Saturday, October 31, 2020
Tomah B&G club members and staff gather around to water some seed starters for plants that will be transferred to a tower garden project, a first for the club. The tower garden allows vegetables to be grown indoors. The woman sitting at the table is a representative from Juice Plus, the company that provided the tower garden for the club. The tower garden is standing behind the group. It was decided to wait until the plants were in bloom in the garden for full visual wow. Herald photo Bob Kliebenstein

Tomah B&G Club celebrates milestone Feb. 11

Some poorly timed winter weather put a crimp in the original party date.

But the Tomah Boys and Girls Club will celebrate 20 years of serving community youth Tuesday, Feb. 11 in connection with the Tomah school district.

The Tomah Boys and Girls Club Birthday party in January was cancelled because of a winter storm. As originally planned, the Tomah school district will play a key role. The club will be recognized during a Pack the Gym night during Tomah Timberwolves boys and girls games at THS.

The girls play La Crosse Aquinas at 6:15 p.m., followed by the boy's game against the West Salem Panthers. In between games there will be singing, dancing, Miracle Minute donations and more. Each B&G club member attending the game receives a free game ticket for one child and one adult.

Some of the club members will perform a dance routine with the THS dance team. Birthday treats will be provided by the club (birthday cake and brownies). THS show choir members will honor the club's birthday with their version of 'happy birthday.'

Club members will participate in a 'Miracle Minute' to raise money to offset club expenses. The event mirrors THS DECA students who coordinate Miracle Minute events during Tomah Timberwolves football games. Youth will run (safely) through the bleachers seeking spare whatever monetary amount people want to donate for the cause.

While the Tomah club recognizes 20 years of community service, Tomah's site director Amy Whitwam is nearing her first full year in that role. Whitwam, a former middle school counselor for the Chetek school district, started as site director in April 2019.

Whitwam brought some ideas to the club from her school counselor experience. One is the creation of the Zen Den in the upper level of the Milwaukee Street site for members who need some calm time, she said.

Club members are working on a project called a tower garden to grow vegetables indoors using a vertical, aeroponic garden system. Club members are working on planting seeds in the dirt that will eventually be transferred to the tower garden.

"They get to watch (vegetables) grow and can eat them later," Whitwam said.

The Tomah B&G club operated independently until it merged with Boys&Girls Clubs of West Central Wisconsin that consists of clubs in Baraboo and Reedsburg.

The club opened its doors in the former Mubarak medical building on Milwaukee Street. Programs expanded with the Teen Center that opened nearby when a building became available across the street on Superior Avenue. Al Stevens was involved as a club board member in 2000. He remains on the board in 2020. He is quick to mention people like Sue Holmes and Dale Klitzke, among others, instrumental in getting the club off the ground. But along with early board members, Stevens credits community support over two decades.

"I applaud people in Tomah," Stevens said. "Fundraising has helped keep it going."

Before Whitwam, club directors included Roxanne Fuller, Sarah Resch, Deana Protz, Scott Hood, Maretta Budde and Lindsey Guden.

Each brought individual skills to the position in a building that remains structurally durable as the club's mission, Stevens said.

Tomah school district superintendent Cindy Zahrte shared key benefits for a community with access to a B&G club.

They include safe space for children, nutritious food, fun/educational programs and possible incentive for families with young children to consider moving to Tomah.

Whitwam feels the club and school district share similar goals for community youth. The public is invited to attend Pack the Gym night at THS.

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