The Boys and Girls Club of Fort Atkinson has announced plans to become its own local community organization called Badgerland After School Enrichment (BASE) and end its affiliation with the Boys and Girls Club of America.
In Fort Atkinson, Boys and Girls Club programs are in session at the four public elementary schools from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the school year. There also is a summer program.
The club began in 2005 under the umbrella of the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville. In November 2017, the Fort Atkinson club had an opportunity to affiliate itself with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County as part of the Boys and Girls Club of America’s strategy to create regional clubs.
Fort Atkinson club director Alicia Norris said the Fort Atkinson board of directors voted to make that change early in 2018 and the club has been operating as an affiliate of the Dane County club since April.
“This opportunity came up to evolve into our own entity and ultimately, our board decided that was the best option for us here in Fort Atkinson,” she said. “We appreciate the support of our staff, volunteers, donors and community partners throughout this exciting opportunity to strengthen the support of our local families.”
BASE will continue to operate the same after-school and summer programs, providing a variety of enrichment programs, academic support and quality staff to help members thrive.
“We are looking to make sure people understand that everything will stay consistent,” Norris said, referring to any events, programming and fundraising efforts. “All of that will be maintained through the transition; it will be just under the new look and feel of BASE instead of Boys and Girls Club. It is a great opportunity for us to focus on the the needs of our local families and local community.”
Throughout the transition, the local advisory board will become the BASE corporate board of directors.
“Our local board of directors is truly excited about the future of after-school programming in Fort Atkinson,” board Chairperson Steve Schafer said. “The name change to BASE, and the independence that comes with it, will provide our organization and its management much greater local control and decisionmaking abilities.”
He noted that the need for a safe, structured place for children to go after school always will be a priority in this community.
“BASE is happy to provide the continued quality programming that families have relied on for many years under the Boys and Girls Club name,” Schafer said.
“Our partnership with the School District of Fort Atkinson remains as strong as ever. Having the generous use of their space at the four public elementary schools is what allows our program to exist and be the successful operation it is today.
“We are confident that in a short window of time, BASE will become a household name that parents can trust, just as the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Atkinson has been for over 12 year,s” he added. “Same local board, same local management, same local commitment to the families of our community. We will continue to keep your kids safe.”
Norris’ title will change from club director to BASE executive director, while her overall job role remains the same.
Melissa Napaiorkowski also will be retained as director of operations.
“Literally the only thing that is changing is the name and how we operate as our own independent 501 ©3,” Norris said.
The BASE website at www.basefortaktinson.org and social media accounts will debut Oct. 15.
Norris said the new logo will be unveiled at the club’s Harvest for the Club Dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Kutz Dairy Farm.
“It is an opportunity for us to host a new event that is a little different than we’ve done before,” she said.
Norris said the dinner is intended to provide community members an opportunity to relax and enjoy the food and interacting with the children.
“It will be kind of our unveiling of the new look and feel of BASE,” she said.
The dinner is a new event for the club that BASE is hoping to continue in the future.
“It will kind of be our transition event,” Norris said. “We are really excited about the dinner.”
She said the event will be very community-oriented with a lot of community support from local chefs and club members being involved with preparation and service of the food.
“We are really looking forward to the community members coming out and supporting the local children in our community after school,” Norris said.
Local chefs form Jones Dairy Farm, the Fireside Dinner Theatre and Fort Memorial Hospital have helped prepare the menu.
“We are sourcing as much of the food as possible locally,” Norris said.
She said there will be music and yard games, as well.
“There will be a lot of great food to taste and all the proceeds come back to support our local after-school programs,” Norris said.
Tickets are $75 per person or $125 per couple and include food, drinks and dessert. Visit www.bgcfortatkinson.org/harvestdinner to purchase tickets.
Meanwhile, Norris said that while the transition to BASE is challenging, it is an exciting time to focus on the local children more than ever.
“Truly, it primarily has been local funding and we are going to rely on that moving forward to maintain our operations,” Norris said.
“If anything, I think it gives us more opportunity to have our own organization established so we can look at grant sources that were not available to use before,” the club director added.
The director said she believes the transition will help BASE maintain its fundraising efforts.
“We are not anticipating any funding loss with this transition,” Norris said.
However, with the transition and coming into the holiday season, it remains a critical time to build a strong and sustainable program for BASE.
“Although we are not projected to lose any, this is an important time to continue bringing in funds, so we want to keep that as cohesive as possible,” she said.
The program’s annual budget is more than $285,000 and it costs approximately $700 per member for the school year.
That covers activities, staffing and snacks — nearly 28,000 of which are served free of charge in a given year.
To offset these cost, Norris said, the club does a variety of fundraising activities throughout the year, including Wings and Wheels, the annual Duck Race and variety of other public events.
Additional funding comes from its parent campaign, which asks parents to donate money or time; corporate donations; individual donations; and grants. It also receives money from the United Way of Jefferson and North Walworth Counties.
The more funds the club receives, the more staff the club can afford to hire, and then the more children it then can serve.
“Our goal is to staff at a 15:1 ratio,” Norris said. “So really, our capacity is limited by our budget because the need for more service requires us to hire more staff, which requires additional support from the community.”
Many members of the staff are University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students who are studying education, social work, coaching or health and wellness, said Norris. They work from 2:30 to 6 p.m. up to five days a week.
Currently, due to a need for additional staff, about 25 students from Luther Elementary School walk over to Purdy Elementary School for after-school programs.However, Norris said that she anticipate