County’s Boys and Girls Clubs shift strategy to meet kids’ needs during COVID-19 pandemic

Michelle Shirk

The doors of Boys & Girls Clubs of La Porte County may have been closed since March 16, but team members have been busy finding new ways to serve the community throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our mission remains the same, but our strategies have changed in response to our current circumstances,” says Michelle Shirk, chief executive officer. “Over the past two months, we have been looking beyond the walls of our Club facilities to determine how we can continue to create a sense of place and belonging for our community’s youth.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of La Porte County’s staff members have been conducting check-in calls to families, sending birthday cards to Club members and sharing encouraging messages via Facebook, Shirk said.

The organization also launched free virtual Club sessions that allow Club members to play games, make new friends and interact with Boys & Girls Club youth development professionals in an online setting. These initiatives encompass all three La Porte County sites: the Charles R. Westcott Club, Pine Club Extension and Springfield Club Extension.

This month, all current Club members are invited to a Summer Kick-Off Kit distribution from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Friday, May 29 at the Charles R. Westcott Club, 321 Detroit St., Michigan City. There, members will receive reusable tote bags containing kid-friendly snacks, notebooks, crayons, Model Magic clay, make-your-own glider kits and other resources. Many of the kits’ contents will be used during future virtual Club sessions.

In partnership with the Pax Center in La Porte, Boys & Girls Clubs of La Porte County will distribute another 150 kits to food pantry clients.

“I’m very grateful to our Boys & Girls Club Team and all the community members who came together to make this exciting concept a reality,” Shirk said. “These kits will help get summer off to a great start for hundreds of La Porte County kids.”

Support for this project has been provided by Bethany Church, the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, Indiana State Department – 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, Lubeznik Center for the Arts, and many private donors.

“These are indeed challenging times, and with that reality, we are and will continue to develop innovative ways to improve our effectiveness in meeting the needs of our community’s youth,” said Mike Johnstone, president of the board of directors. “I am extremely pleased with the tireless efforts of our staff through the leadership of our Chief Executive Officer Michelle Shirk. Let me assure you that your Boys & Girls Club of La Porte County is well positioned to meet and exceed these challenges now and in the future.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of La Porte County is a member of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which is a nationwide affiliation of 4,100 autonomous Club organizations that work to help people of all backgrounds develop the qualities they need to become responsible citizens and leaders.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of La Porte County, please visit www.bgclubmc.org (as the new website name of www.bgclpc.org is transitioned in).

Danielle Solano, program leader, Springfield Club Extension

Meda Williams, food services department

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