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Update for the Community on the TalkReadPlay Center

Over the last year, Every Child Thrives agencies and community members have been planning for the future TalkReadPlay Center at the Watertown Public Library – not only the physical space, but also a network and programs that will support our goals of building strong families and ensuring all children are ready for and succeed in school. The planning process has included site visits, community listening sessions, parent surveys, a parent focus group and multi-sector planning sessions. We are now ready to share with the community a full vision for the TalkReadPlay Center.

Opening in early 2022 at the new Watertown Public Library, the TalkReadPlay Center will be a best-in-class, evidence-based early learning destination built upon multi-sector collaboration. It will nurture strong, resilient families who have the knowledge and tools to support their children's success in learning, work and life.

The TalkReadPlay Center's mission is to provide quality early learning opportunities while supporting parents and caregivers in helping their children grow and learn. In doing so, it will:

  • Inspire and support learning interactions
  • Facilitate access to resources
  • Champion caregivers as their child's first teacher
  • Work beyond its walls to build the community supports families need to thrive

A destination for families across Dodge and Jefferson counties, the Center will include the children's library and interactive spaces for play-based learning. These dynamic spaces will include a(n):

  • Infant Discovery Zone - a safe, secure place for infants and adults to explore and learn together.
  • Marketplace - a space that will periodically change between real-life places like a store, restaurant, shop, classroom, doctor's office, etc. Children will use their imagination as they build early literacy, social and emotional skills.
  • Construction Zone - a space for large motor skill development where children will practice problem solving and teamwork.
  • Creative Kids Lab - a space that will allow children to exercise design thinking and a "can-do" attitude as they create special projects.
  • STEAM Station - a space offering hands-on learning activities in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

The Watertown Family Center will be relocating to the TalkReadPlay Center when it opens, and will continue to offer playgroups and educational programs for parents and caregivers. Expanding on its mission, the Family Center will also coordinate development of a Family Resource Network to be housed in the TalkReadPlay Center. Formalizing partnerships that already exist between Every Child Thrives family-serving agencies, the Network will connect families with young children to formal and informal community supports to nurture their children's development and build the protective factors families need to thrive. These protective factors include:

  • Knowledge of parenting and child development
  • Social and emotional competence of children
  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports in times of need

A multi-sector community leadership team has guided the vision and development of the TalkReadPlay Center and the Family Resource Network. As a next step, this team will begin recruitment of a Family Resource Network Coordinator who will coordinate development of the Network and processes to connect families with the resources they need.

The TalkReadPlay Center is an initiative of Every Child Thrives, a collaboration of community partners in Dodge and Jefferson counties, united around the shared purpose of ensuring all children thrive in health, learning and life. Backbone support and funding will be provided by the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation, which facilitates the Every Child Thrives effort.




The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded three Strong Families Grants totaling nearly $480,000.

Recipients of the awards are Jefferson County Head Start, Watertown Unified School District (WUSD) and Safe Families for Children.

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded three Strong Families Grants totaling nearly $480,000. Recipients of the awards are Jefferson County Head Start, Watertown Unified School District (WUSD) and Safe Families for Children.

Strong Families grants provide seed funding for agencies leading efforts to build sustainable systems that improve family health. Strong Families grants provided up to $200,000 in funding to support high-impact, multi-sector initiatives that create systems to support a family’s ability to thrive.

"Healthy early child development is our Foundation’s top investment priority," said Tina Crave, President and CEO of GWCHF. "We are thrilled to be able to support three outstanding grant requests designed to create collaborative systems change for the benefit of young children and their families."

Jefferson County Head Start (JCHS) was awarded $200,000 to partner with Jefferson County’s school districts and Birth to Three program to ensure a smooth transition for children and families from Head Start to Kindergarten. Using a data-informed, evidence-based approach, JCHS will provide family advocates and licensed, trained clinicians to serve as early childhood mental health consultants.

"The transition will be especially difficult this year due to the gap COVID-19 has caused with curriculum, routines, and school-readiness," said Margaret Hanrahan, Grants Committee Chair and GWCHF Board member said. "With the supports this grant will provide, children will be better positioned to achieve academic success."

WUSD received $77,400 for its partnership with Community Care Programs to support the increasing mental health needs of young students by offering evidence-based, direct mental health services at Douglas Elementary School. By providing the opportunity to access mental health counseling in their school environment, barriers for families like transportation and insurance are removed, resulting in more students able to access supports.

"Student mental health has risen to the top of concerns for school districts in recent years" said Crave. "Providing school-based mental health supports will not only reduce barriers to access, it will also reduce the stigma associated with needing help."

