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Crayons, Backpacks, and Face Masks

In the wake of COVID-19, new crayons, sneakers and notebooks are not the only focus for back-to-school prep. As the uncertainty of the future lingers, families face renewed stress about what the new school year will bring.  

At Grenville Baker, we are ready to help, and understand that we have an important role to play in both helping kids thrive and ensuring that families can access the affordable and nurturing after-school care they will need to be able to go to work with peace of mind. Moreover, both parents and children are yearning for a place to rebuild social connections and recoup lost academic ground. 

As we approach September, Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club will continue to work in concert with our schools, adjusting, and adapting to provide a safe place for our kids to go when school is out.  Our goal is not only to complement what school provides, but also safely enrich and advance kids’ learning experiences… plus ensure they have some fun along the way!  

Our doors will open on September 14th, and we can’t wait to welcome the kids back! With our construction project progressing, we expect to be in our renovated Clubhouse in early 2021. For the fall, we will continue to operate from the Bayville Recreation Center, Locust Valley Reformed Church, and St. Patrick’s Church.  

Please be on the lookout for our Fall Program Guide on our website for updated schedules and detailed safety protocols. You will notice that while our schedule may change, our commitment to our kids and our community remain steadfast.  

 

Crayons, Backpacks, and Masks.

For families of young children, August has traditionally been a time for back to school shopping while savoring the last weeks of summer in anticipation of the first day of school. In our community, and indeed across the country, this year is different. In the wake of COVID-19, new crayons, sneakers and notebooks are not the focus. Instead, the next few weeks are fraught with questions and concerns about what the approaching school year will look like. Decisions are being made by local schools that will have both immediate and long-term impact on our kids and their families. 

Since the shutdown in March, many working families are desperately looking for help as they seek to find an impossible balance between the demands of the workplace and the needs of their children. And while many youngsters have been negatively impacted by the prolonged closure of schools, those from low income households have faced the biggest challenges. The stopgap measure of remote learning can’t fill the gap for most kids, but especially for poorer students who face barriers such as limited computer use, poor wifi and internet access. 

At Grenville Baker, we are ready to help. We understand that we have an important role to play in our area’s recovery. As a first step, in preparation for the fall, we have met with our local schools and have learned that plans are being made that call for both flexibility and preparation. There are various scenarios of what school will look like including a combination of in school and remote learning with staggered in school schedules for students. The challenge for the schools and our Club is to be ready to respond in real time to living with a pandemic without a crystal ball.  

As we approach September, we will continue to work in concert with our schools, adjusting and adapting to provide a safe place for our kids to go when school is out. We will make it possible for working families to return to work by providing a safety net of affordable care. Our schedule may change, but our role will not. Going forward, students will need the extra support we can provide both academically and emotionally. Children who struggle in school will need extra assistance so as not to lose ground permanently.  

With our construction project progressing, we expect to be in our renovated Clubhouse in early 2021. For the fall, we will secure the use of our off-site locations at the Bayville Recreation Center, Locust Valley Reformed Church, and St. Patrick’s Church. We anticipate challenges with staffing and execution, but our veteran program staff is pulling together to find a workable solution. We will institute measures that safeguard everyone including wearing face masks and gloves, disinfecting all furnishings and equipment, social distancing in all play and study areas, prohibiting the sharing of food or other items, staggered arrival and dismissal times, and increased use of hand washing stations. 

The COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath will once again require our Club to adjust and to adapt to ensure that we are here to serve our community and our children. With your support, we are confident that we can meet this challenge, not just because of our history, but because of the people who make up Grenville Baker. 

Opening Doors for a Brighter Future

In mid 2019, Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club began construction on a bold project to expand and improve our Clubhouse to provide a diverse mix of recreational and educational spaces that is both inviting and fosters the wellness and success of all kids. In fact, in conceptualizing our renovation, our architect, builders, staff, and young members all weighed in on the kinds of settings and design elements that excite kids, nurture positive social and educational interactions, and encourage continued Club involvement over time. As we progress on our construction project, the excitement is growing, and our projected completion date of January 2021 couldn’t come at a more opportune time. With the COVID shutdown and all it has meant for our children and teens, the need for our programs has never been greater. 

Before the “pause, we had made substantial progress on the Project, though much of it was structural andnot always visible from the street. All concrete slabs had been poured and all structural steel and foundation work completed. Retaining walls, storm drains, and leaching pools were put in place and the new septic system, underground piping, and upgraded gas and electric had been installed. Mechanical, sprinkler and fire alarm systems were installed. The exterior work had begun on the front and rear additions and the framing of interior walls was in progress.  

Since returning to work, our crew has completed the framing for the 8,000 sq. ft. rear addition and the 1,000 sq. ft. front addition. They have roughed in the interior electrical and plumbing. The new HVAC unit and the ductwork have been installed. The interior framing and sheetrock have begun. Excavation of the new parking lot is under way.   

Therenovated clubhouse will incorporate natural light, sustainable materials and an inviting aesthetic to create a welcoming space for our community’s children.But beyond the newness of steel beams and safety features is the promise of new possibilities for our kids. Our modern facility will provide traditional and non-traditional learning spacesand multi-purpose facilities for recreation, athletics, gathering and play. There will be a dedicated space for the youngest members, studios for art and dance, a public meeting room,andnew teenand tweencentersfor middle and high school students.There will be tutoring and quiet learning spaces, digital media and technology labs, dining and gathering spaces, and a teaching kitchen. Ultimately, there will be a special place for everyone.  

Curious about what’s happening next? You need not remain an onlooker to our construction site. In fact, we are eager to share our vision with you and invite you to schedule a “hard hat tour.” Contact Ray Reyes at (516) 759-5437 x 217 orrreyes@gbbgc.org. 

