By Erin Porteous, CEO

We are living through a time where the very foundations that support us through the roller coaster moments of our lives – whether they be our families, our jobs, our communities, our schools or our places of worship – have been shaken. We know this is temporary. But it has shifted our world in unimaginable ways. It has shined a light on both the existing fissures in our society and the helpers and healers – our silver linings. We have been tasked with self-reliance and resilience in the truest sense. And it has made me realize how much we all, often subconsciously, rely on consistency and structure to make sense of our lives. 

By Erin Porteous, CEO

We are living through a time where the very foundations that support us through the roller coaster moments of our lives – whether they be our families, our jobs, our communities, our schools or our places of worship – have been shaken. We know this is temporary. But it has shifted our world in unimaginable ways. It has shined a light on both the existing fissures in our society and the helpers and healers – our silver linings. We have been tasked with self-reliance and resilience in the truest sense. And it has made me realize how much we all, often subconsciously, rely on consistency and structure to make sense of our lives. 

COVID-19 has altered those structures in extreme ways. Families under one roof 24/7. Work, home and school all mashed up together. Paychecks decreasing or disappearing. Fear and anxiety and information overload. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I can’t remember what day it is,” or found myself wondering if it is, in fact, May already. Without the daily, predictable structure of our lives, our sense of time and how we fit into it has shape-shifted into something just beyond our grasp. There are moments (most of them) when this is disorienting and difficult, and others (just a few) where it feels momentarily freeing.  

I think of what it is like to raise a child. Without guardrails, a baby will never be safe enough to explore and be ready to leave the crib. Without mom or dad’s hands outstretched, that first wobbly toddler step is never taken. Without Driver’s Ed, license is just a teenage dream. In fact, for both children and adults, is it the structure that creates the opportunity for taking risks. Though it may be counterintuitive, it is the existence of boundaries that allows us to move towards freedom. Without them, we don’t have direction. We don’t have safety. That’s why, in addition to the myriad challenges that a global pandemic createsright now we feel both a sense of loss… and we feel lost. 

For many of the children who walk in the doors of our Clubs for the first time, that sense of being lost is a permanent fixture in their lives. It’s not the “new normal” because it’s not new. It’s just normal. Growing up can be hard in the best of circumstanceseven when there are hands outstretched to catch you when you fall. But our kids often don’t have those foundations, those structures, or those safety nets. They arbright and curious and creative, but sometimes that potential is buried deep beneath hunger or homelessness or trauma. They depend on their Boys & Girls Club to relieve the unfair burdens of their young lives, by providing the support that every child needs. 

Because the Club is that safe place for you to go where the doors are always open. It’s the kind smile on the face of your Club Director, welcoming you into the Club every single day. It’s a warm and nutritious meal every night. It’s the friends you make on the basketball court. It’s Power Hour, when you get your homework done every afternoon. It’s an education room full of books. It’s a tech lab where you bring robots to life. It’s an art studio of blank canvases waiting for your masterpiece. It’s volunteering in your community and learning how to lead. It’s becoming Junior Staff. It’s having help with your college applications. It’s graduating from high school. It’s the opportunity to believe in yourself and your own, truly unlimited potential. 

This is how we create strong foundations for our Club kids. This is how they go from feeling lost to feeling found. And this is why we are urgently focused on reopening our doors. As we move into a stage of stability as a community, a city and a nation, we know the tremendous challenges, heartache and obstacles our kids have faced. But it is important to remember that this is not new for them. And our work isn’t, either. For nearly 60 years, we have been through times of crisis and calm, and we have weathered every storm. This summer, a day at the Club may look different, but our focus will remain on meeting kids exactly where they are. Though the way we provide support for our Club kids will always evolve, our consistency and our dedication will never waver. Because our mission remains the same; and that mission is a structure – a foundation – that can never be shaken or lost.