In August, Governor Kevin Stitt announced the launch of Community HOPE Centers that would provide services and resources to Oklahoma children and families in response to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Funded by $15 million from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds, Oklahoma Human Services selected several community partnerships to collaborate with around the state. The Boys & Girls Club of Norman was among the first organizations selected. The club is operated by the Center for Children and Families, a nonprofit providing a full range of services for metro families.
“We knew that students would need a safe place to get help logging in and accessing virtual learning,” shared Alexis Lux, chief executive officer for the center. “They would need a safe place to spend the day and get meals at no cost.”
The grant allowed the center to acquire staff, technology and supplies to respond to the evolving needs of the community. Serving kids ages 6 to 18, programming increased from roughly 20 hours a week to 45 hours a week.
“The grant was transformational,” Lux said. “We needed to buy tablets, cleaning products, safety equipment and [hire] additional staff to reduce our student ratios to ensure social distancing was possible.”
The grant paid for the entirety of the fall operations for the club.
“It was a huge relief to know that our operations were covered, and that’s just not the norm for a nonprofit,” Lux said. “We usually charge our parents $10 a semester, which does not go very far to cover expenses.”
Lux said there has been an added benefit to the new ratios.
“With the smaller group sizes, we are really able to get to know the kids and see what is going on in their lives. Through that closer attention, we can build important relationships,” she said.
A key component to the HOPE centers is a focus on mental health and the effects of adverse childhood experiences, an effort championed by First Lady Sarah Stitt.
“The negative effects of childhood trauma are significant and multi-generational,” said First Lady Sarah Stitt. “By providing mental health services, social-emotional learning programs and educational and nutritional support, these HOPE Centers will be a foundational step to mitigating the negative impacts of COVID in Oklahoma.”
Lux confirmed there have been increased needs in communities and the demand for mental health services and other resources has risen significantly since March.
“We have seen an increased need for mental health services, especially services specializing in trauma-informed care,” she said. “Because of the grant, we were able to add a full-time counselor and will be hiring another soon to handle the uptick in calls.”
Since March 2020, the center’s diaper pantry has given out more than 24,000 diapers, twice their normal supply, and provided more than 2,500 transformational services agency-wide. The Center for Children and Families has been serving families in the Oklahoma City metro for 50 years providing a variety of services to help children and parents including parenting classes, counseling and co-parenting services as well as the Boys & Girls Club of Norman.
As the center shifts its services to meet the changing needs of metro families, Lux said they are always in need of community support.
“Groups all over the metro have hosted diaper drives and supported us. Diapers don’t go bad and there is always a need. We have a robust volunteer program. It looks a little different during COVID but we have opportunities, even on the weekends. Financial contributions are always a great way to support us as well as our book and holiday drives,” she shared.
To learn more about the HOPE center at the Boys & Girls Club of Norman or the services provided by the Center for Children and Families and how you can get involved, visit ccfinorman.org.