boys & girls clubs courtesy

A student works on an art project at Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens pre-COVID-19.

From uploading art tutorials on YouTube to sharing arts and crafts via Zoom calls, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens has accommodated their program to ensure social distancing.

The club provides an after-school environment for students ages 6 to 18 with fitness activities and academic success programs. The organization has lost an estimated $150,000 in revenue as students lose access to in-person after-school programs, said Mike Hackett, president and CPO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens.

The organization has raised more than $55,000 as of May 18 through GoFundMe to recover the lost revenue.

“So many parents in the community have had their lives flipped around from being laid off or having to work from home, and now they have to homeschool as well,” Hackett said. “We’re just trying to help them the best we can.”

Staying in contact with the participants is vital to the organization to ensure everyone is staying safe, healthy and making the best use of their time, Hackett said. The organization has also made sure students are receiving resources such as technology and WiFi if they can’t afford them, Hackett said.

27% of people in Clarke County lived in poverty in 2018, which is about double the national average of 13.1%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens intends to raise the graduation rate in the Clarke County School District, Hackett said, which was 81.4% in 2019, according to CCSD.

“Fortunately, the school district has helped with getting technology … so we’re fortunate that the deed is done there,” Hackett said.

While their Steak and Steak dinner fundraiser had to be canceled to follow COVID-19-related safety protocols, the organization has received numerous donations outside of the GoFundMe that will go toward its upcoming summer program, Hackett said. The fundraiser was originally scheduled for April 21, but moved to taking donations only instead of rescheduling, Hackett said.

“If everything clears up, we plan to open our doors on June 1 so that we can put on our popular summer program where we plan to entertain the kids all day,” Hackett said. “We plan to focus on certain areas during the camp such as health and fitness to get the kids moving again.”

The health and safety of the participants and family members is the organization’s number one concern, Hackett said. Between now and the anticipated opening date they will be monitoring changes in the rate of COVID-19 in the Athens area and ensure that medical supplies would be on hand if they do open, Hackett said.

In addition to the resources they are providing directly to the students, the Athens Clubs has ensured the participants are still receiving interactive learning opportunities. Second and third grade students experienced a virtual tour of the National Aquarium via Zoom on April 29, according to a Facebook post.

The national organization is providing free meals to kids and teens, especially in areas of state-mandated school closures, Jim Clark, the CEO and president of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, said in a video. The Athens Boys & Girls Clubs is not providing food because the Clarke County School District is distributing meals, Hackett said.

“Many clubs are now providing virtual programming where they’re adapting so that they can continue to do what we do best, provide safe fun places for youth to learn and grow,” Clark said in the video.

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