Boys & Girls Club begins 20th year of service

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Kynlee McMaster (left) and Bella Bryan engaged in a game of air hockey in the game room at the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County last week.

Amid the changes in everyone’s lives over the past few months, Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County has adapted to meet the challenge.

By spring break, it was likely that plans for a typical spring and summer would be much different than had been experienced before. Board members and staff would soon begin work on their determination of how the Club could still be viable and helpful to the young people of the Booneville and Magazine communities.

Boys & Girls Clubs across Arkansas would be doing the same.

The phrase “monitor and adjust” has long been used in youth development work whether in a school situation or youth organization. It’s a part of the everyday work. This time, it would mean a whole lot more.

Board members and staff will be the first to acknowledge that the success of the local Club over the past 19 years has been dependent on the partnerships that have been cultivated and have grown in the South Logan County area. This has been an anchor and lifeline since the beginning.

These partnerships have helped to provide stability and sustainability for the work of the organization. Involved and dedicated individuals, local businesses, civic organizations, faith-based organizations, local city and county government, both school districts in the southern region of the county, and service-oriented agencies such as United Way of Fort Smith Area have all played a vital part in the diverse resource stream that has enabled the Club to continue its services and meet needs for its young people.

In recent years, this resource stream has included expanded funding from state government, AEP Foundation grant program, and the partnership with United Way.

Now, it’s the year 2020. It’s a different time, to say the least. They will also acknowledge that opportunities abound to challenge them to see the world in a different way – to help young people see the world in a different way.

As the Club determined what function it would play in these times, it considered what “monitoring and adjusting” would become necessary. First, annual fundraising events would have to be postponed or canceled.

What would have been the 19th Annual Celebration Banquet was first postponed, and then canceled. The event that has pulled our community together in commitment and thankfulness for years, the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, would also be canceled. The 19th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament would be postponed for a later time in May.

As for operations, Club staff would experiment with what could become a new norm for many, virtual programming; the concern for an ever-present food insecurity among our children would provide a major opportunity of work for the Club; communicating with members would be discussed in order to keep staff and young people connected.

To prepare Club staff for the time when members once again would enter the facilities on a daily basis, hours of training for programming and safety protocol would need to be conducted. For the kids, programming would have to include good daily hygiene, social distancing, learning how to “keep your hands to yourself” more than ever before.

Limitations would be determined on how many members could be safely and effectively served at the Club sites in Booneville and Magazine. Then, there would be the determination of the effect of all of this on budget.

The exciting part in spite of the challenges was the encouragement and support from the partnerships that have arisen to the occasion for the Club’s ongoing services – services that look different from other times in the past. Even though the Club’s part-time staff had to be furloughed for two weeks, they were quickly called back through approval of a Paycheck Protection Program loan in early April.

When they returned, numerous phone calls were made, many letters were written and read and answered through the Pen-Pal project, activity bags were prepared and distributed, and a large amount of program planning and preparation were accomplished.

An Arkansas Economic Development Commission “Ready for Business” grant has provided funding for personal protective equipment, sanitizing and cleaning supplies and equipment, restocking of programming supplies, and other needs that will become necessary through the coming months.

Rockline Industries has given an in-kind donation of 100 canisters of disinfecting wipes to assist the Club with daily sanitization procedures.

Through grants received from the Arkansas Community Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund, United Way of Fort Smith Area’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Kiwanis Club, Lion’s Club, Rotary Club, as well as donations from faith-based organizations, businesses and individuals, as well as an in-kind donation of over 28,600 snack food items from the Community Services Clearinghouse in partnership with United Way of Fort Smith Area, the Club has prepared and distributed almost 4,200 snack bags to children in Magazine and Booneville.

They have also begun including extra snacks for weekends in 1,425 of those bags as a result of the in-kind donation. This work will continue as long as needed.

In May, the board of directors and staff finalized a plan and voted to open the Club in Booneville and Magazine to children age 6 to 12 whose parents had been able to return to work but still needed assistance with having a safe place during the day for their children.

Through support from the Booneville and Magazine school districts and their respective summer food programs, the Main Club site opened on June 1 to a maximum of 50 members, and the Magazine Elementary School site opened on June 8 to a maximum of 20 members. As of the time of this report, both sites are currently at approximately 50 percent of capacity.

Executive Director, Rick Scott, says that “This has been good. It has given the staff a chance to test our plans, set a routine for the kids, and practice their protocol for safety procedures, sanitization and cleaning.”

Even with limited attendance this summer, staff still have planned numerous activities and programs. Their special programming for the summer, “Summer of Wellness” supported by a mini-grant from the Blue & You Foundation, will present “Health, Hygiene, & Happiness,” “Team Emergency,” “No Way! Know the Way!” “Be NetSmartz” and “Safe & Secure Patrol.”

For the Club’s vital fundraising events, their 19th Annual Benefit Golf Tournament did occur on May 23 and 24 after two postponements,. Event organizers reported that it was a big success for the Club and that everyone followed guidelines and course rules.

In the coming week, people driving on Highway 10 between Booneville and Magazine will again see the familiar yellow and red tent planned to be located in the parking lot of the National Guard Armory. That tent has been the center for hundreds of hours of volunteer help and fundraising activity for many years. It is a major source of support for the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County.

At this time, it is believed that the annual Bean Dinner and Pie Auction will still be held in November. These events and the generosity of its partners and donors are means of support that are necessary to sustain the non-profit organization in the South Logan County area.

The Club invites you to find out more about its day-to-day activities by visiting its website, www.bgcslc.org, or its Facebook pages. You are also invited to speak with them about how you can become a financial supporter of the organization by calling Rick Scott at 675-2764, or by speaking to one of the Club’s board members.

Jose Medel (left) and Caitlin Jones were socially distant in the computer lab at the Boys & Girls Club of South Logan County last week.