The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lee County didn’t have the privilege of closing its doors when the pandemic began, said Richard Curry, club chief executive officer.
After the pandemic began, the Boys & Girls Club found other ways to serve Lee County children with virtual programs and meals during the day. Now, with some restrictions lifted, they are offering a summer-camp opportunity: “Straight Outta Quarantine.”
“We’ve committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure the young people in the community have the tools and resources they need,” Curry said.
Straight Outta Quarantine is an all-day program from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. with all kinds of activities for the children attending.
If there had been no pandemic, the Boys & Girls Club summer camp would have had about 250 children in attendance — now there are only 50.
“(Straight Outta Quarantine) centered around making sure our young people had a safe place to go and they weren’t left to their own devices,” Curry said.
Although the club wants to offer a safe, fun and academic summer program for children, it has to make sure both the children and volunteers are safe.
“They come in and have their temperature checked and a series of questions, and it’s more of a drive-thru, drop-off component, and then they go to their home room, which is where their pod is for the entire day and so they stick with that group of kids,” Curry said.
The Program Manager, Janataka Holmes, said the club has safety checklists that are completed every day.
“How do we pivot, how do we make sure that our young people still are able to be served and what does that plan B-Z look like,” Curry said. “So the biggest thing is just preparing for the unknown and being ready to do literally whatever it takes to make it happen for our kids.”
Staff members have been training in safety too so that not only are they protected, but the children.
“We certainly sat down with all of them to make sure that they understood the importance of masks, we’ve hired a sanitation worker to make sure that all of the program areas are cleaned thoroughly,” Curry said.
Everyone wears masks, children and volunteers, Holmes said.
“I feel like here we give (children) a positive place to come,” she said. “Of course, during the pandemic most children have been in the house and not able to get out, but now we’re able to provide them a safe, clean place that they can come.”
The day includes all kinds of activities for the children in “Straight Outta Quarantine,” such as arts and crafts, outdoor play and more.
“I’ve been painting a plate to make a landscape, I went outside, I jumped rope, I played football,” said one of the children, Jaedon Johnson about his daily activities, but his favorite part of the day was lunch.
The club also wants to make sure that the academic needs of the children are met as well, Curry said.
“We’re working with our partners at both school systems to make sure that we as an organization have the resources that we need to make sure that the kids have the resources that they need,” he said.
This means that when restrictions lift, teachers will join the staff at the Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s very important to me to continue to pour into the children during the pandemic, let them know they still can learn, they still can have fun in a positive and safe environment,” Holmes said.
Another kind of pandemic
In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lee County has had to address the racial issues that took a seat of prominence in the country after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a former police officer.
“The world is kind of facing two pandemics now in this moment and there’s some tough conversations to be had,” Curry said. “I always encourage people to have those conversations with kids, age-appropriate conversations with kids, certainly centered around race right now.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lee County has been having conversations with the Auburn Police Division and the Opelika Police Department about ways to connect officers with children.
The club has been having conversations with the teenagers in the club as well, but allowing their voices to be heard too.
“I want the community to remember that the Boys & Girls Club is designed to be that beacon of hope,” Curry said. “We want to make sure that it’s not just any type of kid that comes to the Boys & Girls Club, all kids ages 6-18 can come to the club, and I think that the Boys & Girls Club has always served as the great equalizer.”
To register, visit www.bgcglc.org or call 334-502-1311.