The Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia has always found ways to give opportunities to youth in the community, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created even greater needs of support for families and Columbia children. The nonprofit has stepped up in various ways to help the community’s youth.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia is being honored with one of the inaugural Kindness in Business awards in the Kindness to Youth category. The awards recognize businesses and organizations that have shown and promoted kindness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Director Valorie Livingston said kindness stems from promoting that value from within her organization through its events, teaching and programs. A “kindness chain” that lines the hallway in the nonprofit’s building serves as a reminder to be kind. Children made the chain over the summer, writing down ways to be kind on pieces of paper and linking them together.
“We promote kindness from within as part of our culture to be a team and work together and support each other,” Livingston said.
Amid the pandemic, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia stepped up to provide meals to families in need and has now reopened its doors to provide childcare and a space for kids to do their school work during the day as Columbia Public Schools remain remote. Case in point: The nonprofit has expanded its hours from operating four hours a day to now 10. The nonprofit also provides virtual programming to stay in touch with those not attending the club in-person.
Livingston spoke with Missouri Business Alert about her organization and its response to the pandemic. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Missouri Business Alert: What is the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia’s mission?
Valorie Livingston: Our mission is to provide youth opportunities, and our written mission is to enable and inspire all young people, especially those that need us most, to reach their full potential as responsible, productive, caring citizens of our community. And how we do that is by offering a variety of program enrichment opportunities around academic success, healthy lifestyles and good character and leadership. We primarily offer an after-school program, and a summer program and some weekend activities, in order to be able to provide those support and enrichment opportunities to kids.
MBA: How does the nonprofit try to embody kindness, especially to youth?
VL: As we know, with kids today, there are a lot of bullying situations that happen, and one of the character-building programs that we promote is kindness. And so, we do run a lot of prevention programs with kids and try to build positive relationships with them and be positive role models to them to be able to promote kindness. Being a good citizen also means to do kind things for others and not always to expect but also to give back. And that is part of our community service projects that we also promote. Through our mental health program, we promote kindness as well.
MBA: How has the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbia supported its youth amid the pandemic?
VL: When everything shut down in March, some of our concerns were the needs that children were going to have with losing the structure that they’re used to with going to school every day and even coming to the Boys & Girls Clubs every day, and the impact that was going to have short-term and long-term. So we pivoted to address the basic needs of kids such as food insecurities. And so we worked with bleu Events, who is our food vendor, to be able to pivot and create a curbside meal program, and I think that was an effort to go above and beyond our normal services to take care of our community. We wanted to do that, and we felt like it was critical.