Friday, March 29, 2019

April 2019 Newsletter

April 11 Meeting:  The Creation and Mission of a Local Nonprofit

RFAreaREA member Bonnie Jones-Witthuhn will lead a conversation on April 11th at 11:00 a.m. at St. Croix Lanes in River Falls about Among Friends, a social respite program for individuals with memory loss and their caregivers, located in River Falls.  This program meets the needs of Pierce and St. Croix counties, providing a quality respite program run by a single paid staff member, terrific volunteers (many of whom are RFAreaREA members), and a committed board of directors.

Bonnie will talk about the creation of this nonprofit program, its mission, and the people at the center of the program.  Among Friends may provide a model to address unmet needs in our local communities. It has found support among a wide range of community members, local churches and businesses, and grants.
Chair Yoga, one of the many activities enjoyed at Among Friends

Upcoming Meetings

May 9              Karyl Rommelfanger, author of The Model Elementary School at River Falls:  A History, has had to reschedule her appearance until September.  Our May meeting will focus on the unit’s business and announcements, election of new president and treasurer, a pub quiz, socializing, and lunch.

June 13          Members are researching area breweries and wineries to find the perfect locale for our end-of-the-year gathering.  Larry Harred is still seeking suggestions for possible locations for this event.

President’s Corner—May Election of Officers

By Roger Hulne

Nominating Committee members Marilyn Plansky and Bernie Brohaugh are seeking recommendations of candidates for the election to be held at the May 9, 2019, meeting.  New officers will assume their duties as of the October 2019 meeting. The three offices to be filled are President, Vice President, and Treasurer. 
I have served as President for three years and will not accept another term. This year was an extension of my initial two-year term because no one came forward willing to assume the office.  I have enjoyed working with and getting to know members while working to improve our organization, but I have leadership positions in Prescott that no longer permit me to continue as RFArea REA President.  I will, however, continue to be active as past president on the Board.  The President’s term will be for one year to finish out this two-year rotation.

The duties of the President are, according to the RFArea REA By-Laws:  The President shall preside over meetings of the Board of Directors and meetings of the general membership; appoint the chairpersons and members of committees; and serve as executive officer of RFAreaREA. The President shall represent the Association before the public in person or shall appoint a delegate to do so.  The President shall perform all other functions usually associated with a president’s office.”

Jane Harred has served as Vice President and wishes to step down.  The duties of this two-year office are:  “The Vice President shall assist the President at the President’s behest.  The Vice President shall assist the Program Chair in the planning and arrangement of programs.  The Vice President shall perform all functions of the President should the President be unable to do so.”

Laura Zlogar has served as Treasurer for six years and wishes to step down since she is also Membership Chair and writes the newsletter.  She will continue with the latter two duties but wants someone else to assume the duties of Treasurer.  The duties of this two-year office are:  “The Treasurer shall report receipts and expenditures to the general membership and Board of Directors regularly.  The Treasurer shall arrange for an annual audit of the books.” 

Tom Possley will continue as Legislative Chair.  Gail Possley will continue as Secretary.

I know we have talented members who served their schools and the university in a number of positions. The work is not hard and is, in fact, very rewarding.  I hope you will consider serving since the future of our group may hinge on your willingness to assume a leadership role.  An organization’s strength depends on the commitment of all of its members to contribute to its success.

Guest Speaker Mary Conroy Johnson Informs Us About Local Free Clinic

By Jane Harred

On the way home from a mission trip offering medical services to people in Mexico, Mary Conroy Johnson asked her husband, Dr. Bob Johnson, “Why can’t we give some medical help to folks closer to home?”  Her question led to the Johnsons’ founding the Free Clinic of Pierce and St Croix Counties in 2007, which Mary Johnson spoke about at our March meeting.

The free clinic serves people who have no medical insurance and are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ assistance, or BadgerCare.  Located in Unit 2 at River Falls’ Vibrant Health Family Clinics, the free clinic offers medical services to large numbers of low-income individuals in our area.

Mary Conroy Johnson, River Falls
Free Clinic
Johnson told us that the Affordable Care Act helped many; after it was implemented, the free clinic’s patient numbers declined.  But numbers have risen again just recently.
Doctors at the free clinic see patients on Tuesday evenings, providing treatment for acute illnesses such as strep throats or ear infections, as well as diagnosing and treating chronic medical problems.  Johnson said that, like doctors in other medical clinics, those at the free clinic most commonly diagnose and treat hypertension, diabetes, and depression.  In addition to doctors, the free clinic uses or refers patients to the services of nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, and volunteers.  Last year, the free clinic saw over 1200 patients and dispensed medications whose retail value was over half a million dollars.

The free clinic’s staff aim to treat to the person, not just the symptoms.  Many of the free clinic’s clients need not just medical attention but other kinds of help, and clinic staff often provide information about other resources, such as food shelves and providers of good, used clothing, that can help improve these patients’ lives.

