The new Salida Boys & Girls Club facility at 709 Palmer St. was open for only two weeks before closing due to COVID-19 precautions.

Following national and guidelines and orders, when the schools closed in Buena Vista and Salida, the clubs closed too.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chaffee County have become a staple in the community, providing after-school and summer programming for local youth.

“Usually, when school is out, Boys & Girls Club is in,” Brian Beaulieu, executive director of the local clubs, said. “For the first time in our history, that’s not quite the case at this time, as we will only reopen when it’s safe to do so.”

The clubs serve more than 400 kids in Salida and more than 300 kids in Buena Vista.

“We are preparing for the likelihood that school will not return to in-person instruction and if CDC, public health, governor, etc., say it’s safe to serve kids, we will reopen up our club in Salida as soon as possible, welcoming kids back with open arms,” Beaulieu said.

He said there are a lot of “if and then” scenarios that first need to happen.

Since the club in Buena Vista is school-based, it is uncertain what that will look like at this point, for May programming at least.

“We are planning no fewer than 11 weeks of summer programming in Salida and Buena Vista this summer. Our program staff are working on the summer program now, coordinating with all of our great partners and volunteers,” Beaulieu said.

Staff in both locations are working on ways to interact with kids online and to provide boxes of activities for pickup for kids who do not have online access.

They are also communicating with parents and kids via phone and online to maintain their bond and make sure kids are safe, connected and engaged, Beaulieu said.

Online programming at both sites and contests with incentives are some of the strategies staff are using to help keep kids busy and engaged.

One such program was recently implemented by Tessie Ortega, Salida club director.

Salida staff are sending out a variety of weekly challenges in sports and recreation, arts, learning and reading and general fun for Boys & Girls Club members’ participation.

If kids participate, and parents send in a photo confirmation of their kids’ participation based on weekly instructions, the child’s name is entered for a free large Moonlight Pizza drawing on Mondays.

Beaulieu said new membership cards will be mailed to all members soon as a reminder that they are club kids.

“We hope their membership cards will get them excited to return as soon as we reopen. We think parents and guardians will also be excited,” he said.

“When we get the go-ahead, both clubs will be ready to open on short notice with full programming.”

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