Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois (BGCSI) Wins ‘Neighborly’ Award for Outstanding Contribution to Youth Empowerment
Carbondale, IL – Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois (BGCSI), formerly Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale, is a comprehensive youth development agency serving youth from Carbondale and the surrounding communities. For the past 16 years, BGCSI has provided a safe after-school environment where youth can realize a new and brighter future. During this time, the club has served thousands of youth from the community. WSIU Public Broadcasting, a service of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased to announce Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois (BGCSI) as a recipient of the ‘Neighborly’ award in the nonprofit category.
“I’m so excited, not just for me, but for our staff, to know people recognize the great work they’re doing for families and our community. Our youth development professionals, site directors and program coordinators have worked tremendously hard since Covid changed everything. They are the backbone of the organization. Our programs are only as good as our staff, and they are amazing. I’m honored to be a part of this team and for them to be part of our team. Our board of directors has been extremely supportive through the pandemic as well. They are pivoting as much as we are, not having our usual in-person meetings, but a lot of Zoom meetings. They are behind us 100 percent, and our Board is strong, which makes us a strong organization,” said awardee Tina Carpenter, CEO of BGCSI.
There are three pillars BGCSI emphasizes to build its youth development programs—academic and career preparedness, good character and citizenship and healthy lifestyles. Its mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us the most, to realize their full potential as caring, productive and responsible citizens. COVID hasn’t stop any of that.
“When we were informed back in March 2020 that everything was shutting down, we went to work right away with our administrative and leadership teams to figure out how we could keep serving families. We worked with the schools to make sure we could become a distribution site for breakfast and lunch and started contacting local restaurants to see how we could get suppers. By working with local restaurant partners, school districts, generous donors and foundation grants, the club was able to serve the community over 22,000 meals free of charge between March and August. We served not just our club members and Carbondale but the community at large—Marion, Herrin, De Soto and Southern Illinois,” said Tina.
After the governor extended the mandated stay-at-home order and canceled school for the rest of the academic school year, BGCSI continued to stay true to its mission by making the health and safety of the youth its top priority. The club generally serves about 1500 members a year. Since COVID, its average daily attendance has gone from 355 kids a day to about 150 kids a day virtually and about 85 in person. Although its doors were closed until late June to in-person programming, the staff made over 2,800 check-in calls to monitor the health and safety of its members.
“We’re having to creatively use our space on Springer Street to be able to serve all the kids who are doing remote learning. Between March and June, we also provided virtual programming, utilizing Facebook Live, YouTube, and Zoom. We made sure we checked in with our kids, providing story time and science experiments. When they came to pick up their meals, we gave them books as well as activity kits so they could do these things at home.
Since last spring, social workers are making calls at least once a week to all of our kids who can’t come to the club. Currently, we’re still serving youth, especially from Rebound Alternative High School, virtually and working with the staff to support them remotely,” said Tina.
“We worked closely with the health department. Our board has a safety committee that is mandated by Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) as part of our board structure. We worked between April and June to prepare a very hearty, strong safety plan, so we could reopen for the summer. We have a 37-page document, waivers for parents and staff to sign and a clear understanding of what our safety protocols would be to keep everybody safe,” she added.
As an organization, BGCSI strives to meet its mission in every aspect of its youth development programs. It has a very diversified revenue stream. Its programs are supported through donations from individuals, businesses, corporations, foundations and grants.
“People doing virtual fundraisers and galas is a whole new experience. I hear stories from other clubs about their struggles and how difficult it has been, especially with fundraising. I have weekly calls with the CEOs in the State of Illinois for Boys & Girls Clubs. BGCA has been a tremendous support for us through this time. Every state is doing the same thing. The community has been so supportive of us and has continued to support us. People, new donors and lapsed donors are happy and proud of what we’re doing. I can’t thank the community enough for really sticking by us to make sure we serve kids,” said Tina.
“During these unprecedented times, BGCSI has stepped out of the box to find new and creative ways to meet its mission. Over the past several months, the club has partnered with local school districts to develop a plan to provide a safe place where youth can come to receive guidance and support for remote learning, meals and social-emotional support. Many of the families served by BGCSI must work, need support to complete remote learning or may not have stable internet access. BGCSI will support these families by providing a full-day of programming for youth ages 5-18,” said nominator Stephanie Wood, board chair of BGCSI.
Learn more at www.bgcsi.org
About One Region All Neighbors
Inspired by the life and legacy of Fred Rogers and in honor of his vision, WSIU’s One Region, All Neighbors initiative encourages community members to nominate those who are making positive contributions through acts of kindness, compassion and service. Winners are chosen from nominations submitted by the public in five categories— individual, youth, educator, community group, and business. WSIU recognizes these winners on its television and radio stations, website and social media.
About WSIU Public Broadcasting
WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than five million people across six states and beyond through five digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website, and education and outreach services. They partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Learn more and get the latest station news online at wsiu.org and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages.