News & Event
During the Greater Worcester Community Foundation’s annual meeting held on May 17 at Mechanics Hall, the grant-making institution released its 2016 financial results, elected new directors, and corporators and announced the 13th annual Renaissance Award, which recognizes the organization’s nonprofit leader of the year.
T. Diago McClain, founder and CEO of Worcester Pay It Forward (PIF), grew up in Worcester and attended Holy Name High School, where he now coaches basketball three nights a week. In the last 8 years, McClain has transformed the lives of more than 3,500 Worcester area youth ages 4 to 18 through mentoring, coaching, and leadership provided by PIF. The organization is dedicated to the development of young boys and girls through the game of basketball. Its mission is to teach local youth life skills and positive values through athletics, in order for those children to maximize their individual and educational potential.
Children from Holden, Auburn, Shrewsbury, Paxton and Worcester’s most challenged neighborhood have benefited from PIF’s mission and McClain’s leadership. In partnership with Holy Name High School, McClain and PIF provide a variety of programs including the “Tiny Tots” basketball, “Rise Against Bullying,” Summer basketball league, school vacation camps, travel basketball and WSUP Peer Mentoring. Under McClain’s guidance, support, and encouragement, many PIF graduates have gone on to pursue higher education at colleges and universities including Clark University, Newbury College, Worcester State University, Assumption College, Boston College, Assumption College, Salem State University, and Quinsigamond Community College. With the support of PIF and McClain, participants receive opportunities at scholarships, financial assistance, and a chance to cultivate a successful future.
“Diago’s impact on the youth of the Central Massachusetts community goes far and beyond being a mentor and coach. He and his organization provide a sense of hope and opportunity for every one of his participants,” said Ann T. Lisi, GWCF CEO and President. “Diago’s dedication to making a positive impact in the lives of so many disadvantaged youths is inspirational to us all. We’re proud to present him with this award.”
The Renaissance Award was established as an endowed prize through a gift by the late John W. Lund to show the community’s appreciation to those who serve in nonprofit roles. The award comes with a $5,000 cash prize. The award is given to an individual, not an agency, and is intended to be used for personal renewal. Selection is based on a record of dedicated commitment to the nonprofit sector, professional accomplishments, and talent in fostering collaborative relationships.
The annual meeting also publicly released the foundation’s financial reporting for 2016. With total assets exceeding $139.2 million comprised of permanent charitable endowments that are available for local grantmaking; the foundation awarded $6.6 million in grants and scholarships and received more than $5 million in contributions. A complete annual report can be found at greaterworcester.org.
The Foundation also elected the following to the Board for four-year terms:
● J. Christopher Collins
● Timothy Jarry
● Patsy Lewis
● Matthew Wally
● Kimberly Salmon
Chair: Gerald Gates
Vice Chair: Warner Fletcher
Clerk: Carolyn Stempler
Treasurer: Tim Jarry
During the Foundation’s 41ST annual meeting held at Mechanics Hall, the grant-making organization released its 2015 financial result and presented its 12th annual Renaissance Award, which recognizes the organization’s nonprofit leader of the year.
If Worcester’s residents are searching for a glimmer of hope for the city’s future in the wake of recent international terrorist attacks, and the city’s own battle with opioid abuse, major crimes and racial tension, they won’t have to look any further than a small group of area teenagers ready to tackle social issues as community leaders.
For the past 16 years, members of Youth for Community Improvement (http://www.greaterworcester.org/AboutUs/YouthforCommunityImprovement) (YCI) have been making a difference in Worcester and have been responsible for the distribution of much needed funding to nonprofit organizations throughout Worcester and the surrounding areas.
This year is an important year for the YCI program because the majority of the 18 teens involved in the program were born in 1999 — the year the program was founded.
These teens will be responsible for deciding which nonprofits will be awarded a maximum of $4,000 each from $24,000 in available funds.
Twenty-one nonprofits have applied for funding, and those that best represent a “youth voice” will benefit from the generous funding of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation (http://www.greaterworcester.org/) . “There’s 18 members, so there’s 17 members other than myself, who feel that we have the ability to make an impact,” said Laura Giordano of Shrewsbury, a junior at Shrewsbury High School. “We might be in high school, but we have so many opportunities and different perspectives that we can give on what we think should be funded.”
Since YCI began, 70 nonprofits in Worcester County have been awarded $285,000 from nearly 200 teenagers involved in the program.
YCI, Worcester County’s only non-school youth philanthropy program, is an advisory committee of the GWCF and is entirely composed of area teenagers. The program is based on the idea that youth philanthropy and youth grantmaking experience is effective in youth development and this experience needs to be expanded to contribute to economic development.
Each nonprofit that applies for the funding has to have a total project budget of less than $25,000.
