Your support can help lift children out of poverty: Jeff Scott
Guest columnist Jeff Scott is the president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, which has approximately 40 locations in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain and Erie counties.
Boys & Girls Clubs have been an integral part of the fabric of our community since 1954, when a group of business leaders from Republic Steel (now ArcelorMittal) opened a “Boys Club” in the Slavic Village neighborhood of Cleveland.
The club became one of the most progressive in the country, accepting girls as members 14 years before its national organization.
Since then, thousands of children ages 6 to 18 have relied on us – from Cleveland to Akron to Lorain County to Erie County – to provide safe and fun places to go after school and life-changing opportunities.
However, this is not enough.
In 2022, we are opening a new chapter in the history of Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio (BGCNEO). We have a plan to lift the region out of its #1 ranking for child poverty. But to carry out this important transformational initiative, we need the help of individuals and businesses.
We need to accomplish three things together by 2025:
• First, we must deepen our roots in the communities we serve through a core community model. Very simply, it’s about bringing clubs together in a way that allows us to more quickly deliver exactly what young people and communities are asking for. It also gives more support to our teams on the ground, allows us to be a better partner for other organizations and allows us to help gather resources for these neighborhoods.
• Second, we must stay true to the core programs of Boys and Girls Clubs, which focus on social and emotional learning and academic success. However, we must invest to enhance and improve them.
• And third, given the number of young people in need in Northeast Ohio, we need to do more of the above in more communities by doubling the size of our footprint. We have a plan to double the number of young people we serve from 10,000 per year to 20,000 by 2025.
Since the 2019 merger that created BGCNEO, our team has adjusted our model and continued to provide much-needed services to our young people, regardless of the limitations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
And while much of our initial post-merger work focused on integrating and stabilizing the organization and forming a new culture, our mindset was simple: focus on what our young people need, and the rest will fall into place.
We now look forward to the future and how we can have the greatest impact in our communities and with our greatest investment – our young people.
We think our approach to this plan, while simple, is innovative. However, the innovation is not in what we are going to do, but in how we are going to do it and how we have arrived at the long-term objectives of the plan.
In the 18 months we spent developing this plan, we spent the most time talking to young people, our communities and our teams on the ground. The needs and priorities of these teammates, these voices, are the sole priorities of the organization.
Our Board of Directors, our leadership team and our supporters will work now to support this vision.
When people ask us how they can help or what we need most, the answer is resources and funding. We rely on grants from foundations and various government entities. We have seen donations from individuals and businesses remain stable or even decline over the past decade.
It would be so amazing if we had the support of the entire region to end our #1 ranking in child poverty. Helping organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs is one of our best chances to do so.
We hope you will join us on the journey.
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