Through a partnership with Jefferson County Department of Health and Human Services, a $200,000 two-year grant was awarded to Safe Families for Children to create a new chapter in Jefferson County. Safe Families is a volunteer-driven nonprofit that surrounds vulnerable families with caring, compassionate community members using an evidence-based framework. Working primarily through faith communities, this circle of support approach creates an extended, family-like structure to keep children safe and families intact.

"This is a program unlike any we’ve seen in our area," said Hanrahan. "Safe Families for Children will take a proactive approach to stabilize families and deflect children from entering the child welfare system. It will be a great benefit to children, families and our community as a whole."

GWCHF has closed the application stage of its 2020 responsive grant cycle, but continues to accept applications for Community Collaboration Grants on an ongoing basis. These grants are designed to support collaboration and build community connectedness. Community Collaboration Grants provide support up to $10,000 for partnerships that build a sense of belonging between community members or enhance community spaces where individuals can be active together.

To date, the foundation has invested more than $8.5 million in its five strategic, child-focused priorities:

  • strengthening families
  • kindergarten readiness
  • third grade reading proficiency
  • social and emotional life skills
  • healthy eating/active living

To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.




Foundation Awards Additional Emergency Response Grants

Watertown, Wis. – The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded three additional Covid-19 Emergency Response Grants, bringing total emergency grant funding to nearly $100,000.

The grants support local nonprofit and safety net agencies in protecting the health and safety of vulnerable residents and help agencies adapt operations to serve our community safely.

The Foundation's most recent awards are supporting Watertown Shared Mission Group, Lake Mills Area School District and Rock Lake Activity Center.

Watertown Shared Mission Group received $3,000 to support their "Support Our Students" program. The program provides school supplies to children in need who are enrolled in the Watertown Unified School District or parochial schools in Watertown.

Lake Mills Area School District was awarded $13,000 to conduct a district-wide needs assessment to identify patterns of students’ social emotional needs, along with specific classroom and intervention lessons.

The Rock Lake Activity Center received $3,800 for supplies and materials needed to conduct outdoor fitness classes and create outdoor play spaces.

Covid-19 Emergency Response Grants have provided support to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable residents throughout Dodge and Jefferson counties. They have funded emergency food, shelter, and service adaptations of agencies.

"As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, we are pleased to help meet the needs of safety-net agencies who serve our community’s vulnerable population," said Tina Crave, GWCHF President and CEO. "These agencies are incurring additional cost as they adapt their operations to serve families and children safely. We are happy to provide foundation resources that allow these services, which are central to the health of our community, to continue."

For more information on grant opportunities and to learn about GWCHF and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Foundation Awards Grants to Benefit Children

As part of its 2020 responsive grant cycle, the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded funding to three area organizations for grants designed to improve children’s health.

Two Born Learning Trail Grants were awarded for a total of $4,653 to Jefferson County Parks and John Hustis Elementary School, Hustisford School District, for the purchase and installation of the trails. Born Learning Trails are an evidence-based series of 10 interactive stations that offer fun, physical learning activities for young children and their families.

"We are excited to be able to fund these trails that will both provide enjoyable learning opportunities for families and enhance community spaces," said Margaret Hanrahan, Grants Committee Chair. "These trails will be especially important during this time when families are seeking ways to get outdoors and find activities that engage the entire family."

The trails will be installed later this summer by community volunteers. The Jefferson County Parks trail will be located at the Jefferson County Glacial River Trail along Wisconsin Avenue in Jefferson, and the John Hustis Elementary School trail will be placed along the sidewalk adjacent to the school.

In addition, GWCHF awarded a $2,290 Water Bottle Refill Station Grant to Faith Lutheran School, Watertown, to replace a non-functioning water fountain on the school’s lower level. These grants were open to any school currently without a refill station.

The GWCHF is continues to accept applications for Community Collaboration Grants on an ongoing basis. These grants are designed to support collaboration and build community connectedness. Community Collaboration Grants provide support up to $10,000 for partnerships that build a sense of belonging between community members or enhance community spaces where individuals can be active together.

To date, the foundation has invested more than $7 million in its five strategic, child-focused priorities:

  • strengthening families
  • kindergarten readiness
  • third grade reading proficiency
  • social and emotional life skills
  • healthy eating/active living

To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.




Foundation Awards Additional Emergency Response Grants

Watertown, Wis. – The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded four additional Covid-19 Emergency Response Grants, bringing total emergency grant funding to nearly $78,000. The grants support local nonprofit and safety net agencies in protecting the health and safety of vulnerable residents and help agencies adapt operations to serve our community safely.

