The Brockton Family and Community Center first opened in North Middle School in January to offer free, family friendly programming to members of the community.
BROCKTON — With the coronavirus pandemic forcing the Brockton Family and Community Center to close its physical doors to the public just a couple months after its opening, providers at the center have gone virtual to continue serving the community.
The Brockton Family and Community Center first opened in North Middle School in January to offer free, family friendly programming to members of the community in the evenings and on weekends using CORI-approved providers. With the school anticipated to sit empty for over a year before renovations on the building begin, school officials and members of the community teamed up to use the space in the meantime for the community center.
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But the closure of nonessential businesses and organizations in March forced them to close and try moving operations online. Virtual offerings have included parenting classes and family engagement activities, support groups, assistance in applying for scholarships and financial aid, tutoring, robotics and resume help. When the building was open, other services included theater classes, English classes, pick-up basketball games and Zumba classes.
One virtual activity includes free yoga classes and one-on-one sessions by Johanne Barthold, an Ashtanga and hatha yoga provider. While she’s had a couple participants so far, Barthold said she’s trying to get the word out about her class, especially with the benefits yoga has with mindfulness and relaxation, providing non-strenuous physical activity and helping with conditions, such as her sickle cell anemia and PTSD.
“I was able to maintain my conditions with yoga and I realized that in the community, there’s a need for these practices because they’re so beneficial and they’re so easy and it’s so good for people with injuries like myself,” she said.
Ivelisse Caraballo, who sits on the oversight committee for the center, also serves as a provider for the center with CPLAN that aims to promote family engagement within the Brockton Public Schools system. She said the move to a virtual format has had its challenges, such as not being able to do certain programming like showing parents how to navigate the school website to find information, but it will make it more accessible for parents with a handle on the technology that can participate remotely.
“Doing it virtually kind of limits what we’re able to do … but I also like the fact it’s a little bit more convenient for people,” she said. “There’s good and bad things about both. For me, I still feel good that I was still able to continue to meet with families.”
But there still is the challenge of having the center’s activities be accessible for families that have language barriers, don’t have access to technology needed or don’t know how to work the technology, Caraballo said. They’re hoping to address that barrier with upcoming limited, in-person support classes starting Thursday to help parents learn how to use the technology used with remote learning and the center, with more classes to come as they anticipate the need in the community, Executive Director of Operations James Cobbs said.
“From the school side, we’re happy to have them continue a partnership with the community center and hopefully … it fills a need for the community,” Cobbs said. “That was the whole idea and design of this, so hopefully this will pick back up again and we’ll start back down the road again to help parents help their students.”
Cecily Shaw, another oversight committee member and center provider with College Possible, said they’re looking for more providers in order to offer “as many services for the community virtually” as they can, and encouraged families to check out the center’s Facebook page to see what events and activities are coming up.
“Our hope was when we opened that this would be a vibrant, bustling community center, but obviously everything happened,” she said. “We are really trying to provide as many services as we can virtually for families …. We’re trying to make things as accessible as possible for students to one, access their school work but also, two, stay connected with the community.”
Staff writer Corlyn Voorhees can be reached at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @corlyn_ENT. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.