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The sounds of summer return to the Boys and Girls Club of Craig

David Pressgrove / Craig Press
A sign of support from the staff at the Boys and Girls Club hangs in early May when the club was closed due to the pandemic.
Joshua Carney / Craig Press File

It had been a long time since the halls of the Boys and Girls Club in Craig were full of the sounds they were intended for, children playing and enjoying the opportunities abound at the club. That changed on Monday, June 22, as the club opened back up for the first time since the middle of March.

“It’s so wonderful to have happy sounds in our buildings again,” said Executive Director Dana Duran. “We can tell kids are excited to be able to socialize and be together and we’re excited to serve communities again in the way we were intended to serve.”

Each Boys and Girls Club across the country came up with how they would handle the challenges of COVID-19. Some clubs remained open to operate for children of essential workers while others, like the Craig and Steamboat clubs that make up the Boys and Girls Club of Northwest Colorado, were closed.

“Safety has always been our top priority,” Duran said. “We looked at all the angles for opening and the middle of June was the most feasible for us.”

Despite being closed, the club still provided virtual services to more than 1,000 area kids and gave away 1,500 “busy bags” filled with activities.

The first week the club opened up in Craig, attendance was limited to three groups of seven to eight children. The groups rotated together to different activities and rooms. The children and staff wore masks when they were inside.

“Kids have been adjusting to having masks,” Duran said. “But it hasn’t been as complicated as I had anticipated.”

To help ensure they meet and maintain standards, the Boys & Girls Club hired an industrial hygienist. The hygienist helped the staff come up with creative ways to teach social distancing to young kids, such as suggesting putting various animals or toys between them to help show what 6 feet looks like.

Duran said that despite all the changes to how the club operated, her biggest challenge has been turning people away.

“It has been the very hardest thing I have ever done, and the club has ever done — to limit the number of kids that come into the building in such a significant way,” she said.

For the first time ever, there was a registration process. There were so many applicants, a lottery was used to choose the first group of kids.

After starting with three groups of eight, the club expanded to seven groups of eight this week. There is still a waiting list for kids and Duran said she appreciated parents’ patience and that they hoped, as long as it can be done safely, to serve all youth as soon as possible. To get on the list parents can go by the club or go online to bgcnwc.org to register and get on the list.

One other challenge for the club has been the increased costs that come with the added guidelines and the need for more increased staff supervision. Prior to closing, the staff needs were one for every 15 youth. To follow the guidelines of no more than 10 in a room, the ratio is down to one staff member for every seven or eight members. In addition, the club purchased new sports equipment, personal protective equipment and lots and lots of disinfectant.

“Our increased costs mean we are serving about one-third to half the amount of kids with the same operating cost (as before),” Duran said.

Financial support is needed now more than ever for the club in order to continue to keep operating. The next public fundraiser in Craig will be the Yahoo Golf Tournament and golf ball drop in September. Those wishing to support the club can call 970-826-0411 or go to the aforementioned website.

Shelby Reardon of the Steamboat Pilot and Today contributed to this story.


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