A blue door is the universal symbol used by Boys & Girls Clubs everywhere to let young people know they’re entering a welcoming space to have fun, be safe and learn. The afterschool programs offered every day in Clubs across the Washington, DC, area provide young people with an opportunity to develop real-world skills, build friendships and get active. As one can imagine, the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic upended these programs as schools across the country were forced to shut down, leaving youth ages 6-18 without access to in-person interactions with their peers and Club program leaders. Despite the incredible hardships brought on by the pandemic, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington (BGCGW) stepped up to meet the needs of their communities, proving once again that afterschool programs play a pivotal role in a young person’s overall success.
As much of our public lives began to shut down, the staff of BGCGW got to work reimagining their programing. Within weeks, the staff worked to turn an in-person curriculum that helps build academic and life skills into virtual programing. Beyond the games played at clubs across the Washington area, students also enjoy access to tailored programing designed to help boost their interests in the subjects they learn in school. Clubs implement STEM programing with hands-on lessons that allow students to explore the ways science and technology shape the world around them. Program leaders and staff also work with Club members to teach them how to effectively manage money—financial literacy—through a program called Money Matters. As one can imagine, transitioning this rich program to a virtual space brought new challenges, from technology limitations to additional staffing needs, to resource development. But the BGCGW team realized that the most important thing was to remain consistent and supportive of their members’ needs. It was also further evidence that Club members and their families rely on their afterschool programs to close learning gaps, keep young people engaged and help them build life and career readiness skills.
None of this work to reach and support families during the toughest of times would have been possible without the investment of the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation.
After receiving support from the Clark Foundation, the BGCGW team worked to leverage it to recruit highly qualified and passionate leadership, lowered overhead by 20%, and launched a $30 million “All In” comprehensive campaign. This is a testament to the importance of investing in our communities.
“As an organization, we understand the importance of our work. Families and students depend on us to meet them where they are,” said Kimberly Lane, chief development officer at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. “Our incredible team has been empowered by the generosity of the Clark Foundation to ensure our organization is in a strategic position to continue supporting the communities that depend on us the most.”
BGCGW continues to meet members and their families where they need them the most. With 98% of club members graduating high school on time and 95% of seniors consistently continuing on to college every year, the proof is in the data. BGCGW exemplifies that intentional programming helps shape the outcomes of young minds. Club members not only have a sense of community but a sense of belonging, 65% of which state that Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington saved their lives.
“I deeply value our relationship and the investment of the Clark Foundation.” said Gabrielle Webster, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. “Their support gave us sustainability prior to COVID, and the momentum to create our ‘Achieving Dreams’ Strategic Plan, 2021-2025. This Plan ensures we will be able provide for more kids and serve more kids—especially those who need us the most.”