Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana began offering a variety of virtual resources for its Club members on Tuesday, April 22. These services, made possible in part by a grant from the Anthem Foundation, will be available through Club Connect, a safe online community on the organization’s website during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though all ten of its Clubs in Porter and Lake counties have been closed since March 13 to ensure the safety of Club members, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana president and CEO Ryan Smiley said that the organization will continue supporting its Club families.
“A lot has changed in the past few weeks for everybody,” Smiley said. “But we know it’s important to keep providing services that our Club members rely on and assisting families however we can.”
The process of determining which services the organization would offer was led by vice president of human resources and operations Kris Condon. Staff reached out to Club parents to find out how families were doing and ask what Boys & Girls Clubs could do to help them.
“Through wellness checks with families, we learned that some Club members are struggling with e-learning assignments, and parents are having a hard time with some of the behavioral issues their children are exhibiting because of the anxiety and isolation,” Condon said. “Based on what we heard, we knew we could help our families even though we are not seeing members in our Clubs right now.”
Among the resources offered is Your Club at Home, which enables members to enjoy the Club experience remotely. Your Club at Home programming includes art projects and fitness activities, as well as the Indiana Kids and MyFuture programs. Parents and Club members also can search for activities by grade or topic.
Another critical resource the organization is offering is e-learning assistance, which allows Club members to schedule a phone call or video chat with Club tutors who can assist with homework.
“The academic success of our Club members is a very important component of our programming,” Smiley stated. “And while we have expanded some of our services as a result of the pandemic, e-learning assistance is a priority for us right now. Our parents are telling us that their children are stressed over e-learning assignments, and some of our parents are struggling to help them - whether because of a technology issue, an assignment in a particular subject, or a language barrier. Our staff is poised and ready to help by connecting remotely with a Club member to work through any e-learning assignments they may have.”
E-learning assistance can be accessed by calling (219) 804-0741 and is available to Club families Monday through Friday from 9 am to 7 pm.
Additionally, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana is utilizing the Club Connect resource to provide a hotline where Club parents can call and talk to a professional for support and advice from the organization’s Social Service Director. This resource will be open to all Club parents, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, who are looking for ways to help their children navigate the difficulties and anxieties they may be experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and social isolation. The hotline number is (219) 804-0780.
Finally, the organization will use Club Connect to offer its Member Dinner program, which provides Club families warm meals, particularly focusing on dinners. Club Connect will link to a schedule that informs parents when and where the organization is distributing meals. Condon said Boys & Girls Clubs has been partnering with schools and Food Bank of Northwest Indiana to make sure Club members are receiving snacks, lunches, or groceries that may help them for the week, but in the wellness checks, parents indicated dinner remained a struggle.
“We heard from families that a hot dinner is something they have been missing, and we knew we could help fulfill that need,” Condon said.
Despite the uncertainty of the moment, Smiley is confident that Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana will continue playing an important role in serving region youth and their families. “The current situation is challenging for all of us, but our mission hasn’t changed. Our programming model has shifted to ensure our relevancy and help our Club kids succeed.”
Parents can visit Club Connect at www.bgcgreaternwi.org/club-connect to access available resources.