The Foundation's newest grants are supporting Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services, Lake Mills EMS, Jefferson County Human Services and Crossroads House.

Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services, which serves Watertown and Lake Mills high school students, received $2,576 to purchase equipment needed to provide mental telehealth services. Lake Mills EMS was awarded $1,000 to purchase personal protective equipment and medical supplies for ambulances.

Jefferson County Human Services and Crossroads House were both awarded a second grant to meet continued needs.

Jefferson County Human Services was awarded $273 to offer a weekly engagement activity for individuals in residential facilities who are lacking social interaction due to Covid-19 restriction. Crossroads House was the recipient of $4,000 to assist families with rent costs and housing placement to prevent homelessness.

Covid-19 Emergency Relief Grants have provided support to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable residents throughout Dodge and Jefferson counties. They have funded emergency food, shelter, and service adaptations of agencies.

"We are pleased to continue to support local agencies who serve our community's vulnerable population," said Tina Crave, GWCHF President and CEO. "The health and safety of our community is a high priority for the Foundation and we continue to work with local safety-net agencies to ensure assistance is available to those effected most by the pandemic. As we move from the initial surge in needs, we are looking to fund agencies adapting operations to serve our community safely in the new environment."

For more information on grant opportunities and to learn about GWCHF and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Foundation Awards More Emergency Response Grants

Future funding efforts will focus on recovery initiatives

Watertown, Wis. – With eight more grants being issued, the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has awarded approximately $71,000 to local nonprofit organizations and safety net agencies in response to COVID-19.

The Foundation's newest grants are supporting People Against a Violent Environment, Inc. (PAVE), Jefferson County Human Services Department, Sacred Heart Food Pantry, and five childcare centers that regularly partner with GWCHF on early childhood education initiatives.

PAVE, which operates an outreach office in Watertown, received $6,230 to provide safe shelter for an increased number of domestic violence victims.

Jefferson County Human Services Department received $2,510 to help residential facilities support the social-emotional needs of residents unable to leave their homes or have guests due to COVID-19 risks. They are using funds to offer a weekly virtual bingo program reaching more than 250 residents.

Sacred Heart Food Pantry, serving Horicon, Juneau, Burnett and Iron Ridge, received $1,250 to purchase food and grocery gift cards for families in need.

Five GWCHF partner childcare agencies are receiving $1,000 each to cover costs of supplies, equipment and staff training needed to ensure safety for children and staff as they transition through the recovery phase. Recipients, who regularly partner with GWCHF on early childhood education initiatives, include Community Care and Preschool in Beaver Dam, Future All Stars Academy in Juneau, Gingerbread Preschool and Child Care Center in Watertown, Kiddie Kampus in Watertown, and Willows Christian Child Care Center in Iron Ridge.

To date, GWCHF has responded with approximately $71,000 in emergency grant funding. Grants have provided support to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable residents throughout Dodge and Jefferson counties. They have funded emergency food, shelter, and service adaptations of agencies.

"Our initial emergency response grants focused on supporting agencies that were seeing a surge in need due to the pandemic," said Tina Crave, GWCHF President and CEO. "As we move from initial response into a recovery period, future grants will be used to help agencies adapt operations to serve our community safely in the new environment. The health, economic, social and emotional impacts of this pandemic are far reaching, and we are eager to support community partners in innovating to lead our community's recovery."

For more information on grant opportunities and to learn about GWCHF and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Collaboration Grant Supports Kayak Rentals on the Rock River

More grants available for collaborative efforts that promote community connectedness

Watertown, Wis. – Residents of the greater Watertown area now have the opportunity to kayak on the Rock River, thanks to a collaboration between the Watertown Park and Recreation Department, Watertown Tourism, and the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF).

Following initial in-kind and financial commitments from the Park and Recreation Department and Watertown Tourism, GWCHF awarded a $3,300 Community Collaboration Grant to support the kayak rental program. Community Collaboration Grants support collaborative efforts that build a sense of connectedness between people or enhance community spaces where individuals can be active together.

Randy Wojtasiak, Director of Recreation, said that the concept for the rental program was developed last year after the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Commission challenged the Department to find more ways to utilize the Rock River.

"We have this tremendous recreational resource running through our city, and we have not been doing enough to utilize it," he said. The department came up with the idea of offering kayak rentals as a fun, affordable and healthy activity that community members could enjoy.

"Kayaking is good for physical and mental health because it reduces stress, builds upper body strength, and allows a way for people to be one with nature's beauty," said Wojtasiak.

