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Three Kingston charities team up to weather pandemic shortfalls

Three community agencies facing massive income shortfalls during the COVID-19 pandemic have decided to fundraise together, rather than compete.

The Boys and Girls Club of Kingston, Pathways to Education Kingston, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of KFL&A all offer charitably-funded programming for Kingston’s children and youth. They’re also all heavily feeling the impacts of COVID-19. 

“We’re seeing a steep decline in our revenue because of the pandemic,” said Amanda Guarino, Manager of Community Engagement for the Boys and Girls Club. 

Guarino said her agency alone is facing a short fall “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

 “We are highly dependent on fundraising events that run throughout the year. We had so many events cancelled in March and April, as well our fee-for-service programs that we run,” she said.

“It’s not a simple loss that we can easily recover,” she said. “At the same time that we have this funding decrease, we have the needs of the community, the children and the youth that we serve, increasing.”

Guarino said it made sense for the three agencies to collaborate. They’ve launched a campaign called Kingston’s Kids First, seeking monthly donations to be strategically deployed between the three agencies based on their programming needs. 

Charitable dollars spread thin

The initiative will simplify donations for people in Kingston at a time when needs are high, Guarino said. 

“Looking at the scenario that we have, we know that it’s very hard for the community to be making choices. There are so many worthwhile projects to be done by so many charities. The community knows that charities are struggling at the moment,” she said.

“If a community member makes a donation to Kingston’s Kids First, that’s the joint fund. The three agencies are then able to allocate to the programs according to the need.”

Joining forces will also allow them to amplify their message more broadly, she said, with all three promoting a single campaign. 

“Children and youth, it’s a longer term development initiative and kind of thinking, sometimes it gets a little bit left behind,” she said. “We’re trying to bring to light that children and youth also need to be taken into consideration.”

“The appeal that we’re making to the community at this time is that the needs of the children and youth are not going to decrease. We need to be there for them every step of the way.”

Short and long-term funding

The Ontario Government declared a state of Emergency on Thursday, Mar. 17, 2020, effectively shutting down most of the city’s children and youth programs, as well as schools and child care centres. With schools closed until September, this accounts for 66 days of disrupted in-school days, or about 70 per cent of the second semester, Guarino noted.

The Boys and Girls Club partnered with the City of Kingston to open an emergency child care centre for the children of front-line workers at the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s been running for a month and a half now,” Guarino said. “We got started just as the whole pandemic was blowing up. We had to prepare, but we didn’t know how many local cases we were going to have,” she said.

She said the centre is now running at full capacity, in accordance with all public health and safety requirements. 

“We’ve been able to provide this service to the community but we know there’s so much more need,” she said.

Additionally Guarino said the Boys and Girls Clubs is offering “virtual engagements” with members, such as zoom sessions and take-home activity kits. They’re also now trying to ramp-up their capacity, and prepare to reopen on-site programming once restrictions lift.

“We are looking at a number of infrastructure changes and ramping up our cleaning processes and protocols,” she said. “Through running the emergency child care centre, we’ve really been able to learn a lot and institute these protocols, so now we’re ready to put them in place with larger onsite programs.”

All three agencies need funds to be channeled into current programs, but are also thinking ahead, Guarino said.

“We need to fund programs for fall, for winter, the months and years to come. This is a special ask that we’re doing for monthly donations.”

The Boys and Girls Club, Pathways to Education, and Big Brothers Big Sisters have been working with children and youth in Kingston and Area for decades combined.  According to a statement from the Kingston Kids First initiative, 25,000 children and youth in Kingston are at risk of having their development and future prospects permanently affected by the pandemic.

“For many of them, the continuous toxic stress of social isolation further pressures already challenging life circumstances,” Guarino said.

You can find more information on the initiative and make a donation on: www.kingstonskidsfirst.ca

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Samantha Butler-Hassan

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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