Proto-1 Manufacturing Community Involvement

Proto-1 Manufacturing strongly believes in giving back to the community. This involvement within the community is driven by our founders and owners John and Valerie Schwochert. Whether it is educating our youth or creating new scholarship funds, Proto-1 is committed to making a difference. Having a positive impact within the local community compels us to continue to do more. What is important to our employees, is important to Proto-1. See below for some of the recent involvements that Proto-1 has been a part of.

For 4 years running, Proto-1 has been manufacturing the Big Heart Award for the Children’s Cancer Family Foundation for their Gold Ribbon Gala. The purpose of the Gala and the charity is to raise money for local families battling pediatric cancer. These awards go to three kids who are helping others battle cancer. Proto-1 is humbled and honored for the opportunity to donate the awards for the 4nd annual gala. Due to COVID, the gala has now been virtual, although that hasn’t hindered CCFF from raise funds for local families.

Big Heart Award 2021

In May, Proto-1 attended the Gold Ribbon Gala hosted by the Children’s Cancer Family Foundation. The purpose of this is event is to raise to money to help families who are battling pediatric cancer. Proto-1 manufactured and donated the Big Heart Award for the event. These awards go to three kids who are helping others battle cancer. Proto-1 is humbled and honored for the opportunity to donate the awards for the 2nd annual gala. The Gala was a success in raising over $140,000+ in donations. Thank you to the CCFF for having us back again this year and to Sam Scanlan of Scanlan Studios for the pictures!

Proto-1 was given the opportunity to came back to the Winneconne High School in the month of April. Our quality control staff gave a detailed overview as to what we do and how certain areas of high school curriculum are used in the day to day experience at Proto-1. Proto-1 strongly believes in giving back to the community and educating our local youth and this was a great opportunity to do just that. Many thanks to the Winneconne High School for having us back again this year!

In October of 2018, John Schwochert, was recognized by The Business News as a person who strives to make a difference within the local community. The article below highlights his and Proto-1’s endeavors to make an impact within our community.


Article from “The Business News” written by Lori Lodes

For John Schwochert of Proto-1 Manufacturing in Winneconne, two of his favorite worlds collide when it comes to coordi­nating the annual Winneconne Road Runners Annual Car Show: motorized vehicles and schol­arships for students interested in the machine tooling, manufacturing or automotive technician engineering.

It’s a labor of love that starts at Schwochert’s business in Winneconne, which designs and builds tube end forming equipment, and it extends to Winneconne Road Runners-Car Club, the nonprofit organization he established. He witnessed the challenges in finding qualified tradespeople in his industry and wanted to offer a scholarship tailored to students pursuing careers in the skilled trades.

He focused on the car show that used to be the purveyance of the Winneconne Chamber, evolving it from a downtown event to a fund-raiser. The annual summer car show brings together a multitude of motorized vehicle enthusiasts for food, family and fun – especially the automotive kind. All proceeds generated are donated to the scholarship that’s administered by the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

“They closed it down but I started up the event just for this purpose,” Schwochert said. He and his wife make the event possible through fund-raising througholi.t the year with the “big push” of work happening in the last two months before the main event. About 200 people and their cars participated this past summer, drawing 1,500 to 2,000 attendees.

“We keep finding ways to make it bigger and better,” he said, taking a cue from. a huge car club in Minnesota that hosts several annual events to fund scholarships and perform community good­will. The company even designed and manufactured the custom trophies for this past summer’s event, which “alone have been a really great draw,” he said. “These aren’t just any trophies.”

That comes as the workforce unfortunately struggles to find employees who want to pursue careers in plumbing, machine tooling, manufac­turing and other trades, and in .the area. In addi­tion to promoting and funding scholarships, Schwochert encourages knowledge about options by hosting fifth-grade tours of his facili­ty, presenting in the classroom, participating in school job fairs and offering on-the-job training when the time is right.

“There’s a shortage here, and parents have to be educated that there is a good job here for our kids,” he said. “The car club is working to get everyone involved; pushing the curriculum at school, working with the local technical colleges and more.”

Schwochert has a “soft spot” for the fifth ­grade tours of his company, something he first conducted when his own son was in fifth grade and recently reintroduced to students. He said at least four of the students in his son’s class expressed interested in the skilled trades after the tour and were so influenced that two attended college and are employed at Proto-} Manufacturing.

“We resurrected the fifth-grade tour and now many businesses in the area are on board with bringing those students into their businesses as a concept,” he said. “It’s almost like once they’re out of elementary or middle school, students have their minds made up and decide on a career path. So, it’s great to expose them to career opportunities as fifth graders.”

