Meeting the Challenge

Our organization has adopted a slogan this year called, “Meet the Challenge.” It is appropriate for so many reasons given the difficulties we and all nonprofits face in attempting to keep up with the demand for our programs and services in an era of a growing “working poor” class.

I am in my 19th year at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor – the challenges have been constant during this time and have become even more severe given the economic realities of the past four years and the difficulties, limitations and sometimes the outright danger a growing number of local families and especially their children must face. I grew up in San Pedro at a much better time – there are MANY more challenges today for our children to address and overcome.

I recently read two articles that reinforced this imperative to “meet the challenge.” In a recent op-ed piece titled “When School’s Out,” two researchers talked about the huge concern of working parents while they are on the job and their kids are out of school. Interestingly enough, Fortune 100 companies employed all the parents interviewed, so they had many resources at their disposal and yet were still anxious and sometimes desperate as to where their children could thrive during those most important hours of 3-6 p.m. Juxtapose that reality with another article stating that Los Angeles has the highest poverty rate among all California counties – a staggering 27%. If parents of Fortune 100 companies are extremely anxious due to uncertainty about where their kids are and what they are doing after school, just think what our growing number of working poor parents of San Pedro and our Harbor Area must feel who have many less options but all of the same concerns and needs.

This is one reason why our “Meet the Challenge” slogan is so very appropriate at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor. Because without the commitment of our Board, staff and our donors, we could not continue to make available the most up-to-date facilities nor sponsor the most comprehensive child development programming possible for over 8,000 youth annually, a number that is growing as our College Bound and Arts Academy programs attract continually more at-risk youth and provide a pathway to their development and success. One illustration: our high school and middle school attendance has increased by a combined 70% over the last two years alone. Now that is a challenge.

But “Meet the Challenge” is also most appropriate for the children we serve. Although we attract all types of youth, our members are more often than not part of our 27% poverty rate. They are often hungry, condemned to poor living conditions, are without basic medical, dental and vision care (another article stated that one in seven Los Angeles school children do not have the glasses he or she needs), may be living without a parent or are in foster care. These children are part of the vastly growing segment of highly at-risk youth. Still, day in and day out I witness our kids who “meet the challenge” and truly overcome such great odds due to their indelible spirit and the efforts of so many caring adults and supporters. These children could easily give up, but with the Club providing a safe place to go and a plethora of programs and activities that allow them to develop and succeed – they do “meet the challenge” and will soon be leading our community and possibly our greater Los Angeles area as productive, caring and involved adults.

These children do not need a handout; they just need a helping hand. If not us, who? If not now, when? spt