In September, as the Ridgefield Public School District (RPS) prepared to reopen in the midst of a health pandemic, and as families prepared to deal with the continuous transitions between in-person, hybrid, and full-distance learning, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield immediately began adapting their programs to accommodate the ever-changing needs of Club families and the Ridgefield community.
Coming off of a successful, essential summer camp program that, although limited due to COVID-19, supported parents who were in need of a safe place for their child as they returned to work, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield adjusted their after-school program to meet the stringent regulations of their COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Plan. This plan was developed to meet the safety policies, procedures, regulations, and recommendations of the CDC, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, Boys & Girls Club of America and the Ridgefield Department of Health.
“While different, the Club members and staff members were equally excited to be back in action after-school. So much so, that people who were walking by would stop to admire (from afar) the laughter they were hearing, as Club members once again rushed off the bus and ran through the Club’s doors,” said Kristin Goncalves, Associate Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield.
In addition to adapting to the regular after-school program to be COVID-19 safe, the Club’s leadership team immediately recognized the need to support families through the evolving learning models. In partnership with the RPS, the Boys & Girls Club staff quickly developed a new program, the BGCR Club Hub, which aligned with RPS’s COVID-19 Reopening Plan. The Club Hub program provides a safe, positive environment for students to complete their virtual learning during the school day, under the watchful, caring eyes of the Club’s dedicated youth development professionals and support staff.
“I feel fortunate to speak on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield. This past April, as I transitioned to the Superintendency in the midst of a Global Pandemic, the Boys & Girls Club reached out. Not only to offer a warm welcome, but to also offer collaboration and partnership. They offered supervision and programming during the remote and hybrid learning experience, providing a much needed support for families and for our youth,” explained Susie Da Silva, Ed.D, Superintendent of Ridgefield Schools. “Ridgefield Public Schools is fortunate to have such a positive and meaningful partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. Their positive support for families and students cannot be overstated more this year. The Boys & Girls Club is a gem for this community.”
“All of us at the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield take great pride in our long-standing relationship with the Ridgefield Public School System,” said Michael Flynn, Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield. “The Club has always viewed ourselves as an extension of the schools and as an essential resource to the school district and the Ridgefield community, as a whole. Our leadership team has continued to work diligently to become well versed in the evolving policies and procedures that have been continuously released, and we remain in constant communication with experts, in both the local and national health and childcare communities, in order to implement best practices for this unpredictable time.”
In the new year, the Boys & Girls Club continues to be flexible as the RPS learning model fluctuates weekly, and remains ready to implement the Club Hub program, as needed. “The Boys & Girls Club is a vital resource during COVID. Its services are essential for some working parents, and the ability for students to access distance learning while at the Club ensures continuity of learning,” said Margaret Stamatis, Ridgefield Board of Education. “The Club has always served both functional and social/emotional purposes. As evidenced by demand for the general after-school program, many working parents need the childcare services, perhaps more so now than ever. But this year, that functional need has extended to a partnership with parents, students, and schools to meet the remote learning needs of students. The flexibility of the program is essential in an environment where the school learning model can change rapidly, and provides families a safety net during change and uncertainty.”
Stamatis went on to say, “During the pandemic, their services and the relationships they foster have become even more critical for the overall well-being of many of our students and families. The pandemic hasn’t changed the core of what the Boys & Girls Club is and the heart of what it provides. The Club has stayed committed to serving our community and has adapted to meet the current needs of our students and families even when circumstances fluctuate daily.”
It is important to note that even though the Boys & Girls Club has had a long-standing partnership with the Ridgefield Public School District, the Club is not a town entity or municipality, and is a privately owned and operated tax exempt, 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Boys & Girls Club is not part of the Ridgefield Public Schools budget and does not receive town or state funding. The Club fundraises annually to support their operating budget, to keep all program fees low and affordable for families (a fraction of the actual cost), and to ensure that cost is never a barrier. The Club also has an established scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to anyone in need. It ensures that, regardless of circumstance, every child is not only welcomed but encouraged to participate, especially those that can benefit the most from the Club’s programs and services.
“This year has, no doubt, been challenging for all of us, but the pandemic has heightened the critical situations for families who were already struggling. Those in the greatest need were hit the hardest and left overwhelmed by job loss, hunger, and the impact of kids missing months of school. Throughout this crisis, we have stayed true to our mission of helping those that need us the most and we remain committed to doing ‘Whatever It Takes’ for our Club kids, our Club families, and our Club community,” stated Flynn.
The Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield has been a valuable partner in helping kids succeed for over 80 years. Nevertheless, this year, succeeding means even more: it means helping families survive this unprecedented, scary time.
About the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield
The Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield is a fully dedicated youth development facility. The mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield is to inspire and enable all young people to reach their full potential as caring, productive, and responsible citizens. The Ridgefield Club has been serving the community since 1936.
Each day at the Club we provide youth development programming in five core areas: Sports, Fitness & Recreation, the Arts, Education & Career Preparation, Health & Life Skills, and Character & Leadership Development. Members of the Club participate in activities in our five core areas that encourage increased learning, improved fitness, positive decision making, creativity, leadership, and community service. As part of the National Boys & Girls Club movement, we are able to utilize high quality programs grounded in years of research. Programming activities are scheduled each day and are free to all Club members