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How the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County Helped Families Weather the Pandemic

United Way of Thurston County stepped up when kids and families needed support more than ever
In early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in Washington, we knew certain organizations in Thurston County would be vital in supporting the needs of families and children as we navigated new uncertainties as a community. Among those was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County
 
With schools closed, children of first responders and essential workers needed childcare. We connected with leadership at the Boys & Girls Clubs right away because we knew they would fill a critical gap in the childcare our schools typically provide. 
 
“Going into it, we wondered how we were going to do it financially,” remembers Chris Woods, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County. “That’s where United Way came in.”
 
Boys and Girls Club would transition from a before and after school model to full-day programming, which meant at least twice as many paid staff hours. At the same time, enrollment and therefore tuition income would be cut in half if not more because of new gathering restrictions. “It just wasn’t a viable business model,” explains Woods. 
 
Here at United Way, we understood that securing funding for this organization was vital. We knew they were eligible for grants designed to support children and families, and we used our staff power to apply for and allot those funds while the Clubs helped children with online learning and provided a safe place to stay while their parents worked. We also made sure they had the cleaning supplies and PPE they needed to keep staff and children safe.
 
“United Way has a very good understanding of who we are and what we do,” Woods explains. “That’s helpful because as they work to secure funding, they know exactly what we do and they know if that funding will fit.”
 
At the start of the pandemic, most of the children they served were those of first responders and essential workers. As the situation evolved, those families were able to find long-term childcare solutions. The grants we secured helped fund not only additional staff hours but scholarships for families whose incomes were impacted by the pandemic. 
 
“We started to see the number of children in the free and reduced lunch program increase drastically,” Woods says. “We served children of families experiencing homelessness and food insecurity and United Way helped us serve the kids and families who needed us most.”
 
“The Boys & Girls Clubs of Thurston County have always had a relationship with United Way, but in the last 16 months that relationship has strengthened tremendously,” Woods goes on. “If it wasn’t for their support we would not have been able to keep our doors open.”