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New program connects nonprofits with kids

With the Daily Drop-In at the Boys and Girls Club of Brattleboro, five nonprofits bring creative opportunities to participating youth

BRATTLEBORO—The Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro announces its winter programming, with a combination of Boys & Girls Club of America offerings and a new offering — the Daily Drop-In —featuring collaborations with local nonprofit organizations.

The club is collaborating with the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC), River Gallery School, and New England Youth Theatre (NEYT) to offer a range of programs, according to Executive Director Michelle Simpson.

Like so many changes in recent months, the new program owes its inception to COVID-19 and the need for the club to create programming for smaller groups of kids.

After resuming in-person programming in July, Simpson said that it quickly became evident to staff that under safety protocols, “it couldn’t be the same sort of free-for-all” where kids could “hang out anywhere you want in the building.”

Each afternoon starts with “study hall conditions” at the club from 2 to 3 p.m. in a library area, she said. “So after that study hall is over, we move the kids down to this Daily Drop In, which is offered by one of our community partners.”

The programs are a “win/win” because as the kids move to other parts of the building, staff can come behind them and sanitize the library.

“And then, of course, the other piece to all of this is, from a sort of organizational perspective, you essentially have expert volunteers delivering these high-quality programs,” Simpson said.

“It’s good for kids, great for the organization, and, I think, for the collaborating organizations as well,” she said.

Simpson noted that the sessions are designed not to assume that kids are attending regularly, although they are welcome to do so.

Programs include:

• Mondays: Behind the scenes at Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center. Danny Lichtenfield will take club members through the museum and exhibits as only a director can.

• Tuesdays: Parkour! An experienced parkour instructor will introduce members to the sport.

• Thursdays: Sketching and Drawing with River Gallery School. Julia Zanes will guide kids in using various art mediums to create something beautiful.

• Fridays: Theater and improv with New England Youth Theatre. Channel the inner actor and try out theater, with NEYT Executive Director Hallie Flower.

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 4 to 5 p.m., the club will offer Ultimate Journeys, a Boys & Girls Club of America program in conjunction with the National Park Service, as well as local organizations like the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro, to bring nature into the club.

Through hands-on experiments, observations, games, art, and community partnerships, members will “explore their environment and discover how we all ultimately depend on nature for our survival,” according to a news release. The program will get members out into the field as well, taking nature hikes, discovering “urban nature,” and exploring trails.

The program will also have a field trip to Vermont’s only National Park — the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock. Ultimate Journeys is led by Membership Coordinator Nicole Koziara, who is studying permaculture, science, and nature at Greenfield Community College and has been “instrumental in bringing this program to life,” according to Simpson.

The licensed after-care program for kids ages 6 to 11 continues at the Retreat Farm on Route 30. What started as a need to get kids out of a windowless room in the Boys and Girls Club headquarters on Flat Street has turned into a vibrant program that can get kids of all backgrounds and from all economic strata playing together outdoors.

“It really offsets all of the screen time,” Simpson said. “Nature is a great equalizer.”

The first Friday of each month is Teen Night: Flat Street After Dark, from 7 to 9 p.m. On Friday, Feb. 5, the club will hold a drawing for three lift tickets to Magic Mountain Ski Area in Londonderry for anyone who attends. The theme is Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day.

All COVID-19 protocols remain in place, which require that the club limit the building occupancy to 25 members. Programs can have up to 10 people participating.

The club is open Monday through Friday, 2 to 6 p.m., for members ages 12 to 18. The skate park is open from 3 to 6 p.m. Daily Drop In programming from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. is available for those ages 10 to 18.

All programs are free.

A tentative schedule is available at bgcbrattleboro.org/programs/flat-street-schedule. Learn more about Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro on Facebook, or visit bgcbrattleboro.org.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #598 (Wednesday, February 3, 2021). This story appeared on page A8.

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