April 21, 2020

In such a challenging time for our community, country and world, it has been heart-warming to see everyday acts of kindness shared between strangers. It is these moments of humanity that bring us together and inspire us to help others.

As four of BGCSF’s Clubhouses remain open to serve vulnerable youth and youth of hospital workers, essential city workers, and emergency services workers, face masks are a high-need for our Club staff—our frontline heroes who are showing up everyday at the Clubhouses to support youth and families during this time.

Faced with the urgent and critical need to keep our youth, staff and community safe, Carter Ashforth, Volunteer & Corporate Outreach Manager, turned to BGCSF’s dedicated volunteer community to see if they could help fill our need for masks… and they answered.

In a little under two weeks, volunteers have provided us with over 250 masks! From Banana Republic employees donating 100 masks, to a BGCSF staff member’s mother sending hand-sewn masks from Nebraska, the generosity has been immediate and impressive. These donations have been issued to our frontline Club staff and facilities staff who each play vital roles in keeping our Clubhouses safe, clean, and open for youth and families in need. This extraordinary outpouring of support couldn’t come at a better time, as the Mayor of San Francisco just issued a new health order on Friday requiring residents and workers to wear face coverings at essential businesses while performing essential work.


In one amazing example of community citizenship, a father and son team combined efforts to create cloth face masks made from materials that the teenage son used his own money to buy. Carter caught up with the two volunteers, Raul and Alex, to talk with them about their efforts to support BGCSF and the difference they, and so many others, are making during this difficult time. Alex was inspired by his dad, Raul, to support the Club, and Raul was initially inspired by BGCSF Board member, Chris Roeder, to give to BGCSF in many different and impactful ways. See below for their conversation, or click here to listen to the interview.


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Carter: During this time, the stories of community members like you stepping up is so inspiring. For this mask collection, we have been supported by awesome community members including the two of you. Can you share a little about who you are?

Alex:
My name is Alex, I’m fifteen, and I live right outside San Francisco, in Tiburon. I’m a sophomore at Marin Catholic High School and a big baseball player and fan! 

Raul:
I’m Raul, Alex’s dad. I grew up in Chicago and have been around San Francisco for years. I got to know BGCSF through special events, impactful Board members that I work with, and an amazing volunteer day through JLL which really impacted me and brought home the work you’re doing. Giving back is a big part of what we do as a family, and with Alex reaching that age, we both wanted to play our part. 

Carter: And what was it about BGCSF that drew you to becoming supporters? 

Alex:
It’s the work you’re doing with kids: you’re providing a safe place for around 2,000 youth every day, and you’re open on holidays and, even now, you’re open through coronavirus — never ceasing to help kids with school work, with anything, with everything.

Raul:
You made it very easy to get involved. When I did the volunteer day you immediately got back to me after when I had a bunch of questions. Then Alex got in touch with you and you immediately got back to him. And the personal touch after – I wasn’t expecting that! Everything I’ve seen from you guys; you can tell that there is going to be direct impact from your contribution.

Carter: We are so glad you’re supporting us, especially right now. Our Clubs are doing everything they can to stay safe, but with such a shortage of PPE all over the country it’s that much harder to get supplies. A week and a half ago, our Club leadership put out a call for masks, and we had an overwhelming response. How did you respond to this urgent ask?

Raul:
My father was a doctor. Alex was very close to my dad. I’m also a minority, and my dad was involved with the Latin community. His philanthropy was always a big part of growing up. I think a lot about him… he would have been, no question, on the frontlines. Alex had been looking at ways he could give back, even before this crisis. So, at home we were asking, ‘What can we do?’ And we challenged Alex to come up with something he could do, too.

Alex:
My dad gave me the initiative to help out the community any way I can. When he suggested supporting BGCSF, I went on the website, and I really liked what you are doing. It’s something I believe in, and it's local. I thought making masks was something relatively easy I could do—there was a big need, and it would be super helpful. I bought supplies, learned to sew, and made masks. And I really believe in supporting this cause, so I also made my own donation from my savings.

Alex answers BGCSF's call by making masks for Clubhouse staff and youth and by using his savings to make a personal donation to BGCSF.


Carter: Thank you so much. Your contribution of masks is so valuable. We had an amazing response from volunteers, and these masks are helping keep our staff and youth safe at the Clubhouses. It’s inspiring to hear from you and it sounds like you’re a family with such a strong civic responsibility. I would love to hear from you – what does community mean to you?

Raul:
To me, (and this is going to dovetail into what makes you all so special), community is where you take care of each other. The one thing that is so great about your organization is that the people I know that are involved are all in. They’re not just writing a check. They are really taking it seriously. Anytime I’ve gone to an event, like the golf event, you’re not just there to play golf. You’re there to support something that is going to make a difference in the community. So, for me, community means you’re all living together, sometimes the resources are scarce, and you need to step up, and you need to help out those deficiencies. That could be financial assistance, that can be supporting a friend in a time of need, but it's being there for each other to address those shortfalls. That’s the way I grew up – my parents came from a different country, and they were constantly telling stories of people helping them, and they never forgot it. So they taught me that it's your responsibility to put in more than you take out.

Alex:
For me, it's providing for others any way you can. Maybe for someone my dad’s age, it can be financial. For me, it was making masks. I can’t donate a big check, but I can do something that can help. It’s something easy even if you can’t help out in any other way.

Raul (back row, second from left) joins fellow JLL employees for a volunteer day at the Columbia Park Clubhouse in December 2019.


Carter: We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our community. Each act of kindness is impactful. Do you have any advice for potential volunteers who might support BGCSF?

Raul:
Doing the volunteer day was so impactful. Seeing the Clubhouse, seeing the community, knowing your efforts are serving that specific neighborhood. You were so organized—it was great! And the kids, they were so excited for us to be there and to help them with whatever. I would say going there and seeing the work firsthand, which you guys facilitate and make so easy. I know Alex will love it the first minute you step into a Club. Go there, and physically see it (once the shelter-in-place is over, of course.)

Alex:
For me looking at the website, researching what BGCSF is doing, really inspired me. So, I’d say get to know as much as you can about the organization that you’re investing your time in and helping.

Carter: I agree. You are incredible volunteers! Thank you so much for all you’re doing!

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We would like to express our gratitude to all of our amazing volunteers who have continued supporting us through this crisis. Special thanks to those who, like Alex and Raul, have lent a hand for this urgent need for masks:

  • Angele Gray
  • Diane Lohmeyer
  • Jules Gerstenberg
  • Lissa Doty
  • Lyndsay Carter
  • Melanie Ensign
  • Priyanka Sodhi
  • Rani Mukkamala
  • Rosemary Cassidy
  • Smita Sahni
  • Steven Reder
  • Susan Lange 
  • Vivian Lee


BGCSF is still in need of more masks! To learn more or get involved, please contact Carter Ashforth at cashforth@kidsclub.org or at 415-445-5482.

For more great stories from BGCSF, check out our blog!

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