Much of the United States has been shutting down to the Coronavirus epidemic and that now includes the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County and their administrative office which officially closed on Monday. However, their work making an impact on the community is only increasing.
Boys and Girls Club of Dane County (BGCDC) and Selfless Ambition are currently working with MMSD and United Way of Dane County to retrofit clubs and neighborhood centers into food distribution sites. BGCDC CEO Michael Johnson was in the midst of several community conversations when he broke away to chat with Madison365 about the progress that is being made.
“We are working on that right now. We’re looking to make our new Sun Prairie Club a full distribution site. We’ve already partnered with MMSD and you’ll see that Boys and Girls Club Allied Drive will also be a food location site for MMSD,” Johnson says. “I’m having meetings with the CEO of Second Harvest to talk about the Boys and Girls Club being satellite distribution centers for them to be able to utilize our space to get food and sanitarian supplies to people who need it.
“I’m also having conversations with donors and volunteers about utilizing our vans to get medicine to seniors that may need it,” Johnson adds.
Over the last few days, BGCDC, Selfless Ambition and other community-based organizations have partnered to create the COVID 19 Emergency Fund to raise funds to bring immediate assistance to cover the essential needs of young people and their families affected by the COVID-19 virus. They quickly raised over $300,00 in less than 72 hours.
The Meicher Family Foundation has generously agreed to match every donation up to $25,000, with the goal of raising $75,000 to support the basic needs of those in our community affected by this global health crisis.
The funds will be used for the following:
◉ Medical supplies for those who are impacted by this virus
◉ Meals for kids due to school closures
◉ Funds to distribute to local shelters in support of families and individuals in need
◉ Funds to support college students who are in need of temporary housing and meals
◉ Funds to support senior citizens who may need meals, transportation and medical assistance.
“We are going to be very transparent with the money for this fund,” Johnson says. “Every dollar that is raised, we will show where those funds went. If you go on the website, you’ll see who gave and who we gave it to.
“We were very excited to receive $300,000 so fast. That’s some big community support and I’m thankful that people are stepping up,” he adds. “We’re going to try and get resources out in the community right away.”
Johnson is also making sure that BGCDC employees are being taken care of during the coronavirus epidemic.
“How do we engage volunteers in a safe way without comprising their health?” he asks. “A lot of conversations are taking place right now. What really concerns me is that a lot of non-profits and small businesses – particularly part-time employees – are going to take a huge hit. It’s happening to us right now at the Boys and Girls Club.
“Our clubs are closed right now and we’ve decided to pay every last one of our part-time employees and that’s going to be, from a Boys and Girls Club perspective, a $200,000 hit to us,” he continues.
“This [COVID-19] fundraiser was really needed right now in this community so I’m probably going to be doing it for another week but then I have to get back to making sure that I keep Boys and Girls Clubs healthy,” Johnson adds.
Despite the chaos that COVID-19 has brought, Johnson is trying his hardest to keep morale up.
“I get a lot of feedback from parents and community members who are saying ‘thank you’ and are happy that we are trying to be proactive but I’m also hearing from the non-profits who have been affected by this,” Johnson says. “I got one email from a shelter who may have to close their doors; I’ve had another CEO of non-profit tell me that she can’t pay her employees and they really need hope. Hearing these stories and reading these stories is really very alarming.
“It’s heartbreaking. But I think people will get through it,” he adds. “I just want to plead with people to really practice social distancing and to try and mitigate as much contact as possible as we learn more about this virus and we all try to fight it.”
BGCDC will continue to monitor COVID-19 to determine the ongoing support needed for the community. Here is the link to donate to the Dane County COVID-19 Community Emergency Fund.