The Boys and Girls Club of McAllen has seen its share of ups and downs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the program has constantly provided its services and continues to add resources to the community.

According to Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, the club has seen some state funding cut from the program, but the city of McAllen and McAllen school district have both gone above and beyond to help the organization continue to serve the community’s children.

“As an organization, we’ve been holding up well because either we’ve had community financial support with annual sponsors that know the situation,” Alcantar said. “We have received some state funding. Some of our grants were not renewed. That was difficult.”

Alcantar said the public has also come to the club’s aid, which in addition to assistance from the local institutions such as the city and school district has helped keep the club’s services.

The Boys and Girls Club of McAllen has many activities for members at Travis Middle School. (Courtesy Photo)

“Financially, the local community has stepped up,” she added. “I will also say that the city of McAllen has stepped up, and also McAllen ISD. Like anywhere else, we have received some pretty severe cuts. We expected them, but it was a little more severe than we anticipated.”

One particular grant that was cut was specifically written for the club to intervene in areas of the community with high numbers of children in need.

“Your at-risk population is what we want to target,” Alcantar said. “We want to supplement some of the unfortunate adverse house experiences either due to poverty, demographics such as single-parent homes, they may be behind in terms of literacy. That’s some of the money that we use.”

She praised the city of McAllen and McAllen school district for continuing to support the club in various ways.

She said that with resources available, membership continues to be somewhat stagnant as a result of many parents having second thoughts about sending their children to the club.

“It’s disheartening for me because we know for a fact that there are gaps in learning,” Alcantar said. “We know that there has been a tremendous loss in learning in certain parts of the community. We’re seeing those same schools and those families not using our services that really need it the most. There’s still a big fear with the unvaccinated-aged children to do anything. So they have not signed them up for after school programming.”

Students at Travis Middle School in McAllen participate in Boys and Girls Club of McAllen activities. (Courtesy Photo)

She said that the club’s average daily attendance with the after school program averages around 1,000 kids, whereas their sports programs are currently serving approximately 1,500 children.

“We were open when no one else was,” Alcantar said. “We have been open since April, and we have served literally thousands and thousands of children — unduplicated children in different settings — in after school programming, summer camp, sports leagues, strength and conditioning, in all separate capacities. We have not had one single instance in all of the clubhouses and schools, and fields and gyms, not one instance of community spread.”

“Have we had COVID positive kids? Yeah, absolutely, but because of the mitigation strategies — we literally recommit ourselves everyday that we wake up,” she continued. “That’s what I tell our staff. Literally every day that you wake up, that’s what we’re doing all over again. And we’ve done that.”

Alcantar also emphasized the club’s safety policies which have not changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

The Boys and Girls Club of McAllen has many activities for members at Travis Middle School. (Courtesy Photo)

She said she hopes to see more people in the community take advantage of the club’s services without worry.

“We’ve never had spread from one child to another, or one employee to another,” Alcantar said. “That should bring real peace of mind to anyone that’s apprehensive about sending their children to not only the Boys and Girls Club, but to anything else. We’re still using masks for after school programming. It is not optional. We are still doing that hand-washing constantly. We’re still spreading kids out. We’re still trying to use the outdoor space. We’ve been doing that for what feels like an eternity, but we wake up every day and recommit.

“That’s the selling point for me. Here, your kids are super safe.”

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