Fort Johnson group working to restore programs for youths


Recorder News Staff

FORT JOHNSON -- When Carol McClary moved to the village 45 years ago, she said she got to know her neighbors and other residents by bringing her children to the youth commission's former ice rink.

Back then, the youth commission was known for its booming membership that helped carry the organization to its height of success, measured in its multitude of ball clubs, well-attended events and amenities, like the ice rink.

Today, there are seven women who work together to organize events for the children of the community, like holiday parties, movie nights at the local theater, and mini golf and laser tag outings.

The effort is there, but members say participation from the community is waning, and they want new members to jump on board.

"We're trying to get back to that," said commission Secretary Stephanie Bartone, reflecting on McClary's memories of how the youth commission used to be. "We've always been here, but the board has struggled to exist. Last summer, we only had four members."

It's not so much children that the commission is seeking -- they're more interested in finding adults, because with adults, come children.

"We always need extra hands," Bartone said. "And we've organized a lot of different events, it's to the point it would be nice to have some new ideas."

Increased participation is a goal of Jennifer Gwozdz, who is expected to be appointed as the commission's new director at the village board's monthly meeting.

"We want to keep the commission going, because it's beneficial to the kids and helps increase the sense of community," she said.

Parents, grandparents, and guardians who live in the Fort Johnson fire district are encouraged to join the commission. Those interested can attend the monthly meeting, usually the first Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the village hall. The next meeting is scheduled Nov. 7.

They can also contact Gwozdz at 866-0153 or via e-mail at

People can also take advantage of the commission's next event, a harvest social scheduled Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m. at the Fort Johnson Fire Department. It's free to children who live in the fire district. It will feature candy, ice cream sundaes, pumpkin decorating, apples, cider, activities, and a fire safety demonstration. Children are encouraged to wear costumes.