Drew Baugh and Draylon Jackson play chess at the Boys and Girls Club.
Drew Baugh and Draylon Jackson play chess at the Boys and Girls Club.
The Boys and Girls Club program in Philadelphia is back open entertaining and teaching kids while remaining safe during the pandemic. 

Jermaine Harris, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club in Neshoba County, said he and the rest of the staff are making sure to practice the proper safety precautions while making sure every kid participating has just as much fun as before. 

“Operating this club during the pandemic is extremely different. We’ve gone from doing side-by-side large group activities and being around one another to being separated by six to seven feet, which changes everything,” Harris said. “We made blocks out of tape on the floor that are convenient to help the kids line up when we go to an area. It tells them where to stand or sit when they go in a room. We’ve gone from large numbers and having fun and being safe, to constantly cleansing and being safe. It’s a big difference.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Harris feels that it’s a good thing for kids to learn and be conditioned when it comes to being safe around other people and protecting not only them, but also themselves. 

“In this club, we deal with real life issues like drugs, tobacco, and other things you should stay away from, along with how to be fit and healthy. There’s no better time to teach our kids about social distancing and masks. We lead by example and make sure to always wear our masks, wash our hands, social distance, and keep everything clean so kids can follow our safe procedures.”

Harris appreciates the community and what it’s done for him and the rest of the Boys and Girls Club. 

“The community has blessed us, and it’s been a blessing to just give back. We make sure to do our part and it’s been a major plus with everything that’s been going on, and this organization can continue to keep giving back in the way that everyone has given to us,” he said. “We want to thank the superintendent for allowing us to have a summer program. The campus of Philadelphia Elementary has been on board with this program for nearly five years and it’s allowed kids to have what they need at this club to be successful.”

Teresa Powe, youth development director for the Boys and Girls Club, feels that the biggest challenge of running the club during the pandemic is making sure all of the kids follow the health regulations. 

“Being able to teach kids about all of this is a wonderful thing, but it’s difficult to keep them all in line,” Powe said. “Kids are always up in each other’s space. You’re trying to make sure you’re not being ugly or mean to them, but also making sure they’re safe. Our greatest challenge is keeping everything clean and making sure that kids are following rules and staying a proper distance from each other.”

Powe is grateful for the trust the community of Philadelphia has shown to the club. “I think it’s great that the parents trust us with their kids,” she said. “It shows the amazing level of trust that the people of Philadelphia have with us.” 

Stacey Peeler, a staff member at the Boys and Girls Club and who is employed with the Philadelphia School District, also feels that opening the club back up is a good opportunity to teach the kids about staying healthy during the pandemic.

“The kids can be in a structured environment and adjust to the procedures,” Peeler said. “It’s hard to make sure all the kids remember to stay in their squares and social distance themselves.”

Peeler said the pandemic has taken a toll on the club, and a lot more precautions have to be taken to keep things running. “Before the pandemic, we had a lot more students. COVID-19 caused our enrollment to be cut in half, and we constantly have to wipe everything down and sanitize it when people come through.” 

The club is located at 406 Stribling Street and the telephone number is (601) 880-6322. Go to eastmississippibgc.org/philadelphia-unit.