Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus has shifted to virtual programming.

The organization, which has six facilities in Franklin County, provides members a variety of programming regarding academics, healthy lifestyle choices and character building and, for teens, courses focused on career and financial preparation.

Interim CEO Doug Wolf said programming is being conducted online while the facilities remain closed.

"During the present time, the context has obviously changed, and our facilities are closed, but we're continuing to operate programming through a virtual club experience," Wolf said. "Those program offerings continue to align with our outcome areas."

Maggie Breeding, interim director of operations, said children are urged to work on videos in the virtual club experience.

"We are encouraging members to get on, even if it's once a day, or multiple times a day, or once a week – kind of what works for them," she said. "Each of the videos falls under our three core pillars: healthy lifestyles, academic success and good character and citizenship."

In addition to the virtual club experience, Zoom meetings also are used to keep in contact with the children, Breeding said.

"We base these Zoom meetings all around how we normally work on programming with the members," she said. "We do a warm welcome, we do a community-builder to kind of get the kids interactive, and then we do a small activity with the members. But the majority of the Zoom calls are really to get the kids talking to the staff."

Breeding said the organization has about 1,500 members and has seen strong use of virtual programming. The club provides after school and summer programming for kids ages 6-18, and membership costs $10 per year.

Although Gov. Mike DeWine has begun the process of reopening the state, the organization, as of May 6, was uncertain when it will be able to reopen its locations but is preparing to do so, according to Wolf.

"We're working through a variety of scenarios," he said. "Our hope is obviously to open this summer to operate our traditional programs."

Wolf said the organization has retained its staff during the pandemic. This includes cleaning and maintenance staff who continue to clean facilities and prepare them for reopening.

"Our staff continue to work hard to reach out to our families to check in on their well-being and how we can improve our services," Wolf said. "They update our virtual club experience weekly – there's currently hundreds of program videos on that webpage. We're spending a lot of time like many organizations planning for the return to our facilities when we can be with our kids again in the same space."

Club locations are: KIPP Clubhouse, 2750 Agler Road, Columbus; Milo-Grogan Clubhouse, 1012 Cleveland Ave., Columbus; R.I.S.E. Clubhouse, 68 East 2nd Ave., Columbus; South Side Clubhouse, 280 Reeb Ave., Columbus; J. Ashburn Jr. Clubhouse, 85 Clarendon Ave., Columbus; and Livingston Clubhouse, 825 E. Livingston Ave.

To learn more about the organization, visit bgccolumbus.org.

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