City of Steamboat, Boys & Girls Club provide Steamboat youth with ‘busy bags’
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After-school programs provided by the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department provided a safe place and activities for about 80 kids per day. The Steamboat Springs Boys & Girls Club averaged about 100 or 120 kids per day. That’s 200 kids looking for something to do, and even more parents left to entertain their kids more than they had to a few short weeks ago.
The Boys & Girls Club and Parks and Rec each started independently making bags filled with activities for the youth of Steamboat when the spread of COVID-19 started shutting things down. After realizing they had the same intention, they formed a partnership, splitting bag distribution duties and naming the project, “busy bags.”
“We decided to put these activity bags together to help keep kids occupied, keep their brains working and provide parents some relief from having to provide those activities or purchase those supplies themselves,” said Alexis Wolf, recreation manager for Steamboat Parks and Recreation. “We’re just trying to help out the parents and the kids at the same time.”
Each bag, provided on Fridays alongside the free bagged lunch program, includes arts and crafts projects, instructions, supplies, coloring pages and more. Wolf said they try to provide families with supplies and toys that will be useful in the future.
“I think that the kids are a little overwhelmed with all the virtual programming, and this gives them something to do that’s not on a computer,” said Kelly Landers, development director at the Boys & Girls Club. “They can use their hands, they can color, they can go on a scavenger hunt, do an art project. … It’s something to brighten their day.”
There are 400 bags available per week, with the third wave going out on Friday, ensuring that kids have something to do over the weekend.
Both programs are currently using funding they would be using on after-school programs. If school doesn’t return, that will warrant six more weeks of bags, which neither has sufficient money for. So, the groups are applying for grants and are accepting donations specifically for the busy bag program on the Boys & Girls Club website.
“We had one donor, as soon as we started the program, stepped up and made a nice donation right away,” Landers said. “So, that was encouraging.”
Approximately 50 hours a week go into making the bags as two or three members of the Parks and Rec staff pack up all the bags while wearing masks and gloves.
Every Friday, the Busy Bag distributors follow the school lunch bus route, which can be found on the school website. The activities are designed for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade but could appeal to a wider age group.
Any extra bags are placed outside the Boys & Girls Club for people to take.
As of Thursday, April 16, the school district doesn’t plan on delivering lunches during spring break, the week of April 20 to 24, but the activity bags will still go out.
“We’re hoping, if someone doesn’t pick up the school lunch route, the Boys & Girls Club will find a way to get them to the community,” Landers said.
The Boys & Girls Club is also doing virtual programming from 3 to 4:30 p.m. every weekday. Additionally, the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Facebook page is updated daily with new crafts and games to play with household items.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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