Three local women celebrated for equity, diversity, and inclusion Tomah’s AAUW branch holds annual recognition reception


Back in 1972, a Tomah branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) was formed. One of the founding members, Mary E. Wedin, was an avid promoter of Women’s History Month. Therefore, in honor of Wedin, the non-profit organization holds their annual recognition banquet every March.

On Wednesday, March 20th, 2024, the event took place in Tomah’s Area Community Theatre’s Cabaret Room.  Three local women were recognized for their advocacy for equity, diversity, and inclusion: Peggy Anderson, Jenny Betthauser, and Pam Buchda.

Peggy Anderson

Born and raised on the Potter Cranberry Marsh, in Warrens, honoree - Peggy Anderson, has a growing legacy of entrepreneurship, community commitment, and tourism. The fifth-generation cranberry grower attended the University of Wisconsin River Falls and earned a degree in physics and math. She returned to Warrens, to raise her family, with her husband, Dale.

Anderson and her family, immediate and extended, created the Cranberry Expo Museum and Gift shop, in August of 1989. The museum is a favorite spot for tourism and children’s educational field trips. It was even featured in Successful Farming magazine and has been recognized by organizations, such as the Wisconsin Ag-Business Council, Western Wisconsin Technical College, Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs-Coulee Region, and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The family gave the museum to the Wisconsin Cranberry Grower’s Association in 2001.

Anderson has spoken at many cranberry industry events and has published cranberry related books. She was a founding member of Warren’s Cranberry Festival and regional director of the Women’s Ag-Tourism Association. Along with Warrens Area Business Association, she helped create the Warren’s Bike/Auto tour map.

Anderson continues to serve the community as a volunteer at the Millston Area Museum and Discover Cranberry Museum in Warrens. She also helped reorganize the Clinton/Potter Family Foundation, as the Warrens Area Foundation, where she now serves as a board member. The reorganization was made to improve the Warrens area.

After receiving her certificate and a bouquet of flowers during the recognition ceremony, Potter said a few words. “I would just like to say that I am so very grateful to live in a community with all these wonderful people who generously give of their time and talents,” said Potter. “Thank you! It is so nice to see so many faces that really made a big impact on my life.”

Jenny Betthauser

The second 2024 Honoree recognized by AAUW was Jenny Betthauser. Betthauser graduated from Viterbo University and became a teacher for Tomah Area School District in 2011. She is the current 5th grade teacher at Warrens Elementary School. She is an active volunteer for the school, participating in bake sales and other fund-raising activities that help finance the yearly Washington D. C. safety patrol and Wisconsin Dells trips. In 2016, she won the Top-Notch Teacher Award from WKBT News 8000. Betthauser initiated a food drive in 2023, to help supply 20 children and their families, who were in need, during the 12-day Christmas vacation.

Betthauser serves as a secretary, emergency medical responder, and firefighter, for the Town of Lincoln fire department. She was recently honored for saving a small boy from drowning in Warrens.

Betthauser serves as a Trustee of the Warrens Area Foundation. She volunteers as a secretary for the Monroe County Emergency Services Association. The association is comprised of representatives from every emergency response agency in the county, who meet for comradery and promoting training standards in the area.

After a round of applause, Betthauser was given the chance to speak, too. Betthauser stood strongly behind the podium and projected in her teacher-voice to the room saying, “I just wanted to say thank you to everyone. I have had a lot of positive role models in my life, growing up here in Tomah. All my wonderful teachers in the Tomah School District, inspired me to become an educator myself.”

The women attending were particularly interested in the story behind her becoming a firefighter, and she was asked by the audience to share. “That was my dad,” she said, with a giant smile. “He was always showing me that, ‘Yes, you are a girl, but you can do anything you put your mind to.’ So, he would take me with him, on calls. He was a volunteer for Tomah’s volunteer fire department. And I remember being a kindergartener and thinking, ‘I am going to have a pink pager and I am going to be a firefighter.’”

The room erupted in laughter. Betthauser continued, “I guess I am kind of living both dreams here — I got to be a teacher and a firefighter. I want to make sure to instill in my students that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Pam Buchda

While Pam Buchda is not necessarily from Tomah, she has made her home in the city and done many wonderful things for the community. Buchda has voiced her strong opinions, while she served on the Tomah Area School Board, Tomah Montessori Board, the Tomah City Council, the Rotary Club, a Lioness, AAUW Tomah Branch, Tomah Concert Association, State Aging Counseling Center, Jackson County Mental Health Association, and Dementia Friendly Coalition of Monroe County.

Buchda always had a passion for working with others. While she thought, at first, she would be working with kids, Buchda has devoted her live to working with seniors and disabled people.

Loving learning, Buchda found herself taking classes at Viterbo, in nursing. She then changed her major to sociology. Then, she enrolled in the home economics program, with a minor in sociology at the University of Wisconsin Stout. Believe it, or not, she changed her major a few more times, and then finally landed with a degree in family life and human development with a minor in sociology.

In 2018, Buchda became Tomah Senior and Disabled Services Director. Previously, she was the activity director for Cuban Refugee Program, Lutheran Services, and Family Heritage Home; worked in Elroy, New Lisbon and Mauston, for the Mile Bluff Medical Center and Tomah Care Center; and Director and Counselor at the Wazee House for Native Americans with Addictions.

While Buchda was away from Tomah, she realized she missed the community, particularly the Rotary Club. When the job became available, she returned to Tomah Care Center ,as activities director, where she continues to excel.

Since Buchda has taken the role as services director, the Tomah Senior Center has seen major renovations and upgrades, particularly to the medical equipment closet and kitchen area.

Buchda has also made changes to the activities offered. There are new activities, such as line dancing, sign language, basket weaving, games of choice, card playing, and live music, at every Friday and Sunday Funday events, adaptive fitness, and more. Buchda also has professional speakers come in and discuss topics, such as dementia, hospice and palliative care, and more. Buchda made flu shots and exercise programs available, as well. Buchda opened the center to support other local groups, by hosting meetings, too.

After receiving her certificate, bouquet, and a round of applause, Buchda spoke a few words on the importance of mentors. “I am much more comfortable under the radar than up here,” she began, jokingly. “Along my life path, I have had a lot of people who are mentors. Be a mentor towards others because that is it, in a nutshell ... these mentors are just wonderful. There is a whole network out there. Get to know people. Get involved.”

In a final comment, Buchda's graceful personality showed. “I walked in [to the reception], and I read that list of women [previously recognized], and to be on there with them? I am so honored — thank you.”

Interested in joining?

The Tomah Branch invites women, and men, to join the local chapter. Joining Tomah’s branch of AAUW provides the opportunity to participate in local programing, receive materials for activities, and attend webinars and conventions. Persons are currently required to have an associate degree or higher, and there is a $101 annual fee, including $72 for national membership, $13 for state, and $16 for Tomah.

If you are interested in becoming a member, contact Audrey Chambers, membership chair, with any questions at (608) 372-0859.


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