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Boys and Girls Club West-Central Wisconsin could merge with Sparta club, adds program to reach underserved Baraboo youth
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Boys and Girls Club West-Central Wisconsin could merge with Sparta club, adds program to reach underserved Baraboo youth

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Karen DeSanto, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of West-Central Wisconsin, doodles with the help of club members Vicky Schwartz and Kayden Maxham-Jones in this file photo from November 2019 at the Baraboo club. 

The Boys and Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin is expanding its reach with plans to merge with the Sparta club and create a separate program to reach underserved youth in the Baraboo area.

Club leadership is working with Boys and Girls Clubs of America to explore merging its already existing Boys and Girls Club of Sparta into the umbrella of the West-Central Wisconsin Club, according to a Sept. 3 press release. The merge with the Sparta club is projected for completion by year’s end. Boys and Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin CEO Karen DeSanto said in a separate interview the merge is estimated for completion by March 31, 2022.

DeSanto said the move will allow the organization to combine administrative efforts and costs as well as ensure more programs for youth in the Boys and Girls Club.

“That allows us to create more opportunities for youth development because we work in partnership with each other,” DeSanto said. “It’s just a better collaborative effort, that we can provide the best programing that we can and that we can reach as many kids as we can.”

Merging clubs across the country and working more collaboratively is something happening across the country, according to DeSanto. She said the merge will create more opportunities for the club to work together and expand programming, especially since the Tomah and Sparta clubs are close to each other in Monroe County.

“It’s not very common any longer that Boys and Girls Clubs work alone. We’ve found that clubs across the country are merging, joining forces and working collaboratively,” she said. “Our Tomah and Sparta (clubs) are just like Reedsburg and Baraboo, they are separated by 15 miles and so the conversation has been, ‘Why aren’t we working more together? What more can we do if we work collaboratively across the county regions?’ Much like Sauk County clubs have unified themselves we are hopeful that our Monroe County clubs Tomah and Sparta can solidify and work more collaboratively with our districts with our counties with our cities. It’s just a good business model.”

Efforts are also underway to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Portage, which would expand the organization’s footprint to Columbia County. The Portage club has a potential opening date of fall 2022. DeSanto said the estimated date depends if funds can be raised and everything else in the process comes together.

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“We’re super excited about the availability of just serving more youth with state of the art programming,” DeSanto said of the Portage and merge with the Sparta club.

Portage Boys and Girls Club achieves nonprofit status, sets fundraising events

If both efforts are successful, it would make the Boys and Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin the club region with largest rural club footprint in the nation and one of the largest in the state, according to DeSanto.

In addition to a physical presence, The Boys and Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin is also creating an off-site club experience to serve youth in underserved parts of the Baraboo area called Club on the Go. The program starts the beginning of October, DeSanto said.

DeSanto said the pilot program emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. During COVID-19 meal distribution, the club discovered groups of children located in specific areas of Baraboo who could not access the club. The discovery led to the club to purchase a van to use for outreach program efforts. The club will load the van with supplies to support a variety of activities to provide youth in specific neighborhoods within the Baraboo community.

DeSanto said the Club on the Go program will ensure kids who don’t have access to transportation home from its after school programs will be served.

“If the kids couldn’t come to us we learned to take the club to the kids,” DeSanto said.

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DeSanto said the organization is looking at the Blackhawk area and Village Square Apartments area as a spot for Club on the Go locations, though details and an exact schedule are still in the works. Once details are final, the organization will announce and work with the school district to provide the information to the public.

Follow Erica Dynes on Twitter @EDynes_CapNews or contact her at 608-393-5346.

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