Purpose. Strength. Pride. Our Teens, Keystone and the Community

Since the beginning of the quarantine, our Teen Director, Stephanie Urio, has stayed in touch with our teens on a regular basis, calling to check on their physical and emotional well-being. The teens have shared their sadness about missing friends, school, the Club, and all the traditional spring events that were cancelled. Despite these challenges, Stephanie was pleasantly surprised by their resilience as a group and the strong desire they expressed to keep their Keystone Club going, improvising, and finding safe solutions to achieve their goals.   

Zooming in to Kids’ Well-Being 

Keystone began the month of April with their first virtual Zoom meeting. They were happy to see each other and excited about the prospects of moving forward with their plans. To start the meeting, Stephanie invited a special guest speaker from the Long Island Crisis Center. “Before we could effectively help others, I explained to the members, it was important to make sure we were all feeling strong and getting help ourselves,” said Stephanie. The guest speaker started with an emotional check in, comforting the members and offering positive coping skills to use in life and, particularly, in a time of crisis. The members were fully engaged, asking questions and expressing their thanks. It proved to be a great way to kick off virtual Keystone and to keep the members connected.  

Earth Day Celebration 

For their first project during our “shut down, the teens partnered with the North Shore Land Alliance to celebrate Earth Day. The idea was for our teens to learn about the environment and how to preserve it, while having fun. Alliance representative Jane Jackson suggested several local preserves that were still open for walks and taught the teens to identify local wildlife and native plants, while discussing ways to practice conservation at home throughout the year. The members enjoyed an Earth Day scavenger hunt designed to get them outside, experiencing nature, and taking pictures of everything from litter (bad!) to flowers (good!). The animals seemed to be the hardest thing to find, proving reluctant to show themselves or to be part of the celebration. The teens persevered and the scavenger hunt was a hit. The winners of the competition were awarded with a pizza delivery to their house.   

Helping Families in Need 

Later in April, the teens held a successfulvirtual Bingo Fundraiser. Originally planned to support their trip to the Keystone Conference, the fundraiser was converted to a virtual event to help feed local families and children in need during the crisis. The members planned and advertised the event. They invited staff, alumni, and their peers. One silver lining was that some people who wouldn’t normally have been able to participate were able to log on and play. Nicole Luengas, a former Keystone member, supported the current members by playing from her dorm room at SUNY Buffalo.  After some lively competition, the event raised $255 and proved to be a positive lesson in turning disappointment into something great, all for a good cause. 

Lessons in Emotional Wellness & Paying it Forward 

Each year the Club completes a National Keystone project and this year the call to action focused on Emotional Wellness. Keystone Clubs across the country were charged with working to support their peers and to help them develop coping skills. The theme was particularly apt during the pandemic. The teens began the project in February, opting to create a PSA to let teens know that they are not alone and that it is okay to seek help. The members started the project in February, adapting as COVID limited their options and reframed the narrative. The script had to be updated to reflect the new reality of social distancing and members filmed their individual segments at home. Anthony Aguilar added the voiceover and Joe Valli wrote and performed the original piano music for the background.  Everything was submitted to Jimmy Mejia who edited and spliced all the pieces together.

In early May their PSA was completed with the hope of reaching other teens who are struggling, encouraging them to call the Long Island Crisis Center.  

May and June brought new chances to serve their community. For Memorial Day, our Keystone Club found a way to honor those who have gave all for our country by writing thoughtful messages and placing flags in front of the Club. It was a beautiful expression of thanks. 

In June, Keystone ran a food drive on two Thursdays to collect supplies for NOSH, a local organization that serves local families in need. Keystone also participated in a Cycling for Change Freedom Ride fundraiser. In the face of COVID, their annual bike race was adapted to include stationary bikes, running, and trail biking, all to raise funds to help end human trafficking and exploitation in the world. We look forward to following the good works of our Keystone Club throughout the year. 

Our Doors Were Closed… But Our Creative Minds Stayed Open Through Art 

Over the past few months, our art programming has had to adapt to the times. Thanks to the family of William Hinckley, GBBGC held a its first Virtual Art Contest in May. How fitting it was that the Hinckley family who stepped forward to sponsor the event to provide a fun way for our kids to stay positive and creative at home. After all, no one was more instrumental in developing the curriculum at our Club in its early days than our first executive director William Hinckley.   

During our “COVID shutdown,” Amanda, our art instructor, incorporated fun virtual lessons in art via Zoom with fun crafts for our kids to do at home using common household items. These creative projects have run the gamut, ranging from rocket ships to flowers.  

To encourage kids to keep participating, we created a Virtual Art Contest with the theme: “What advice would you give to someone to be safe, happy and healthy during quarantine?” The Club received 36 entries from kids ages 5 – 18 and the submissions included artwork, videos, poems, and essays. After careful consideration, an esteemed panel of judges awarded prizes to the winners in each age group. On May 21 and 22, the staff stopped by the homes of all of the winners to drop off their prizes.  

One very special presentation went to two sisters in kindergarten and third grade, who won awards in their respective age groups. Their mother Laura wrote the Club: “Thank you for making the girls feel like rock stars today! They were so excited when they found out they were winners and the front porch award presentation made it extra special.

The girls warmed everyone’s hearts by choosing to donate their winnings to NOSH, the local organization that helps feed families in need.We were happy to hear that mom and dad will be rewarding them with some ice cream for their generosity!  Thanks to you and the entire GBBGC family for all you do!” wrote Laura.The Club is such a special place and we feel so fortunate to have it in our community.   All our best to everyone.  We hope to see everyone again very soon!”