What if a student wants to go to an after-school program but doesn’t have a ride?
It’s an issue faced by most Boys & Girls Clubs, said John Benberg, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay in Wisconsin.
“Transportation is almost always a big issue for clubs,” he said.
Boys & Girls Clubs are intentionally based in neighborhoods to make them more accessible, but many kids still don’t live within walking distance, Benberg said. And the kids who attend the clubs generally don’t have a stay-at-home parent or an adult with transportation who can drive them places on a regular basis, he said.
Kids who are old enough to work — and take a Boys & Girls program that prepares them for jobs — are “very limited in the places they can work because very few have their own transportation,” Benberg said. The city bus schedule doesn’t run at the right times and to the right places to accommodate their jobs.
When a funder supports transportation, it’s often in the form of money for vans, he said. The club counts itself fortunate when a grant can include such funding. Few standalone grants for transportation exist, he said.
“We get at it in bits and pieces,” Benberg said of the problem.
Eric Vanden Heuvel, the Green Bay club’s chief academic officer, explained how the clubs create a patchwork of transportation solutions through vans, city buses and school buses.
Club vans can pick up some kids from school, but when staff members drive them, it leaves too few people on duty at the clubhouses, he said.
The clubs also partner with the school district so that when school buses that pass clubhouses have empty seats, kids can ride the school bus, he said.
In addition, schoolchildren can ride the city buses for free under a partnership between the school district and the city, but parents often aren’t comfortable having their young children ride the city bus alone, Vanden Heuvel said
“We will sometimes provide staff who will meet at the school and ride the [city] bus with kids to get them comfortable” enough to ride on their own, he said.
Using city buses is a challenge because bus routes don’t necessarily stop at the clubhouses, Benberg said. “You can’t adjust a city bus route to go to a Boys & Girls Club.”
Other nonprofits would be upset if a bus were rerouted to benefit one nonprofit at the expense of others, he said.
Lack of transportation leaves kids at home in the afternoons unsupervised.
“We’re missing an opportunity for kids. It’s the reality we face,” Vanden Heuvel said.