Posted March 18, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Updated September 21, 2021 at 5:30 pm
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay strongly encourages volunteers, parents, and youth who are eligible to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus to do so at your earliest convenience, if you have not done so already. These vaccinations are free of charge and now readily available at many Publix, CVS, and Walgreen pharmacies, among other locations.
While this is a personal decision that each of you must make, I want to remind you that getting vaccinated is not just for your own safety, but also for the safety of all that we serve as well as the safety of our agency staff and overall community. While many of our Bigs and Littles have found creative ways to meet virtually and spend time together to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we also recognize the many mental health and other positive benefits of in-person meetings when done safely. Having in-person meetings is a personal and important decision between each Big, Little, and the parent/legal guardian of the Little. While there is never any guarantee that you will not be infected with the virus every time you step out of your home, as we all know there are reasonable precautions, we can take that will reduce that risk. Accordingly, when a Big/Little match make this decision to meet in person, here are the steps you (and everyone) are responsible for following:
- Always Follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guidelines.
- Your activities can take place outside or at a location following CDC guidelines.
- You must refrain from physical contact (no hugging, high fives, etc.).
- You must wash your hands often or use a hand sanitizer if you are unable to wash your hands.
- You must avoid touching your face.
- You must wear a mask when meeting unless you are at least 6 feet apart from one another; Big Brothers Big Sisters have masks available for you.
- You must stay 6 feet or more apart from one another when possible, and
- If either of you are in a high-risk group for the COVID-19 virus (e.g., either of you have underlying health issues), you should continue to only meet virtually until this pandemic is behind us.
- Only the Big & Little Can Participate. The activity is to include only the Big and Little (i.e., no friends or other family members).
- Transporting Littles. Bigs transporting their Little need to maintain as much distance as possible in the vehicle (i.e., all Littles, regardless of age should sit in the backseat of the vehicle and wear a mask). As an alternative, the Big can drive to the Little’s home and go for a walk, play in the yard, bring lunch and have a picnic at a neighborhood park, or the Little’s family may provide transportation to and from an activity if the activity is being held in a public setting;
- COVID-19 Symptoms. If you have met in person and develop any symptoms such as a fever (even low-grade) or a member of either of your households do, please report this to your Match Support Specialist as soon as possible and discontinue any further outings. If you have been exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus, do not meet for at least two to three weeks.
- No Requirement to Meet In-Person. Just to be clear, we are NOT requiring matches to meet in-person. Meeting virtually is always an option.
Thank you so much for being such a vital part of Big Brothers Big Sisters and our important mission. If you have any questions, we are here for you! Please reach out to us via your Match Support Specialist here at our agency. Please stay safe and healthy…. we need you!
Very truly yours,
Stephen A. Koch
President & CEO
Prepare a plan with your Little so you can still stay in touch using FaceTime, Zoom or similar online tools. The FaceTime App is most likely already on your iPhone. Remember that your Littles will have to download/install whatever tool you choose, as well. You can also consider Google Duo and WhatsApp. Schedule time to see your Little just like you would an in-person visit and plan what you will be doing in advance with their parent or guardian. Please discuss all this with your Match Support Specialist if you have questions or problems. We have also created a YouTube playlist with videos on how to use the tools below.
There are many great ways to stay in touch with your Little virtually:
- Read a book or story with your Little and discuss it
- Do Mad Libs together
- Create a list of activities you can do on your next in-person outing, which can be something to look forward to
- Write a gratitude list
- Do some “getting to know you” questions
- Creative Thinking Questions For Conversation Starters with Littles
- Virtually cook a meal together with ingredients in your kitchen
- Write letters or make cards to mail to your Little
- Text message
- Play games through apps – make sure you are playing games that have been approved by their parent or guardian and are being monitored
- Email each other
- Watch the same movie or show and talk about your favorite parts
- Decide on a talent or skill to work on together
- Ask your Little “What emotions are you feeling right now? What can I do to be a good friend to you?”
