Making Lemonade, June 24, 2020
Over the past 70 years, Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club has had to evolve and adapt in the face of everchanging times. The past year has presented many new challenges including closures from our Building Great Futures Construction Project and from COVID-19. In response to each challenge, the Club has worked hard to pivot and to adjust, keeping our eye on the mission of serving the needs of our members.
In retrospect, the changes imposed over the past year by our construction project were relatively easy. With the help of community partners, we moved GBBGC Summer Camp 2019 to the Greek Orthodox Church in Brookville and then conducted our afterschool program at the Bayville Recreation Center, the Locust Valley Reformed Church and St. Patrick’s All Saints School. This required some adjustments for our members and our staff, but the welcome accommodations provided by each organization helped smooth our way.
Sadly, COVID-19 has presented a more daunting challenge; but despite this health crisis, our Club staff has once again found a way to serve our members. With schools and the Club closed due to the shutdown, the staff were able to pivot and to adjust to continue supporting our members academically, socially and recreationally. The staff let our kids know that we are all in the together and still within reach, even while they are at home. To achieve this goal, we developed “GBBGC at Home,” a multifaceted initiative that served our kids each and every day.
Each morning our kids were greeted with a daily Motivational Message by Ms. Michelle, one of our K-5 Directors. Her videos were fun and lighthearted, with reminders about the activities of the day and an inspirational message. Through her daily social media challenges, we were able to organize a successful thank you note drive to deliver to our local hospital to express our gratitude to our healthcare workers. Michelle’s” Good Morning” videos will continue through the summer.
In addition to a daily Homework Help and a Virtual Power Hour, we added a series of Virtual Learning Experiences that included a weekly theme-based collection of daily activities focusing on science, art, cooking, fitness, reading, language and fun. Themes have included D.I.Y., Music, and Disney. The virtual content was designed to provide parents with activities for their children that are enriching and entertaining for the kids. We also provided a library of websites that include distance learning, virtual field trips, or educational websites, for parents to utilize as they desire. We will continue to update this document on a weekly basis and always adding new resources that we find and think that our youth will benefit from and enjoy.
We have created a GBBGC At Home YouTube Channel just for the programs that we are delivering virtually. That way, anyone who is not able to tune in at the scheduled time, can check out activities they missed like Kids in the Kitchen and Ninja Warrior. We have utilized the Zoom App to conduct our Spring Programs including SMART Girls, Passport to Manhood, Mad Scientists, Coding, and Photography. For our parents, we have hosted Zoom chats in Spanish and English to answer their questions and concerns. With the Zoom platform we have also hosted Virtual BINGO and Club Dance Parties with everyone’s favorite DJ Mr. Carlos.
For our young adults who are experiencing stress and anxiety during this time, our Teen staff has stayed in close communication by telephone and Zoom. Our Teen Director, Stephanie, has been speaking to all of our “regulars” on a frequent basis, checking in with them about their mental and physical well-being. In addition, she continues to run virtual Keystone Club, Money Matters, and college counseling including scholarship application support, assistance with their schoolwork, and mentoring.
I am proud of our staff. When presented with lemons, they have made lemonade and not just through the virtual tools and apps; sometimes there is no substitute for some good old-fashioned interaction (from a safe distance). Our staff has staged drive-by parades and pizza deliveries to put a smile on the faces of our members. In cases of need, there have also made food deliveries in partnership with the concerned citizens of NOSH, all within the parameters and guidelines prescribed by state and local authorities.
Our staff at Grenville Baker remain committed to our mission and to doing what it takes “to inspire and enable all young people to realize their potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens and community leaders of tomorrow.”