Sophie Whitten | @swhittenphotography
The Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale is a passionate organization that has helped the youth of the community for over a decade and is now helping more than ever because of COVID-19.
The club started as a teen center by “a group of concerned citizens when a shooting occurred in 1997 where some young teenagers lost their lives,” Tina Carpenter, the Boys and Girls Club’s Chief Executive Officer, said.
In 2004, the teen center chartered with Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The Boys and Girls Club focuses on three main pillars: academic success, healthy living, and well as good character and citizenship.
The club offers programs for youth between kindergarten to high school age. These programs are instilled to promote growth and development of the next generations.
“The students really like the arts and music programs,” Carpenter said. “A lot of music programs are on hold because the sound studio has actually been shut down during COVID.”
Despite the music studio being shut down, the students are as busy as ever creating art says Carpenter.
Recently, the Boys and Girls Club has been responsible for making six paintings for Jackson County State’s Attorney Joe Cervantez’s office. To see the paintings check out the Boys and Girls Club website at www.bgcsi.org.
One of their leadership programs is Youth of the Year, which consists of students performing public speeches that are judged by a panel. On March 17, Bryan Mullins, the SIU men’s basketball coach, judged this year’s contest.
As a place for youth to go after school during the pandemic, the way things were before has had to be adjusted. When the club found out about the closure of schools a year ago, they got creative. Social workers called once a week to check on students, and extra books, coloring pages and materials were given to the children.
The club also helped distribute meals to members in need.
“We know there are food insecurity issues with a lot of our members and we didn’t want to make them go without anything for breakfast and lunch,” Carpenter said.
The Boys and Girls Club served over 37,830 meals between March 16 and Dec. 22 of 2020, Carpenter said.
“We had a lot of help from the school district and then we worked with a restaurant owner in order to provide dinners,” Carpenter said.
The club has been offering virtual meetings as well as kept their doors open for extended hours to accommodate for students during this pandemic.
“Because we just came back January 24, there’s still some kids whose families either couldn’t get them registered and had to be put on the waitlist or didn’t feel safe to bring them here because of COVID-19,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said another Boys and Girls Club may possibly open in Marion in the future.
Staff reporter Riley Hemken can be reached at [email protected]
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