Thumbs Up/Down for Tuesday, Aug. 12

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Thumbs up to the Stuff the Bus school supplies drive. Buying all necessary school supplies can be tough for our community's many low-income families. To help give all kids chances to start the new school year on the right foot, the Janesville Noon Lions Club, Blackhawk Community Credit Union and the Janesville School District are teaming up to gather supplies and books. “The last thing a child should need to think about on the first day of school is if they have supplies to start the year off on a positive note,” said Steve Huth, a Lion who just retired from the school district. Drop off donations at Woodman's Food Market, 2819 N. Lexington Drive, through Saturday, Aug. 23. Lists of needed supplies are available at the grocery and online at janesvillenoonlions.org.

Thumbs up to donating to The Literacy Connection. The organization has been serving this region for 50 years. Like many nonprofits, it has dwindling resources at a time of great need. Many critics of our growing Hispanic population suggest that these and other immigrants should learn the English language. Well, here's an organization trying to help them do just that, but it has people on a waiting list for services. The ability to read, write and speak proper English can lift people out of poverty, stabilize families and lessen the need for expensive social services. The Literacy Connection needs more money and tutors. It recently launched a community appeal for money so it can expand programming. It hopes to raise $30,000 in pledges for each of the next three years. Each of the 10 board members has committed to raising $1,000 per year, which would cover one-third of the goal. The organization plans fundraisers, including meat raffles at Jake's Junction Pub, 130 Merchant Row, Milton. Donate or learn more at theliteracyconnection.com.

Thumbs up to the Nature Explorer Day Camp. The new camp helped kids ages 6-11 get up close and personal with the wonders of nature at Rotary Botanical Gardens. The outdoor adventure camp was created as a partnership through the gardens and Janesville Leisure Services. At a time when too many kids sit inside watching TV or using other electronics, we need to inspire more children to get outdoors and consider careers in science and math. Kris Koch, the gardens' education coordinator, hopes the day camp will expand and help other program opportunities blossom in 2015. That, too, would be good to see.

Thumbs up to the keepers of the Half-Way Tree. Nancy Carney lives south of Brodhead. Only after she and her late husband bought their land in 1969 did they learn that they had become caretakers of a legendary bur oak. In the 1800s, Indians used the tree as a marker along a footpath between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. A sign on Half-Way Tree Road explains that Indian runners used the tree as a halfway marker between the waterways. Modern calculations pinpoint the actual midpoint within six miles of the 200-year-old tree. That doesn't diminish the importance of this stately oak, which visitors learn about at Brodhead's downtown depot museum. It was sad to see a majestic 150-year-old oak on the Rock-Jefferson county line north of Milton felled for the Highway 26 expansion project last year. Many motorists were familiar with that perfectly shaped oak. It's good, then, to see Nancy Carney and residents keeping this oak, and its story, alive in Brodhead.

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