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In 1994, Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County opened its first clubhouse.
“Back then, we saw kids roaming the streets, getting into trouble after school,” explained De Bowman, one of the club’s founders. “Kids needed a safe place to go after school. They needed Boys & Girls Club.”
Over that 25 years Boys & Girls Club has grown to 20 locations, 4,700 club members, and programs that reach more than 15,000 youth K-12 throughout the county every year. “Of course, we never imagined 25 years in the future our Boys & Girls Club would be responding to a pandemic,” Bowman added.
“Your life, my life, our entire community has been disrupted by CO VID-19,” said Will Armstead, the clubs’ CEO. “But, just because the clubs closed when the schools closed, doesn ’t mean there isn ’t a need for what we do. Actually, the need is even greater now.”
In addition, the group’s plan for a 25th anniversary celebration in April have been put on hold as the organization focuses on helping the community.
A quarter century of experience positions the BGCSLC to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. It’s the largest youth development organization on the Treasure Coast with trained staff and clubhouses that are strategically located in neighborhoods with the greatest need. In addition it has a history of working closely with local governments, businesses and community leaders, and a financial network of many loyal supporters.
“The greatest need we saw immediately was child care for essential workers like first responders, healthcare workers, even trash collectors – people who keep St. Lucie County operating safely,” said Armstead. The club is providing child care in their neighborhood clubhouses for children of essential workers.
The service is free — made possible by funding from St. Lucie County, Children’s Services Council, and a $100,000 grant from the Morgridg e Family Foundation.
Distributing 1,200 pre-packaged meals every day is another need the club is fulfilling. “So many kids in this county rely on school lunch or dinner at Boys & Girls Club for their main meal of the day. We knew they would go hungry if we didn ’t step up,” Armstead explained.
Treasure Coast Food Bank prepares and packages the “to go” meals that are distributed by volunteers at four clubhouses.
To stay connected with club members, “The Virtual Club” was created – a daily broadcast on Boys & Girls Club Facebook and YouTube pages. And they’re sharing important resources and information with parents to help them cope with job loss, stress, and other COVID- 19 related issues.
“Once this emergency is over, we’ll be back on track with our 25th anniversary campaign,” said Armstead. “Our campaign goal of $2.5 million is big but so are the needs of kids in our community.”
The Club’s 25th Anniversary Campaign Committee has 48 members representing local government agencies, businesses, non-profits and volunteer organizations and is led by working chairs Charles Cuomo and Leslie Kristoff, who is also the board chair.
Supporting the campaign are honorary chairs chief John Bolduc, state senator Gayle Harrell, Larry Lee, Jr., and Dr . Donna Mills.
Please consider sharing the daily “Virtual Club” show on your social media to help reach more children.