For 160 years, Boys & Girls Clubs have navigated times of tragedy and crisis to provide safe places for kids and teens. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boys & Girls Clubs of America established the COVID-19 Relief Fund to enable Clubs to continue critical response work and provide services as the nation emerges from this crisis. In March, The Coca-Cola Foundation donated $5 million to the COVID-19 Relief Fund to help support Boys & Girls Clubs commitment to youth and communities throughout the pandemic. Boys & Girls Clubs of The Twin Cities and Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties are just two examples of Clubs that have benefitted from The Coca-Cola Foundation’s support. Through COVID-19 relief grants, these Clubs have been able to properly support and uplift their youth and communities during this crisis.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of The Twin Cities, all Club locations are currently closed for youth programming in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 mandates. Although Clubs are closed, the needs of the youth and families persist. Since April, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities has provided more than 700 families with over 50,000 meals. Nearly 5,000 family wellness check-ins have been conducted – these calls focus on families’ immediate needs related to shelter, food, technology needs, and medical care (both physical and mental). The grant has also helped the Club strengthen virtual learning programs to ensure safe equitable access to internet connectivity and programming to support their youth members.
“Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities is doing everything possible to keep our kids, staff, and volunteers protected from the spread of COVID-19. We also have a responsibility during this time to increase support for our families as they now face additional challenges with school closures, work disruptions, and potential illness and health concerns. Through The Coca-Cola Foundation’s support, we are connecting with each one of our families to make sure they have the support they need while also working in small virtual teams to strengthen and enhance curriculum, lesson plans, and general Club operations,” Shannon Mattson, vice president of development & communications, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities.
As the Club begins to work through a reopening plan and further anticipate the needs of its community ahead of schools reopening, grant funds will help with sooner-than-expected full-day programming, operational, staffing and meal expenses.
As each Boys & Girls Club across the country serves the unique needs of its members and community, the majority of Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties locations have 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, Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties. As a recipient of The Coca-Cola Foundation’s COVID-19 relief grant, the Club has extended their ongoing emergency childcare services and refocused staff’s time to family support services, including food distribution to member homes and distance learning support.
Under normal conditions, Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties serves a high number of food insecure children, and COVID-19 has only expanded the number of food insecure households in the community. Through the grant, staff has been able to deliver food boxes to the front doors of more than 250 families each week. In addition to food, boxes contain household items, toys and educational materials.
As the mental health and well-being of its members is of utmost importance to Club staff, they have also ramped up mentoring and wellness check-ins utilizing social media, phone and video tools. In April, their “Virtual Club” was launched as the key distance learning resource for members and families. Each day, staff creates and curates new content that promotes academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and citizenship.
As we continue to realize the overall impact of COVID-19 on our youth, Clubs will need us now more than ever. No matter the need, Clubs are ready to do whatever it takes to help support youth and their communities during this pandemic as they transition from relief to recovery mode.