McKinley third-grade classroom wins unique United Way bookshelf


Shana Halverson’s third-grade classroom at McKinley Elementary School in Stevens Point won a one-of-a-kind Blenker Companies-designed bookshelf, stocked with books, from United Way of Portage County, following a reading contest open to all third-grade classrooms in Portage County.

Participating classrooms each had a reading goal based on the number of students in their room. “With three weeks to meet this goal starting in early January, every one of the 17 classrooms did an amazing job in reading, with 11 of the classrooms meeting or exceeding their stated goal to become eligible for the bookshelf drawing,” said Laura Pfeil, United Way of Portage County Community Services Manager. All participating classrooms received a set of “Dog Man: The Epic Collection” books.

Combined in all participating classrooms, students read for 109,096 minutes. Pfeil said 336 students read an average of 325 minutes each, fulfilling United Way’s goal of encouraging students to read more.

During United Way of Portage County’s 2017 Recognition Luncheon at the Holiday Inn on Jan. 23, Peter Blenker, who built the bookshelf, drew the name of the winning classroom from a bucket containing names of all the qualifying classrooms. Peter and his wife, Pam Jewell, the bookshelf designer, helped deliver the bookshelf, which was stocked with grade-level books, to Halverson’s classroom on Wednesday, Jan. 31. As an added bonus, they also gave each student in her classroom a writing journal. Peter and Pam, along with the rest of their family, led the United Way campaign as drive chairs in 2017. They, along with their three sons, own and operate Blenker Companies, Inc., in Amherst.

United Way’s Learn for Life sponsored the contest. Learn for Life provides second and third-grade students who struggle with reading a tutor on a regular basis to increase reading achievement. Nearly all schools in Portage County participate in the program. More than 100 volunteers serve as tutors; however, tutors and substitute tutors are still needed in several schools. Learn more about how you can volunteer at or by calling 715-341-6740.