy Richards

Teen Support Group Specialist

Amy Richards joined NAMI Fox Valley in 2020 and serves at the Teen Support Group Specialist. Amy is a Certified Peer Support Specialist, is a CCAR Recovery Coach and Trainer, and an Emotional-CPR practitioner.

In her spare time, Amy is passionate about music and animal rights. She enjoys foraging for wild edibles, creating art, and road trips on the Harley. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to work for an organization where my lived experience with a mental illness can be a beacon of hope and prove that recovery is possible by supporting and educating others living with a mental illness.

Vicki Rivera

Peer Program Coordinator

Vicki joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2016 and serves as the agency’s Peer Program Coordinator. In this role, Vicki oversees the teen and adult peer support and education programs.

Vicki received her Bachelor of Science in psychology and human services from Upper Iowa University and her LGBTQ Mental Health Certificate from the University of Milwaukee. She and her wife, Lydia, have four children and a granddaughter. In her spare time, Vicki enjoys photography, gardening, and walking her three dogs, Pepper, Kenda, and Sammie.


I came to NAMI Fox Valley when I was in need of support and have stayed to return the support I was given. Through NAMI Fox Valley, I have had the opportunity to become a certified peer specialist, which has increased the knowledge and skills I have in order to meet people where they are and walk with them as they pursue what they need for their wellness.

John Rose

Data Specialist

John joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2013 and has served in several peer support and leadership roles. Currently, John serves as the Data Specialist for Iris Place Peer Run Respite.  Along with his peer specialist certification, John is trained in Intentional Peer Support and Emotional CPR.


I wanted to work for NAMI Fox Valley because it offers support and education opportunities to people who live with mental illness or have family members who live with mental illness.  I believe that it is important for all of us to keep learning about mental health and mental illness so that we can reduce the stigma associated with it and be more supportive and compassionate toward those who struggle. I love our saying: 'Be Kind.'

Lisa Schiller

Data Specialist

Lisa joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2017 and serves as the agency’s Data Specialist.  Lisa received her marketing degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and also is certified to teach grades 1-8.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading and biking.


Iris Place has been part of my mental health recovery with its' calming environment, and it helped me process through difficult times. Now, I get to share my story of hope with guests and callers. With a passion to make a positive difference, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to support others through their mental health challenges.

Sara Stachowicz

Peer Companion

Sara joined the NAMI Fox Valley team in 2021 and serves as a Peer Companion for Iris Place Peer Run Respite. A certified peer specialist (CPS), Sara enjoys collecting rocks, minerals and crystals. She also loves to spend time in nature.

I started attending NAMI support groups as a teenager and it helped shape how I perceive my newly diagnosed mental illness and fostered hope that I didn't have. I am now privileged to facilitate virtual online support groups and give back to this organization that helped shape who I am.

AnnaClaire Sylvester

Support Group Specialist

AnnaClaire joined the NAMI Fox Valley team in 2020 and serves as the agency’s Support Group Specialist. AnnaClaire assists the Peer Program Coordinator by facilitating NAMI FV’s online support groups. AnnaClaire has been involved with NAMI FV since she was a teenager.

In her spare time, AnnaClaire enjoys reading, doing number puzzles, watching documentaries and taking walks.

Back in 2003, I was looking for a part time office job and started at NAMI Fox Valley as the Administrative Coordinator. I didn't know much about mental illness back then, but have learned a lot over the past 18+ years. I've also met many wonderful people who live with mental illness or are family members of someone living with it. I've become an advocate for those folks and admire their courage.

Helen Timm

Office Manager

Helen joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2003 and serves as Office and Building Manager.  When she’s not here keeping the office running, Helen enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing cards, gardening, and watching the Packers.


As a strong mental health advocate, I work for NAMI Fox Valley because I believe in bridging passion with action. This connection to NAMI feeds my passion to spread mental health awareness with opportunities to create resources that can be extended to underserved communities. With Iris Place and NAMI Fox Valley, I hope to not only break mental illness stigma but inequities in mental health resources to move towards a future where each community is seen, heard, and adequately cared for in our Fox Valley cities.

Gaochi Vang

Assistant Director of Iris Place

Gaochi joined the Iris Place Peer Run Respite team in 2019 as a Peer Companion, and became the Iris Place Assistant Director in 2020. Gaochi holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology with a Minor in Women and Gender Studies from UW-Eau Claire. She also holds a Master’s of Science in Social Psychology from Walden University.

In her spare time, Gaochi loves to write late at night when her thoughts can collect themselves. She deeply appreciates spending time with friends and family, especially at family cabins or around bonfires.

I came to NAMI Fox Valley in 1997 in search of support for my own mental health condition.  NAMI helped me realize that having a mental illness is not a death sentence. I have benefited both from receiving peer support and providing peer support. NAMI has become my second family.

Paula Verrett

Iris Place Program Director

Paula officially joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2012 after many years as a devoted volunteer. She has served in multiple positions at the agency and currently serves as the Iris Place Program Director.

Paula is a certified peer specialist and holds a Bachelor of Science in education and human services and a Masters in social work, both from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In her spare time, Paula enjoys outdoor activities, arts and crafts, and music.


I want to help others find the strength in themselves that I have found after struggling with mental illness for nearly my entire life. Meeting new people that I share a mutual understanding with on such a personal level is fulfilling and exciting.

Courtney Wendt

Peer Companion

Courtney joined the staff of NAMI Fox Valley in 2020 and serves as a Peer Companion for the Iris Place program. Courtney enjoys sewing, baking, day trips, cats and laughing at her own jokes. Courtney works at Iris Place so that maybe someday her story can be one of the many building blocks for someone else’s recovery. “Healing is not linear.” is her favorite quote.

Like so many of us, I have numerous friends and family members who are navigating their own journeys with mental illness, so I feel truly fortunate to work for an organization that educates our community on mental health. It fills my heart to play even a small role in reducing the harmful stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Megan Zimmerman

Community Outreach Coordinator

Megan joined the NAMI Fox Valley team in June 2018 and serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator. Megan holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Community Health Education from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. Megan discovered early on in her professional life that she had a passion for working with non-profit organizations and underserved populations. Megan’s personal hobbies include spending time with her husband and son, Jon and Cain, and hiking with her chocolate lab, Oakleigh.