Boys & Girls Clubs reopen with small groups of kids

Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News | June 9, 2020

BELOIT — It might not be the typical summer, but those at the Stateline Boys & Girls Club are hoping it might be the best summer.

Thanks to new programming, extra cleaning and lots of time in the sunshine and great outdoors, club kids are learning and socializing safely as their parents return to work, according to Boys & Girls Club CEO Mark Rand and Director of Community Programs Caris Haley.

The Stateline Boys & Girls Club in South Beloit reopened on June 1 with the Beloit Club reopening on June 8. Both sites reopened for a total of 27 members, or three groups of nine members each. It’s hoped in time the sites can slowly increase their numbers depending on safety guidelines.

“In Beloit we have a waiting list of about 10 kids. We are trying to keep it to nine kids to one adult,” Rand said.

As a celebration for reopening in South Beloit, each group of kids visited Dari Ripple and received pizza from Domino’s Pizza. Plans for a Beloit celebration are underway.

The Beloit Club has brought on a Welty Environmental Center intern to do more outdoor activities.

“It’s really fun here. We get to play, do art and gym,” said Priscilla Lopez, 8.

Andrya Delatorre, 7, said she likes art and recently made a rain gauge and an airplane.

To prepare for the opening, Evelyn Garcia-Martinez, a staff person at South Beloit, along with other generous donors made masks. The masks are required to be worn by both kids and staff at the Illinois facility, and are available for those who want to wear them in Beloit. Currently, staff in Beloit are required to wear the masks while it’s optional for kids.

Club staff are following guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and the Rock County Health Department. Staff trained and planned the previous week for a rigorous cleaning schedule as well as programming that would be fun yet would practice social distancing. The groups of nine have been on nature walks, riding on scooter boards in the gym or playing kickball which doesn’t require touch. South Beloit had a little dance individual competition.

“As much as possible we go outside, we take nature walks. We do anything to get kids moving and get them fresh air,” Haley said.

Haley said the kids are learning the new routine and about keeping a distance from other children while playing.

Rand said many families are appreciative as the Club can offer academic programming to bolster kids’ virtual learning this spring quarter as well as socialization opportunities after many children were isolated.

During COVID-19, the Beloit and South Beloit clubs stayed busy helping those in need. Before reopening, the clubs offered free dinners for children ages 6-18 on weekdays at both sites and gave away just shy of 2,000 total meals to children, or about 300-350 per week.

Despite COVID-19, the Stateline Boys & Girls Clubs’ capital campaign to build a new $5 million facility in Beloit and renovate its existing South Beloit facility remains underway.

“We hold steadfast to a new facility in 2020-2021,” Rand said.

The Stateline Boys & Girls Clubs has plans to build a new Beloit facility along the Fourth Street corridor and to renovate its South Beloit site at 1161 Dorr Road. The current Beloit building is on the far West Side of the city at 1851 Moore St. The focus will be for the new facility to be more centrally located along the Fourth Street corridor nearer community partners, in particular the Beloit Memorial High School’s student population.