NWDSS supports older residents and celebrates Older Americans Month

In tough times, communities find strength in people—and people find strength in their communities. In the past year, we’ve seen this time and again in Northwest Dane County as friends, neighbors, and businesses have found new ways to support each other. 

River Arts workshop on Scratchboarding

River Arts Inc is hosting a socially-distanced in person workshop with nationally recognized artist and instructor Rhonda Nass titled “Value, Value, Value: Introduction to Scratchboard”. It will take place at River Arts Studio, 590 Water St, Prairie du Sac on Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16. The deadline to register is May 8.

6:8’s Circles continues working towards goal

Local non-profit 6:8 Inc. started Circles Sauk Prairie in 2019 with the goal of reducing poverty in the geographic area of the Sauk Prairie School District by 10% within 10 years. 

Sauk Prairie Earthlings get in the Easter spirit

Sauk Prairie Earthlings 4-H sewing project leader, Cassie Louis, organized a bunny sewing craft for our club. Ruby and Holden Taggart are pictured with their completed projects. 4-H members are continuing their individual project work during the pandemic.

Black Earth Chaplains recount story of USAT Dorchester

Tom Bennett and Bill Rettenmund are the Chaplains for Mickelsons-Martin Black Earth American Legion Post 313. At a recent Legion meeting they recounted the story of the USAT Dorchester and the bravery of the Chaplains who served aboard her. This year marks the 78th Anniversary of the sinking of the ship.

River Arts on Water Gallery has new artwork

River Arts on Water Gallery invites visitors to view new artwork, a new gallery layout, and new featured artists! Located at 590 Water St, Prairie du Sac, the gallery is open Thursday-Saturday 10am-5pm.

Optimist Club hears about Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry

At their March 3 virtual Zoom meeting, the Sauk Prairie Optimist Club welcomed guest speaker, Kris Ballweg, director of the Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry (SPAFP). Pop-up food distributions at Bluffview, the “backpack program”, which was moved to the Food Pantry from 6:8, and various types of “bags” for patrons of the Pantry were explained. The “backpack program” provides boxes of food to 135 school families at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring, and Summer breaks. Other bags, that are given out at distributions, in addition to boxes of dry goods and the cooler and freezer bags, have themes which can range from personal products, soup fixings to baking bags and breakfast bags. Food Share is a program in which families receive cards, can go to the grocery store and pick out what they want. When the Food Share program increases benefits, the use of the Food Pantry tends to go down. The Pantry has five distributions a month on the first, second, and fourth Wednesdays of the month from 5:30-6:30 pm and on the third Wednesday and Saturday from 9:30-10:30 am. Due to the pandemic, the distributions are “drive-thru” with volunteers loading up their boxes and bags. The families describe this process as “fast” and “efficient.” However, “This type of distribution takes more work to get ready,” said Ballweg as boxes and bags must be packed and ready to go at distribution times rather than patrons coming into the pantry and selecting items off the shelves, with a limit of how much food can be selected in each food area. To qualify for Food Pantry assistance is quite easy. A person needs to go to the Pantry and answer a few questions such as whether they live in the SP School District (as the SPAFP only serves residents of the school district). When asked how much time she spends at the pantry each week, Ballweg replied “20-30 hours per week” plus volunteer time she donates. She now has a part-time assistant 10-15 hours per month who focuses on the Annex Program. The Annex Program provides a “mini pantry” in each school. The SPHS has a separate pantry and Grand Avenue, for example, provides snacks for students. Some exciting events recently were being the recipient of a grant which allowed them to purchase an electric pallet jack which helped to unload TEFAP loads weighing 6000-9000 pounds the last quarter of 2020. The new equipment is greatly appreciated with loads of this nature. Also, through donations and gifts, the pantry was able to purchase a truck. Now they can accept additional TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) products such as eggs, milk, and more and enables the pantry to conduct events such as the “pop-up” distributions. Boxes can be unloaded directly into cars at distributions like these and the school break boxes can easily be delivered to Tower Rock, Merrimac etc. The pantry recently applied for and was awarded a grant from Sauk Prairie Healthcare to provide food to those who cannot get to the pantry. School counselors asked families who would like to take part and in February, the first month of operation, 40 families responded they would like to participate. Due to confidentiality, the school district delivers the food to the families. For March, 43 families are taking part. This is a nine-month project. When asked how we can best support the Food Pantry, Ballweg replied that volunteering is most welcome. There is a sign-up page by date and time that potential volunteers can use. Strict social distancing guidelines, mask wearing etc. are followed at the panty. She also said volunteers can sign up for group projects as well. Guidelines are followed with those as well. Besides food donations, non-food items needed are: toothbrushes, baby wipes and diapers, shampoos and conditioners, toilet paper and paper towels, and laundry and dish detergents. She expressly mentioned Piggly Wiggly, Sauk Prairie Market and the Mixing Bowl as businesses that assist the pantry with food. Ballweg took the time to clarify the two separate organizations that are housed in the same building. She emphasized that the SPAFP and 6:8, Inc. are two separate organizations with separate boards and bylaws. The SPAFP rents their space in the 6:8 building. The pantry and 6:8 share common goals, for example 6:8 reaches out to those who are experiencing food insecurity or other areas of poverty, the pantry provides the food for these families. “We work together very well,” says Ballweg.

At their March 3 virtual Zoom meeting, the Sauk Prairie Optimist Club welcomed guest speaker, Kris Ballweg, director of the Sauk Prairie Area Food Pantry (SPAFP).

Outreach specialist for Alzheimer’s was guest speaker for Optimists

Bonnie Nuttkinson

Bonnie Nuttkinson, Outreach Specialist, at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, was guest speaker at the February 3 Sauk Prairie Optimist Zoom meeting.  Dick McFarlane is the Optimist February Speaker Chair who recruited Nuttkinson.

Sauk Prairie High School FFA students share with Optimists

February 17, the SPHS FFA and agricultural education students shared their work with the Sauk Prairie Optimist Club via Zoom.  Optimist member Dick McFarlane introduced several of the officers that were on the Zoom call and one of their advisors, Sally Ladsten.

Easter Bunny takes a tour in style around Black Earth and Mazomanie

The Easter Bunny made visits to Mazomanie and Black Earth last weekend. Here’s the bunny taking a ride high atop a fire truck. It was a beautiful Easter weekend for all the kids and adults. Photo by Linda Weber.


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