WILLMAR -- Partnerships with other organizations have helped the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department expand its reach in the community.
The department would not be able to offer all that it does without collaborating with other groups, Director Steve Brisendine told the Willmar School Board in his annual report last week.
Willmar Community Education and Recreation is a joint operation between the Willmar School District and the city of Willmar with an annual budget of more than $2 million.
The department's many programs regularly work with community groups to help deliver services, he said.
"Every chance we get to partner, we'll do it," Brisendine said.
He listed a number of the partners the department has, including area school districts and Ridgewater College in the case of Adult Basic Education.
Early Childhood Family Programming works with a number of government and nonprofit organizations, including United Way of West Central Minnesota. The program works with WRAC8 public access cable and Encyclopedia Britannica to develop a children's program, "Ben and Bella Read Along."
Youth Recreation works with local associations in basketball, swimming, base-ball/softball, wrestling, football, track and hockey.
Brisendine reported heavy use of the community's athletic and recreation facilities as well. The city auditorium, for example, is booked from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night, all year long, he said.
The community has enough baseball fields to handle all activities, but "some need some TLC," he said, and there's still work to do on scheduling.
Brisendine said the department also couldn't operate without the support of the school district and the city.
The past year was a busy one for the department, he said. The biggest event was a move from Washington Learning Center on Willmar Avenue to the larger Jefferson Learning Center on Kandiyohi Avenue. The Washington building was closed and put up for sale.
"Jefferson has been a good location for us," Brisendine said. "We are using the space tremendously."
Adult Basic Education was able to expand and use more classrooms than at Washington. In the past, 40 to 45 students would be considered a busy day, he said, and now the program regularly has 70 or more in a day.
The addition of the Child Guide Program to Willmar Community Education and Recreation has been a good fit, too, Brisendine said.
The guides, who work with children in the elementary and middle schools, have been able to give the department more understanding of the types of programs younger children need, he said.
The guides have had enough financial support from the community to keep the program funded into the next school year.