Dental and mental-health treatment are much-needed services that the free clinic cannot provide.  The free clinic is also unable to do some medical imaging, such as MRIs, and does not offer immunizations, birth-control services or pregnancy testing, treatment for STDs, or prescriptions for controlled substances.

How can you help the free clinic?  First, you can also spread the word.  Johnson finds that many people in our area, particularly those in Hudson and other parts of St Croix County, have not heard about the free clinic.  So talk it up!

In addition, you can donate.  The free clinic will accept donations of some unused medications. 
You can also donate money, either by attending one of the local fundraising events or by sending a check to

Free Clinic of Pierce and St Croix Counties
P.O. Box 745
River Falls, WI 54022

It’s a worthy cause that provides essential services to many in our communities.  Thanks to Mary Johnson for informing us about it.  For more information, go to

It’s That Time of Year to Contribute for Outreach Initiatives

April Scholarship Fund Event

A couple years ago, we opted for a “Bakeless Bake Sale” rather than a literal bake sale to support our scholarship program.  Each year RFArea REA invites high schools seniors in our district to apply for two $500 academic scholarships.  Districts are divided into two groups, making students in those districts eligible every other year.

Tony Pedriana chairs our Scholarship Committee and has been working with this year’s eligible schools to encourage students to apply.  The committee will be reading applications and awarding scholarships during April.

Please be generous and send your contributions to the scholarship fund to RFArea REA at 729 River Ridge Ct, River Falls, WI 54022 or bring your checks to April’s meeting.

May River Falls Food Pantry Drive

The RFAreaREA Board agreed that we would collect money and/or food contributions for the local Food Pantry at our May meeting.  As we have mentioned before, Pierce County has a significant number of residents who face food insecurity each month.  Our Education Outreach activity this year, contribution to the Food Backpack Program, addressed some of this need.  We would now like to do more and to contribute to the local food bank.

Please bring your contributions to the May meeting or you can mail checks to the address above.  If you would like to contribute to both initiatives at the same time, please include a note about the amounts you would like to donate to each.


Every two to three years, units of WREA host retirement information meetings for all of the employees of the public schools, technical colleges, and the university in our area.  We will be hosting such a meeting at River Falls High School on May 6th, and we need your help.

We will need folks to direct people into the Media Room/Library at the school, to help with signing each person in, to distribute information packets, to help set up the tables, hand out the cookies and other treats, and do whatever else is needed to make the meeting successful.

Last time we had over 100 people in attendance.  This is RFAreaREA’s opportunity to introduce itself to people considering retirement and perhaps recruit future members.

Jane Harred is leading the planning for this event.  Please contact her at the April meeting if you are willing to help or write her at

Education News

TEACHER SHORTAGE--Rhinelander Newswatch 12 reports that some northern school districts are finding it so hard to hire teachers that they wholeheartedly support a new state initiative to allow districts to rehire retired teachers, effectively allowing teachers to be paid twice.  They would be allowed to collect their pensions while being paid for their current teaching appointment.  Republican legislators did away with so-called “double dipping” in 2013.

The latest data available—for 2017—showed a net loss of teachers in the state at 1,600.

The plan to allow the rehiring of retired teachers is part of Governor Tony Evers’ budget bill and is being considered by Republican legislators.

WESTERN WISCONSIN SCHOOLS SUPPORT GOVERNOR--Public school administrators in western Wisconsin “are encouraged by the proposed state budget from Gov. Tony Evers for K-12 education,” according to WPR.  Evers has proposed an additional $1.4 billion for public schools, including $600 million more to fund special education in the 2019-2021 budget.

Over the past several years, local communities have had to go to local taxpayers through referenda to support public schools.  Somerset School District has a measure on April 2 asking for $28 million for new building and another for an extra $1 million per year for operational costs.

The governor’s budget proposal faces opposition from the Republican majority in the legislature.

Anne Chapman, an education researcher with the non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum, says, “School funding in general seems to be something that’s enjoying bipartisan support right now.  I think what Republicans are pushing against is the amount [of money] Gov. Evers is discussing to be somewhat difficult to balance with other priorities.”

A summary of the governor’s budget proposal for K-12 education can be found on the Wisconsin Budget Project’s website at

Pension News

As most of you have learned, the stock market roller coaster ride of 2018 will have an effect on our annuity check this year and in the upcoming years as ETF smooths out the effects over a five-year period from 2014-2018.

ETF reports that effective May 1, 2019, adjustments for WRS retirees will be 0% for the Core Fund, which includes most WRS annuitants.  The rate for the Variable Fund will be a 10% reduction.

The WRS performance as of February 28, 2019 is 6.5% for the Core and 11.6% for the Variable.

