Connecting and Communicating in Old and New Ways

Monthly Theme: Creative Community During Times of Crisis
Week 1 Topic: Connecting and Communicating in Old and New Ways

Presenter: Ludy McCollester, Boys and Girls Club South Bend

Event Summary

Under the ELF Summer Series theme for May, “Creative Community During Times of Crisis”, the Center for Social Concerns presented this week’s topic of “Connecting and Communicating in Old and New Ways”. As non-profit community organizations and clients are being encouraged to practice social distancing and shelter-in-place protocol because of COVID-19, there’s a growing need to examine how relationships are formed and this includes innovative and new strategies, as well as understanding what old practices are still able to serve a purpose.

Ludy McCollester, from the Boys and Girls Club (BGC), was able to discuss how she and her team are tackling the limitations in community engagement that the pandemic has brought. As an organization BGC is learning that they need more access to families as a whole as they are struggling to establish communication with parents and caregivers. They are actively trying to coordinate activities with schools and the local municipality to gain more coverage, but like many, they are finding a disconnect. A new strategy that they are utilizing is hosting targeted zoom meetings with youth and families. They had a successful session where a local magician was able to hold a show and teach youth some tricks. They have also found integrating trending apps like “Tik Tok” to be a fun and effective way of getting staff and youth to connect more regularly. They have also launched a Youtube channel with other organizations and have found virtual partnering to be a wider-reaching resource. 

The broader group dialogue included how organizations are quickly adapting to meet community needs during this time such as situating temporary shelters for clients. But there is a prevailing challenge with getting resources like masks and mental health services for certain populations as well as emphasizing the need of social distancing and communicating health standards to clients. Many participants also mirrored Ludy’s sentiments of needing to develop new ways to meet families’ needs. There is a sense of heightened stress and strain on families and so trying to respond with more family focused resources is of top priority. Community Partners have found success in vigilantly sending out calendar reminders of programming and resources to parents so that there’s one less task for them to worry about, as well as to focus on getting creative with different platforms to broadcast information both virtually and physically. A few offline communication examples that are working to help families are delivering muffins at people’s homes, phone calls/texts, having a dog parade at retirement homes, graduation signs throughout the city for high schoolers, canned food donation bins in the neighborhoods, and buying gift cards for clients from the South Bend farmers market. Strategies on how to nurture resilience and practice sustainable community building during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to expand as the local, state, and national conditions change.


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