The Boys & Girls Club of Sparta provides engaging, educational and fun afterschool and summer programs for youth in grades 3 through 12, with an emphasis on academic success, healthy lifestyles, character development and citizenship.
For 25 years, the community of Sparta and surrounding area have found our out-of-school programs to be supportive to the needs of club members and their families. By maintaining a well-trained and caring staff, we work with youth to help them overcome any barriers they may have to living a productive life and reaching their full potential. The barriers our youth and families have had to navigate due to COVID-19 is no exception!
When the Wisconsin Safer at Home Order was issued, our staff quickly went to work on innovative methods to reach our club members. We addressed food insecurity, academic supports and connectivity to one another.
As the pandemic surged it became clear to us that our summer programming was an important need in our community, but our traditional format had to drastically change.
Using guidance from the Monroe County Health Department, area health officials and working closely with other Boys & Girls Clubs within the state, we re-opened our club doors on June 15. After a successful nine-week summer program, club staff were ready to implement the same summer model during the school year — just modified for after-school.
Late September 2020, Monroe County moved into the severe category, just three weeks after school started. We briefly closed our doors again when the Sparta Area School District went to all remote learning.
Our leadership team’s goal was to assist with the district’s model and help those parents and children who needed outside resources and help to manage the changes and responsibilities that goes into a remote model of learning. Our staff rolled out “Be Great Dayz,” our new model for club programming to help our club kids during the pandemic.
“Be Great Dayz” incorporated working with the most vulnerable age groups and children who needed help during the day while parents were working. In the beginning of October, we opened all day from 7 am until 5:30 pm. Club staff provided both half day and all day supervised learning with a focus on academic supports to help our club members circumnavigate their daily Zoom classroom sessions, classwork and assignments.
We incorporated social time, healthy habits and traditional Club programming from late afternoon to early evening each day. “Be Great Dayz” also included day camp opportunities during holiday breaks. We offered access to free Wi-Fi space and electronic usage in a quiet and clean work space for teens and families.
To help with food insecurity we continued our weekly distribution of free food packages containing fresh produce, dairy and protein with the help of Hunger Task Force, Walmart Distribution Center and Casey’s General Store.
The Boys & Girls Club of Sparta’s Re-Opening Plan and Crisis Response Plan has been possible because of strong collaborations with other Boys & Girls Clubs in the state, the strength of our relationships in the community and our proven experience serving both our general and our at-risk population.
Financial support from donors and businesses, along with Kiwanis and Rotary civic groups has enabled us to continue to play an integral role in our community, adapting and evolving to support kids and families through these challenging circumstances.
Financial support is always a need and we are dedicated to finding those revenue streams and utilizing them to ensure we have adequate resources so we may continue to create high quality out-of-school experiences for all the kids we serve.
Jennifer Simunich is executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Sparta. Good Works columns, which highlight the good work done by local nonprofits, appear Mondays in the Tribune.
In this Series
- 17 updates