Merger with Dane County club gives Walworth County organization more resources

By Michael S. Hoey

Correspondent

The Boys and Girls Club of Walworth County plans to expand the services it offers to the Delavan area this summer and next fall.

A new summer program will offer programming to Delavan children that was not previously available and job opportunities for area teachers. In addition, the club is planning to expand into Turtle Creek Elementary School in the fall and possibly Wileman Elementary after that. The club has operated out of Phoenix Middle School since October 2013.

The club had also planned to expand into Darien Elementary School before the school district voted to close that school at the end of the school year. The summer program will be offered at Delavan-Darien High School and at Turtle Creek Elementary.

Program Director Jeff Contreras, who will become director of operations for all the Delavan sites this summer, said the club was started thanks to work done by his wife, Ashley Contreras, who worked with a team of community members to get the club started and funded. Jeff Contreras was hired as program director in December 2014.

Contreras said the club was officially affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville until the club merged with the Dane County Boys and Girls Club in April. Contreras said the executive director of the Janesville club suggested the merger because the club, while moving in the right direction, needed additional support to continue to grow and reach its long-term goals.

“It was concluded that the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County had the vision, resources and staff to help us reach our goals,” Contreras said. “Much to our overwhelming appreciation, Dane County believed in what we were doing here and decided to give us a chance.”

Contreras said the benefits received by merging with Dane County are too numerous to mention. He said the entire staff of the Dane County organization has been extremely accessible and supportive from Day One.

“This has been a tremendous difference-maker because, before the merger, we didn’t have any additional staffing or departments beyond myself and my two part-time staffers that work hands-on with the kids,” Contreras said.

Now the club has access to a human resources department, grant writers, experienced site coordinators, a regional manager, a marketing department and office support.

“In short, we have now become a part of the Dane County team, and it’s a big team,” Contreras said.

Contreras said the new summer program would definitely not have been possible before the merger.

“They have been doing all the hard work behind the scenes to bring this to fruition,” he said.

Anthony Burks, regional assistant vice president for affiliations and efficiencies for the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, said the merger was not a case of the Dane County organization taking over the Walworth County organization. He said the two entities are now one.

“We saw that they needed help there, and we tried to expand on that and help them out,” Burks said.

Burks said the Janesville Boys and Girls Club contacted the Dane County organization to see if a new relationship could work between the two. Burks said the Dane County organization stepped up to help.

Burks said the merger has been great for both organizations as Contreras is a really hard worker who has done a phenomenal job in Delavan. He said Contreras is a big part of the organization’s plans as it expands in Walworth County.

Burks said summer programs are routinely offered in Dane County, and the Walworth County program would mirror what is offered there.

“It gives kids something to do in the summer and maintains academic success,” Burks said about the benefits to the community of summer programs. “It is a structured program with continued growth.”

Burks said the program is not just a fun enrichment-style program, but fun activities will be incorporated into the curriculum.

The program will also offer job opportunities in the community, Burks said.

Programming is offered now at Phoenix Middle School from 2:45 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday for kids 5 to 13 years old. Contreras said the club hopes to be open five days a week next year and to offer programming for 14- to 18-year-olds in the future. Current programming includes academics and reading, arts and culture, social skills and communication, health and nutrition, sports and recreation and careers and finances. Time is also allotted for fun activities and multiple field trips. Monthly and yearly prizes are also provided. Above all, Contreras said, the kids are safe and supervised.

The summer program will run from June 25 to Aug. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with early child care offered from 8:30 to 9 a.m. and late child care from 5:30 to 6 p.m. The program is open to children 5 to 13 years old.

Contreras said the summer program will differ from the after-school program as it will take more activities to fill an eight-hour day and more outdoor activities will be offered to capitalize on the summer weather. He said the program is being offered in an effort to serve as many kids as possible, noting that few structured activities are available for kids to do in the summer.

“The program is much-needed in our area, and it is very affordable for all, potentially free for some,” Contreras said about the $25-a-week fee that could be waived for those who qualify.

Contreras said the school district has been instrumental in getting the summer program up and running and has been very supportive of the Boys and Girls Club in general over the years.

“From the district superintendent to the additional staff at the School Administration Center to members on the school board to every principal in the district, and even many counselors and teachers,” Contreras said. “They have all become strong partners in this process, and our summer program would not have been possible without their support.”

Anyone interested in helping to staff the program is welcome to apply. Contreras said applicants do not need to be teachers, but teachers are definitely encouraged to apply because they most likely have the credentials the program is looking for in lead teachers.

Contreras said he is looking to fill full-time 40-hour-a-week staff positions, the number of which will be determined by how many kids sign up for the program. The goal is have a 12:1 ratio of lead teachers to children.

Lead teachers will engage in hands-on and engaging activities with the kids and supervise them all day and while eating lunch. Anyone interested in positions can submit a cover letter, resume and references to Laisha Rowell at lrowell@bgcdc.org. A job descriptions post can be obtained from Burks at aburks@bgcdc.org.

Any parent interested in the program for their children can apply at http://goo.gl/form/eKVuiUjkmTinwMDg2 or call Contreras at 262-233-6535.

 
 

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