For 160 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have navigated times of tragedy and crisis to provide safe places for kids and teens. During the coronavirus pandemic, Clubs continue to do what they’ve always done – serve as an anchor for communities across the nation.
At the start of the pandemic, Clubs transformed their operations and shifted efforts to support basic needs like meals and snacks, virtual learning labs for students without digital access at home, and childcare for frontline workers. Through generous support from caring donors and partners, Clubs have been able to be agile in uplifting their youth and communities during this crisis.
Now two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the support that Club youth and staff need has changed. While some communities are still working to provide basic needs like meal programs, many are seeking mental health support for youth, academic assistance to help students get back on track, and social connection and mentorship for kids and teens.
Throughout it all and in the months ahead, Boys & Girls Clubs will continue to do whatever it takes to provide young people with safe spaces, caring mentors and life-enhancing programs.
The Pandemic Begins – Clubs Shift Operations to Meet Basic Needs and the New Realities of Local Communities
Like many Clubs at the beginning of the pandemic, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities closed for youth programming in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 mandates. But knowing the needs of youth and families persisted, they provided more than 700 families with over 50,000 meals. Nearly 5,000 family wellness check-ins were conducted, focusing on families’ immediate needs related to shelter, food, technology and medical care (both physical and mental).
At Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, the majority of their locations remained open to offer emergency childcare for essential workers. “If a worker is essential during this time, so is their child,” said Brian Ace, executive director. The Club extended their ongoing emergency childcare services and refocused staff time to family support services, including food distribution to Club member homes and distance learning support – delivering food boxes with food, household items, toys and educational materials to the front doors of more than 250 families each week.
Two Years Later – Communities Know Where They Can Turn
As the pandemic shifts and we begin to understand its impact on our kids and teens, it is more important than ever to build and maintain trust within local communities – and lean into the old idiom “it takes a village to raise a child.”
The Club is an essential part of that village, says Denieka Wicker, Senior Director of Operations of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Now two years into the pandemic, her Club continues to be a place the community can turn to, no matter what’s happening. Below, she shares how her Club maintains the trust of the local community.
We’re consistent. With schools closing on-and-off, households having to go on lockdown for potential cases, etc., we remain one of, if not the only, consistent factor in a young person’s life. Consistency is huge for kids and teens, especially during trying times. Not only does this build deep trust within the community, but it allows our staff to better serve youth, delivering high-quality experiences rooted in safe spaces and positive mentors.
We gather feedback from our families and community so that we can always be improving and so we’re ready to make decisions when the tides change – from hours of operation and virtual learning support, to social emotional wellness needs and beyond.
We’re in it with you – together.
We recognize the challenges that the pandemic has brought many of us and are committed to being there for our Club members and families, and our staff and their families. We understand the mental health struggles and emotional rollercoasters you might be going through and are here to remind you that everything will be okay. Our doors are open, our services are here for you. You are not alone.
While Boys & Girls Clubs have always served as anchors of their communities, the pandemic has solidified the importance of local Boys & Girls Club in communities across the nation.
What Kids and Clubs Need Now
Boys & Girls Clubs are continuing to adapt services to meet the needs of kids right now, including:
No matter the need, Clubs do whatever it takes to help support youth and their communities during this pandemic and beyond.
This article was previously posted on 6/16/2020 and updated on 1/5/2022.
Donate now to give more kids and teens safe spaces, caring mentors and life-enhancing programs.