By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Kevin Stitt, First Lady Sarah Stitt, and Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives director Justin Brown have announced that $15 million in CARES Act Funds (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) will be set aside to support 30+ Community HOPE Centers in Oklahoma.
The coronavirus relief bill funds will be used to support centers which will serve approximately 4,200 youth with safe places to go while their parents are at work if their schools offer virtual (remote) learning this fall due to the pandemic.
The centers will be open Monday through Friday serving youth ages 5 – 18.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County’s Templo de Alabanza site, located in the Capitol Hill area, will be the first Community HOPE Center to receive funds. The facility, at 301 SW 25th, will incorporate heightened safety and security protocols related to COVID-19.
Rachel Ramirez, director of operations at Templo de Alabanza, told KOCO reporter Dillon Richards, “the funding will be an answered prayer.
“I knew that there were so many families, especially in my community, that are essential workers who are going to need help, maybe can’t afford child care or the achievement gap is going to be even larger,” Ramirez told Richards. “So, we really needed to do something.”
Richards tweeted that these funds “will allow existing providers, particularly ones that serve kids in low-income or vulnerable neighborhoods, to become HOPE Centers. OKDHS will provide an employee and some curriculum.”
In addition to the highest quality, evidence-based youth development programming, mentoring, and enrichment activities provided by BGCOKC, each Community HOPE Center will provide critical services to families, which include mental health services, access to OKDHS staff, nutritious meals and virtual learning tools.
Students will also receive valuable support throughout the distance learning process in partnerships with local school districts.
“When the pandemic hit our state, the needs of our kids and families expanded tremendously, and our motto of doing ‘Whatever it Takes to Build Great Futures’ took on a completely new meaning,” said President & CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County, Teena Belcik.
“We are proud to expand our reach and to be the first site to open,” Belcik added. “We will begin serving kids next week, and we look forward to working with OKDHS, Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth-serving organizations across the state as we collectively serve more kids and families, and with deeper impact.”
Because safety is the number one priority of BGCOKC, the Community HOPE Center at Capitol Hill will follow safety protocols related to the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), social distancing, sanitation, and use of masks, Belcik noted.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County is a member of Boys & Girls Clubs of America and a partner agency of the United Way of Central Oklahoma.
BGCOKC’s mission is “to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.”
BGCOKC offers evidence-based national programs in the areas of academics, the arts, college and career planning, athletics, health and nutrition, anti-bullying, drug and alcohol prevention, inclusion and diversity, and leadership.
These programs contribute toward achieving the organization’s three Priority Outcomes – Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles, and Strong Character & Citizenship. For more information, visit bgokc.org.
In March of this year, Congress passed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the nation’s third stimulus funding package (~$2 trillion) focused on responding to the coronavirus crisis.
The CARES Act focuses on boosting the US economy and supporting the country to a path of recovery, by providing additional aid across healthcare, travel, defense, education, and other industries during the coronavirus pandemic.
To learn more, visit home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares.