‘This is going to be life-changing’: Boys and Girls Club revamps fundraising efforts for workforce development center

MADISON, Wis. — Dreams of creating a dedicated youth workforce development center are now a step closer to becoming a reality thanks to donations from more than 2,000 donors throughout the Dane County community.

Community leaders gathered Friday morning to rally their support behind the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County’s capital campaign to raise money for the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center, a new job training facility in Fitchburg that will prepare young people in Dane County for careers in fields like construction, welding, plumbing and more.

The Madison Area Builders Association will have an active role in the Center alongside contributions from other local businesses and schools. Since announcing plans for the Center, the Boys & Girls Club has raised just over $24 million, most of which came from community donations.

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“We got on the phone and we started talking to all these folks that’s on the right side of me and all their companies were like, ‘We’re in for one-hundred thousand, we’re in for two-hundred thousand, we’re in for fifty thousand,'” Boys & Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson said. “There was kids selling lemonade in our community saying, ‘I’m in for fifteen, twenty cents,’ and it all added up today to $24.1 million and I’m just so thankful.”

The group has a goal of $35 million to make sure the Center’s operating costs are covered when it opens.

The Center will be located in the former Thermo Fisher Scientific building located at 5225 Verona Road in Fitchburg, which is a location Johnson said the group decided on after he drove around the city looking for the right location.

Fitchburg city leaders said they’re thrilled about the project.

“The city could not be happier that the McKenzie Regional Workforce Center will be here. It will be a great benefit to the community,” Fitchburg Common Council President Randy Udell said at the event.  “The Center will address two key needs: training our kids for well-paying jobs for the future, helping them to reach their full potential [and] addressing the shortage of skilled workers going into trades like plumbing and construction.”

In addition to housing a skilled trades training center, the renovated space will include an entrepreneurship center focused on teaching youth about marketing, finance, life skills and more. It’ll also house new offices for the Boys & Girls Club.

“This is going to be life-changing for a lot of young people in this community because of you and your support,” Johnson said.