Central Oregon

Nonprofit Offers Youth Activities While Meeting Challenges of COVID

BY: Jenny O’Keefe

• REACH Executive Director

Since Fall of 2014, the REACH board and staff have worked tirelessly to provide relevant and engaging programs that provides youth in Redmond with fun things to do during non-school hours that support their education and build their social skills. While COVID-19 restrictions have thrown more challenges our way, we continue to offer much-needed services, with help from OCF.

Here are a couple of examples of what OCF funds have supported in the past three months.

Our activity kits have been a huge success! Since April 27, we have distributed a variety of kits with all the supplies necessary to complete the activities from home. REACH has provided 292 kits to youth, including many who have not used REACH in the past. The REACH YouTube channel has instruction videos and entertaining fun ideas. Beginning June 19, we began home delivery of the kits. We use all precautions in the prep and delivery of these kits to ensure that we reduce the spread of COVID 19.

REACH staff wanted to ensure that we were able to connect with youth this summer and provide some fun, daily activities on site. We had to adapt our facility, both indoors and outdoors, to conform to Oregon Health Department and the Department of Education restrictions. We taped 6 foot marks on the floor, removed toys and equipment that are difficult to keep sanitized and implement safety protocols.

Examples of new safeguards include:

  • Health checks on arrival
  • Sending symptomatic youth home and requiring testing for COVID-19
  • Staggered arrival and departure times
  • Scheduled hand-washing and bathroom breaks
  • Small, stable cohorts of youth and staff to minimize social contact
  • Sanitization and disinfecting efforts throughout the day
  • Physical distancing
  • Limiting personal belongings from home
  • Activities take place outdoors whenever possible

With these precautions in place, REACH held an in-person summer “space camp” beginning on July 20. Twenty youth from first through sixth grades enjoyed fun activities in STEM, art, education, and healthy habits. It provided an almost-normal experience—and a much-needed respite from months of isolation.

Even with uncertainly around COVID-19, we’re planning as best we can. And we’ll use the feedback from summer camps to aid in the development of our fall experiences. We hope to be able to provide before and after school activities. Final planning for fall and beyond depends on how the pandemic progresses and what the school district decides to do. We’ll keep doing what we do because we know young people, parents and the community all benefit when youth are engaged with their peers and mentors.