- Here is an article of 10 Ways to Stay Connected During Social Distancing
- Additional ideas for staying connected from our friends at BBBSNYC
Additional Resources for Staying Connected
- BBBS Tampa Bay Virtual Mentoring Toolkit & Resources for Bigs
- BBBS Tampa Bay Introduction to Virtual Mentoring
- Mentoring at a Distance: Tips for School-to-Work Programs from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- Frameworks Tampa Bay Community Newsletter: Staying Connected in English & Spanish
- Tips for mentoring during COVID-19 at Mentoring.org
- Building Developmental Relationships During the COVID-19 Crisis checklist from Search Institute
- Training Magazine tips for mentoring in the digital age
- Mentoring and Supporting Young People’s Mental Health & Wellbeing: Free webinar on May 21, 2020, from 1-2:15 pm. This webinar will focus on mentoring strategies and resources to support mental health and well-being for the young people we serve. This webinar will include discussion on trauma-informed mentoring and highlight approaches to facilitating conversations on trauma and mental health with youth, especially during this stressful, uncertain time. Panelists will also discuss ways to center self-care not only for our young people but also for our volunteers, mentors, and staff.
School Closures: As of March 17, 2020, the Florida Department of Education announced that all public and private K-12 schools will be closed through April 15, 2020. All end-of-year testing has been canceled. Parents, below are some educational resources and activities that you may find beneficial to keep your child engaged and throughout the extended break from school.
- For updates from Hillsborough County Public Schools, click here
- For updates from Polk County Public Schools, click here
- Access to Age of Learning Programs: use the redemption code SCHOOL7771 to get access to these three online educational programs below for free
- Scholastic: Scholastic provides free daily courses for kids stuck home amid school closures. The website provides up to three hours’ worth of content each day and can be completed on any device
- Cincinnati Zoo: While the Cincinnati Zoo is closed and kids are home from school, they’ll help make your children’s hiatus from school fun and educational. Join the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden for a Home Safari Face-book Live each weekday at 2pmCST /3pmET where we will highlight one of our amazing animals and include an activity you can do from home. Join them starting Monday, March 16 at 2pmCST/3pmET for their first Home Safari- featuring Fiona!
- Space Racers: “Space Racers” is a NASA-funded, award-winning preschool television series that follows young spaceship cadets at the Stardust Space Academy as they explore the solar system. Episodes of the TV series — along with educational content; science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) activities; and educator-approved lesson plans.
- Khan Academy: An online educational resource for Pre-K through 12th grade
- COVID-19 Break Packets: educational packets designed by a teacher for Pre-K through 8th Grade
- More free Learning Websites
- Learn4Good: free educational games and resources
- The Dalí Museum has placed a variety of educational materials on their website to engage, entertain and enlighten during this challenging time.
- Pizza Hut BOOK IT! Program: With schools closing all over the country, we wanted to share our free resources with you.
