Lend a Socially Distant Hand Project

By Joanne A Calitri   |   April 23, 2020
Goleta United Boys & Girls Club food distribution volunteers

Michael Baker, CEO of the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, is turning the COVID-19 lockdown into an all-community outreach program with his new project, Lend a Socially Distant Hand.

The project is multi-faceted, but its overall mission is to take advantage of this time when the clubs are dark and give these facilities upgrades and enhancements.

For anyone not familiar with the Boys & Girls Clubs organization, it provides vital afterschool programs and important guidance and character building.

Says Baker, “I knew incredibly talented people were home and looking for a way to get out safely and make a difference at this time, so I created these projects at all our clubs in the county that can be done now because the clubs are not filled with the kids we serve 24/7. The projects at our clubs include a roof repair, new counter and re-keying of the locks at the Lompoc facility, a new roof at Camp Whittier, refreshed flooring at Goleta, and upgrading the interior walls of some of the clubs with mural paintings sponsored by the Squire Foundation Santa Barbara. In addition, all five clubs are working with the local Food Bank to distribute approximately 1,700 bags of groceries daily to over 33,756 individuals including a brown bag lunch for school kids seven days a week.

Michael Baker before entering the Goleta United Boys & Girls Club to set up the food distribution for the day

As the name implies, everyone involved with Lend a Socially Distant Hand is strictly adhering to the social distance and lockdown protocols, in addition to wearing protective gear. “Together, local Samaritans and businesses have stepped up to the plate with us to be a part of a positive action that serves the kids, our clubs’ infrastructure, and our community at large,” explains Baker.

Baker holds an advanced degree with a concentration on social welfare related to the urban family. He and the Squire Foundation’s Director of Public Outreach Jana Brody and Executive Director Ashley W. Hollister took time for a quick Zoom Interview to detail Distant Hand’s programs and how you can get involved:

Q: Michael, what other projects for your Boys & Girls Clubs locations need to get done during the lockdown? 

A: Plumbing, electrical work, basic carpentry.

And how can people contact you with ideas or for work?

They can call or text my cell at 805.710.5040.

Do you need funding for supplies?

Karen Welty Graf on the job doing food distribution at the Carpinteria United Boys & Girls Club

The Food Bank is supplying the groceries and for the other projects we can always use support for supplies and work being done. The interior mural supplies will cost us roughly $2,000 per site or $8,000 total for our four local clubs (in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Lompoc). Our other sites are on school property so we cannot paint murals there, so any financial help is appreciated.

Ashley and Jana detail the mural project:

The murals’ basic design is called Tape Art, which developed out of the urban art movement of the 1960s, increasing the amount of public mural work and developed originally as an alternative for spray paint. It seems fitting that we are integrating this creative art form into the Boys & Girls Club aesthetic footprint, since it developed at a time of intense social change and grew out of a desire to communicate humane social values to communities. The color field design was chosen so we could beautify the walls without a long drawn out design vetting process. The goal is vibrant color and energy that can go in any space. The walls are all different sizes and the design will be proportional per each. There are options for some additional artwork design; for example, we’re looking at doing sports silhouettes in the Carpinteria gym if approved. The abstract designs for the murals will be created by the Squire creative team and approved by the Boys & Girls Clubs for site-specific placement at each of their countywide facilities. The murals’ design and painting will be conducted over a number of weeks and months by individuals adhering to social distancing orders. Individuals will work alone, in shifts, coordinated by Jana and Boys & Girls Club on-site staff.

Will the artists be paid? 

Squire will provide stipends for volunteer artists to complete portions of the murals at a rate of $50 per hour; details for applying are on our website: www.thesquirefoundation.org/mural-project-boys-and-girls-club.

What will doing interior murals provide for both the kids and community?

Michael: The Arts play such a critical role in our daily core programs at every club on every single program day. Every day over 1,200 youths visit our sites when they are open. Having these incredibly talented artists come and lend their socially distant hand to bring some beautiful artwork to our clubs will be a nice surprise to our members when they are finally able to come back to enjoy our facilities again.

The upper border wall designated for the mural project at Carpinteria United Boys & Girls Club

In closing, Ashley shared, “Throughout the world, mural art has become a way for communities to express the core ideas that make up their collective identities, expressing who and what they value most. During this difficult time of global pandemic, Squire is incredibly heartened and excited to be presented with the opportunity to partner with the United Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara County to bring a fresh creative face to these vital community resources. Squire’s hope is that these murals will bring a colorful new dynamic to the Boys & Girls Clubs in our community, and express our desire to fill the lives of our youth with color, creativity, inspiration, and resilience. We look forward to completing the murals and unveiling them to the community when the order is finally lifted.”

Special thanks from United Boys & Girls Clubs of SB County to Titan Roofing & Rain Gutters Inc., Leonard Grabowski, and Joe the Locksmith.

411: Call Michael Baker directly at 805.710.5040 and www.unitedbg.org

The Squire Foundation Mural Project: www.thesquirefoundation.org/mural-project-boys-and-girls-club


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