These days, 17-year-old Tatiana Roland of the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club in Wellington has a small but crucial role in allowing the facility to re-open for direct service for children for summer camp. She’s one of about 50 teens that the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County hired through the Junior Staff program to assist the other 300 staff members to re-open 13 clubs during a global pandemic. Extra staff is crucial for the clubs to meet the COVID-19 guidelines and allow for lower-than-normal staff-to-child ratios due to social distancing.
“I’m the environmental specialist, making sure that all of the club members social distance, wear their face masks and, of course, wash their hands. I do whatever is needed, so I also help with our Farm to Family grocery distribution program. I’m so glad to have this job. Otherwise, I would be just sitting at home,” Roland said. “I use my paycheck to save for college and to help my mother pay for some of the bills since she is a single mom.”
In addition to hiring extra staff to meet COVID-19 guidelines, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County made it a priority that no employees were laid-off while the clubs were closed for direct service for three months. This was essential for the clubs to re-open to children as quickly as possible.
“It was imperative for us to make sure that our employees could keep working. We also felt it was important to do our part to help stabilize the economy. To ensure employment, our clubs transitioned overnight to become a major food distributor for families in need,” Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County CEO Jaene Miranda said.
Since the transition, the clubs have given out more than 420,000 meals and snacks to children across Palm Beach County, while also providing a week’s worth of groceries to 54,000 club family members through the Farm to Family program, with partners like Fresh RX Kids and Living Hungry.
“It’s been a lot of mental and physical hard work to accomplish what we’ve done in a short period, and our staff has met every challenge placed before them. Our clubs opening for summer camp doesn’t mean the need in our community has diminished. As such, we are committed to continuing our emergency food programs while operating our summer camps,” Miranda said.
The cost to re-open during a pandemic and added expenses to continue large-scale food programs comes with a hefty price tag. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County must raise $750,000 this summer to cover the extra expenses. At $450,000, the food programs make up 60 percent of the additional expenditures. An additional $300,000 is needed to offset the costs to re-open the clubs during the pandemic.
“To help cover these necessary expenses, we’ve kicked off our Summer Campaign. We’re thankful for the generous donations that we’ve received. We still need to raise $450,000 to meet our $750,000 goal,” Miranda said.
Roland’s transition from a club member to staff member is a perfect example as to what the clubs can accomplish on a personal level. The soon-to-be high school senior has been coming to the Wellington club since sixth grade.
During that time, club staff helped her recover after her father passed away two years ago. By working in the clubs during a pandemic, she’s ready to do her part to assist in the recovery effort and to help any club members who may need it personally.
“I love the kids. I can be there when they are having a bad day,” Roland said. “The older staff are still mentors, and they’re now helping me to apply to college. My co-workers really aren’t co-workers. I feel like they are family.”