Shawano kids getting chance to join the club

Green Bay group branching out here
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A three-year effort to provide Shawano children with after-school activities and guidance is culminating in the creation of the new Boys & Girls Club of Shawano.

The club will begin offering services in January for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders inside Olga Brener Intermediate School, 1300 S. Union St.

For a fee tentatively set at $10 a year, kids will be able to participate in structured after-school programming in such areas as academics, sports and health.

The club, which could expand later to include other age groups, is designed for working families whose children are left without supervision after school is dismissed, sometimes for hours every day.

“That’s a gap and a need in the community,” organizer Joe Stellato said. “There are youth that need something like that.”

A steering committee of civic leaders is launching the program as an outreach of the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay, which has been in operation for 50 years and has about 4,000 members.

The Green Bay club will provide administrative support, including accounting and human resources, while allowing the new Shawano group to function independently. It will be the first time that the Green Bay club has established a chartered site outside of Green Bay.

Eric Vanden Heuvel, chief academic officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay, said that, while other communities in the past have explored a similar partnership with his organization, the Shawano group was strongly committed and was willing to perform the difficult task of making it happen.

“That’s what separates this opportunity,” Vanden Heuvel said. “It’s one thing to show the interest. It’s another thing to get the work done.”

Acting on an idea from then-Shawano Mayor Lorna Marquardt, a group called Leadership Shawano County in 2014 conducted a needs assessment on after-school options for local schoolchildren. That was followed by a study on the structure needed to implement a local Boys & Girls Club.

Members of Leadership Shawano County, which is offered through the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, were later joined by leaders from the Shawano School District, the city of Shawano, the local University of Wisconsin-Extension office and others.

Wendy Crawford, program manager for Leadership Shawano County, said organizers knew that getting a club established would be difficult, but they continued working at it together.

“It feels great to finally be where we are,” Crawford said. “It’s been a lot of work.”

With services scheduled to start in January, organizers plan a community kickoff event next week to promote the new club and announce fund-raising efforts.

Under the rules of the national Boys & Girls Club organization, the new club must start with one year of operating funds in the bank, estimated at $100,000, and with pledges for enough funding for the following two years. Crawford said the group has nearly reached the first $100,000 goal, but many more donations will be needed to keep the group going.

Starting with third- through fifth-graders, organizers hope to expand later to include older students at the middle school level.

The club’s after-school programming will aim to engage students in education and career development, character and leadership, health and life skills, sports and recreation, and the arts. Other details, such as the group’s exact hours of operation at Olga Brener, have not been announced.

Stellato, who oversees 4-H youth groups through the UW-Extension, said most 4-H clubs meet in evenings because that is when most parents are available to transport kids to the meetings. Stellato said he hopes 4-H staffers will be able to visit the Boys & Girls Club to help with programming and reach new populations of kids.

“That’s something we’re looking forward to — having a partnership,” he said.

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Boys & Girls Club of Shawano kickoff event

WHEN: 5:15-7 p.m. July 28

WHERE: Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta, 607 S. Main St., Shawano.