The Department has three adult and three child kayaks for rent at their office located at 514 S. First Street, Watertown. Hours for rentals are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kayaks are on a first-come, first served basis. To reserve them, visit watertownwi.recdesk.com or contact the office at 920-262-8080. Rates are $10 per hour for Watertown residents and $15 for non-residents. Renters must be 16 with a valid driver's license, and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. All rentals must remain on the Rock River between the upper and lower dams.

GWCHF's Community Collaboration Grants support coordinated efforts between multiple community organizations. They serve the communities served by the school districts of Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown. Grants support up to 33% of a proposed project budget with a maximum grant value of $10,000. For more information about these grants and additional Foundation initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Foundation Awards Second Round of Emergency Response Grants

Grant Cycle Continues through August

Watertown, Wis. – The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) is supporting four more local organizations with $23,200 in emergency response grants due to COVID-19. Grants are providing support to nonprofit and safety net agencies experiencing a surge in need due to the effects of the pandemic.

  • Adoration Abode in Watertown will receive $1,200 to purchase a freezer to aid in the distribution of food to families.
  • Community Action Coalition For South Central Wisconsin, Inc., which serves Jefferson County, will receive $10,000 to temporarily house people who are experiencing homelessness.
  • The Salvation Army of Jefferson County will receive $10,000 to meet an increase in the number of families calling upon them for help with emergency rent, utilities and lodging.
  • The Waterloo Food Pantry will receive $2,000 to purchase food and necessities for a growing number of client families.

The addition of these four grants brings the total amount distributed by GWCHF in response to COVID-19 to date to $56,200. Earlier in April, GWCHF granted funds to the Dodge County Food Pantry to purchase food, Crossroads of Watertown to provide housing assistance, Green Valley Enterprises to serve adults with special needs, and Church Health Services to provide emergency mental health and dental services.

"Our Emergency Response Grants are helping to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of vulnerable residents during this critical time," said GWCHF President and CEO, Tina Crave. "As we continue to learn about needs in our community, we are responding with support to agencies that have needed to increase their level of services."

Grants Available Through August COVID-19 Emergency Response Grants are available through August 31, 2020. Funded organizations must serve individuals in communities served by the Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown school districts.

Organizations can complete a brief application at www.watertownhealthfoundation.com. Completed applications should be emailed to Andi Merfeld at amerfeld@watertownhealthfoundation.com.

To learn more about GWCHF and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Foundation Announces First Round of Emergency Response Grants

Grant Cycle Continues through August

Foundation Announces First Round of Emergency Response Grants Grant Cycle Continues through August

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has so far awarded grants totaling $33,000 to four organizations in response to requests for emergency funding due to COVID-19. Grants provide support to nonprofit and safety net agencies experiencing a surge in need due to the COVID-19 emergency.

  • The Dodge County Food Pantry will receive $5,000 to purchase boxes of food for families in need. Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the pantry is seeing more first-time clients as well as an increase in the frequency of visits from established clients.

  • Crossroads of Watertown will receive $6,000 to assist families with children with rent costs and housing placement in order to prevent homelessness. Due to job interruption or losses, Crossroads expects their client families to have increased challenges with paying for housing.

  • Green Valley Enterprises in Dodge County will receive $2,000 to develop a comprehensive plan to guide service to adults with special needs during a pandemic. The plan will assist them in supporting clients with physical, mental, medical and/or emotional challenges, while considering special requirements like social distancing.

  • Church Health Services, serving areas of Dodge and Jefferson counties, will receive $20,000 to continue to provide needed emergency mental health and dental services to patients.

"Our goal with this grant cycle is to provide additional resources to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of vulnerable residents," said GWCHF President and CEO, Tina Crave.

Crave said the Foundation recognizes many non-profit agencies are currently faced with dual challenges—an increase in demand for services as well as marked reduction in fundraising dollars. GWCHF's initial Emergency Response Grant dollars will be used to support increased service delivery and operational adaptations to deliver services to vulnerable populations under the emergency guidelines. Initial GWCHF Emergency Response Grants will not support routine business expenses such as rent and payroll.

Grants Available Through August COVID-19 Emergency Response Grants are available through August 31, 2020. Funded organizations must serve individuals in communities served by the Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown school districts.

Organizations can complete a brief application at www.watertownhealthfoundation.com. Completed applications should be emailed to Andi Merfeld at amerfeld@watertownhealthfoundation.com.

To learn more about GWCHF and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com.




Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation Announces Emergency Response Grant Funding

Grants available to local non-profit organizations and safety net agencies

Dodge & Jefferson Counties, Wis. - In a proactive response to an anticipated surge in needs due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) has announced the availability of emergency response grants for local non-profit organizations and safety net agencies that serve our community's most vulnerable residents.

