Over in the Marquette Neighborhood on Madison’s near east side, the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center is about to undergo a tremendous renovation to its building this summer. That means the kids in their popular summer kids program would need another place to go and it left program directors searching high and low.
Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, on Madison’s south side, came to the rescue.
“It really was kind of last minute and a bit dire. We were reaching out to elementary schools in the area that could house us for the summer,” Corey Hanger, director of youth programming at Wil Mar Neighborhood Center, tells Madison365. “Unfortunately, a lot of Madison School District had renovation and upkeep things that they were doing themselves so they weren’t able to accommodate us.”
But then somebody at MMSD reached out to Badger Rock Neighborhood Center.
“Two weeks before school let out the District reached out to us about space. They had been looking for a place. They ended up in my Inbox,” Hedi Rudd, director at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, tells Madison365. “We had been working together – all of the neighborhood centers – to get our funding model changed. It’s been interesting because we had been running into each other and seeing all of the other neighborhood center directors and collaboratively we managed to get this budget amendment passed to change the funding model.
“And then here comes this opportunity to help WilMar over the summer and I was like, ‘Sure! Come check it out.’ It just seemed like a no-brainer,” adds Rudd, who lives a block away from the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on Madison’s east side.
“She welcomed us with open arms,” Hanger says. “She said, ‘We’d love to have you at our facility.’”
Badger Rock Neighborhood Center is a project of the Center for Resilient Cities primarily serves residents of the Moorland-Rimrock, Indian Springs, and Highland Manor neighborhoods of South Madison and the Southdale neighborhood of the Town of Madison.
The summer camp provides meals and a variety of fun activities for kids of all ages.
“The kids from Wil-Mar have a great diversity in ages. We told them to come on in and we’d be happy to have you here,” Rudd says. “Our farmer, Sara, has a sweet spot for kids and she’s already gathered up the kids and took them out to see the chickens and let them grab some strawberries.
“We’re sharing the kitchen with them and whatever else they need and whatever resources we can provide,” she adds.
For a lot of the Wil Mar kids, summer camp at Badger Rock has had a lot of the same activities they are used to doing. But also some different stuff.
“We keep it a bit old-school summer camps with the swimming and the field trips and playin’ basketball – we just actually came in from outside playing basketball,” Hanger says. “But I think being here at Badger Rock, it gives our kids a bit of an opportunity to step outside of their normal lives and get interested in something like farming or agriculture or even like chickens. They’ve got chickens over there. That’s pretty cool.”
And it’s surprisingly not that far from the near east side to the south side of Madison. Most of the drive is a great view of Lake Monona.
“It’s only a short drive from Wil-Mar to Badger Rock, to be honest,” Rudd says. “You get to see the lakes. It’s probably one of Madison’s most beautiful stretches.
“It’s really not that far away at all. It’s like five more minutes down the road and it’s a whole new world,” Hanger says. “This place is already so new and functioning and our place is a lot older, so it’s like a teaser of what we’re going to get when our renovation is done in October.”
Hanger adds that it’s wonderful to see one neighborhood center step up when they see another neighborhood center in need. It’s a great sense of collaboration.
“I believe for the longest of time that there have been invisible lines that after schools and community centers don’t cross and it’s kind of like, ‘you don’t tread on us and we won’t tread on you,’” he says. “I always felt like when I became a director that it was important to extend olive branches to surrounding community centers to say, ‘Hey, we can use each other’s spaces or resources’ and we don’t have to be like, ‘This is mine to protect this dollar amount.’
“My feeling is like we should share the wealth,” he adds.
Rudd couldn’t agree more.
“It’s exciting to me just given the context in terms of all of the neighborhood working so collaboratively just this last couple of years and then here’s this opportunity to put action to the words we’ve been talking about,” she says. “It feels good to be able to help another center. It’s great.”
This will be a summer that the near east side kids from Wil-Mar will always remember.
“We’re having fun. We just started so we have more and more kids coming every day,” Hanger says. “We have a lot of stuff planned for the kids. It’s going to be a good summer.”