MENOMONIE — For two University of Wisconsin-Stout alumni, the joys of working with community youth at the new Boys & Girls Club in Menomonie far outnumber the challenges.
Ashley DeMuth graduated in 2011 with a B.S. degree in vocational rehabilitation and a concentration in independent living with a focus on social work. She is director of the Club, which opened in October.
Josh Sales, a 2012 graduate of the B.S. human development and family studies program in 2012, serves as the Club’s program coordinator.
DeMuth, of Colfax, wasn’t a stranger to the organization. In 2011 she served as office manager at the Club in Eau Claire and two years later was promoted to the community relations coordinator.
“I knew that I had wanted experience with a nonprofit organization,” she said.
When she learned about the opening of a new club in Menomonie, she jumped on the opportunity.
“Upon receiving the offer as the center director of the Club here in Menomonie, I was extremely excited to put forth my experience and education to serve youth in the Menomonie area,” she said.
Pair sees joys and challenges
Joys and challenges come each day, DeMuth said. One of the challenges is working with families to get their children signed up.
The Club is at River Heights Elementary School, thus promoting it to children is easy. “But ultimately, we have to rely on parents to enroll their child in the Club,” she said.
Another challenge is volunteer recruitment. “We are a small staff, and we rely heavily on the assistance of volunteers and interns,” DeMuth said.
But then there are the joys.
“The main joy of my position is knowing and seeing firsthand the difference we are making in the lives of community youth. Not only are we a safe, positive place for kids to go to after school and during summer break, we are providing mentorship and educational resources to tomorrow’s adults,” she said.
“I absolutely love hearing from members how the Club has shaped their lives and how the Club has provided them opportunities that they might not have had,” DeMuth said.
Sales, of Park Falls, is responsible for behavior management of the children and volunteer recruitment. He also assists with the supervision of staff and volunteers, with donor stewardship and membership recruitment.
He too experiences trials in his position. Working with cognitively challenged kids and learning about the resource development side of a Boys & Girls Club are challenging, but even they have become joys, he said.
“It feels great to be able to overcome the challenges and accept new ones,” he said.
The joys are obvious. “I love the kids we work with. They’re very well-mannered overall; 95 percent of them like working on homework with us, and they each have their own bond with each staff member,” he said.
He also enjoys working with the staff. “We all work very well as a cohesive unit,” Sales said.
Sales started college with an undeclared major until his adviser encouraged him to study human development and family studies.
“It was the best decision of my college career,” he said. “I very much enjoy working with youth of all populations and their families.”
Club programs and hours
Since its debut, the Menomonie center, which is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Chippewa Valley, has averaged 25 to 30 boys and girls a day. It has 51 members with a projection of more than 100 members by May.
The Club offers programs in five core areas: character and leadership; health and life skills; the arts; sports, fitness and recreation; and education and career. “We run over 40 programs, offering youth enrichment programs to set members up for future success and to be kind and caring citizens,” DeMuth said.
The Club is open from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, when schools are in session. On early release days, it is open from 12:45 to 7 p.m. Sales and DeMuth are the only full-time paid staff at the Menomonie Boys & Girls Club.
“We like to provide a wide variety of programs and activities to cater to all of our members’ interests and have them try and learn something new,” Sales said.