“What’s the need, and how do we fill it?” asks Robert Santana, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast, which serves 10,000 children in Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and Orange.
That question, he says, “has been our mission ever since the pandemic hit.”
As COVID-19 put new pressures on working families, the most glaring regional need was hunger among those members from disadvantaged backgrounds, Santana explains. But the organization rose to the occasion.
Early in the pandemic, the club partnered with nonprofits Helping Hand Worldwide and Second Harvest Food Bank to provide free food to families in need, particularly in and around Santa Ana. To date, they’ve distributed more than 500,000 meals.
“We’re grateful to all of our volunteers and donors who helped us be there for those most affected.” – Robert Santana, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast
The organization also targeted the “learning loss” experienced by children whose homes lack technology, including laptops and Wi-Fi needed to complete remote schoolwork, Santana says. Kids were falling behind after being excluded from Zoom classroom discussions because they lacked the proper tools.
“Getting this technology into their hands became one of our biggest priorities,” Santana says. “Fortunately, one of our community partners, Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation, were also thinking of this issue and reached out to us, wanting to fill this void.”
With this support, the club was able to provide Chromebooks, iPads and portable Wi-Fi hotspots to kids in need.
“We’re grateful to all of our volunteers and donors who helped us be there for those most affected,” Santana says. “Someday, we’ll look back at this pandemic and we’ll see a story of resilience – of how good people did something for others.”