CARTERET COUNTY — When schools shifted to remote learning at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, parents and children were propelled into uncharted territory.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain found that many of the students it serves were struggling academically, and some families were lacking access to Wi-Fi and technology and in need of food assistance and childcare.
With funding from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), the Boys & Girls Clubs shifted its operations to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions and purchased PPE and educational supplies for staff and students.
“There was no pandemic playbook for youth development, but the needs were real and critical,” said Kimberly Boyd, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain. “Our shift to both remote engagement and smaller club-based experiences required that we consider safety and development in a whole new light. The investment from Blue Cross NC supported the efforts to keep young people safe, active and learning.”
The $135,000 investment allowed the club to continue its mission of providing safe and supportive environments and quality after-school programming to youth, ages 6 to 18, across seven eastern North Carolina counties. The club’s programs focus on academics, career-readiness, fitness and character development such as self-confidence, leadership and teamwork.
“Blue Cross NC understands the positive impact of youth education and a character-development curriculum in and out of the classroom,” said Cheryl Parquet, director of community engagement and marketing activation at Blue Cross NC. “During times like these when families need them the most, it’s important that local organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs are able to continue helping their communities.”
The club’s in-person program, Club Academy, was reimagined to virtual format, offering online tutoring sessions and mailing families “Club@Home Kits” containing materials such as construction paper, markers and pencils to support at-home learning.
While students could not physically engage with its facilities, the Boys & Girls Clubs remained socially connected with their program participants through its OneCall system by emailing, calling, texting and sending direct mail for those without digital access. The organization conducted surveys with their families to gain insight on how its teams could best serve communities during this ever-evolving time.
“The Boys & Girls Club goes above and beyond to help their students,” said Laura G., parent of a program participant. “You can tell that they work very hard to create a safe, nurturing environment at the club and virtually. Both of my kids love going to the after-school program, and it helps to know that they are somewhere where they are well taken care of. We cannot imagine either of my kids being a part of a better club.”
When gathering restrictions eased in June, the Boys & Girls Clubs reopened 15 of its 17 facilities. While some facilities are following the club’s traditional after-school model, others are operating as a virtual learning site for students during school hours.
In addition to their programs, the Boys & Girls Clubs supported local school efforts by using its clubs in Craven and Carteret counties as evening and weekend food distribution locations for those in need. It also held meal distributions in Pitt County.
For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain, please visit https://www.bgccp.com/. To learn more about how Blue Cross NC is helping North Carolinians through COVID-19 and beyond, please visit ttps://www.bluecrossnc.com/community-investments.