With relationships at the core of the Boys and Girls Club organization, social distancing protocols encouraged the club to become innovative with their programming, staff, and resources in ways that will have long term benefits. “The biggest message that we had to make sure we were portraying was one of support to our staff and the families we serve. It was one of our missions early on that we knew that we needed to get through this as a community, and everyone had a role to play in that,” said Matt Forkin, director of program development.
By transitioning programming to online platforms, providing essential items to families, and implementing additional training for staff, the club has shifted the way it is perceived to impact our community. Boys and Girls Club CEO, Matt Lynn explained that this period has “allowed us to be able to expand our storyline of significance. People have seen us as an afterschool and summer enrichment program but being able to branch out and provide things like basic needs, people have said we’ve stepped up in a big way.”
Supply distribution sites were organized throughout the community and resources were provided to families no matter their affiliation with the club. “We knew needs existed, and we knew we needed to address it as a whole in the community because where there’s a need for one, there’s a need for all,” said Matt Forkin. “We gave out 3,910 rolls of toilet paper, almost 2000 packages of soap, almost 1,874 food boxes, over 500 feminine hygiene kits, over 150 Easter baskets when it was that weekend.”
The transitions in programming were achievable because of the generosity of community members and local organizations including the Kalamazoo Public Schools and the Stryker Johnston Foundation. “We were very blessed and very fortunate to have donors that helped support the financial resources we needed,” said Matt Lynn. “The generosity in Kalamazoo truly showed through. The fact that we were able to secure resources, both from individuals, from foundations, from companies that were looking to put money into systems they believe in.”
Virtual programming was also made possible due to the dedication of the staff. Through zoom calls and online programming, the staff has been able to connect with regional kids and provide the comfort of normalcy during these adverse times. “Our staff shoulder a lot of the emotional burden,” said Travis Cree, Boys and Girls Club board president. “They’re able to speak truth to it, and to truly understand and not just empathize, but truly understand what our youth are going through. I think that comes through in an authentic way.”
Although recent contributions have made current transitions in programming available, The Boys and Girls Club relies on its yearly golf outing as its largest fundraiser of the year. While the outing is typically scheduled for May, the club was able to postpone until July 13 for the safety of the community. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to continue on with it in the midst of so many organizations that have had to cancel fundraisers,” said Matt Lynn.
Golfer registration, corporate sponsorships, and contributions to the silent auction are still being accepted. “We are planning on less attendance, which is not a positive as far as this being our largest fundraiser of the year, but we understand that these are challenging times. To expect three full courses of golfers is a pretty high bar when a lot of folks have had challenges much beyond being able to play golf that day,” said Travis. “We’re just excited to get people out there and really enjoy the fellowship and enjoy raising money for the non-profit.”