Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City has been serving youth in our community for over 26 years. From its humble beginnings in a remodeled gas station to the newly constructed Railton Center in 2017 and two expansions serving Jefferson City’s West side and Holts Summit, Boys & Girls Club has been dedicated to the success of youth in our community. Our mission is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. The Club is so much more than afterschool care. For many children in our community, this means different things. For some, this means something as simple as a safe place to go after school with friends. For others, they need the Club to support their education through daily homework help, reading support, tutoring or hands on STEM activities. Others rely on the Club for necessities they don’t have access to like hygiene products, shoes, school supplies, a winter coat or a hot nutritious dinner every day before they go home. For all these children, the Club is a safe place they can rely on with people who are dedicated to their success and who will support them no matter what. We are always working to clear obstacles for youth and grow the program to ensure we are providing the services and support our Club Kids need.
In recent years, compounded with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve noticed a sharp increase in the mental and behavioral health needs of our members. It is very difficult for children to focus, grow and learn in an environment where they have challenges that aren’t being addressed or understood. In response to the increasing need for services and to address these challenges for our members, the Club took the opportunity to write a Community Support Grant through the United Way in the spring of 2021 to start a social and emotional learning (SEL) pilot program at Club sites. This pilot program employs SEL Interventionists to assist members who are having difficulties during programming or who need one-on-one support. SEL Interventionists also provide tools and training to our Youth Development Professionals so they can better support Club members’ needs. The grant also provides funding for SEL Interventionists to conduct curriculum and programs at sites that focus on positive behavior, character and community service. We’ve already seen great success serving over 500 youth to date. 97% of youth are showing positive growth in the areas of self-concept, getting along with others, decision making, being responsible and honest and establishing self-improvement goals.
Seeing the benefit of this program in so many aspects of the Club, we’re already working on grants for additional funding to not only continue the program, but to expand it with additional SEL Interventionists at our Railton Center Site. This program and the impact it’s having for youth in our community would not have been possible without the continued support of the United Way. One of the most important foundations of the Club is our ability to serve all youth and offer our critical services to any child who needs them, regardless of the ability to pay. We turn no child away, and that would not be possible without the annual financial support United Way provides.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, one of the first phone calls we received was from the United Way asking how they could help us safely open back up for our Club kids who need us. When one of our vans we use to transport kids home was aging and becoming unsafe last year, United Way was there with funding to purchase a new van so we could continue to get kids without transportation home safely. As we saw the need for mental and behavioral health support for kids rise in recent years, United Way was there with funding for our SEL pilot program. United Way and its supporters are always there to step up and help agency partners like Boys & Girls Club to provide critical services that make a difference for our friends and neighbors. Together with the support of the community and our friends at United Way, Boys & Girls Club can continue to do whatever it takes to help youth #BuildGreatFutures!