Shortly after the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 showed up in Idaho, Lindsey Westburg and her staff spent a Sunday evening figuring out ways to keep kids and employees healthy—and keep their doors open.
Westburg, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley, and her team knew their organization could play a critical role in supporting families sideswiped by the pandemic.
Westburg and club staff made quick and thoughtful adjustments: Decreasing facility capacity, increasing staff, adding temperature and symptom screenings, coordinating with public health officials and boosting cleaning protocols. They made the tough decision to only serve kids of essential workers, including health care providers.
“We have weathered through the storm. We haven’t closed our door at all since COVID,” Westburg said. “We’ve been rolling with the punches every day, keeping our staff, kids and families safe.”
When summer came, the club opened to serve more kids and families. Now, the organization is working across the Twin Falls, Minidoka and Buhl school districts to support kids and prepare for any potential changes the pandemic could cause to daily school operations.
“I look back on the last six months and I’m really proud to say that we’ve been able to serve families that need us most, even through a pandemic,” Westburg said.
Helping kids in need, though, comes naturally for Westburg and her team.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley, which has six locations across the area, serves 3,000 kids and adolescents ages 5-18 each year. About 450 kids take part daily in the clubs’ activities.
The organization’s goal is to engage kids in activities that strengthen the “mind, body and soul.” It’s part of the Triple Play fitness program, nationally tested and supported by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The program includes increasing daily physical activity, teaching nutritious eating habits and helping kids develop healthy relationships.
“At the Boys & Girls Club, we want to focus on the whole child,” Westburg said. “We want to make sure they have good peer relationships. We want to make sure they have good mentorship. We want to make sure they understand they need to keep physically active, and also give them the tools and resources to know it’s not just a ‘now’ thing; it’s a lifetime thing.”
St. Luke’s Magic Valley has provided Community Health Improvement Fund grants to support the nonprofit organization’s Triple Play program for several years. The clubs’ focus on keeping youth physically active and preventing or addressing childhood obesity—a priority issue for St. Luke’s—has made the partnership a perfect match.
“We’ve been a long-time funder and partner of the Boys & Girls Club through the CHIF grants,” said Kyli Gough, St. Luke’s Magic Valley community health manager, who has taught nutrition and healthy activity to kids at the clubs in the past.
“They really work with the kids around the whole body—mental and physical health. We’re totally aligned with that.”
Westburg, originally from Filer, has worked with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley for 15 years. Gough and Jody Tremblay, St. Luke’s Magic Valley director of community engagement, work closely with Westburg to identify ways to help support kids.
“We have a wonderful partnership with St. Luke’s,” Westburg said. “It’s a true partnership. It’s not just them giving us grants; they also offer program support. They’ve come into our club and helped with camps. We’ve sat down and had think tanks, and they’ve given us ideas and things we could do. Our partnership is great. We really appreciate it.”
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Community Engagement department.