$10K grant furthers Boys & Girls Club mental health services

Boys and Girls Club of the Sequoias advances mission of healthy young development with $10,000 grant from Rite Aid Healthy Futures

TULARE COUNTY – With $10,000 from Rite Aid Healthy Futures, the Boys and Girls Club of the Sequoias is looking to further train their staff in providing local kids with mental health first aid.

The club is using the grant to advance its staff training in mental health services that help children with trauma, crises and any issues in mental health they may have through trauma-informed programming. According to the club’s CEO Galen Quenzer, this is being done to take their mission of helping local youth reach their full potential as productive and responsible members of society even further.

“One of the things we are really focusing on as an organization is the mental health of our club members,” Quenzer said. “Schools are seeing kids having issues post pandemic, and we see it in our clubs as well.”

In recent times, Quenzer said staff at the Boys and Girls Club have noticed increased behavioral issues in kids, particularly in younger children. He said in social interactions amongst their peers, some children act inappropriately and have become more aggressive, physically and verbally. Although occasional, he said some children have begun lashing out a little more, to the point where minor physical altercations have been observed in kids.

Although he could not point to a direct causation for these recent changes in behavior, Quenzer speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the shift to some degree. He said the pandemic likely had a more significant impact on smaller children because they lost a good amount of school setting  peer interaction for a couple of years.

“With high school students, of course there were issues there too, but at least they had years of socialization before the pandemic,” Quenzer said. “Younger kids, not as much.”

According to Quenzer, something observed and understood by the club’s staff is the impact that trauma has on children. He said this trauma could come in the form of absent parents, parents suffering from mental health issues or drug issues, divorced or split parents, etc.

“We’re training our staff on what impact that has on a kid’s life and how they can help kids be stronger,” Quenzer said. “We can help them build resilience in their lives.”

With this training, Quenzer said the goal is to integrate mental health techniques into the club’s current programs and pursuits. This is because the Boys and Girls Club already utilizes a variety of programs and high-yield activities – or activities with a purpose – for youth communities to partake in, so the club wants to improve on those and take them even further.

“During these extraordinary times, we continue to see the harsh realities of inequities and health disparities affecting children through hunger, homelessness, poverty and a growing mental health crisis,” Rite Aid Healthy Futures executive director Matt DeCamara said via news release. “We offer our deepest gratitude to those dedicated organizations, staff and volunteers that wake up each day to make their neighborhoods even stronger.”

This is the Boys and Girls Club’s fourth year receiving a grant from Rite Aid Health Futures to better serve local youth communities. According to a news release from both organizations, the Boys and Girls Club is one of 415 nonprofits to receive the grant for addressing critical health needs for children. Additionally, the grants are funded through the KidCents customer fundraising program, which is the service that allows Rite Aid customers to round up their totals from in-store and online purchases to support children’s health and wellness.

According to Quenzer, the club first started receiving the grant after the foundation sent them an invitation to apply for the funds. Because the club is focused on helping children grow into healthy adults, he said it qualifies well with the Rite Aid Health Futures foundation’s Empowering Children initiative.

The Empowering Children initiative is meant to help strategic partners, like the Boys and Girls Club, focused on youth communities. According to the Rite Aid Health Futures website, this is to support, inspire and empower children so they may all unlock their full potential and become the “changemakers” of tomorrow.

“When kids thrive, they become the catalysts that spark meaningful change in our neighborhoods,” the website states.

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