- Hillsborough County Public Library: Here are some educational resources you can utilize to help provide some academic support to your child while away from school:
MyON: Visit our website www.readonmyon.com from more great resources on how to support learning with myON at home using myON at home Videos and Additional Information for Student and Families
- 110+ FREE Resources for Kids to Use During the Coronavirus School Closures
- United Way Suncoast Free Educational Resources
- Distance Learning Resources from Library Learners
- AR Foundation Learning from Home Bingo: Activity 1 – Activity 2 – Activity 3
Best Practices to Limit Exposure and the Spread of Coronavirus
- COVID-19 Virus Fact Sheet from the CDC
- Stop the Spread of Germs from the CDC
- Q&A with Former FDA Chief from USA Today
- Information about COVID-19 from the World Health Organization (WHO)
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Share the Facts, Stop the Fear
- America’s Promise Alliance COVID-19 Resources
- COVID-19: What Parents should Know
- Keep Your Home Safe From COVID-19
- How to Keep Your Home and Family Safe
- Precautions to keep you and your close ones safe from COVID
- Detenga La Propagación De Los Microbios
- Preparing your Family for an Emergency
- Coronavirus: How Eyes may play a role in its spread
- How To Make A No-Sew Coronavirus Face Mask with Fabric
Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus
- Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus from Child Mind Institute
- Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus from the CDC
- Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus
- How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus from PBS
- How to Talk to Kids and Teens About the Coronavirus
- Talking to Children about COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
- Hable con sus hijos sobre el COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Un recurso para padres
- Ways to Promote Child Resilience to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Food Pantries & Meals for Kids
- Free Meals for Students: With Florida schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Division of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness encourage families to take advantage of alternative school meals. Summer BreakSpot sites do not operate during scheduled Spring Break weeks; however, parents may contact their local school districts to determine if meals are available during Spring Break. Find contact information for your local school district. Click here for additional Meal Sites for Students during COVID-19
- Restaurants offering free pizza slices for kids during extended break: The free kid’s slices are available at the following locations:
- Sam’s New York Pizza: 21609 Village Lakes Shopping Center Dr, Land O’ Lakes
- Sam’s New York Pizza: 4209 Little Rd, New Port Richey
- Three Brothers New York Pizza: 17773 Gunn Hwy, Odessa
- Three Brothers New York Pizza: 3436 Tampa Rd, Palm Harbor
- Find A Food Pantry: Feeding Tampa Bay offers a number of different ways to bring food to your table every day – and we’re ready to deploy resources to support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note, as the situation continues to evolve, food pantries and mobile pantries could cancel without much notice. We recommend calling food pantries before visiting and checking the mobile pantry schedule daily to ensure locations are operating. If you need further assistance, please call our office directly at 813-254-1190. Learn more about all of the food assistance that is available through Feeding Tampa Bay
- Senior Food Hotline: Call 1-800-432-2080
- Feeding Tampa Bay’s Breakspot Meal Sites with free meals for Kids
- UF IFAS Extension Polk County Foodie Fun at Home: UF IFAS Extension Polk County is offering four 15 minute webinars to give you insights on fun, healthy eats!
- Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger Meals on Wheels 4 Kids: MOW4Kids is a new program in St. Petersburg that offers home delivery meal services to kids during the school closure, starting March 23, 2020. We deliver to: 1) kids, ages 18 and under; 2) must be able to eat solid food. Participants must be home to receive the meal. This program is an alternative option for 1) kids that are not able to access any of the school meal distribution sites throughout the county; and/or 2) kids that have difficulty accessing open food pantries
- BreakSpot Grab & Go Meals for Kids: Locations are for Pinellas County
Local Agencies & Updates
- City of Tampa Social Services Resource List: For more information and resources related to Social Services and Business Relief, contact our Tampa’s Recovery Hotline at 1-833-TPA-INFO (1-833-872-4636). The call center is currently open 8 am – 8 pm Monday – Friday.
- Florida Department of Health COVID-19 Response: Visit their website or reach out to their hotline at 1-866-779-6121
- City of Tampa Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Information: Residents can sign up to receive text message alerts on the City of Tampa’s response to the coronavirus by texting TAMPAREADY or, for Spanish translations, TAMPALISTA to 888-777. Business owners and employees who have been affected by recent shutdowns can also get more information on financial aid and other available assistance by texting TAMPABIZ to 888-777.
