In the past year, the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines pivoted its programs but continued it mission: to help East Texas children grow and reach their full potential.

Through its after-school programs and clubs, the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines typically serves about 1,000 children across East Texas per day, Executive Director Chad Patterson said. However, in 2020, the clubs after-school programs on area campuses were suspended and daily enrollment at the clubs decreased to about 350 children per day.

The goal, however, remained the same.

"Our core mission is to help kids grow up to be productive, caring responsible adults," he said.

The organization's offers four main areas of focus for children: academic enrichment, character and leadership, healthy lifestyles and making good choices, and workforce and career readiness.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization began collaborating with Community Healthcore for emotional support services for children and staff, Patterson said.

"We really focus on the whole person — mind, body and spirit — to make sure our kids have everything they need to reach their full potential," he said.

While Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines traditionally offers on-campus after school programs, those endeavors were temporarily suspended amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization temporarily closed its locations in the spring, but resumed in-person programming June 1 with added safety protocols in place to ensure safety.

"Our staff has done an amazing job. I think this is the cleanest our clubs have ever been," he said. “If anything, I think there has been a renewal of their own commitment to our work. The pandemic has really helped the community see the value of our after school programs.”

After the pandemic ends, Patterson said he looks forward to the day when Boys & Girls Club volunteers can return to campuses to help children there in addition to at the clubs. He said the organization anticipates being limited until summer, but is prepared to return to campuses as soon as it can.

Looking toward the future, Patterson said he hopes to help the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines grow in its footprint and its offerings.

The organization is interested in having a club site in Mount Pleasant and continuing to deepen its workforce readiness opportunities, he said. Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines has partnerships with Texas State Technical College in Marshall and with Longview Economic Development Corp. in Longview to help children begin to think about their futures.

“We want to really connect with our local business community to help kids see all of the opportunities that are out there,” he said.

Patterson noted that some children in Marshall have never even been to Longview.

“We want to open their eyes to the possibilities of what’s out there and give them a pathway to get there,” he said. “We want them to feel valued, like they have a voice and to know that there are people out there who care about them. We believe in the potential they bring to the table and we want to help them develop.”

To do that, Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines will give them resources and tools to help them thrive.

“We meet kids where they are and take them to those great places we know they've been created to achieve,” he said.

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