By: Dennis Hohenberger
Article Credit: MassLive
HOLYOKE – The Playball! Foundation awarded $20,000 to the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club’s (HBGC) COVID-19 dinner program. Since April, the club has provided over 550 meals daily to the city’s children.
In November, Playball! presented the club and the Holyoke Public Schools a $25,000 grant to support a middle school intermural sports program. In the wake of the pandemic, the foundation has temporarily changed its missions to fund food and meal programs in communities like Holyoke.
Eileen Cavanaugh, the club’s CEO and president, said the grant allows the club to continue to serve youth and families during the health crisis. Nutrition and fitness remain cornerstones for the club located on Nick Cosmos Way.
“We are proud to be part of our community’s collective efforts to address the food insecurity challenge by providing meals to children and teens,” Cavanaugh said. “We appreciate the partnership and the funding from Play Ball! It validates our work and reinforces our commitment to respond, recover and forge ahead.”
While the Holyoke Public Schools offers grab-n-go breakfast and lunch programs, the club saw a gap in dinner offerings for youth. The HBGC has served over 11,000 dinners since the program began in April.
Meals are also delivered to 13 homeless shelters and to families whose caregivers are elderly or disabled.
“Basic needs start with proper food and nutrition; we can’t ask our kids to be hungry for academic success or positive youth development when they are just plain hungry,” Cavanaugh said.
Adding, “Playball Foundation has been a lifeline supporting HBGC COVID-19 Dinner Club Program, and our organizations are proud to be doing whatever it takes to support our kids right now when they need it the most.”
Besides Holyoke, Playball! funds programs in Boston and Lawrence, communities that are “under resourced.”
Chris Lynch, the foundation’s executive director, was in Holyoke for the November check presentation, moments before the tipoff of a basketball game. The Holyoke Public School and the HBGC created the first-ever girls, middle school basketball league.
The “happy and normal times” were replaced with shutdowns and a halt to youth sports, Lynch said.
“We don’t want to sit on the sidelines. As we looked at our options to support programming, we felt food insecurity was an issue for a lot of the families,” he said. The foundation wanted to put families’ minds at ease.
Playball! made an initial $10,000 donation along with a match by a generous donor. “The Holyoke Boys and Girls Club is amazing. They step into every breach and take on whatever needs to be done,” Lynch said.