Boys & Girls Clubs staff across the nation are rolling up their sleeves to maintain connection with young people and mitigate learning loss during a noticeably different summer. While nearly 1,000 Club sites are serving youth on site, kids in many communities cannot return to in-person Club programming as the nation continues to respond to COVID-19. In some of those communities, the Club experience is being delivered to families’ doorsteps.
Activity kits filled with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, puzzles, books and science experiments have become an integral component for reaching youth and families since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered most Boys & Girls Clubs in March. While kids have even more unstructured time during the summer, Clubs hope that engaging activities will provide a relief from screen time and create positive memories.
“We know our populations are vulnerable and to think about them not being connected to the Club is frightening,” said Kimberly Key, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento
. “The Club is their lifeline and we need to keep that going the best we can.”
During a recent delivery of activity kits to a public housing development, kids were waiting outside with eager anticipation when staff members from Boys & Girls Clubs of Sacramento arrived. The children screamed with excitement not only for fun activities, but for the opportunity to see their Club mentors.
Home deliveries also allow staff to assess family well-being and needs for food and hygiene items, Kimberly said. A weekly kit that included a waffle iron and ingredients for homemade waffles encouraged families to spend quality time together. More recently, kits included a journal for youth to write their reactions to and experiences with racial injustices.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo
, staff were alarmed by reports from teachers and parents saying homes lacked reading books for children. The Club delivered a 10-book library to 100 kids along with crayons, markers, construction paper and basic supplies that correspond to virtual activities hosted by staff.
Shawna Woody, director of program operations at Boys & Girls Club of Toledo, said the Summer Brain Gain
program has been adapted for virtual learning. In July, the Club plans to begin offering in-person day camp for 32 kids per week to allow social distancing. Boys & Girl Clubs of Toledo normally serves more than 250 kids during summer camp.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine
is also delivering activity kits to children who are registered for virtual summer camps. The kits will contain writing materials, art supplies and STEM activities so youth can follow along with virtual lessons.
Karen MacDonald, COO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, said the activity kits foster a sense of connection, combat learning loss and address loneliness for youth who lack social interaction during long summer days. Like many other Clubs, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine is continuously assessing whether they can resume in-person programming with social distancing and safety procedures.
“We all thought we’d be back in person by the summer,” Karen said. “Now as circumstances evolve, we know our members need the Boys & Girls Club as well as regular activities to keep them active and have some learning engagement.”