WAUPUN | “We want Waupun to be fun for everyone,” said Kathy Schlieve, head of a new volunteer program, Reaching Everyone through Actions with Community Hands.
REACH Waupun, held its annual meeting Friday and more than 50 people turned out at the Werner-Harmsen meeting room, 201 E. Jefferson St.
Schlieve said over the past six months the group has focused on defining the mission of REACH Waupun and raising awareness of the challenges facing families in the community.
Schlieve said though Waupun is a small, friendly community, 10 percent of the people are living in poverty, and 23 students are classified as homeless, meaning they do not live in a stable living home.
“One in two students are on the free or reduced lunch program, and this is the most alarming. We are above the state average when it comes to single moms with children under 5 years of age,” she said.
Those who attended Friday included people from the school district, clergy, heads of businesses, volunteer mentors, and a curious few who wanted to find out how they could help.
Schlieve said REACH Waupun is looking for ways to get more parents involved and to increase the number of volunteers mentoring students.
“We’ve partnered with senior citizens at the Christian Home and Rehabilitation Center to develop mentoring and pen pal relationships with our youngest students. In this later case, seniors benefit from new, positive relationships that increase their sense of purpose and youths benefit by gaining the support and encouragement they need to succeed in school and life,” Schlieve said.
Jonathan Leonard spoke of his experience of mentoring a student an hour each week, and how it has had a positive influence on both of them.
Mentor Carla Wojahn said, “I hope the program continues to grow. What a positive way to help our community.”
Waupun School District superintendent Tonya Gubin praised the community’s generosity.
“There is still a dire need for mentors, that’s the big thing and it makes a huge difference,” Gubin said.
Trinity Winkers, head of the REACH Waupun mentoring program, said they have 23 mentors now and they hope the number grows to 123. She said mentors spend an hour a week with their mentee throughout the school year.
In a breakout session ideas were floated about what other agencies or organizations could be contacted for help in many areas.
“There is more work to be done. Today’s session was about building on our success and taking the next step as a community to increase our collective impact. Our conversation specifically focused on uncovering assets within our community that can contribute to a common agenda around overcoming poverty. I felt today’s discussion opened new doors for REACH Waupun and our community,” Schlieve said.
“I’m very impressed that this organization has moved with such focus to achieve the goals it set out with. This is a determined group,” said Bob Sullivan of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
For more information, go to the REACH Waupun website, www.reachwaupun.org.