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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. 

Lemons To Lemonade

 

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.”