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BGC Airdrie rolls with the punches amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has led to many businesses and organizations needing to change the way they operate, and BGC Airdrie Club – previously known as the Boys & Girls Club of Airdrie – is no different.

COVID-19 has led to many businesses and organizations needing to change the way they operate, and BGC Airdrie Club – previously known as the Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie – is no different.

Throughout the pandemic, all of the club's programs had to switch back and forth between being purely online due to restrictions, and being offered in person, with some being postponed until restrictions were lifted. Many in-person programs were replaced with interactive virtual workshops.

Breaking Barriers, a youth employment skills-building program, is one of the programs that moved online. Participants were expected to complete more projects independently then they would have in person throughout the pandemic, however one-to-one sessions for support were available to support participants with any difficulties they may have been experiencing, such as needing resources or help with mock interviews.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely affected the Breaking Barriers program logistics,” said Robbi Riddell with BGC Airdrie. “We’ve had to make some compromises on things like our timelines and program delivery methods. However, we work with the resources we have to deliver our content with enthusiasm and set our participants up with community stakeholders that are able to be a part of the program, despite COVID and it’s restrictions.”

Riddel said ways to help Breaking Barriers right now would be to refer the work placement program to local youth who are looking to get into the workforce. He added BGC Airdrie is always looking for more businesses to partner with to help run the program, which is 12 weeks long.

“We still love seeing our participants whether that be via Zoom or in person,” he said. “Our team is really enthusiastic about setting up youth with opportunities in the workforce. We can’t wait until the program can run as intended with the timelines and delivery method, but until that day we are still striving to offer these youth chances within the work industry.”

Breaking Barriers was not the only BGC Airdrie program that had to adapt to COVID-19 in the last year and a half. Camryn McCabe said the club's youth centre has also had to adapt to pandemic-related realities.

“Our overall programs such as evening and drop-in have had lower participation, as well as, it has been proven more difficult to recruit youth for our Raise The Grade free homework program,” McCabe said. “I feel for these youth who [were] struggling with online school and other difficulties during this time and I understand how maybe coming to the Airdrie BGC seems hard, too.”

However, for those youth who were still able to attend program and drop-in sessions, it was amazing to see how having a community surround them makes COVID-19 and the pandemic a little less daunting, according to McCabe.

“The youth still [came] in with smiling faces, ready to play video games, [do crafts], and simply hang out with their friends face to face,” she said. “I am glad that we are able to offer them a happy safe space in such a troubling time.”

Cassandra Clem said the impact of COVID on BGC Airdrie's programs resulted in lower attendance in some of the club's after-school care facilities, as parents working from home didn’t require the same level of child care they previously did. She said that meant the club had to increase the amount of subsidy and sponsorship funds it allocated toward child participation, and lowered program costs – at times as much as 75 per cent – to accommodate families during the economic crisis.

“However, the children we have been able to continue to care for and build meaningful relationships with are so very grateful for the opportunity to play together, in person,” Clem said.

“When our kids are together and enjoying programs, spending time with our staff, and making friendships with each other, it makes everyone feel like, for a moment in time, the weight of the pandemic is off our shoulders and we are truly grateful to be able to continue to offer in person programming.”

—Submitted by Logan Mitchell/BGC Airdrie Breaking Barriers