Boys and Girls Club of Nampa steps up when schools shut down

NAMPA — Since the coronavirus pandemic hit Idaho, CEO Melissa Gentry has doubled her budget and beefed up her staff so the Boys and Girls Club of Nampa can serve more children displaced by unpredictable school schedules. 

The nonprofit’s budget increased to $1.4 million thanks to donations and a federal CARES Act grant of $200,000 from the Nampa City Council. The money was used to add five club locations at Nampa schools and to expand open hours. 

With most schools operating fully online or under a hybrid model, more children needed a place to go during the day while their parents work. The club usually serves 1,200 children a year but has already surpassed that in 2020 serving more than 1,400 children. Gentry moved all part-time staff to full-time to accommodate the demand. 

The club currently has more than 500 members, 129 of whom have parents employed by the Nampa School District. West Middle School Principal Chance Whitmore enrolled his two daughters in the program this year. His wife also works for the district as a teacher at Columbia High School.

When Nampa schools closed to go fully online last school year, Whitmore said his children “got the short end of the stick” while he and his wife were occupied with virtual meetings to help other students. 

After finding out this school year would also start online, his wife worked from home to watch their daughters. When the Boys and Girls Club of Nampa expanded to West Middle School, Whitmore joined and took both daughters to school with him. 

The program simplified their life and gave the girls structure.  “It’s one less thing,” Whitmore said. 

Students typically end up at club sites when school is virtual. They spend time doing homework but they also play on pool or foosball tables and a basketball court. Clubs offer education programs on cooking, drug prevention, abstinence and other life skills. Meals and snacks are served.

Activities require safety protocols, such as sanitizing, and club members and staff are required to wear masks. 

Even with six locations, Operations Manager Anthony Calloway said the club still needs additional space, in part to maintain social distancing. 

Gentry said she receives three to 10 new membership applications a day. And with new members, she’ll need more staff. 

To donate to the Boys and Girls Club of Nampa, click here.

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