Portraits in Philanthropy: Sharon Resch

Portraits in Philanthropy: Sharon Resch

“I sleep better at night knowing I’ve made a little dent in other people’s big problems.” That is how Sharon Resch explains her involvement in philanthropy. While the Resch family’s generosity is evident throughout the Green Bay area, funding buildings, parks, and hospital additions, Sharon herself has focused on direct involvement in causes that touch her personally.

Growing up in a very poor Minneapolis neighborhood, Sharon was surrounded by people who needed help. She quickly became aware that “the world isn’t perfect” and decided that she wanted to make a difference. Making a difference, she realized, required an education, and she pursued her education with the resources she had available: her talent for dance and her determination.

At age 11, Sharon earned a dance scholarship and added that discipline to her life. In junior high she auditioned for a role in a professional touring group, and was the only Minneapolis student chosen. Joining professional dancers from New York and Chicago, she spent a summer touring, and vowed to become as good a dancer as her colleagues. Sharon recalls that the first check she earned that summer was larger than her father’s paycheck. Her love of dance and theatre continued to grow, becoming a life-long passion, and the foundation for her initial involvement with philanthropy.

After winning a Ford Foundation for The Arts Scholarship, Sharon enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology, studying for a math degree in the mornings, taking dance classes in the afternoons and dancing in the Chicago Opera Ballet in the evenings. Her talent and determination took her to New York City and led to roles in, “The Music Man” and “Flower Drum Song.” Along the way, she earned a master’s degree in math. She moved to Los Angeles for roles in television specials and became a choreographer as well.

After her marriage to Dick Resch, who was a high school classmate, Sharon moved to Green Bay, and she quickly became involved in the local performing arts. She volunteered to be the choreographer for a musical at Southwest High School, and then for a number of Dudley Birder’s St. Norbert Music Theatre productions, including “The Music Man,” “Guys ‘n Dolls,” and “Me and My Girl.”

Sharon also devoted her time to Green Bay’s Pamiro Opera. For eight years, she served on the board of the Pamiro Opera, and she choreographed productions as well. The Green Bay Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Ballet Theatre board benefited from Sharon’s involvement, and her math degree served her well as Finance Chair of the Meyer Theatre board of directors. She also used her theatre experience and her financial acumen as a member of the planning and development committee for the Weidner Center.

“I will always maintain my support for the arts,” Sharon said, “but over the years my attention has moved toward humanitarian efforts where the needs are so vast.” Her contributions include her time and talents as well as financial support. For the past 18 years, Sharon has been a “Meatloaf Lady,” one of a group of women who make a meal for the Room at the Inn every month. The group’s grocery bill reflects the growth in the area’s homeless population. “When we began, we bought 24 pounds of ground beef for one meal. Now, we buy 100 pounds for our meatloaves each month.” Sharon’s quiet commitment has included interrupting a Florida vacation to cook when another member couldn’t be there.

The list of causes Sharon has championed includes the Bay Area Humane Society and Animal Shelter, Greater Green Bay Habitat for Humanity, Hadassah, and Cerebral Palsy.

Every other year Sharon funds, coordinates and produces the Czech/Slovak International Vocal Competition Semi-finals in Green Bay and the Finals in Montreal. The prizes are $10,000. She has taught dance at the Academy of Music and Dance in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, for two years, with plans to return.

While in Slovakia, Sharon had the opportunity to visit a Roma village in the High Tatra Mountains. Many of the children in the village suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, the poverty level is high and the living conditions harsh. The group from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay that Sharon accompanied took clothing and supplies with them to the village. A member of a group of Slovakian women business owners invited the Green Bay group to be guests at a dinner meeting where they learned about the challenges and successes the Slovakian women have had. Sharon’s business background enabled her to give advice.

Watching friends involved in the theatre die of AIDS prompted Sharon to accept an appointment to the board of directors for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW). She has committed time and money to the effort to help develop a model treatment program in the Green Bay area and statewide. “There are so many women and children with AIDS,” Sharon says, “and helping the little ones get a good start is important.”

Sharon’s life experience and personal interests led her to philanthropic giving. Her life experiences compel her to make the path easier for those who follow her. Sharon advises. “You will sleep better at night, too.”

“You must be able to relate to a cause in order to give it your full support. Deliver when you say you will, take on only what you know you can do, and make your involvement a priority.”

–Sharon Resch