While many families struggle with the consequences of Covid-19 and California’s safer-at-home order, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica have been hard at work ensuring local children have the tools to continue their education from home during the pandemic.
Typically, the five local clubhouses in and around Santa Monica serve as places where students can come to do homework, recreational activities and just hang out, according to Board Chair Jason Meugniot, who once enjoyed the benefits of the club as a young lad.
But with the pandemic, the organization has been forced to adapt many of its offerings, Meugniot said.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica CEO Emily Ausbrook, said the club has also started to survey locals residents’ need for essentials like food, rent, homeschool programming support, and access to devices and the internet.
Describing their approach as two-pronged in an interview earlier last week, Meugniot said those who are interested in learning more about how they can support the club’s efforts can do so during its upcoming State of the Club: A Response to Covid-19” event occurring at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 29.
Locals can register for the event at bit.ly/SMBGCStateOfTheClub or support the organization directly at bit.ly/GoFundCovid19SMBGC, according to officials. And in the meantime, staff will be busy working to continue assisting families in need.
“Our families — the parents of our kids — were all pretty much working in the sectors that were hardest hit, so they either have diminished wages or their wages are completely gone at this point,” Ausbrook said. “So in alignment with our core goals, we’ve taken two approaches as part of our response.”
The first piece is the “human services approach,” Ausbrook said, “so we’re partnering with a few different organizations to distribute food to our families in different forms and fashions. The second thing we’re doing is we’re raising money and putting it right back out to our families based on a matrix of need.”
Thanks to a close knit connection formed with club-goers and their families, staff attempted to contact every family that has self-reported making $50,000 a year or less, which totaled 173 families, according to Ausbrook. And depending on income levels and stated need, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Monica has provided $21,750 directly to members’ families to help with rent, bills, food and medicine.
When performing the survey, Ausbrook discovered that more than 70% of respondents didn’t have access to an internet connected device.
“So while everybody usually has the opportunity to take advantage of the club’s tech during regular times, they can’t do so now during the pandemic from home,” Meugniot said as he detailed the second part of the Boys & Girls Clubs approach to the crisis.
“We’ve tried to pivot to providing our services in-person to delivering these services digitally,” Meugniot said. “For example, we’ve created digital content hosted through Zoom meetings with a dozen kids and a couple of staff members.
The club has also created downloadable content so children can go to YouTube and download educational items that are going to help them grow, because they don’t want to allow their education to slide during this COVID period.
“Of the roughly 4,000 kids that we’ll serve on an annual basis, there is still a decent amount of kids that don’t have access to digital services or devices,” Meugniot said. “To help, the club has applied for grants that will help us get Chromebooks or tablets into the hands of these kids, so they can participate — not only in the digital content that we’re producing, but also in their schoolwork.”
Traditionally, the club would use its upcoming community breakfast to fundraise all of the money for programs like these and the staff it takes to operate them at the various locations.
“Obviously, as we move to virtual programming and training, it’s more important now that we are able to raise funds because we have people relying on us to assist,” Meugniot said. “So, the virtual community breakfast that we will have on April 29 is hugely important because it will help us to make this digital pivot that we’re in the middle of right now; it’ll help us to produce that content and help us to continue to staff employees who can provide these programs and services now digitally.”