Spirit of Service.
Before COVID19, the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic (BGCPP) helped take care of over 1,100 kids every single day. Across 10 different sites in the cities of Paterson and Passaic and a summer camp, BGCPP is more than an afterschool program or childcare facility: they are a beacon of hope within the community. Their mission is to enable every child to reach their full potential. Whether that potential is unlocked through academic advancement, newfound confidence, or development into caring and responsible citizens, BGCPP always does everything possible to help the children in their charge.
In March, the entire operating model changed. BGCPP had to completely close their doors and transition in ways they never anticipated. They've moved from serving children in-person to shifting everything to a virtual setting, with homework help and lessons. They have their operation and youth development specialists reaching out to families once a week to do on the phone and virtual check-ins. They've even started utilizing a virtual classroom platform called Learn Cube, where there is a staff member available to answer any questions the children have, just as if they were there in person.
They’ve also expanded to become a food distribution center. They shifted because they had to - to BGCPP, not helping was not an option. A lack of experience in food distribution didn’t slow them down, and they built and expanded upon existing partnerships with Star of Hope Ministries and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to help reach the community in broader ways.
Now, the dedicated staff members show up to a completely different BGCPP. They don their masks and gloves and pack food boxes together. The gym, usually full of H-O-R-S-E games and laughter, has become an assembly line. The basketballs may be gone but the laughter remains, as the team keeps in good spirits as they serve to distribute thousands of pounds of shelf-stable food and fresh produce.
In many ways, they're able to reach even more people than they ever were before the pandemic, and while technically their mission statement remains the same, their service to the community has been maximized. Over 2,500 people from the Paterson and Passaic area are showing up once a week to pick up their peaches, vegetable soup, canned corn, potatoes, apples, onions, rice, and beans. BGCPP says they plan to distribute food as long as the community needs it.
Through all of this, it’s been reinforced that the entire community needs them. BGCPP wants to ensure that everyone - all the parents, children, and elders - remember that people have their back. There will always be people there to help, those willing to lend a hand directly and those supporting with donations and prayers from afar. There will always be people like Christian from Boy Scout Troop 133, one of the multitudes of supporters who helped remind BGCPP that there are helpers all around them, who quickly mobilized and showed up with supplies and donations for the crew. Knowing how many people are in the corner for BGCPP and the community empowers the team to serve with endurance and joy.
When the team at BGCPP reflects on what they hope looks different on the other side of the crisis, it’s a spirit of service. They hope that our inclination to help our fellow citizens expands outwardly across the nation, such that our healing process overcomes the fear that the pandemic has produced. The goal is unity. They know it's possible because they've seen selflessness and support pour in from all angles. If COVID19 has taught them anything, it's that they work with the helpers. They will continue to meet the community exactly where it is, attempting to deliver exactly what is needed - in whatever form that presents.
To help provide grocery store gift cards and special enrichment toys to children and families in need in the cities of Paterson and Passaic, please visit the Daymaker site here.