Over the past couple of months, our nation has faced a myriad of uncertainties as we grapple with the impact coronavirus has had on our lives and those around us. Our ability as a nation to put aside our differences and help our fellow man is something to be celebrated and not forgotten.
I have the honor of witnessing the difference people can make in their communities firsthand every day as the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour. We know the uncertainties our kids face every day would get even worse as this public health crisis grew. Our kids already face the uncertainty of where their next meal will come from. They already face gaps in educational attainment and achievement. The families we serve already struggle with accessing childcare. You could only imagine how this pandemic heightens those uncertainties.
Indiana Boys & Girls Clubs are well positioned to address the challenges our children face during these unprecedented times with COVID-19 interference. We have been providing educational support and summer learning loss prevention programs as a part of our mission.
Indiana Kids, founded in 2006, is a comprehensive youth development skill building program that assists Hoosier children and teens with afterschool and summer supports. In addition to reading and math instruction, children are also learning about college, career, job readiness, workforce skills development, leadership development and volunteerism. We have served over 66,000 Hoosier children and teens since inception. We have been notified that the Indiana Kids funding will be terminated at the end of September 2020.
The Boys & Girls Club of Seymour’s Indiana Kids program served 241 youth in this program this past year. The program boasts an average increase of 56% in reading fluency scores and 60% in math fluency scores. This program has allowed kids who struggle with reading to spend time reading to our therapy dog in a safe environment and at their own pace. It has allowed kids who have never thought about their future career to explore different career opportunities. Very simply, it has provided youth the opportunity to learn and their own pace and explore ideas that interest them. That freedom, paired with a caring adult, has allowed children to flourish academically.
The Boys & Girls Club of Seymour’s commitment to not only the youth we serve but our community as a whole only gets stronger in times of crisis. We recognized that this pandemic was going to have devastating effects throughout our area and that we as local leaders were uniquely positioned to do all we could to help. It’s why we continued to stay open and serve the kids and families that needed us the most. We provided e-learning, meals, and weekend snack packs thanks to our community partners and the generosity of this community.
But that resolve can only get us so far as we face lost revenue and financial instability as demand for our services increases. And we’re not the only nonprofit facing a financial quandary of how we can continue to provide critical services and aid to our community while also keeping our doors open, staff compensated, and resources stocked. I can’t stress enough the dire support nonprofits such as ours need if we are to not only continue to serve our community but help our nation recover once this is over. It’s not just how we respond to a crisis, it’s how we rebuild following it.
I urge every member of our community to reach out to their state legislators and Governor to provide relief for charities and funding for critical programs like Indiana Kids. By speaking with a united voice, together we can ensure that the youth development, health and community-building programs in our area continue to be supported and our communities can continue to thrive.
Nonprofits are a constant and comforting presence during crises and will continue to be, but we can’t do it without the support of our community and elected officials. Please tell your state legislators and Governor Holcomb: Nonprofits support us in times of need, let’s support them in theirs. Restore Boys & Girls Club funding.
Ryon Wheeler is the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Seymour. Send comments to [email protected].