- Alert Pinellas: Receive alerts about emergencies and other important community news by signing up for Alert Pinellas
- Alert Polk: Polk County officials now use a critical communications system shared with most public safety operations across the State of Florida to inform county residents about public safety threats and concerns. During situations that may affect the health, safety, and welfare of Polk County residents, designated officials send out messages to telephone numbers and email addresses within the affected geographic area. When the message is sent, you will be notified, giving specific information about the current announcement
- Sumter County Alerts
- Hillsborough County Public Schools Resource List
- United Way of Central Florida Community Resources
- Hillsborough County Public Schools resources and information about the spread of coronavirus
- Healthy Start Coalition List of Resources
- Metropolitan Ministries Hillsborough County Coronavirus Disease Response Initiative
- Champions for Children Virtual Programs and Resources: parenting classes & support, playgroups & screenings, and individualized parenting support. En español
- Champions for Children “Warm Line”: The “warm line” is answered by one of our parenting experts who will answer your questions, share advice, help you enroll in our programs, or connect you hassle-free to someone who can help. If our experts are on the other line, leave a message and you’ll hear back shortly. En español
- Free Access to Spectrum Broadband: Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households
- Lakeland Electric, Duke Energy, and TECO will not disconnect power for nonpayment amid coronavirus pandemic: Duke Energy announced on Friday it would no longer disconnect customers’ power over nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic. Lakeland Electric is suspending service disconnections for non-payment until further notice. Tampa Electric announced on Sunday that they will not disconnect customer’s power for nonpayments at least until the end of March.
- The Disaster Distress Helpline: The Disaster Distress Helpline answers calls and texts related to infectious dis-ease outbreaks. Call or text to connect with a trained counselor 24/7. Call 1-800-985-5990. Spanish-speakers can call the hotline and press “2” for 24/7 bilingual support
- Department of Workforce Solutions
- Tampa Metropolitan YMCA Childcare Relief: The YMCAs of Tampa Bay are offering all-day youth relief care for essential workers at 23 Y locations to help support the children of healthcare and emergency response professionals who are playing important roles combating the coronavirus.
- State of Florida Employ Florida Reemployment Benefits Guides in English and Spanish
- Florida Department of Children and Families ACCESS Florida COVID-19 Updates
- Tampa Bay Times: Florida’s unemployment benefits: We answer your questions
- Free Laundry Services in Tampa
- Internet Essentials Free Internet from Comcast FAQ
- Parents Ultimate Guides: Struggling to keep up with the media and tech your kids are using? Common Sense’s Parents’ Ultimate Guides can help keep you up to date and answer your questions about all the latest titles and trends. Whether you’re trying to figure out if a new app is safe for your teen or if a popular game includes blood and gore, we’ve got you covered. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know!
- Hillsborough County Public Library Reemployment Assistance Drive-Thru Help
- Sex, Lies & Media Training for Adults from Selah Freedom: Sex, Lies & Media Training helps interveners (parents, teachers, youth workers, etc.) learn about how predators and recruiters can approach innocent youth online through social media. It educates adults on the red flags to look out for, how a predator can manipulate and exploit a child, and how to protect the next generation from this crime. Gain practical tools to keep your kids safe online and learn how to facilitate conversations about this issue with them. 1 out of 9 children are approached by a predator online. With kids online more than ever before due to COVID-19, it is vital that parents are educated and empowered to protect them. This is a FREE virtual training on Thursday, April 23rd at 5:30pm. Once you have registered, a link will be emailed to you to attend this training.
- The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County has released their 2020 Family Guide for Services in Hillsborough County in English and Spanish
- Free Tax Prep Assistance: Due to the coronavirus, Hillsborough County Extension is not able to provide in-person tax prep assistance. We are offering free tax prep assistance for Hillsborough County residents who can connect via web meeting. We will do our best to offer as much one-on-one assistance as possible. Since demand may exceed our capacity, we are also offering free access to this tax prep software. Appointments for one-on-one assistance are required and may be made for the following times: Tues – Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00pm – 4:00pm. Appointments must be made in advance. For more information, contact Denise Kantak, 813-744-5519 ext. 54141 or Kantakd@HCFLGov.net
- Good Digital Parenting Resources: The Family Online Safety Institute’s Good Digital Parenting resources provide parents and caregivers with the tools they need to confidently navigate the online world with their families.