Recruiting and interviewing teenagers for the program is nearly a yearlong process. The program coordinator, Amy Mosher Berry, spends much of the spring recruiting students from local high schools and sending an email campaign to youth centers. Each student is interviewed in June before the school year ends and is alerted of their acceptance into the program before the following school year begins.
“They [the students] have a lot of self-awareness. It’s that kind of awareness that kicks them into action as leaders. So many people, particularly adults, don’t view young people as leaders. And I honestly think that some of these young people have the best ideas to solve big, complex problems in our community.” — Amy Mosher Berry, YCI program coordinator
YCI is a two-year program for high school students. This year half the students are from Worcester while other students come from Marlborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Grafton, Princeton, Sutton and Auburn.
Over the past few months, Mosher, who has been running the program for eight years, has noticed that the students involved in YCI are “genuinely interested in each other’s perspectives.” “They’re actively leading the discussion and they take it very seriously,” said Mosher, who said members of this group actively govern each other and make sure they’re each fulfilling their end of the responsibilities.
Mosher told a story of a particularly difficult meeting this fall when the students weren’t all on the same page, weren’t focused and came to a realization at the end of the meeting that they needed to do better in order for this program to work. One of the students really impressed Mosher when the student called her and took full responsibility for the entire group’s behavior immediately following the meeting.
“They [the students] have a lot of self-awareness. It’s that kind of awareness that kicks them into action as leaders. So many people, particularly adults, don’t view young people as leaders. And I honestly think that some of these young people have the best ideas to solve big, complex problems in our community,” Mosher said.
As part of keeping each other in check, the group created the “Just A Reminder” Jar — a poster of a jar that they all agreed to sign with words representing what the group not only wanted to get out of the program, but even more important, what they wanted to put into it. Phrases in the jar include “Respect,” “Safe Zone” and “Listen to Each Other.” “It’s almost like a social contract of how they want to run their meetings,” Mosher said. “We have that visually and I find that they’re really taking it pretty seriously. I find that it’s a testament to their own words. They’ve created the thing, so they want to hold each other accountable.”
For the teens selected this year, the areas of interest that will be funded include nonprofits with a focus on diversity and cultural awareness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and depression and suicide prevention. Nonprofits that promote access to greater economic opportunity — including better education, housing and nutrition — will also be considered for funding.
Giordano, along with Lillian Cain of Worcester, a junior at the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, and Rayaan Yunus of Westborough, a sophomore at Westborough High, agree that proper nutrition is one of the most important issues Worcester residents are facing right now.
Yunus, who was born in Massachusetts but spent the early years of his childhood in Pakistan, said his experiences have shown him just how important proper, and affordable, nutrition is for not only people in Worcester, but everyone around the world. “For me, one main focus on our RFP (request for proposal) was nutrition, because that was a big problem in Pakistan,” Yunus said. “And it’s an issue in Worcester.”
Giordano agreed with Yunus, saying “I’m a big advocate for nutrition. That’s one of the biggest things. Access to food and access to healthy food is huge, especially in a city as big as Worcester. Some people can’t afford to buy healthy food. Buying a bag of chips is sometimes less expensive than buying an apple.”
“If you make nutritional food less expensive, people are more encouraged to buy it,” Cain added. The students of YCI went on a one-day retreat to the Community Harvest Project (http://www.communityharvest.org/) on Sept. 19 to get to know each other, spend time with one another, and learn about the importance of growing fresh fruits and vegetables as a way to fight hunger.
On Oct. 28, YCI students joined students from South High’s youth philanthropy project and went on a bus tour to visit two Worcester nonprofits — the Worcester Housing Resource Alliance and Pernet Family Health Service — to observe how funding from the South High kids was spent and how the funding impacted those organizations and programs.
For YCI students, it was a good experience to see how nonprofits utilized funding and listen to leaders of nonprofit organizations. On Tuesday night, Nov. 16, Giordano, Cain and Yunus presented to the GWCF board of directors (http://www.greaterworcester.org/AboutUs/OurPeople) their group’s choices for the organizations they would like to see receive funding. The nonprofits that will be awarded funds from the YCI will be announced in mid-December. “I was really proud of all of them up there. You could really tell that they wanted to be up there and that they wanted to share their experience in the program,” Mosher said. “They received some really positive feedback.”
Jake Messier, a public relations and outsourced marketing director for the program, said, “Those people on the board are really rooting for them. That is a room full of cheerleaders. They’re people that want them [YCI students] to do well. They’ve been in their position as junior leaders a long time ago, and they’re impressed that kids nowadays are actually doing something like this instead of being in front of an Xbox.
Nonprofits that have previously received funding from YCI include Rachel’s Table, Southeast Asian Coalition and the Regional Environmental Council.
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