When Covid-19 restricted in-person activities across the country, the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club site in Sarasota, Florida had to temporarily close its doors as it prepared for the protocols it needed to implement to keep its staff and club members safe going forward.
Aware of the growing need for services, especially among essential workers and high-risk families, the club quickly reopened two weeks later to serve the children of first responders, including EMTs, paramedics, nurses and doctors, many of whom were working at local hospitals, county departments and law enforcement agencies. Shortly after, the club expanded to include all K-12 students attending Title 1 schools who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and are at greater risk of food insecurity and falling behind in school.
Like other organizations, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties saw an increase in costs driven by this greater demand and having to step in and provide food and care because of closed schools, but saw few opportunities to bridge the gap in expanding their services.
Fortunately, the organization’s Lee Wetherington Club had already been in talks with Southface Institute’s GoodUse matching grant program and was planning to make critical energy and water efficiency upgrades that would improve its environmental impact, reduce operational costs and allow those savings to be reinvested into the Boys & Girls Clubs’ core services.
“First and foremost the savings is going to go right back into our programming,” said Travis Barrows, Grants & Database Manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. “As responsible stewards of our community investors’ gifts, we leverage their funding, and part of that is investing now in these upgrades so we can see that return on investments for years to come.”
Southface engineers completed a comprehensive building energy and water assessment and suggested upgrades to their lighting fixtures, installing LED lighting and controls, low flow plumbing and water use sensors. The upgrades cost a total of about $60,000, half of which was covered through a grant from the GoodUse program.
“Southface has been a delight to work with, and their expertise has been both impressive and extremely helpful for creating our strategy to save on energy and water,” Barrows said. “Due to Covid, the assessment was remote, so we conducted a virtual tour with Southface engineers to access the building. The tour combined with the blueprints were enough to outline recommendations. We were really happy with the impact they made and with the amount of energy and water savings we could see.”
The organization will soon begin making the upgrades and using the work as an opportunity to engage the teen club members, aged 13-18, with opportunities for environmental and sustainability education.
“Any steps we can take to preserve and maintain our natural environment and leave a better world for the next generation is positive,” Barrows said. “This next generation – the leadership for our future – is very concerned about the environment, and it’s easy for them to get excited about.”