Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford made his way to Westminster on Saturday to hit the gym with the staff at the Boys & Girls Club.
Rutherford, Maryland’s ninth lieutenant governor, visited the club before when it first opened back in April 2018. That was before a gymnasium had been built. When the gym had its grand opening in October 2019, Rutherford was unable to make it. However, he found the time to visit on Saturday, in the area to also attend a Wreaths Across America ceremony in and tour some other local businesses.
Bonnae Meshulam, executive director of the club, said Friday, ahead of the visit, she planned to get a basketball in Rutherford’s hands and get him to shoot some hoops. She said she was excited for the visit and that he was equally excited to see the gym.
“It was just a parking lot when he came [the last time],” she said.
Meshulam said the gym was made possible through a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state, and 570 kids benefited from it. At least before the pandemic.
When the coronavirus hit, the gym and club closed like many other establishments. But they were able to reopen in July and remain open to this day. Meshulam said they were the only Boys and Girls Club in Maryland that has not had to briefly close for any reason since its reopening it.
However, the number of students they took in decreased to 78.
“Because we could take so few, it was those who really, really needed a safe space to be,” she said.
But they still offer services like tutoring, yoga, cooking lessons and other academic or social emotional practices online.
They had zero COVID-19 cases, Meshulam said, and extra precautions have been taken. During the summer, kids and staff walked around with hula hoops to distance themselves from one another. When a child’s family member had been exposed to the virus, they had to wait three weeks, instead of two, before they could return while also producing a negative test. Temperatures were taken three times a day and rooms inside the facility were thoroughly cleaned.
“I’d rather be overly cautious,” she said.
The in-person kids can spread out in the gym during school days. They have eight full-time staff and 12 who work part-time. They are not teachers but they do help watch over the kids and assist with schoolwork after the club became a site for online learning. Grants allowed them to provide a computer for every student and extra computers are available at the building.
Meshulam said the entire community helped build the place so “we’re just trying to give back as much as we can.”