By Rob Connolly, BGCSF President
As we push through what we all hope are the final chapters of this pandemic, it’s important for us as individuals and for BGCSF as an organization to take time to reflect on what has happened and to think about what is next.
Lasting impressions are formed about people during tough times. My respect and appreciation for BGCSF’s staff could not be higher. Also, I am so grateful for the manner in which our youth, staff, Board members, donors, and volunteers worked together to confront this crisis. Together, we have successfully navigated through the darkest days of COVID-19 and prepared ourselves for the work ahead.
Challenging times can expose existing cracks in any foundation, as we’ve seen over the last year and a half. COVID may be the headline, but it’s hardly the full story. Over the past 18 months, a bright light has shone on the harsh inequities in our society. Ignored for far too long, these injustices must be addressed if we are to thrive as a city, state, and nation. When a crisis of any kind strikes, those who have the least are forced to endure the most, and this fact was certainly on display throughout the pandemic.
We are all eager to move beyond COVID-19, and because we are, we talk about “getting back to normal”. But all of us, as individuals and collectively, need to question whether “normal” should be the goal. For too many, normal wasn’t working very well at all.
Here at the Club, we are ready and eager to take on the important work ahead of us. As an organization, we will continue to be resilient, adaptive, and determined. We know the recovery from the pandemic will be long for many of our youth, families, and communities — and we will be there every step of the way.
The Club’s top priorities moving forward are addressing learning loss and fostering the socioemotional wellness of our Club numbers. We have added 11 new positions to address these two monumentally important areas.
In the coming months, you will also see us focus on youth empowerment, job readiness, financial literacy, and sports, fitness, and play. We recognize that each of these areas has a role to play in our members’ development, achievements, and overall success. Our holistic approach to youth development will be vitally important to the long-term health and well-being of all Club kids in the wake of this crisis.
Beyond our programs and services for our Club members, you will see us focus on our staff. I’ve always held our staff members in great esteem, but in the last 18 months, they have really gone above and beyond and they made a very strong case for just how important youth development workers are. They’ve put themselves in harm’s way to meet the needs of kids, families, and neighborhoods.
We have an impressive team at BGCSF — people with the right combination of skill, passion, determination, integrity, and work ethic. We are committed to supporting and sustaining our people in this work. Burnout is all too real, and we must find creative ways to combat it. We will continue to invest in learning and development so that our staff members have the skills needed for today’s work, but also so that they can build a career in the youth development field or in nonprofits more broadly.
I am also pleased to share that as a Board and staff, we are determined to expand our reach and serve more youth than ever before. One example of this is that earlier this year, despite all the challenges of the pandemic, we added a new location – a school site on the top of Hunters Point Hill. And, we are close to breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art Clubhouse in the Sunnydale community, a San Francisco neighborhood that we have served for 30 years. Plus, going forward, we will continue to explore exciting opportunities that allow us to reach more youth and to serve them in the most effective ways possible.
In his book Good to Great, the business author and BGCSF alum Jim Collins talks about “preserving what’s core while stimulating progress.” That’s our plan moving forward.
There are things about BGCSF that are so fundamental to who we are that they should never change, like our holistic approach to youth development and our ability and commitment to meet every child right where they are. Beyond these things, we will stimulate progress in ways big and small.
The Club has excelled during Covid-19 through a combination of resilience, adaptability, and determination. Each of these words has a strong meaning to us as we think back over the last 18 months. We’ve put in the work and built strong and trusting relationships with kids, families, neighborhoods, donors, and the City of San Francisco. Now, we must leverage those relationships to confront future challenges and opportunities.
Youth, families, staff, volunteers, Board members, and donors … every one of you plays an important role in our community’s success. The pandemic has reminded us over and over that relationships are essential to our success.
I’m grateful to everyone who commits themselves to the success of Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco — and, even more so, the young people we serve each day!
BGCSF is currently offering free support and training to Black-serving and Black-led individuals and organizations participating in The Dream Keeper Initiative, a citywide effort launched in 2021 to reinvest $120 million over two years into San Francisco’s diverse Black communities.
April is Arab American Heritage Month and I am excited to both reflect on what this month means to me personally and share how BGCSF and Camp Mendocino engage Arab youth and their families.
We are pleased to highlight a member of our Senior Leadership Team, Erin Gutierrez. Erin has served the BGCSF community for 15 years. Her experience spans multiple roles across the organization and provides a powerful and unique perspective on the holistic impact of BGCSF.