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Boys and Girls Club dedicates new Wisconsin Rapids facility

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAU) -- The Wisconsin Rapids Boys and Girls Club dedicated their newest location yesterday. The former Pitsch Elementary School is now the Pitsch Center, and offers the club resources to help provide programs and activities for more boys and girls.

Executive Director Rob Wefel says they were able to work closely with the Wisconsin Rapids School District to put an empty school building back to good use. “We’re leasing it for a dollar a year. We take care of all of the maintenance and the upkeep, and we’re able to do that. It just opens up all kinds of potential for more kids to come and receive services and program from the club.” Wefel says it’s also very affordable for just $10.00 per year, per child.

Wefel says there are many benefits for children, from mentoring and homework help to simply providing a safe and fun place to be with their friends. “We don’t want to do school-after-school. What we’re trying to have is a fun and inviting environment so that we can reinforce some of those same principles, lessons, and ideas, and provide things like homework help, some social structure, and opportunities for kids to be with one another in a more playful and active atmosphere.”

The Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club operates four locations. They have one at the Mead School on the city’s west side, an after school program in Port Edwards, a morning and afternoon program in Nekoosa, and the Pitsch Center on Wisconsin Rapids’ east side.

Wefel says the Pitsch Center has plenty of indoor and outdoor space to offer several programs for young people. “We moved from about 6,000 square feet of available space to 23,000 square feet of available space, and about seven acres of land. That includes sports and athletic fields, playground, swing sets, and other outdoor equipment, so it’s a huge blessing and a full size gym, an art room. There’s so many things that this facility has for us.”

One of the Boys and Girls Club supporters is Wisconsin Rapids Police Chief Kurt Heuer, who says these activities are perfect for young people during that time of day when they really need good influences and examples. “Some of the hours of the day that are most troubling, and often time when youth are getting into those mischievous times, is after school... that pocket of time between the time mom and dad get home from work, or whatnot. This fills that gap. They’ve got great after school programming, and a positive place for the kids to be, and it keeps them out of the poor decision making while building positive decision makers.”

Heuer is from the neighborhood, and was really glad to see the vacant former elementary school get put to good use again. “This is heartwarming. Our son Justin was a kindergartner here way back, and we loved the school, we loved the staff, and when Pitsch closed, it was a very sad event for a lot of people that really had connections with this school. Now, to have it opens it’s doors again and to have a presence with our Boys and Girls Club and the youth are able to come here again, it’s really heartwarming.”

About fifty people attended the dedication ceremony Thursday afternoon, which also was attended by keynote speaker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

(Both interviews with Rob Wefel and Chief Kurt Heuer are on our website.  Just click on their names to listen.)

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