- Connect Safely Quick Guides for Internet Safely
- Create A Family Technology Plan: Families can create a family technology plan together by answering where they will use screens, when they will be used, for how long, and for what purpose
- BayCare Behavioral Health Parent Conversation Hour: Parenting can be challenging and at times overwhelming. COVID-19 poses its own set of challenges for parents: having to adapt to new roles as parent and teacher, creating new routines, and finding ways to keep family and friends connected. This group creates a platform for parents to be able to discuss challenges, create solutions, and develop skills to empower them as parents and create change within their families. Virtual meetings Monday 9-10 am and Thursday 3-4 pm. Space is limited, please pre-register
- How to Balance Children’s Screen Time During the Pandemic
- Understanding Screen Addiction and Responsible Digital Use
We know the existing relationships of our Bigs and Littles are important to keep intact, especially during stressful times. The World Health Organization has some helpful guidance on how to cope with stress and help children cope too.
- Coping with Stress
- Helping Children Cope with Stress
- There’s a new category within the Stop, Breathe & Think app, called Calm Coronavirus Anxiety, to help you feel safer, centered and connected. A carefully curated selection of our premium tracks—now free for the next 60 days—to support you during this time.
- How to Explain Coronavirus to a Child with Anxiety
The Greater Good Science Center recently released a Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus, which is an extensive collection of COVID-19 resources. The site features articles, podcasts, and activities for managing stress and anxiety, fostering connection, and general well-being for both parent and professional audiences.
- Florida Blue Offers Free 24/7 Bilingual Helpline Open to Provide Emotional Support during COVID-19 Health Crisis: Florida Blue has partnered with New Directions Behavioral Health to offer a free bilingual helpline to assist all Floridians with the stress they may feel during the COVID-19 health crisis. Licensed clinicians are available to speak to anyone in Florida free of charge in both English and Spanish. The services are free to all Floridians, including those who do not have insurance or have coverage with another health plan. Call 833-848-1762
- World Health Organization Staying Physically Active During Self-Quarantine
- Random Acts of Kindness: We need to distance ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help each other. During difficult times, we often see the most beautiful acts of kindness. If you’re home and looking for things to do to keep busy, scroll down for a list of resources to help! We will get through this sooner if we take care of ourselves and each other (without risking contagion). Kindness is a powerful tool. Let’s use it
Directions for Living is providing a free Coping with COVID-19 Pandemic Emotional Support call line. This call line is for emotional support only, not resources or life-threatening emergencies. Callers will be able to talk to someone and receive support, kindness, compassion, and understanding. Callers will leave their name and number, and someone will return their call within two operating hours (Mon-Sun 8am-8pm)
- The Three Rs of Anxiety Management
- Telehealth for Kids & Teens Mental Health during COVID-19 with Child Mind
- Coping with the Quarantine Support Sessions for Mental Wellness & Self-Care: This live, closed-group session, brought to you through our Get Moving! program, aims to help you take care of your mind, body, and soul during these stressful times. Join us every Thursday from 6-7 pm (beginning April 23rd) for some mental wellness and self-care with Licensed Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, Crystal Brewer.
- Frameworks Tampa Bay Strategies for Coping with Uncomfortable Emotions
- Frameworks Tampa Bay Calming Strategies for Children
Dealing with Grief
- The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children & Families
- Supporting Grieving Children and Teens During the COVID-19 Global Health Crisis
- Movement Activities for Grieving Children
- Self-Care Planning
- Responding to Change & Loss in Support of Children, Teens & Families
- Developmental Responses to Grief
- Discussion Starters
Self-Care Tips for Children & Adults
We understand that this is a very stressful time for a lot of us. Stress can have a significant impact on work and school performance, your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with others. It is important to manage stress in healthy ways. Below are some ways that can help you to cope with stress.
