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DARE needs more funds, local chamber told

Pierce County's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program faces a funding shortage, Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce members were told Thursday.

DARE Officer Nancy Ortwerth of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department said she's put her own money into such expenses as refreshments for the program's graduation exercises. While she's willing to help, there's a need for more financial support, Ortwerth said.

"My heart and soul is in this program," she said, noting she's a member of the organization's state board.

DARE here receives $1,500 annually from the county to cover the 11 schools it serves, the officer said. The students get a book and a t-shirt, besides the graduation refreshments.

Ortwerth, who's taught area DARE classes for five years, said dealing with drug issues from other states can be challenging. In California, the methamphetamine problem common in Wisconsin and Minnesota doesn't exist, for example.

The program has changed since its beginning, she said. The length of the course has been reduced from 17 weeks to 10 weeks. While the focus remains on an anti-drug message, efforts are made to fight alcohol and tobacco abuse, along with violence.

More importantly, participating children get to know people in uniform, she said.

"That connection is bigger than the program itself," she said.

Officials are seeking ways to raise money for DARE, according to Ortwerth. Fundraising walks are being held at the individual schools, funds from which stay right at those facilities. Prescott's walks have been highly successful, for instance, generating between $8,000 and $10,000 in a year. This year's walk at Hillcrest Elementary School in Ellsworth is scheduled for Tuesday, May 16.

The Ellsworth School District has contributed to costs for its students' involvement through grants, she said. Unfortunately, there's been a cutback in those grants.

In order to graduate, the graders must complete an essay and a workbook, she said. At graduation, they're expected to explain a chapter in their book and they also present skits. The local graduation is set for next Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Hillcrest gym.

One new source of funding for the DARE program will be the first annual Kids Day America in Ellsworth, explained to the chamber by Dr. Kyle Kollbaum of Kollbaum Chiropractic Clinic. A national event, the local version is planned for Saturday, May 13, from noon to 3 p.m. at Ellsworth Middle School.

The day is intended to promote health, wellness and environmental safety for children, Kollbaum said. The Ellsworth Funsters will attend, as will members of the local Fight Against Corporate Tobacco (FACT) group, a dentist and others. Fingerprinting will be offered and child identification cards will be available. Refreshments will be served.

The chiropractor said he's a member of the World Children's Wellness Foundation. All donations from the event will go to the county's DARE.

In other business for the chamber last week:

--Nina Borth of the Miss Ellsworth Pageant Committee issued a reminder about buying Cheese Curd Festival buttons to support the queen candidates. There are a total of 2,500 numbered buttons, making holders eligible for seven drawings during the festival (to be held in lieu of a raffle this year). Prizes for the individual drawings will be doubled if claimed within 15 minutes of the drawing and all numbers are reentered for every drawing. The total prize giveaway is up to $2,000.

--The current royal court will have a dunk tank at the fairgrounds on Saturday of the Cheese Curd Festival (June 24) from noon to 6 p.m., Borth said. Present and incoming royalty will be in the tank as well as other area residents. The pageant committee will hold a Tupperware fundraiser, too.

--President Joanne Hines announced an appeal for business cards, letterheads and/or ads from any local business between the 1950s and now, to be used for the chamber's 50th anniversary celebration later this year.

--Joanne Gulbranson of the chamber reported brackets are being obtained for new banners, expected to go up on light poles in the community within the next couple of weeks.

--The chamber's annual golf outing is planned for Monday, Aug. 21, at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course in River Falls, according to a report from the ambassador committee.

--Jack Hines of the chamber suggested holding a chamber night at the local rod and gun club. Other organizations including the wrestling association, Lions, Shriners and baseball association have such events, Hines said. The rod and gun's new clubhouse addition, which seats 48, is ideal for meetings, he added.