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Behind the Numbers: A Conversation with Travis Barrows, Director of Grants & Impact

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Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties (BGCSDC) recently released our 2023 Impact & Highlights, an annual report that charts areas of growth across various pillars of our mission in order to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Click here to read the full 2023 Impact & Highlights report.

Thousands of stories representing the unique Club experiences of our members, ages 6 to 18, lie behind the collective numbers in the spotlight such as:

  • 97,125 snacks and meals served
  • 361 members participated in crucial water safety lessons free of charge
  • 72% of members stated they can count on their fellow Club members
  • 186 teens participated in vocational training programs at their Club
  • 16 teens spent a week in Tallahassee as participants in either the Florida Page & Messenger Program or the Florida Senate Page Program to learn from members of Congress and staff

BGCSDC sat down with Travis Barrows, Director of Grants & Impact who leads the data compilation, storytelling and design for this yearly piece, to get the scoop behind some of our most significant areas of growth.

Travis Barrows
Travis Barrows, Director of Grants & Impact

BGCSDC: What area of impact did we see the biggest jump in growth from the previous report? Why?

TB: The biggest jump by far was the number of service hours provided by members of The Club (i.e. Teen Programs). Last year, they volunteered for 1,793 community service hours. This year, that number more than doubled to 3,646. That is unbelievable growth in one year and it’s so impressive that our teens are choosing to spend their free time out in the community making that kind of impact. This stat is unique to our organization as we are the only nonprofit in our area providing programs for teens to learn about their community, connect with local leaders, and then go out and enact service projects to advance missions that they care about most through volunteerism.

BGCSDC: How does that jump translate to impact on the communities we serve?

Once you really look at what those hours were spent doing, the depth of our impact comes into focus. Over 1,200 of those hours were spent volunteering with other local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Sarasota County Parks & Recreation, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, and All Faiths Food Bank during Alternative Spring Break. Another 795 service hours were via projects with community partners through our STAR Leadership Training Program. STAR graduates have the opportunity to then serve as full-voting members on a local Board of Directors. We have 71 teens serving on Boards, accounting for another 400+ hours. This is all to say that our teens and the staff who mentor them are extraordinary and it's hard to not be inspired by all they do for our communities.

The hours volunteered by our teens provide tangible benefits to our community. For each hour volunteered, that is money saved by local nonprofits. In fact, according to Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time was estimated to be $31.80/hour in 2023. This number is determined based on the work provided plus the value of money saved. This means that our teen Club members volunteered nearly $116,000 of value for our local communities. That is a real and sizable impact. 

BGCSDC: Give us a glimpse at the 3,348 Club members we serve. Who are they?  

TB: One of the best parts of my job is getting to introduce people to the children and teens we serve. I can’t tell you how many times we welcomed guests who didn’t realize that our programs are truly for everyone, no matter their circumstances, socio-economic status, or background. I, myself, had that same light-bulb moment when I first joined the organization back in 2018. The programs offered at the Club are comprehensive in scope and innovative in delivery and I can’t think of a child who wouldn’t benefit from attending.

Our families are racially, financially, ethnically, and religiously diverse. We have first-generation Americans and 7th-generation Floridians creating businesses in the same program. When kids are at the Club, they’re kids. No matter the backgrounds, they come here to unlock their potential and do some amazing things with their peers. The Club is here for all young people and part of what I try to do with our annual Impact & Highlights is raise awareness of the opportunities available here. My wife and I have said dozens of times that if we had kids, they would be Club members. There’s just nowhere else like the Club. I wish I had somewhere like this when I was growing up.

BGCSDC: 11,643 books read in one summer is impressive! How did that happen? What programs or incentives were in place?

I couldn’t agree more! When our Program/Operations Team shared that number with me, I was blown away. For our Club members, ages 6-12, we spend the summer focusing on the prevention of learning loss while they’re out of school. We employ FL-certified teachers who help ensure we are maintaining or improving our Club members’ academic success. One of the biggest focuses is providing programs, activities, and curricula that support grade-level reading.

There’s a common phrase used in education: “Before 3rd grade, kids learn to read, but after 3rd grade, they read to learn.” When students fall behind in their reading, they fall behind in every other subject because it's all dependent on their ability to read. Teachers and staff run daily activities to promote grade-level reading to help our members improve their abilities. They also run friendly competitions to see who can read the most books. Down at our Robert and Joan Lee Club in Venice, the reading room is completely Harry Potter-themed and members can earn tokens that allow them to visit “Diagon Alley” and choose a prize from the shelf.

11,634 books are just so many in a short period of time. We served 1,028 members, ages 6 to 12, during the summer of 2023. That averages to 11.3 books per Club member. In 8 weeks! I can say with certainty that I didn’t read 11 books or more last summer. To achieve this, our members had to be excited and motivated to read and that speaks to the impact of the programs and the persistence of our members.

One of those members who helped us get to that incredible number is Brylei, a 3rd grader who attends our Newtown Estates Park Boys & Girls Club. Brylei was struggling with reading comprehension. She, along with our caring staff, worked hard throughout the school year to get her reading at grade-level. Not only did her Reading grade improve to a “B” by the end of the year, but she even participated in the summer reading challenge. “I’m really proud of myself. I’ve gotten a lot better and I like reading a lot more now,” she said.

With these numbers, it is clear why thousands of local families choose BGCSDC as the place for their kids to spend their out-of-school time. Local youth are succeeding in school, developing their skills and serving their communities thanks to the opportunities they find at the Club.  A donation of $2,500 will cover our organization’s expenses to give one of our community’s future leaders exclusive access to our full slate of award-winning programs and professionals. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, you can have your $2,500 gift matched, dollar for dollar, and ensure more youth have unrestricted access to life-enriching – life-changing – opportunities at BGCSDC. Click here to give local youth Boys & Girls Club memberships and double your impact today.

Watch the 2023 Impact Video Here

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