For 50 years now, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana has served South Louisiana as the premier youth development organization for kids ages 6-18. Their afterschool and summer programs have welcomed thousands of youth over the years, providing them with a safe place to learn, explore, have fun, and build meaningful relationships with friends and mentors. As they set out to celebrate this milestone year, COVID-19 took them on a journey that they could never have anticipated. Still, fortunately, they were prepared to face the unexpected challenges head-on.
Nearly three years ago, Missy Bienvenu Andrade joined the BGC Acadiana team as President & CEO, charged with building its strategic direction and long-term sustainability. Missy and her team have leaned heavily on Boys & Girls Clubs of America to take advantage of resources, best practices, and thought partners, resulting in growth opportunities in current and new communities. The organization has gone through a tremendous amount of change, focused on running a more efficient business and creating a safer, more high-quality Club experience for the kids served each day. These efforts proved to be critically essential building blocks earlier this year when COVID-19 brought Louisiana to a halt.
When Governor Edwards announced school closures as a result of Covid-19 on Friday, March 13, 2020, the BGC Acadiana Corporate Board of Directors decided to close our Clubs. For the first time in 50 years, the kids who needed Clubs the most could not access those facilities. The team quickly mobilized technology and built a strategy focused on meal distributions, internet connectivity, and virtual programming. While clubs remained closed for traditional programs, Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana partnered with the Three O’clock Project to stand up multiple meal sites in the Acadiana region, handing out more than 1 million meals to youth in need. Additionally, they brought BGC programs to kids through virtual programming, ensuring they had access to mentors and club friends, academic support, art projects, STEM activities, and more.
Ultimately, the Acadiana Clubs operated a safe 6-week summer program successfully and subsequently launched the fall 2020 afterschool program. The credit belongs to the frontline staff who remained eager to adapt and serve, allowing the Clubs to get back to business and provide kids access to invaluable meals, homework help, and mentorship, all while following safe practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Boys & Girls Club’s mission to serve the kids who need us most has never been a more pressing issue in the state of Louisiana.
More than ever before, children in Louisiana need the support of what a Boys & Girls Club has to offer. Across the state, Club leaders have been collaborating to share ideas, explore partnerships, and discuss best practices to ensure that kids have access to existing Clubs, as well as prepare to respond to communities requesting Boys & Girls Club services. In January, the Cheniere Energy Club will open in Lake Charles, bringing much-needed youth services to a community that has lost so much this year. An intentional public-private partnership between Cheniere Energy, the City of Lake Charles, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana makes this a reality in Southwest Louisiana.
In late 2019, Boys & Girls Clubs in Louisiana was created as a consortium of all the Boys & Girls Clubs organizations in the state, representing nearly 25 locations and almost 25,000 youth served annually. Through robust board leadership and investment, the Louisiana organization aims to grow the mission, vision, programs, and outcomes of Boys & Girls Clubs to answer the need for youth in the state. Business and community leaders in Louisiana have signed on to bring this entity to life. They are committed to supporting existing operations and creating pathways to bring Clubs to communities in need. Boys & Girls Clubs in Louisiana is a gamechanger for youth in Louisiana and the first of its kind in the US.
-Missy Bienvenu Andrade
President & CEO
Boys & Girls Clubs of Acadiana
Looking for ways to support youth in Acadiana? Learn more here: www.bgcacadiana.com.
Looking for ways to support youth across Louisiana? Learn more here: www.bgcla.org.