COVID-19 Emergency Response Grants will provide emergency funding support to 501(c)3 non-profit agencies experiencing increased demand or a marked reduction in revenues due to the virus. Funded organizations must serve individuals in communities served by the Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown school districts.

"During these unprecedented times, it's essential that we deploy resources where most needed as quickly as possible," said Tina Crave, GWCHF President and CEO. "This emergency relief funding will ensure agencies are able to provide food, emergency housing and other concrete supports while we are Safe at Home and throughout the next five months."

Human Service organizations experiencing increased needs due to the coronavirus are asked to fill out a brief application found on the homepage of the Foundation's website, watertownhealthfoundation.com. Completed applications should be emailed to Andi Merfeld, GWCHF Community Engagement and Grant Coordinator at amerfeld@watertownhealthfoundation.com.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis now through August 31, 2020. Organizations will receive award notification within two weeks of application submission.

"Every day, we see more and more people in our community coming together to provide immediate help for one another," said Karla Mullen, GWCHF Board of Directors Chair. "It's one of our community's strengths, and our effort as a Foundation serving this community is no different. These grants will allow us to deploy resources to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable residents."

With the Emergency Response Grants, GWCHF will be collaborating with other local funders to ensure funds are allocated where most needed. These partners include Dodge County United Way, the United Way of Greater Jefferson and Walworth Counties, Lake Mills Community Foundation and Watertown Community Foundation.

Questions on COVID-19 Emergency Response Grants should be directed to Andi Merfeld, GWCHF Community Engagement and Grant Coordinator at amerfeld@watertownhealthfoundation.com.

To learn more about the Foundation and supported initiatives, visit watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.




First Lady Kathy Evers Visits Juneau to Learn About Every Child Thrives Effort

Effort serves as a model for rural communities supporting children and families

Wisconsin's First Lady Kathy Evers and representatives from the Office of Children's Mental Health and Department of Children & Families visited the Dodgeland School District Tuesday to learn about best practices being implemented by the district and Every Child Thrives partners across Dodge and Jefferson counties.

The visit helped to inform First Lady Kathy Evers' agenda of supporting the social and emotional needs of young children throughout the state.

The Dodgeland School District is one of 30 active partners with Every Child Thrives (ECT), a collective impact effort focused on ensuring all children thrive in health, learning and life. ECT receives backbone support from the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.

During the three-hour visit, Evers and other guests saw social emotional learning in action. They visited 4K classrooms that use the Pyramid Model, a framework of evidence-based practices that includes visuals, routines and playful learning opportunities that support social and emotional skill development. Dodgeland School District is currently one of five sites in the two counties implementing the model, with ECT working to expand to more locations in 2020.

Evers also witnessed first-hand how the Playworks active recess model fosters leadership, collaboration and problem-solving skills among students. She also observed a classroom lesson teaching students how to recognize and manage emotions of anxiety. Finally, guests toured the Oasis Room, a space students have access to when they need to take a break to regulate their emotions.

In addition to the learning observations, Evers' visit also featured discussion on Every Child Thrives' TalkReadPlay With Your Child Every Day community campaign, which is increasing awareness and sparking positive change to boost early childhood brain and language development. To date, the campaign has more than 500 trusted messengers who are helping to equip parents with the tools needed to be their child's first and most important teacher.

"The Dodgeland School District is leading the way for school districts across the state in ensuring all children gain the social and emotional skills needed for success in learning and life," said Tina Crave, President & CEO of the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation. "Through our Every Child Thrives effort, we are proud to support their work in this area, as it is essential for the future health and wellness of our community."

Dodgeland School District Administrator Annette Thompson, who serves on the Transformation Council for Every Child Thrives, said the school district is grateful for the Foundation's support. "As a result of this support, our staff is empowered to meet the needs of all students, including social and emotional well-being. We know that this work is transformational to a student's life, and we share a commitment to ensuring every child thrives in learning, in the workplace and in life."

For more information on the Every Child Thrives effort, visit watertownhealthfoundation.com/everychildthrives.

First Lady Kathy Evers with Playworks Junior Coaches

First Lady Kathy Evers speaks with Playworks Junior Coaches Taylor Oestreich, Haleigh Maleck, Angella Carrol and Delainey Schwandt during her visit to the Dodgeland School District.
Image of First Lady Kathy Evers Visit Image of First Lady Kathy Evers Visit Image of First Lady Kathy Evers Visit Image of First Lady Kathy Evers Visit





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