As COVID-19 cases spike in South Florida, first responders and health care professionals have the additional burden of finding a safe place for their children while working the necessary long hours on the frontlines. Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County has become a solution for our community’s essential workforce since reopening its Club doors to children around the county.
“Boys & Girls Clubs are a lifesaver, and I can’t thank them enough for opening up. I now have a safe place to send my children so I can go to work as a health care professional, and do what I need to grow professionally,” said Tara McNeil, a health care worker and mother of an eight and 11-year-old.
In addition to working at a local healthcare facility, McNeil is also pursuing her bachelor’s to become a registered nurse. As a single mother, advancing her career is a crucial step to help meet the bills of two growing children.
“It was a priority for us to reopen for direct service to children because of parents like Tara, who need us more than ever before. Without our summer camps, these parents would have to choose between not going to work or leaving their children at home unattended,” said President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Jaene Miranda.
Of the 13 Clubs that are open for service across Palm Beach County, priority was given to families of first responders, health care workers and other essential service employees to attend the Clubs’ full-day summer camps. In some Clubs, more than half of the children have a parent that works in the healthcare field.
“A lot of our Club members are being raised in single-parent households,” said Club Director Maria Jimenez. “I’ve been told many times by thankful parents that our Clubs have been a blessing and allowed them to go back to work to help with the recovery efforts.”
Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County has faced unprecedented costs due to reopening during a pandemic and the added expense of continuing large-scale food programs. The organization must raise $750,000 this summer to cover the extra costs.
$300,000 is needed to operate the summer camps safely. Unbudgeted expenses as a result of the pandemic include hiring accredited teachers to counteract the achievement gap recently made worse by distance learning challenges and the traditional summer-slide. This expense is in addition to increased janitorial staff to support disinfection protocols, sanitation supplies, personal protection equipment, additional furniture needed for social distancing and needed technology for programming for children at the Clubs.
Farm to Family and Grab-n-Go initiatives, which make up the Clubs’ robust emergency food programs have severed over 550,000 meals, snacks and groceries since the start of the pandemic. These food programs are still needed and make up 60 percent of the additional expenditures this summer. $450,000 is required to pay extra staff, added transportation costs, and non-donated food expenses to ensure Club families are provided the food they need to stay healthy.
“It is our mission to serve the children who need us most. As time elapses, the need continues to grow, so we cannot scale back at this time. We are counting on the community to help us continue to make an impact as many of those children have parents that are first responders, health care workers and essential service employees,” said Miranda.
McNeil’s two children are enjoying their time at the Club. In between fun summer camp activities, they are also benefitting from the lessons of teachers hired by Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County. For McNeil, she can now fully concentrate on her patients at work and on her dream of becoming a registered nurse.
“Thank you Boys & Girls Clubs! I was thinking about dropping out this semester and holding off on getting my degree. Now I can go to work and school since my children have a place to go when I can’t be home,” said McNeil.
For information or to contribute to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County’s summer campaign, contact Jaene Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-683-3287.