The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County
Expands through Mergers and New Centers
The Boys & Girls Club Goes
Regional
Clockwise from upper left:A Boys & Girls Club sign on Phoenic Middle School;
Anthony Burks (lr), Michael Johnson, Alicia Norris, Melissa Napiorkowski and
Steven Schafer at Luther Elementary School in Ft. Atkinson; A club display at
Purdy Elementary School in Ft. Atkinson; Mel Nieuwenhuis (l-r), Michael
Johnson, Jeff Contreras, Hank Schmelz and Anthony Burks at Phoenix Middle
School
Part 2 0f 2
By Jonathan Gramling

Back in 2012, the board and the executive team of the Boys &
Girls Club decided that it wanted to expand to increase its
capacity to serve more children and to create some
economies of scale that would allow for a more efficient
provision of services. In essence, it made the decision to
expand beyond the present capacity of its Taft Street and
Allied Drive locations to serve more children the Boys & Girls
Club way.

The second location The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County is
merging with is the club in Walworth County, located in the
city of Delavan on I-43 not far from Lake Geneva. The seeds
for the genesis of The Boys & Girls Club of Walworth County
were actually planted in Madison over 10 years ago.

“My wife is actually originally from Madison,” said Jeff
Contreras, the Walworth County club’s director. “When she
married me and I brought her down here, the first thing she
asked me was, ‘Is there a Boys & Girls Club here?’ I told her
no and she responded, ‘Well, I’m going to start one.’ I didn’t
know if that was actually going to happen, but she was determined and so, I told her I would support her. In the beginning, it was really her by
herself. She was working for the school district. And fortunately, her job description actually included a Boys & Girls Club initiative. She got to
work and she started talking to people in the community. I would go with her sometimes. And we recruited the mayor and a few others together.
Once she got an advisory council, that kind of got the ball rolling. That was in 2010.”

However once the Contreras’ began having children, his wife turned her focus on raising their children. The club languished under its first club
directors and then the club’s board turned to Contreras to take over and the club has been on sure footing programmatically ever since.

The club operates out of Phoenix Middle School and almost all of its programming is geared toward middle school students.

“Every day, it’s a little different,” Contreras said. “The one thing that is constant every day, Monday through Thursday, is our Academic Power
Hour. The first 45 minutes that the kids are here, their first activity is either homework or they read quietly. We do that every day. After that, we
have two more activity slots throughout the day. That can be anything from finances to team building skills to sports and fitness to health
activities. We have the county come through sometimes to teach a class on nutrition. There is a lot of diversity of activities after the Homework
Power Hour. I change up the activities every day to give them options. And the last 30 minutes, they can just hang out and play the X Box or go
to the gym. Currently, we’re Monday through Thursday, after school to 6 p.m. Over 90 percent of our members are middle school students and
from this school. But we are technically open to anyone in the county. We do have a few high school members who go to Delavan High School.
And in recent years, we’ve had a half dozen or so come from the private schools or neighboring schools in the area.”

Hank Schmelz, the middle school’s principal and a former Madison principal, is thrilled to have the Boys & Girls Club there. It offers enriching
activities for the students after school and creates a stronger bond between student and school. Schmelz feels that it is his competitive edge.

“We have only one middle school in our district,” Schmelz said. “But within six miles, there is also Williams Bay, Lake Geneva Middle School,
and Elkhorn Middle School. There are others within 10-11 miles. So there are all of these options. We have a large geographic area because
there is a lot of farmland. We bus from a range. So they have a lot of options. Attendance wise, they might be in our area, but geographically, they
are closer to a neighboring district. Nowadays with school choice, students can go to any school. One of the big selling points to our sixth grade
families is that we do have the club. We do build this up as one of the reasons they want to send their children to the school. ‘Your child can be
safe and supervised here until 6 p.m. every day.’ That is a selling feature to families when they are making those decisions.”

The Walworth County club feels that the merger with Dane County will allow them to survive and take them to the next level.

“What we’ve struggled with as a board is that we’ve raised a good chunk of money at the beginning and then trying to maintain the money to
keep it going has been difficult,” said Mel Nieuwenhuis, the club’s president who is also Delavan’s mayor. “We are at that point, if we squeeze
another year out of our existing funds, we’ll be done after that. So when the opportunity came with the Madison club and how that all evolved, to
me, being on the board for this long, it was a big sense of relief that we could have the resources to do what we would really love to do. And so
I am excited that you guys are here to help us out and get that foundation set. Our goal too as a board was to expand out toward Lake Geneva.
They’ve expressed interest in having a club too. We would love to help them, but we are struggling ourselves. Maybe through this, we can
expand down the road with the other schools. The schools are asking for Boys & Girls Clubs because they see the success of what is
happening here.”

For the mergers and expansion of the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, President & CEO Michael Johnson sees it as a win-win arrangement for
it will expand the capacity of all of the clubs to provide enhanced programming to their individual clubs. It will also strengthen the clubs.

“We feel that we are stronger together,” Johnson said. “In those other markets, those clubs don’t have development people. They don’t have HR
people. And there are opportunities there to help young people in those communities. And at the same time, it will help us build up our
infrastructure locally. And it will help them as well because there are some efficiencies that we will be able to take advantage of and streamline
in some cases. With some of the other ones that we are looking at, there might be two finance people. There might be 2-3 HR people. We’ll be
able to build a stronger infrastructure locally to make us strong, but also to make them stronger as well.”

In addition to the economies of scale, the merger and expansion will create a larger market that will allow the enhanced Boys & Girls Club to
compete for grants they were ineligible compete for before or they just weren’t competitive. For instance, in order to complete the mergers,
Dane County received a $160,000 grant from Boys & Girls Clubs of America to help out with the transition.

“The more locations that we have and the more kids that we serve will open us up to additional grant opportunities,” Johnson emphasized. “I
also think that when you look at building a case statement when you apply for grants, being able to say that you serve kids in rural and urban
communities builds a stronger case for an
organization because now we’ll be serving kids in
Rock County, Allied Drive, Sun Prairie and South
Madison, kids who are African American and
Latino. And particularly in Delavan, the majority is
white students. We’ll have a nice, diverse
population of kids whom we will be serving from
low-income communities and lower-middle-class
communities as well.”

While some may fear a drain on Dane County’s
resources, with additional branding and outreach to
the business communities in the new areas, it
should result in more programming that is tailored
to the needs of kids and more children served. And
that is what the Boys & Girls Club movement is all
about.