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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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DAR Has Two New People At The Helm

Issue Date: October 28, 2020

For more than 100 years, the DAR Boys & Girls Club of Menominee and Marinette has been providing a place were boys and girls of the community aged 7 through 18 can gather for supervised fun while school is not in session - fun that is aimed at helping them develop self esteem and eventually reach their full potential. The cost is low. The benefits are great.

Recently two new people were placed at the helm, and they are faced with the task of keeping things going at the DAR Clubhouse at 901 8th Ave. in Menominee with Covid-19 restrictions in place and planning for ways to make things even better after the restrictions are lifted.

The new people at the helm are Koreen Gardon, who took over the role of Executive Director effective September 1, and Alyssa Wellman took over as program director. Gardon had been the program director for the DAR since October 10, 2000.

In regular times, after school hours would find 80 or more young people enjoying themselves at the clubhouse, getting help with homework, arts, crafts and projects, prevention programs, playing games outdoors and indoors, and learning to be good team members.

With Covid-19 social distancing in place, the DAR clubhouse is able to accommodate only up to 45 young people at a time, but programming is still going on. Currently hours are 3 p.m. through 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday, with special teen hours for those aged 11 though 18 from 6:15 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays.

In normal years the club would be open all day whenever school is not in session, and normal use would be about 80 members per day, but, in the words of Gardon, the new DAR Executive Director, "COVID-19 has changed a lot about the way things are done today versus the past years."

Nevertheless, Gardon stressed, "kids still need to be kids and have positive mentorships and structured programs. The DAR fills those needs."

Gardon replaced Rich Crevier, who had been Executive Director for 19 years, and Wellman had been Front Desk Coordinator since April of 2019.

The Executive Director is responsible for day to day operation of the DAR as well as recruitment and board development, financial responsibilities and safety of the club.

The Program Director oversees staffing, and is in charge of day to day programming work with area school districts and also in-house events and fund raisers.

The DAR Club in Menominee was started by a woman fondly known as "Ma Vennema" on Oct.15, 1915 in her home. With the logging industry in full swing, many of the area boys were getting into trouble. Ma Vennema saw the need for them to have something better to do, and opened her home for the boys to stop in, play pool, have snacks, maybe do homework, and just plain have wholesome fun.

Eventually the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) took over the program that Ma Vennema started. They have expanded it, and have kept the program going for 105 years. Today it provides after school supervised activities on weekdays for boys and girls aged seven through 18.

In its early years the DAR Club was moved to 7th Street for a while but since 2004 the Club has been at it's present location in Menominee.

Gardon said the current COVID pandemic has made her job a little tougher. The organization has not been able to hold many of the fund raising activities they rely on for financial support, so in some cases cuts had to be made.

Presently the DAR has 12 employees with several more during the summer months. COVID -19 has changed the way things are done today versus the past years. "This time of the year we normally have 80 members per day and now we can only have 45 kids here at a time," she said, adding that only nine kids are allowed per room. Since there must be a staff member in each room, extra staff is needed to accommodate the students, which adds to the overall cost of the program.

Gardon, daughter of Rich and Carol Denowski, grew up on a farm in Porterfield. She is a 1995 graduate of Crivitz High School and went on to get a degree in Sociology and Rural Social Work from UW-Stevens Point in 1999.

She married Christopher Gardon on April 8, 2017 in Green Bay. They are both members of Holy Family Parish in Marinette. Gardon is a member of the Marinette & Menominee Chamber of Commerce and the Healthy Youth Coalition of Marinette and Menominee counties. She also is a member of the River Cities Pool committee for the Annual Winter-Fest Activities and Kids Triathlon committee.

She is also a graduate of the Executive Leadership program at the Michigan School of Business and in 2005 participated in the Management Track program. She also has a background in non-profits. She was Program Assistant at the National 4-H Center in Washington DC, and Aquatics Director for the Elgin, IL YMCA.

She enjoys swimming, jogging and outdoor activities.

Wellman is a native of Green Bay, and she started with the DAR in April 2019 as the Front Desk Coordinator. Then when the opening for Program Director came up she successfully applied and was named for the position in June of 2020.

She is a 2007 graduate of Bay Port High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree from UW-Stout in 2011 in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. She is a former manager of the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay. Wellman came to the area in 2016 after her marriage to her husband, Mason. Together they have a one-year old daughter Maren.

Wellman enjoys outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking and geocaching. She always enjoyed working with kids and that is the reason she decided to work for the DAR Club. In her new role as Program Director she is involved in the day to day operations. She said everyone is working together in these tough times. "I really enjoy working with Koreen and together we have a great working relationship," Wellman declared.

She added, "One of the unfortunate things of COVID is that we can't see many of the families because many of them just stay home for now."

Another responsibility she has is to help with fund raising and procurement. Wellman said the important thing is, "We are still here to serve our families. Our mission hasn't changed."

Gardon agreed wholeheartedly. "There is definitely a need for DAR," she said. "Kids need structure, and when they come here they know what to do and what is expected of them. Our program may look different, but the impact is greater than ever. They are happy to get back to some type of normalcy in their lives. Anyone is welcome to join the DAR. During the school year the cost is $20 per member and during the summer the cost is $100 per month.

Gardon said the Youth Development strategy is to have programs and services that promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling as sense of competence, a sense of usefulness, a sense of belonging and a sense of power or influence. When the strategy is implemented, self-esteem is enhanced and an environment is created which helps girls and boys reach their full potential.

Core Programs for the DAR provide diverse activities that meet the interests of all youth. Core Programs engage young people in activities with adults, peers and family members that enable them to develop self-esteem and to reach their full potential. Based on physical, emotional, cultural and social needs and interests of girls and boys, and recognizing developmental principles.

The Club has program activities in five areas:

Character and Leadership Development, which empowers youth to support and influence their Club and community, sustain meaningful relationships with others, develop a positive self-image, participate in the democratic process and respect their own and others' cultural identities;

Education and Career Development, which enables youth to become proficient in basic educational disciplines, applying learning to everyday situations and embrace technology to achieve success in a career;

Health and Life Skills, which develops young people's capacity to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being, set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient adults;

The Arts, which enable youth to develop their creativity and cultural awareness through knowledge and appreciation of the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing, and

Sports, Fitness and Recreation, which develops fitness, positive use of leisure time, skills for stress management, appreciation for the environment and social skills.

Gardon said one of her goals is to develop an alumni base with past members who would like to get involved with the organization today. "I look forward to continue our work to inspire and empower Club youth to achieve success to do whatever it takes to create great futures for youth."

For more information on this, or on DAR services, activities and membership in general, contact Gardon at kdenowski@TheDAR.org or phone 906-863-9512.


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