LOS ANGELES - As soon as the pandemic started, just like so many schools and businesses, all twenty Boys & Girls Clubs locations in Los Angeles County shut their doors.
Slowly they’ve been able to reopen with modifications, but in the San Gabriel Valley, they’ve rolled out a service that’s pandemic proof.
“When we had to shut everything down there was this general fear of losing touch with our members,” says Nick Koontz, Director of Advocacy for Teens for the Boys & Girls Clubs of West San Gabriel Valley.
To hundreds of kids across the San Gabriel Valley, Koontz isn’t just some guy who works for the local club – he’s family.
“We are the second home, sometimes second family. Even in some cases, maybe even their favorite family,” says Koontz.
These days, Koontz is perhaps best known as the guy who drives a special company van, known as the Mobile Wellness Clinic, to members’ homes, effectively bringing the club to them in a time when they need it most.
In other words, Koontz is making house calls to teenagers who simply need someone to talk to.
It helps, too, that Koontz is a licensed therapist. He says the power of connecting with these kids, even if it’s physically distanced, is invaluable.
It’s no coincidence either the Mobile Wellness Clinic is designed to look like a local club.
“They let their guard down right when they enter the van. In case anything is going on with them in the form of anxiety, depression, substance abuse; all these things that are popping up with people who have been in quarantine so long, there is someone there on the spot who can assess that, triage it, and provide resources,” says Koontz.
Since quarantine hit, Koontz has lost track of the miles he’s covered, but never the hundreds of teenagers he’s helped along the way.
“We never stopped working during Covid. We just modified how we did it and we’re continuing to adapt today,” says Koontz.
For more information, visit greatfuturesla.org.