NORTH SACRAMENTO – At a time where bare necessities are limited and education has transitioned to virtual learning for young scholars, The Roberts Family Development Center remains steadfast in its determination to serve their students and families.

Roberts Family Development Center co-founder Derrell Roberts gives a protective mask to a resident at Seavey Circle this week. Organization leaders have adjusted the Center’s services because of the pandemic.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 globally has resulted in unprecedented circumstances for families at home, giving RFDC more impetus to implement strategies that enable the organization to continue providing for the youth it serves. Many of youth the Center serves live in economically challenged neighborhoods: Old Seavey Circle, North Sacramento, Robla and Del Paso Heights.

That service was on display this week as members of the RFDC staff and volunteers helped to give away meals and items such as masks to residents at Seavey Circle and in North Sacramento.

RFDC, a African American operated nonprofit is dedicated to connecting with boys and girls from these communities and has adapted to the rapid change by assisting their scholars and families immediately after the outbreak.

Organization leaders have done their best to mitigate the financial burden that this pandemic could create for many in the community.

Derrell Roberts, co-founder/CEO of RFDC, credits Mulvaney’s B&L Restaurant for providing nightly meals to 70 families to support them in these difficult times.

“The relationship co-founder Tina Roberts and I have cultivated over the past 20 years with Patrick Mulvaney and his wife Bobbin came in handy,” Roberts said.

“Chef Patrick wanted to help out city-wide and looked for trusted partners he could count on getting meals to those who needed them most.”

Weekly food bags came through a partnership with The South Sacramento Christian Center and its funder Sierra Health Foundation.

“These relationships allowed us to do what was needed without questioning our motives for being involved,” Roberts said.

“We have had a great partnership with Pastor Les Simmons of South Sac Christian Center and Sierra Health is our funding source for our Black Child Legacy Campaign.”

With schools closing, it has added an additional burden for our families that was not common, Roberts said.

“What that meant for Roberts Family Development Center is that we have to change our work to not only doing regular check-ins with scholars and families but also connecting with them to provide additional support to maneuver through the changes of using technology as the primary means to educate our students. In addition to supporting students we also support the parents, offering regular zoom check ins with them and on-line trainings to allow them to better understand the distance learning approach their babies will be using for the immediate future.”

Roberts said many of RFDC’s foundational components are predicated on stimulating scholars and families through emotional learning with an element of academically enriching coursework.

But given the pervasiveness of the spread and the circumstances the quarantine puts families in, Roberts also said an adjustment made was utilizing emotional learning primarily with academics being supplemental.
“One of the tenants of our reputation is our ability to connect with our families,” Roberts said. “What the pandemic did was put more of an emphasis on simply connecting with our children and their families on a regular basis rather than applying the academic component right away.”

During the school shutdowns, the organization’s ultimate aim is to continue ensuring a safe space for children virtually who are living in these economically challenged neighborhoods.

“More than anything, we just want to be positive individuals connecting with students in the afternoon to make sure they’re OK,” he said. “We also want to provide a safety blanket for our parents and guardians as well by keeping their kids occupied, but in a virtual setting. That’s who we are right now.”