How We Are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis
With the advancement of COVID-19, the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City (BGCAC) has quickly adapted to expanding our mission to support Club Kids, to include their families and our greater community. We quickly identified the critical need of providing food at a time when our Club families already live in a verified food desert and since our Clubs were closed, the daily meals we previously provided would need to be replaced. BGCAC quickly partnered with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey and has provided over 5000 meals to our Club families across our three Clubs within the last eight weeks. We continue to facilitate distributions every other week, ensuring that our families receive access to healthy and nutritious foods during this time of need. In addition, partnerships with local businesses have allowed us to engage our families at home through virtual cooking classes, united education and culinary exploration, along with a delicious Sunday dinner. Over 120 pizza kits, with instructional online support, were delivered curbside to our Club Kids, keeping families connected while they learn and dine together.
In addition to virtual culinary learning, our core programs have also transitioned online, including workforce development classes, college readiness courses, STEAM, Healthcare, Hospitality, Art, Mentorship, and Tutoring. Through the use of Google Classrooms, Zoom, and Facebook Live videos, we have been able to encourage our Club Kids to stay the course, and provide them with the academic enrichment they need to succeed. We have also enjoyed the pleasure of watching our Club Kids reconnect with their role models, our stellar staff, ensuring they are not feeling isolated while staying at home. The Club has recruited volunteers to assist with the delivery of educational packets, STEAM Kits and art supplies; we certainly recognize that these supplements are a welcomed package and help our Club Kids to engage virtually.
Aside from virtual learning, BGCAC has remained committed to staying connected to our community through the use of various social media outlets. By sharing food distribution information, club updates, educational activities, and even resources for parents including job forums and mental health tools, our social media pages have begun to cover a broad spectrum of virtual support for our community. Our “Club Connect” initiative quickly became a community favorite, hosting local role models on social media offering words of encouragement to our Club Kids and their families. “Club Connect” has hosted Executive Chef Aram Mardigian of Wolfgang Puck, Chef Kevin Kelly of award-winning Steve & Cookies By the Bay Restaurant and even comedian Sinbad.
What BGCAC Is Doing Moving Forward
At this time, we realize that the best way to stay connected is virtually. Through the use of Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and our weekly email newsletters, we are able to stay connected with our Club Families and local community, letting the public know that they are not alone. We stay committed to continuously updating our pages each day.
BGCAC is forging ahead and looking to the future, navigating social distancing, and planning procedures for an eventual re-open. We believe in keeping the spirit alive at the Club, but also working to build a better Club than we were before. The future need will be greater than it was before and we are committed to continuing to be the scaffolding our families climb to a better tomorrow. Exciting additions to the Club are underway, including a Music Recording Studio and a STEAM Robotics Lab. We have seen what happens to a community founded on one economic industry, i.e. hospitality, can lead to. Thus, during this time we are identifying new career pathways and engaging employers to build partnerships in education and training to diversify futures options for our Club Kids when they return. In addition, our facilities have been deep cleaned and we are developing new hygiene and sanitizing protocols to be followed, prevent the further spread of COVID and other illnesses.
Despite these unprecedented times, BGCAC remains focused on navigating unchartered waters, supporting our community, and representing itself as a beacon of hope to those in need. The staff is united and dedicated, working night and day to ensure our community is lifted through this time and reminded of the bright days ahead.