Instead of hopping off of the bus to go straight home each day, around 70 children from ages 6-18 are embraced by the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana in Covington.
Located at 919 North Columbia Street, it is fairly close to downtown but also right down the street from a neighborhood that is home to many children and teenagers. Also, right down the street is the Northshore Food Bank. Occasionally, the Food Bank donates food items to the Club.
The Club’s director, Ron Smith, took the position in 2016 and transitioned into the job nicely. He has always had a passion for working with children. He worked at a Boys and Girls Club in Mississippi in a different position, so this is his first time being a director.
Each summer, Smith takes on the tasks of first reaching a required number of children at the Club, and then, having to set a limit if too many children want to be in the program. The math is simple for Smith in terms of how the summer works—the more children that are at the Club equals more workers to hire.
It is important for the Club to have a good number of children because of the programs that are offered at the Boys and Girls Club in most locations now. Programs are offered at the Club during the school year and over the summer. They are possible through the donations and sponsors.
The afterschool program features programming that focus on the children’s academic, such as help with homework or tutoring. Immediately when they get of their buses, a snack awaits them. The snack is something that is healthy, such as fruit. The Club never turns down any volunteers of the community or nearby schools that wish to be involved. Smith has received volunteers from schools such as St. Paul’s High School and Saint Scholastica Academy.
Along with the afterschool program, the Club also features a summer enrichment program. It begins in June and ends in July, right before the children are set to return back to school. The summer program usually averages around 100 campers. The summer also focuses on education, with more of a fun twist, having more outside experiences available. Many of the same programs that are offered after school are also offered over the summer.
Many events and activities happen over the summer. The staff and children go on a few field trips, which partly depends on if any outside organizations pay for them to go on one. A big field trip that the Club was able to be a part of was in Mississippi at the Stennis Space Center. The Space Center partnered with INFINITY Science. Although Smith was only able to send about 50 children on the field. Those 50 children were required to complete a class prior to the field trip.
“Around this time the solar eclipse was about to happen, so it made the field trip more interesting,” he said.
Bernard Penn is a current member of the staff, working over the summer. Penn once was a little kid learning and playing at the Covington’s Club. Many of the children from the neighborhood know Penn because of this, so he has a close relationship with many of them.
Mark Buckner also served the Covington during school for a semester. This past summer he served at the Westbank location. When all of the clubs (Slidell, Covington, New Orleans, and the Westbank) go on field trips together, he is thrilled to see the kids from the Covington location. This happened at a Baby Cakes baseball game that all of the Southeast Louisiana clubs attended.
Without the help of Faith Bible Church, located down the street from the Covington Club, Smith would have to find another way to provide lunch to the children. Each day, the lunch ladies at the church provided lunch to the Club while also providing lunch for its own camp. The Club waits till after the Faith Bible camp children have finished eating.
The church also provided bus services for the Club so that the children do not have to walk every day. The walk from the Club to church is about a 30 minute walk (15 minutes there and 15 minutes back). Smith and the children are thankful for the days that they do not have to walk. On rainy days, the children are not able to walk to the church, so the lunch ladies at the church pack up lunches and the bus driver delivers it over to the Club.