May 5, 2020
Parents, donors, and community members-
How things have changed! I hope you are doing well and keeping healthy amidst this ever-changing reality. Two months ago I would have never predicted where we find ourselves now, and I struggle to predict where we will be in another two months. However, I am confident that we will still be creatively executing our mission of “empowering all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential”. I am proud of the decisions that we have made during this season, and that plans that we are making to expand our services to better serve youth during this COVID crisis.
Our mission is the same now as it has always been. However, we have had to pivot to meet the needs in our community during this COVID crisis. Our team has had to think creatively. Our Board and staff have moved from mourning what we can no longer do to celebrating what we can, and with that change we have discovered that we are uniquely equipped to meet community needs. This is happening in four ways:
- Emergency Childcare – As school closures began, and “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” was implemented, we had to adjust our programs to offer emergency childcare to essential workers. We are thankful that our school district partners responded financially to support this work! Our staff adjusted programing to promote social distancing, perform health checks on kids, and increase cleaning. We lowered group sizes and staff ratios. The availability of emergency childcare has ensured that our essential workers can be present for our community, whether parents are nurses, truck drivers, or grocery workers. If a worker is essential during this time, so is their child!
- Family Support Service – Under normal conditions, we serve a large percentage of food insecure children in our programs. The COVID crisis has only expanded the number of food insecure households through underemployment and lack of access to community resources. Our staff are in contact with families in need, and are currently directly delivering food boxes to over 250 families each week. In addition to food, boxes contain household items, toys and games for kids, and educational packets to promote continuous learning. This personal connection with families provides resources and referrals at a critical time, and meets them right where they are.
- Youth Programs – Our staff, especially our Teen Coordinators, have been maintaining mentoring relationships with our Club members using social media, phone, and video tools available to them. The needs of youth, especially with school closures and continuous learning, become more evident to us each day. We are exploring new program models, such as internet access and tutoring as well as prevention and social support programs delivered remotely.
- Virtual Club – If we cannot bring the community to our Club, what does it look like to bring the Club to them? Virtual Club was born from this question, and has the potential to reach ALL youth in our community, not just those that would walk through our doors! We are leading the way for this program model across the nation, currently offer a Virtual Club Live program each day at 1:00 as well as regular program videos and challenges for youth. I encourage you to visit Virtual Club on the web or on YouTube for more info!
Planning for the Future
We are stepping up to meet the needs of our community during this time, but we are also preparing to resume normal operations in the future. As Washington State prepares to reopen business, and restarts our economy, we will be prepared to flex our service model to meet the needs of our community. When it is time to add and expand services, we will!
We will continue to follow best practice guidelines by state and local health officials and will work in collaboration with our private and public partners. Social distancing will be a norm in our work for the time being, and staff are working to creatively plan program options that are fun, engaging, and safe! Expect our work to look different while at the same time being mission consistent and focused on our outcomes of Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Good Character and Citizenship.
I want you to feel confident that your Boys & Girls Club, serving your community, is finding solutions to the problems in front of us rather than sitting on the sidelines. We are celebrating who we can be more than we are mourning what we can’t do. Most importantly, we are bringing hope and support to the young people we have always served, and the broader community as well.
Please reach out to me if you have questions about the decisions we have made, the programs we are implementing, or our plans for the future. I welcome the chance to connect with you about our work.