Marianne Freeborn, director of the Keizer Branch of the Boys & Girls Club, guides club members through breathing exercises.

The Keizer Boys & Girls Club has foregone in-person meetings, but they’re still connecting with the kids.

“Once the school district made the announcement that [closures] weren’t just spring break, that’s when we started creating programming,” said Keizer Branch Director Marianne Freeborn. 

The Boys & Girls Club created a virtual classroom on their website that has packets for kids in both English and Spanish. Freeborn said the packets were made of a mixture of fun activities and learning activities.

Freeborn added that a lot of the material for their online packets already existed. The packets target some of the Boys &nd Girls Club main focuses: academic success, character, leadership and healthy lifestyle. 

“We have adapted a lot of that to be self-led so kids can do it at home themselves,” she said.

They created the packets to help kids fight off boredom and to remind kids that the staff still cares about them. Freeborn said that either she, or another staff member have talked with most of the families in an effort to stay connected.

They have been reaching out through a YouTube channel, Facebook page and a TicTok account, which was created to connect with the teens. The club’s Facebook account features staff-made video lessons, one of which is Freeborn leading breathing exercises to help manage stress. Other tips from Freeborn on stress management include, staying connected, understanding that your best does not look the same as someone else’s best, take the crisis day by day and continue to do the things that make you happy and are important to you.

One stressor for parents and kids alike is distance learning. Most everyone’s work schedule has been changed because of COVID-19, some parents are working more than ever and some are not working at all.

“Everyone is facing a unique set of obstacles,” Freeborn said.

The club has been doing its best to provide for their families. In addition to creating supplemental work for the children, staff members delivered Chromebooks and dropped off packets with school material and supplies to families of first responders as well as others in need.

When the initial shut down of the schools was announced, most students were expecting to return to the classroom and left all their supplies there. School supplies are now needed by families and the Boys & Girls Club is accepting donations to help meet that need.

Freeborn wanted the kids of the Boys & Girls Club to know they she and the rest of the staff miss them. 

“We really miss then and we really care about them and we can’t wait to see them when the club opens. We’re here for them, whether it’s by phone, email, Facebook, however they want to get ahold of us,” she said.

Those interested in donating can contact Freeborn at [email protected]