For Schwochert, it’s a matter of caring that prompts him to get involved, whether it’s organ­izing the car show; hosting fifth grade tours; pre­senting in classrooms; financially supporting the local FFA, community fireworks ·or community walk/bike path; coordinating an onsite food pantry drive or supporting local sports teams.

“It’s not about me; it’s about our community,” he said. “One of the things I get most excited about is young people who want to work, and if you give them the opportunity to work in a good job, raise a family and be part of the community, that just makes me feel good. I never thought that would be a byproduct of opening a business, but it’s been a wonderful outgrowth of it. The people make the company, and when you see your peo­ple grow up and [go through] different life stages, you feel proud.”

For Schwochert, much of the impetus_ behind his efforts -professional and volunteer – come from being told as a child that he couldn’t do something. He says the attitude of “no, you won’t” turned to a “yes, I am” attitude.

“If people tell me I can’t do something, I’ll find a way and do it,” he said. After high school, he knew he wanted to be out in the work world versus pursuing secondary education and put that driven, can-do attitude to work. He credits his drive ( and a dose of common sense) with the successes he’s realized both in his business and in his volunteer endeavors.

Proto-1 ‘s employees have responded in kind, filling up boxes with non-perishables for food drives and donating a slew of the company-gift­ed hams and turkeys at the holidays to the food pantry. “It’s really a matter of John leading by example; just seeing what he all does energizes employees to give back as well and follow the leader,” said Marc Jankowski, business develop­ment and marketing manager at Proto-I Manufacturing.

Schwochert’s stance, be in business or volunteer endeavors, is this: The only risk is not taking one. “If you don’t try,” he said, “you won’t succeed.”

For two years in a row, Proto-1 has sponsored a local tee ball team for the Oshkosh YMCA Summer Tee Ball League. This sponsorship gives Proto-1 the opportunity to help our local youth engage in a fun sporting activity during the summer and hopefully make some great moments and memories along the way!

The second annual WRR Car Show saw a great turn out with over 200 cars in participation! Proto-1 designed and built this year’s trophies for the 38 classes within the show. Proto-1 always looks forward to this event since the proceeds go towards skilled trades scholarship for our local youth. With this year’s additional growth, more scholarship money can be awarded in future!

In the month of March, Proto-1 had the honor to give a presentation about quality control, metrology, and engineering to the design and engineering classes of Winneconne High School. It is key for Proto-1 to help educate young students in the manufacturing sector to help keep employment strong. From all of us at Proto-1, thank you to the Winneconne High School for allowing us this great opportunity!

Proto-1 Manufacturing, LLC. had the honor of attending the Gold Ribbon Gala for the Children’s Cancer Family Foundation (CCFF). Proto-1 was one of the sponsor’s for the event and designed/created the Big Heart Award. It was an incredible event to hear the stories and perseverance of many children that have battled pediatric cancer. Proto-1 was honored for the opportunity to donate the awards to the CCFF and give back to the community.

During the month of February, Proto-1 sponsored a local high school chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). The sponsorship went towards a local ad in the news to promote the efforts of the local chapter. The goal of this campaign was to raise further awareness for our local FFA chapter.

For the month of January, the company was involved with donating to local schools to help educate on drug safety. The donation went toward the creation of a drug awareness book to help educate young students. Proto-1 was featured in the Winneconne news regarding the drug safety book that was created from donations around the community.

In October, John Schwochert , President and Founder of Proto-1, received the Difference Maker Award from the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation at the Manufacturing & Industry Excellence Event. The award recognized John for being a strong contributor to his local community and having a positive economic impact. Proto-1 started in 1997, and for 20 years John has been a difference maker in the Winneconne community.  

This October, Proto-1 donated to local food pantry. This is a company wide effort to help the local community during the holiday season. Proto-1 employees actively participate in this food drive every year and this year marked the most Proto-1 has donated to the local pantry. We would like to thank all of our employees that donated to help make a difference.

Founded by John and Valerie Schwochert, The Winneconne Road Runners Car Club (WRR Car Club) has been established for 2 years. Each year the club hosts a local car show to help raise funds for local high school students to further their education in the skilled trades. 2017 marked the first year of the car show event with over 100 participants in the show. Each year, Proto-1 designs and sponsors the custom trophies that are awarded at the show. Proto-1 is looking forward to the continued growth of this event and are excited for more scholarships to be awarded in the coming years.

Each year in May, Proto-1 has the opportunity to host the 5th grade classes of the Winneconne Elementary School. This opportunity gives us the ability to inform, teach, and spark interest for our local youth about manufacturing and engineering. We give the students tour of our facilities while also giving them hands on experience with some of our equipment. At Proto-1, we fully believe in educating our youth today with the hope of building a strong industry for tomorrow.