- Go for a walk
- Read a book
- Do some yoga
- Cook a new dish
- Burn a scented candle
- Cuddle with a pet
- Write in a journal
- Watch a movie
- Drive to a new place
- Make a list
- Clean out a junk drawer or closet
- Call a friend on the phone
- Take a deep breath
- Draw a picture
- Watch your favorite movie
- Write down some goals
- Write a letter
- Learn a new skill
Support for LGBTQ+ Youth: In this time of uncertainty many LGBTQ+ youth, who likely already feel isolated, might be feeling even more detached by the social distancing mandates in your area. Support can be accessed by phone, chat & text and additional resources are available online
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay has launched our Lunchtime Stories with BBBS Tampa Bay! Tune in to our Facebook page each weekday at 12:30pm as our staff reads a few chapters from a book each day
- Florida Aquarium SEA-SPAN: The Tampa attraction is hosting a daily Facebook Live while it is closed due to coronavirus. It will be broadcast at 10 a.m. each day to keep you up to date on happenings at the aquarium. On March 17, you can watch to see the lemurs celebrate
- Tour through famous museums: Sure you can’t leave your house but don’t let that stop you from enjoying all our world has to offer. Travel and Leisure put together a list of museums that offer virtual tours
- Learning at home: There are tons of websites for educational activities for kids. We found this Facebook post detailing a bunch of websites you could try
- Get on a schedule: Maybe that doesn’t sound like the greatest plan but it can be really helpful for kids. BusyToddler.com came up with a schedule that can help you plan your days. This is also an example of a daily schedule for kids who are home during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 30-day LEGO challenge: We found this one that could be fun! Take the 30 day LEGO challenge and make something new every day
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLES. Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together. New episodes will be posted each weekday at 1:00 p.m. ET and then remain online to be streamed afterward. Check back each weekday for new LUNCH DOODLES!
- Coronavirus Sanity Guide: Meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks to help build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos
- Clearwater Library: Access eBooks, digital comic books, audiobooks, magazines, and more with your Clearwater Library card
- Polk County Library: Polk County residents can register for a library card over the phone. Check here for a list of numbers to call. Although libraries are currently closed, bibliophiles can utilize hoopla – a free digital streaming service to access eBooks, eAudiobooks, music, movies, + TV shows using your own electronic device
- Google Arts & Culture’s collection of museums: There are thousands of museum Street Views on Google as well
- Google Arts & Culture’s collection of historic and cultural heritage sites
- Google Arts & Culture’s collection of national parks
- Nightly Met Opera Streams: During this extraordinary and difficult time, the Met hopes to brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark. Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of the opera’s greatest singers. The performances are being made available through the Met Opera on Demand streaming service, and are also accessible through Met Opera on Demand apps on all of your favorite devices.
- Stay-at-Home Care Package by Big Life Journal: ideas for indoor and outdoor activities for kids and teens
- The Cincinnati Zoo: The Cincinnati Zoo hosts animal features on their YouTube page that are fun and educational!
- Audible Stories: Free stories for kids of all ages while they are out of school
- Raymond’s Activities for Kids from the Tampa Bay Rays that includes coloring pages and activity pages
- Disney has shared the official Dole Whip recipe so you can satiate your sweet tooth
- 10+ Ideas to Celebrate a Birthday at Home during Social Distancing
- Kids can design their own Disney park online with ‘Imagineering in a Box’
- Free Digital Cooking Classes For Kids Every Week Day with DELISH
- The James Museum from Home: Connect with us through weekly curated content based on our collection. Explore art, movies, books, music, children’s activities and more. Each week the content is freshly considered and developed by our curatorial and education teams. We invite you to discover a new way to experience the museum and learn more about our collection.
- Girl Scouts at Home: Bring the exploration, fun and learning of Girl Scouts to your family even when circumstances are keeping Girl Scouts from meeting up in person. Afterall, Girl Scouts isn’t somewhere girls go or something they do—it’s who they are day in, day out. Use these self-guided, free activities to keep your girl, your troop, and your community connected.