By: Dean Bossenbroek            

  Once again, Briarpatch youth are encouraged to join this one of a kind competency development group.  Participants will learn valuable skills including how to budget money; how to be comfortable in new situations; how to discern where their hard earned money travels upon spending it; how to sniff out great deals; and where to find outside the ordinary jobs.

               The 2018 Thinking Outside the Big Box Tour got off to a humble start on Tuesday, June 19 with one client, John E., attending.  During this introductory session, John fully participated and got plenty of positive adult interaction with Anthony Johnson, Sergio Velasquez, Alessandra Gaglio, and myself.  John demonstrated a solid working knowledge of what constitutes a small business (fewer than 15 employees in his estimation), and was able to identify two family members, who own small businesses (a barbershop owning cousin and an auto repairing uncle).  Due to the low turnout, this group was short.  John was here from 1pm – 2pm.


   On Tuesday, June 26 our attendance doubled.  In addition to John, Jaheim W. joined us.  Jaheim confidently strolled into the group room and said, “Where’s my ten bucks.” 

               “It’s true,” I responded, “you will receive ten dollars for attending this group, but before we get to that and how that works, let’s introduce ourselves and do our check-in.” 

 Jaheim acted affronted, that a ten spot would not be immediately placed in his possession.  It turns out this was good-natured joshing.  Jaheim consistently displayed a sense of humor.  We got through the day’s inclusionary discussion topic – what sound do you love and what sound do you hate?  And then we moved on to a review of the group’s focus, rules, expectations, and the process for spending the money each participant earns for attending group.  This always gets the youths’ attention.  Jaheim, like many youth before him in years past, made an attempt to change the rules of the group by making an argument for getting to spend the money on things that have nothing to do with the Tour’s focus.  This was a continuation of his mock affrontery.

The day’s Tour destination was St. Vincent de Paul’s Resale Store on Odana Road.  Thrift and resale stores are an integral part of the Tour, and St. Vinnie’s is a great place to begin an exploration of our consumer values.  Jaheim expressed doubt, that he could find anything worth purchasing at St. Vinnie’s.  John had never been to St. Vinnie’s before, and reserved judgment until he could see for himself, what was available.  The boys spent a solid 30 minutes shopping.  They looked over the whole store, but spent the bulk of their time in the men’s clothing section.  They each did a great job of keeping track of how much their chosen items would cost.  They put some things back and chose different items.  They shared opinions about each other’s prospective purchases.  From my vantage point, they were having fun.

In the checkout line, I explained to them, that the clerk would be asking, if they would like to join the St. Vinnie’s Rewards Card Club, and how this is a great way to save money during future trips to any St. Vinnie’s store.  One racks up points with purchases, which leads to discounts on merchandise.  With this bit of information in their heads, they each responded positively to the clerk’s question, “Are you a Rewards Club member?  No?  Would you like to be in the Rewards Club?”, and filled out the necessary paperwork to obtain the official Rewards Club card.

On the way back to Briarpatch, we admired our purchases and I prepared them for a wrap up discussion, which would take place in the group room.  This did not happen.  When we got back to Briarpatch at 3:30pm, the whole building was abuzz with activity and confusion.  We were informed that, due to a tornado warning, everyone needed to head to the basement, which we did forthwith.  A youth previously unknown to me hung back with pretty clear intentions of going outside.  We talked.  His name was Moises, and he expressed doubt about any tornadoes heading our way.  I showed him the radar image on my phone of the threatening weather moving away from New Glarus and straight toward south Madison.  Moises was not convinced.  What Moises did know, was that if he went to the basement, he would miss his bus, and then he would be late for an appointment at Centro Hispano.  I shrugged and assured him the people he was supposed to meet would understand, why he was late.  Moises went into bargaining mode, “Okay, if I go to the basement and miss my bus, will you give me a ride?”

With zero hesitation I said, “Yes.”

Down to the basement we went. 

Once everyone in the building (about 50 people) was gathered in the basement, the din was dramatic, and made the large space feel small.  One youth, whose name I didn’t catch, insisted upon leaving and bolted upstairs.  I followed, beseeching him to remain in the basement until the tornado warning was over.  He stepped out the front door and pointed to all the evidence that nothing bad was happening:  a stream of traffic on Rimrock Road, people strolling the greenspace across the street, the staff person leisurely gathering her belongings from the backseat of her car, the mostly clear sky.  I tried a number of different tacks to convince him to return to the basement with me.  I’m not sure which one worked, but return he did. 

 Once the warning expired at 4pm, everybody breathed a sigh of relief – not at having dodged danger, but at being able to go back upstairs to fresh air and the light of day.  I found Moises and gave him the ride I’d promised a half hour before.