Leadership Oneida County, Headwaters, Inc. team up for ‘Hodag Hutch’
By Eileen Persike
A Community leadership project has partnered with a Northwoods non-profit agency to promote literacy, health and wellness throughout Oneida County. The idea initially came from a group of students in this year’s Leadership Oneida County (LOC), a nine-month program that cultivates and prepares emerging leaders. The Hodag Hutch is the idea fleshed out during a brainstorming session between the LOC students and clients and staff at Headwaters Inc., a community-based services agency that provides
services for people with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and other challenges.
“The project came about from LOC participants presenting ideas,” said Krystal Fochs, one of project group members. “We then picked our projects and started developing them from there. All of the participants in our group felt that a literacy and personal essential project in our community like this would be a fantastic project.” Other members of the LOC team are Lyn Pietila, Liz Cochrane, Christina Schultz, Abbie Cline and Mia Slizewski.
The Hodag Hutches are baskets painted green and adorned with a Hodag Hutch logo, filled with children’s books and some for adults that will be placed in local businesses, such as restaurants.
“When a family is at a restaurant waiting for their food they could have access to a Hodag Hutch right in the restaurant that has reading materials for their kiddos,” Fochs said. “Having opportunities for families to bond while reading together builds stronger families and stronger families mean a stronger community.”
Fochs is the manager at the Rhinelander Culver’s where some of the Headwaters clients are employed. When LOC toured Headwaters as part of the program’s community service day, students learned about the volunteerism and giving back to the community that is an important part of the Headwaters program.
“We learned about all of the different ways that the people at Headwaters volunteer and interact with our community,” Fochs said. “They are always looking for new ways to continue to grow and help develop our community. We felt that partnering with [them] would increase the sustainability of a project like this.”
Allie Felty, the community day services lead at Headwaters, said volunteering helps them gain skills for employment, meet more people in the community and become more connected.
“What we did after meeting with LOC, we brought it back and talked to a few groups they thought might be interested,” Felty said. “One group in particular loved it and really latched onto it.”
Those group members wanted to make personal essentials more available in the community, especially for kids who, “might not want to come right out and say that if they are in need of toothpaste, tooth brush, deodorant that sort of thing.”
It was Felty’s group that came up with the idea of placing those personal essentials in a mailbox “hutch” and painting them green; the boxes will eventually be placed in easily-accessible community locations.
For the LOC group, Headwaters taking over the project means it will be around for the long term.
Felty said the small group members are in charge of seeking donations and will meet with businesses in effort to have a basket, mailbox or both located on the premises. Once the hutches are set up they will be responsible for upkeep, maintenance and keeping them supplied. The cost for one mailbox is $30. If anyone in the community would like to sponsor a mailbox, donate a basket, books or personal items such as socks, shampoo, soaps, tooth brushes and tooth paste, contact Headwaters at 715-369-1337 or drop items at their location at 1440 E. Timber Drive in Rhinelander 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.