OCEANSIDE — Like many schools and other after-school programs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oceanside have switched its programming for youth and adults with disabilities to virtual settings.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Oceanside offers after-school programming and camps to children that help stimulate their academics as well as their social learning skills. Typically, the club is open every day during non-school hours, a time the club believes children need its services the most.
According to the club’s website, statistics show that juvenile crime escalates between 3 and 7 p.m. The club’s goal is to keep Oceanside kids, primarily those from low-income families, out of trouble by engaging them in academics and other activities.
The club is all-inclusive to children, Executive Director Jodi Diamond said, adding that about 83% of the more than 4,200 youth the club serves annually qualify for free and reduced lunch at school. Many of the club’s kids also come from military families who experience their own unique set of challenges.
“We serve a tender population,” Diamond said.
In addition to its youth programs, the club also has its Real Option for Adults with Disabilities (ROADS) program. Partnering with the San Diego Regional Center, the club provides daytime enrichment activities for developmentally disabled adults in North County throughout the week.
In mid-March, when schools and businesses were ordered to close, the club quickly began switching its programming to a virtual capacity beginning with the ROADS program.
Diamond said she has a “skeleton crew” of six management staff and seven ROADS staff members working to serve its members. She has also been able to bring back some directors and additional staff.
The club is working to reach its members virtually as well as by phone. Diamond said many members don’t have internet access and can’t all necessarily join in on the club’s weekly Zoom and Google Hangout sessions.
Director of Operations Hillary Adams said the club has been able to break some of those barriers. Though a child may not be able to join in one of the virtual sessions due to another responsibility, like taking care of a younger sibling, they can tune into the club’s YouTube channel for daily activities including the sciences, math, art projects, fitness, nutritional information and more.
Though the club can’t reach all of the nearly 1,400 children it was serving daily with its eight school locations, Adams said all 28 of its ROADS members are now participating in its virtual program, which includes fitness activities with minimal equipment and lessons in self-advocacy, community safety, nutritional information, sign language and more.
“We worked with every parent to support that access,” Adams said.
Diamond explained that the club is aiming to provide some normalcy to its members through these virtual hangouts and outreach efforts, especially when they get to see their instructors’ and friends’ faces.
“They’re excited to see their friends,” Diamond said.
Diamond said the club hopes to bring back its hot meal program at the beginning of May in a to-go capacity. This program will help to supplement the days when the schools’ to-go hot meals are unavailable.
The club will also hand out books with its to-go meals as part of a book drive in partnership with the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.
Diamond said the club is going to operate its programs virtually for a while. Though restrictions may start to lift next month, the club will still need to practice social distancing. The club has already switched its annual pancake breakfast planned for next month to a virtual setting.
“We have to be creative in what we’re going to be able to offer,” Diamond said. “We’re anticipating this is going to be the new normal.”