The sun was bright as Sergio Gonzalez walked into his office. Thoughts of a world in the midst of a global pandemic were heavy on his mind and in his heart. As the Executive Director of Boy With A Ball San Antonio, he envisioned a new approach to Love Your City in the current health climate. In the midst of ever changing social mores—the use of face masks and gloves in public places, the need for six-feet of distance between people, the 14-day quarantine after travel—Sergio understood that one thing remained constant: the impact of the BWAB-SA Team remains vital. With the government restricting public groupings, the team was facing new obstacles in maintaining their relationships with the kids at Harlandale High school and Middle school and in continuing to care for the families from their work in their local neighborhood where they do walkthroughs.
Though many of BWAB-SA’s volunteers were sent home from school after the lock-down began, their enthusiasm was surprisingly undaunted. The volunteers found themselves scattered across the country, but their dedication to community and relationship remained unshakeable. One afternoon, Sergio got a call from one of his homebound volunteers. She had only started to get involved with BWAB when the lock-down sent her home from her studies. She was feeling disconnected and asked Sergio for help to contact a team member with whom she had formed a connection. Her request soon led to weekly Saturday Zoom sessions with team members and volunteers sitting down in front of computers to communicate with one another. The team and volunteers named themselves the Co-Op. From San Antonio to Phoenix to New Mexico, these sessions created a network of care and intentional friendship, a chance to maintain the momentum that had been bubbling beneath the surface. The transition to virtual communication was all about staying connected.
With 95 percent of the community facing job cuts and struggling to have what they need to survive, the hardships of the current climate were causing hurting families to lose their already rocky footing. The BWAB San Antonio team needed a new way to serve their Velocity community. The team needed to find a way to ensure that these families’ essential needs were being met. Sending care packages to their Velocity mentors with the addresses for each of their mentees was the initial step. The mentors then were able to send out letters to their mentees. It was a great way of keeping in contact and keeping the momentum of Velocity alive during the transition out of in-person mentoring. Sergio and the rest of his team also began keeping up with their high school mentors through Zoom calls. For many of the mentors, it was as simple as giving them an outlet outside of their family to talk about the difficult parts of this pandemic.
In some cases, showing up was still necessary. When the team discovered that the mother of one Harlandale Middle School mentee had struggled with health issues, they went into action: coming together to support the mentee and family during her heart surgery and making sure that groceries were provided to keep the family fed after she was released from the hospital.
During these days of uncertainty and isolation, the team has stepped up as superheroes to encourage open connection for the youth and families of the San Antonio community. By engaging in conversation, they have given the students, families, and volunteers of the community an avenue in which they can speak frankly about their needs and maintain their relationships with one another.