Technically, Richmond club is on a growth spurt
By: Brad Rowland
With ongoing renovations taking place since January 2017, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Richmond, Virginia faces the challenge of mobility. Since the main facility has been under construction, youth have been spending their time at a local partner school for after-school programming, but while that may be a trial on the surface, an intriguing program has surfaced as a result.
In partnership with Virginia Realtors, the club began a robotics-centric program in November. Eighteen students were instructed in three phases, from building basic function to design and, ultimately, competitions, both for individuals and teams.
“Four months into the class, and 25 classes later, they really started to mesh,” said Adam Smith, senior vice president for Virginia Realtors and robotics mentor. “You could see a lot of kids come out of shells, a lot of kids working better together and intrigued to continue doing robotics.”
Instructional staff for the program is entirely made up of volunteers and that sprung directly from the renovation project. Staff identified a gap in programming and sought an opportunity to impact youth in a positive way through technology. On cue, a modest grant arrived, allowing for the purchase of an initial robotics kit, and the Army reached out to Virginia Realtors in providing an opportunity for skill-based volunteering at the corporate level.
Ultimately, though, the program centers on youth development and focuses on outreach and growth.
“I think it was helpful in getting kids to come back to the club,” said Matthew Pochily, development director. “That’s always what I’m looking for.”
The Army in Richmond is in search of additional ways to bridge the gap, looking for ways to entice youth that “may come twice a week to increase their visitation to three or four times a week.” Recently, the club received another modest grant and applied that to the purchase of tablets with an eye toward a program centered on mobile app development. That is a growing program, even before the completion of the renovation and the beautiful, upgraded building.
Despite less than ideal circumstances from an outsider’s perspective, the Army has made the best of the renovation situation, ultimately growing its programming and impacting the lives of the local youth.
“When we can have engaging and exciting programs,” Pochily said. “That gives us the opportunity to serve more kids, more often and with more impact.”