Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement
offers educational classes, trips, and tours to retired members of the Chippewa Valley.
History and Origin of CVLR (originally ILR) Fall 1993
At the first department meeting of the Apparel, Textile, and Design Department, the department chair assigned each teacher do some project beyond teaching. Ken Heintz thought Stout needed a system to bring back retired professors and have them offer classes to senior citizens. He was advised to contact Jerry Kirsling and Sharon Olson to help him pursue this project.
In the spring of 1994, the original three met at Sharon’s house and invited others to attend. Mary Bell Hickner helped them get a $200 grant. Ken used some of the grant money to put ads in the Dunn County News about the group. Following this announcement, twenty-eight to thirty people met. Ken invited Marv Lansing to attend the meeting. Jerry Kirsling contacted Betty Bennett at UW Green Bay who had just set up a group of this type in Green Bay. She hopped on a bus and also attended this meeting. They met in the senior center kitchen area and named Marv the first chair of the group. After the meeting, Betty immediately returned to Green Bay via bus.
This group arranged to meet in Heritage Hall/Home Ec Building 210. They used more of their grant money to purchase coffee and donuts. Ken expected about twenty-five people to attend, but one hundred people showed up. They collected $10 in annual dues from each of them and ended up with $1000…money to burn!
That was the first meeting of the organization which became the Institute for Learning in Retirement in the Chippewa Valley. Stout provided an office, and its accounting office processed the group’s monies. The original officers were Marv Lansing, President; Eva Mewes, Treasurer; and Ken Heintz, Secretary.
For sixteen years the organization served predominately Menomonie area residents. In 2010, we left UW-Stout due to financial considerations and became an independent 401(c)(3). Since then, our Eau Claire area membership has blossomed, and our overall membership has tripled. Now CVLR has members from Weyerhauser to the north, Stanley to the east, River Falls to the west, and Hixton to the south. After twenty years, we continue to make the CVLR experience very meaningful for its members.
Courses or sessions offered through the CVLR are open to anyone who is “retired.” There is no particular experience or educational background required of a participant. Course subjects grow out of member interests. Course length, scheduling, and structure are determined by the coordinators. Course leaders do not necessarily have formal credentials. They are people who have knowledge and skills in a particular subject. All coordinators and presenters volunteer their time, efforts, and expertise without monetary compensation. .
Members must pay yearly dues. Some classes and trips have additional costs to cover fees directly incurred for that class or trip. Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement does not take a percentage of the fees charged for these classes and trips but charges the actual costs to the participants.
Elizabeth Fischer – President
Claudeen Oebser – Vice President
Kay Ironside – Treasurer
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement
Fiscal Year August 2021 – July 2022
During the twelfth fiscal year of Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement from August 2021 through July 2022 we were still dealing with a concern in our members and the community about COVID. Although we held in-person classes in the Fall term, registration was via mail only. We did not want a large gathering at in-person registration for fear of spreading the virus. While we held hands-on classes, we did not offer bus trips in the Fall term. We required membership renewal for the first time since 2019, and membership dropped 36% from 889 members to 616. We did get 35 new members, but the number of new members was less than half of normal.
For the Spring/Summer term we held in-person registration for classes with fees and trips only. The Board decided to offer trips beginning in May with three stipulations: members’ checks for the trips would be held until we felt assured the trips would definitely go; everyone on the trip had to be vaccinated if required by the venue; and everyone on the trip had to wear a mask on the bus and at the venue, again if required by the same. By May and June COVID restrictions had relaxed, and we were only required by the first trip, which was to the History Theatre, to show vaccination cards. Coincidently, our first bus to the History Theatre turned around at Menomonie because the performance was cancelled due a main cast member and the understudy for the part both getting COVID. The History Theatre turned back 1000 tickets totally due to those illnesses.
We recorded 30 of the lecture offerings in the Fall and 30 in the Spring/Summer terms, making them available on our website for two weeks for members to view. Throughout the term, members increasingly gravitated toward watching the recordings. They have come to view the recordings as an important part of CVLR. Many watched classes they had not intended to attend.
We held a Holiday Luncheon December 2 at the Florian Gardens with Krismas Kookies as our entertainment and 266 in attendance. We also held a class December 15 to show a recording of the History Theatre’s performance of Christmas of Swing featuring the Andrews Sisters. The equivalent of three buses, 162 members, signed up to attend.
While most of CVLR’s membership resides in the core cities of Menomonie and Eau Claire, members come from as far away as Baldwin and Glenwood City to the west; Chetek and Bloomer to the north; Stanley and Cadott to the east; and Hixton, Whitehall, Osseo, and Independence to the south.
We are a member-driven, all volunteer organization. Our members belong to Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement because they are intellectually curious. They want to learn about topics of interest to them and socially interact with like-minded individuals in the area. Members presented 42 of our 141 classes this year, tapping into their areas of expertise and their experiences.
We use e-mail to communicate with our membership. We send class reminders via e-mail, announce registration and holiday luncheon mailings, and inform of class changes and cancellations. Since 97% of members have e-mails, this has become a very useful communication tool. In addition to listing the current schedule and updates of what’s happening with CVLR, we use the CVLR website to give information on the organization, show photos of projects prior to registration, and host follow-up recordings, power points, and articles.
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement is currently overseen by an eleven-member board of directors. All eleven board members continued their terms in 2021. Officers Elizabeth Fischer, president; John Stoneberg vice president; Kay Ironside, treasurer; and Sally Felling and Amy Alpine co-secretaries all retained their positions. In addition to their fiscal and organizational contributions, board members also initiate and coordinate programs. They coordinate the bulk of the programs, direct the program committees, and mentor new program committee members. Since these program committees are key to the success of CVLR, we have been expanding the number of members involved in them.
Chippewa Valley Learning in Retirement is a 501(c)(3) organization and is designated as exempt from sales tax by the State of Wisconsin.