Celebrating the holiday season: Amazon donates $25,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware

Nalai Stewart with Amazon helps a girl decorate her Christmas cookie at the Smyrna Boys and Girls Club. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware staff and volunteers celebrated a $25,000 donation made to the organization by e-commerce giant Amazon last week at the club’s Smyrna location.

Top local Amazon managers from the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Middletown were on hand to review the activities taking place at the club, where youngsters celebrated the holiday season and leaders lauded the donation.

“We’ve partnered for a long time with the Boys and Girls Club, so when this opportunity came around during this holiday season, we were so excited to help support their mission,” said Nate Disbro, the Fulfillment Center’s general manager. “We’re hoping that the donation can go toward helping grow the next generation of innovators here in Delaware. We’re always very happy to have the chance to support our local community. For over 20 years, Delaware has been an important part of who we are as Amazon.”

Launching their Delaware operations in 1997, the company has grown its fulfillment workforce at its two facilities in the state to more than 3,000 full-time employees, managers noted.

Since 2011, Amazon has invested more than $2 billion in “customer fulfillment infrastructure and employee compensation.” The company claims to have contributed an additional $1 billion to the state’s GDP.

The donation rounds out a total of $150,000 Amazon claims to have donated to local non-profit organizations in the state, including Appoquinimink Community Library, Polytech High School’s Robotics Club and the Food Bank of Delaware.

A girl decorates her Christmas cookie at the Smyrna Boys and Girls Club.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware offers before-, after- and out- of school programs for roughly 37,000 young people in grades K-12 at 43 locations across the state. They are considered the largest licensed childcare provider in the state.

According to administrators, their program areas focus on challenging and developing the minds and bodies of their enrollees — helping them build a foundation on which to develop moral and ethical values through educational programs and social activities.

According to a 2016 socioeconomic impact study the club commissioned with an “independent research group,” for every $1 spent with Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, $13.91 is generated through positive economic impact on the state’s economy.

Boost to programs

According to Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware management, the much-needed funds have been earmarked to support programming for the children involved in the state’s 43 clubs.

Molly Yoo, the club’s S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and math) director, said that donations like Amazon’s are instrumental in exposing children in the state to vocational and educational opportunities they may not have had otherwise. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware claims that 87 cents of every dollar they raise goes directly to services and programs for kids.

Programs like FIRST Lego League engage kids from 6 through 14 years-old in advanced problem-solving activities that foster team-building and cooperation skills, she says.

A girl eats her decorated Christmas cookie at the Smyrna Boys and Girls Club.

“There are about 225 students in the state that participate on teams at each club location,” she said. “Each year they get different Lego pieces that they have to set up on an activity board and use a robot to complete tasks. The kids get comfortable working together in groups and be courteous to one another while maintaining a competitive spirit.

“But, they’re also learning practical skills like basic coding. They use a block coding program to code their robot. We also have a statewide competition in in February. The kids absolutely love the program.”

Through donations from companies like Amazon and Lego, Ms. Yoo is hoping to expand the program offerings available at the club locations.

“We’re trying to get some mobile technology units so we can introduce kids to Chromebooks, iPads and other tablets because technology is going to be such a big part of these kids lives,” said Ms. Yoo. “But we also really focus on core skills like out math and science curriculum — doing our best to really push the ‘hands-on’ activities to make learning fun for them.”

Smyrna Clayton club

Happy to act as the host for the check presentation, board members of the Smyrna Clayton Boys & Girls Club said Amazon’s gift would directly impact local children.

Corrine Upshur, a board member with the club, said significant donations like Amazon’s help generations of children.

“We’re beyond excited for the donation — my daughter came to this club when she was younger and it’s great to see things like this come to fruition,” she said. “The Boys & Girls Club is more than deserving of this and they’re happy to have it for the children here and for the next generations. We’re thrilled and thankful.”

Deborah Wicks, the recently retired Smyrna School District superintendent and long-time club board member, said the club’s building on 240 E Commerce St. in Smyrna has a storied past.

“It used to be a National Guard armory,” she said. “My husband and I were actually married in this building — he was a guardsman at the time. After that, it was used by the prisons for training. Eventually the town of Smyrna agreed to let the Boys & Girls Club use it because we were having a really hard time finding a suitable place. It was in pretty rough shape at the time too, it had 50-year-old army bathrooms!”

Making individual piecemeal upgrades, the board has slowly upgraded the facility. But there’s plenty of work left to do. Ms. Wicks said the board is currently working to raise funds to replace all the dated (and painted over) windows throughout the building which will ultimately be an expensive project.

“We’re in the process of getting quotes right now — we’ve gotten a lot of help from the community, but there’s a lot to do,” she said. “For me, this is at least one of the things I’m doing in my retirement. The work never ends.”

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