Rockwood: Staying active, healthy in quarantine
Normally at this time of the year, dozens of homeless and foster kids in the Rockwood area would be laughing and playing at camp.
But with COVID-19 shuttering the popular Play Grow Learn gatherings, which focus on connecting underserved children with healthy outlets for play and life skills training, organizers had to get creative in supporting their community.
So the nonprofit group pivoted to a monthly "family box" distribution program.
"We feel like the need extends beyond our kids — we are now serving their families as well," said Anthony Bradley, executive director of Play Grow Learn.
The boxes are filled with food like rice, noodles, meat, fresh produce, spices, condiments and more. But what sets them apart is the other items that push them beyond normal offerings. There are toiletries for men and women, baby supplies as needed, cleaning materials for around the house and lots of activities for kids.
Each box has items to help parents break up the monotony of social isolation for their active children. There are notebooks, colored pencils, markers, pens, coloring books, reading books and more, as well as activity guides.
In addition to the boxes, Play Grow Learn also is crafting virtual gym nights and community outreach videos that will be available on social media. Both will provide more ideas that can keep children stuck at home from being mired in a sedentary lifestyle.
"With young people stuck at home, there is a heavier strain on the family in regard to resources," Bradley said. "We are taking an opportunity to help these families thrive."
The boxes are being preferentially given to families of color, those receiving SNAP benefits, low-income, with providers recently laid off, or with children qualified for free lunches. Outgrowing Hunger, Rockwood CDC and Mudbone Grown are all partners in distributing and filling the boxes.
Play Grow Learn has found about 200 families in need that meet their criteria — though limited supplies and volunteer hours make it so they only pass out 25 each month. The next distribution will be Tuesday, May 19, and the group plans to continue indefinitely.
"These families need the supplies," Bradley said. "We are doing the best we can to reach them."
Play Grow Learn normally hosts gym nights, multiple weeklong summer camps for homeless and foster children, and various other community events throughout the year dedicated to uplifting Rockwood youth ages 5 through 16. The nonprofit organization uses sports as a platform, but focuses on teaching life skills and citizenship.
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