Legislative Report

By Tom Possley

“Over the course of his campaign for governor, and in the short time he has served as our governor, time and again Tony Evers has emphasized the importance of putting Wisconsin's children first. In his first state budget, he does exactly that, with an unprecedented proposal to increase funding for Wisconsin school children by $1.4 billion.”

This was in a press release from the School Administrator’s Alliance. The leaders of the Republican party said they would make their own budget and disregard the whole budget of Governor Evers.

Gov. Evers also said he would continue the tuition freeze, but wants to give more money to the state university system. Evers also has asked the DMV to develop a plan to get voter IDs more easily to voters who need them.

Senator Patty Schachtner has completed a visit to all school districts in District 10.

Health Report

By Tom Possley

Walking the dog can be great exercise for seniors, but there could be one downside: bone fractures.

Fractures suffered by elderly Americans while walking their dogs have more than doubled in recent years, new research shows.

Can you tell how long you'll live? Researchers found that the people who were most fit were more than twice as likely to be alive a decade later than the least fit, so get moving.

Health plays a role in just how lonely someone was. Those with fair or poor physical health/mental health or hearing loss were more likely to say they felt isolated or lacked companions. So, get in good health and get out of the house.

In a new study, middle-aged people who watched television for more than 3.5 hours a day experienced a decline in their ability to remember words and language over the next six years, British researchers found. What's worse, it appears that the more TV you watch, the more your verbal memory will deteriorate, researchers said. And if you watch Fox . . .

Meeting Minutes—March 14, 2019
Submitted by Tom Possley, Secretary Gail Possley’s Husband and Loyal Assistant

Board Meeting
The Board met at the Kinni Café in River Falls.  Present were Bernie Brohaugh, Larry and Jane Harred, Roger and Patty Hulne, Tom Possley, and Marilyn Plansky.  

Minutes from the Jan. 10th  meeting were approved.  Our Community Service projects are completed, including the School Backpack Program, Area Food Shelves, and Funds for School Supplies Outreach, and the Satisfaction Survey. Our membership goal to sign up 10 new members was a bit too ambitious. 

The board decided to ask for monetary donations for the River Falls Food Shelf at our May meeting.

Roger will be gone April 27-May 12.  During that time we will have an election and a WREA workshop on WRS for active employees on May 8.  A handout has been prepared to be distributed to area schools.

We need $1,000 for the scholarship fund.  Software training for the new website will be provided at the District meeting May 6. Tom Possley will be attending.

The Nominating Committee consists of Bernie and Marylin.  Up for election in May are President, Treasurer, and Vice President. Tom Possley has asked to stay as the Legislative Chair.  Committee Reports were given by Tom Possley for Health and Legislative issues.

General meeting
Fifteen members were present for our meeting.

Mary Conroy-Johnson was our speaker.  She and her husband were the co-founders of the Free Clinic of Pierce and St. Croix Counties, serving residents with low income, no insurance, non-veterans and no BadgerCare.  They are open Tuesday nights from 4-8.  Two or three physicians are available along with nurses, pharmacists, etc.  With three physicians they may see up to 25 patients a night.  They are located at Unit 2 At the River Falls Medical Clinic (Vibrant).  The website is  They have 2 paid workers.  The ACA helped reduce their numbers, but the patient count is going back up again.  Mary feels everyone must help with healthcare: taxpayers, hospitals, doctors, patients, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, etc.

Bernie handed out a Spring Trivia Contest and Magdalena Pala provided the door prizes.

Our April 11th meeting will be a discussion of Among Friends by Bonnie Jones-Witthuhn.

Membership Supports Our Community and Public Education

We want to welcome new members Judy Schultz.  Thank you so much for rejoining RFAreaREA.

For those who chose not to renew their memberships, we are sorry to see you go and hope you might reconsider.  Membership dues pay for local initiatives, like the Food Backpack Program, the annual scholarships we grant to area high school students, and other causes members identify as worthy of our support.  Dues also pay for printing costs and postage for those members without Internet access.  State dues help to support our voice in Madison, protecting our pensions and advocating for issues affecting us a retirees and for public education in Wisconsin.  Ten dollars a year for local dues and $50 annually for state dues are bargains.  Please send dues for local and state membership to RFAreaREA, 729 River Ridge Ct., River Falls, WI 54022.

In Memoriam:  Marguerite Hoffman Barker (15 April 1922-29 January 2019)

Marguerite Hoffman Barker, a longtime member and officer of RFArea REA, passed away in January.  Marguerite began her teaching career in Spring Valley and River Falls after receiving a two-year teaching degree from River Falls State Teacher's College in 1940.  After raising a family, she returned to college and got her bachelor's degree in 1963. She was hired by the River Falls School District where she taught second and sixth grades until her retirement in 1990.  She also receive a master's degree in teaching from UW-River Falls in 1981.

RFAreaREA will donate $50 to the River Falls Public Library in memory of Marguerite and Bill Barker.