By: Evonne Boettge
BD Community Activities and Services – Beaver Dam, WI
What is a community center? It is a place for activities, support networks and innovative programs for kids, teens and adults. It can offer space for public meetings, dances, performances and art exhibitions, as well as new opportunities for fund-raising events and ways to collaborate with other organizations.
What’s the story behind the proposed Community Center? How did a simple request for more space in a single room result in this grand new idea? The process and planning is rich with individual faces and ideas of what could be!
It started with the woodshop.
The woodshop is one of the more unique programs at 114 East Third Street – many individuals have been involved over the years.
Hugo Bonack was one of the volunteers. Each day the taxi dropped him off at the Center where he would join in the morning coffee discussion before shuffling off to the shop where he would straighten out nails so they could be reused.
Don Kopf had a huge birdhouse project. He constructed many of the houses with PVC piping and scrap wood. Sales were made all over the country, and the Center was responsible for renewing a bluebird population in our area during that time. Local groups were given birdhouses to create trails and some are still in good shape today. Volunteers set up a trail that ran from Beaver Dam to Sun Prairie, and although most of the houses placed there are gone now, a sign with a rainbow logo still stands on Hwy 151.
Jim Schwartz took over the shop after Don. Along with renewing an interest in building for the birds for several years, he added bat houses, wood duck boxes and more to the list of products sold at the Center. Jim put together an easy-to-assemble kit, which proved to be quite a popular project for organizations of all ages. Detailed instructions were developed complete with diagrams, pre-drilled holes, bags of screws and packaging appropriate for storage and shipping. Jim had a ‘mass production’ approach and many hands were needed to put together the hundreds of kits that were sold. It was quite the assembly line! Storage space was critical for this program and much of the upstairs area in the building was transformed into shelving for the kits and nest boxes. More equipment was added to our shop making the space for workers and activities very cozy.
When Jim decided to retire as woodshop manager, our new “Baby Boomer” volunteer Terry Appenfeldt took charge. We have taken on some very interesting projects since then. Terry’s idea was to make items no one else would. Park benches, tables, newsletter jigs, wooden flowers, pier sections, a gun cabinet, picture frames, plaques, and oh yes, we still make birdhouses. We also make bird feeders, toys, tip-ups, bookshelves and cow shoes – Aunt Bee’s stool, the Cody Cruiser and a grandfather clock. We even built a chimney swift tower for the Bird City program! Woodshop volunteers Ken Hardinger and Bob Horne work daily on many projects.
If you look in the display cabinet in our lobby area, you’ll find a wonderful collection of toy cars, as well as some antique-looking trucks. Many of these items are the handiwork of the late Lewis Terlisner who loved to create something new.
Our “Woodshop Elves” – Jack Ulrich, Kay Appenfeldt, Donna Fuhrman, Shirley Mack, Rena Hughes, Marge and John Haider, Mary Morgan and Wayne Schmitz delivered over 700 cars at this year’s holiday parade downtown. Kids of all ages enjoy collecting one each year.
Woodshop manager Terry Appenfeldt, along with assistance from Larry Neitzel, Rich Krahenbuhl, Darrell Kalmes and others, designed a plan to expand the shop to the upper level of the current building. When that didn’t prove feasible, Kay Appenfeldt took on the challenge of finding another way to grow. The building committee grew to include Ellen Sushak, Maryann Hussli, Ken Herren, Marv Gerdes and Ellie Schoeffel. Together we reviewed all the space needs and decided that a much larger area would be more appropriate, and since we were going to have more room, why not expand the recreation programs as well and make the building a true community center – something Beaver Dam didn’t have!
Here we are today – working on that vision.
FRIENDS of the Beaver Dam Community Center continue their efforts to bring a conclusion to the years of work already done on this project. Ellen Sushak, Peggy Slez, Kay Appenfeldt, Jack Ulrich and Bunny Schmidt are the governing body of this wonderful group of volunteers working hard to make Beaver Dam the best it can be! As Mayor Kennedy says – “Beaver Dam Rocks!”