Skip to main content




Patriots Celebrate Volunteerism in 2023

The Celebrate Volunteerism initiative aims to share examples of dedicated volunteers, build awareness of the need for volunteering, identify and educate others about volunteer opportunities and inspire New Englanders to follow the Kraft family's example of becoming lifelong volunteers.

Throughout the season, the Kraft family, the New England Patriots Foundation and Gillette celebrated volunteers that work tirelessly to support children and families in need throughout the New England region, while also encouraging Patriots fans to get involved in their communities.

Each week throughout the season, the Patriots selected a "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week." You can learn more about the 2023 winners below.

Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation Josh Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett take a group photo with the 2023 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week.
Chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group and the New England Patriots Robert Kraft, President of the New England Patriots Foundation Josh Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett take a group photo with the 2023 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week.

Patriots Difference Makers of the Week


Fabrien Rosen

Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Since February 2020, Fabrien has been volunteering at Ethos, Boston's oldest community-based nonprofit dedicated to helping seniors and adults with disabilities live at home with dignity and independence. She helps bring joy and excitement to those who have been living in isolation and uncertainty since the COVID-19 pandemic began three years ago.

Fabrien has volunteerism in her DNA. She is a rare kind that is not only committed to improving the lives of others, but she has brilliant and creative ideas on how to do so, and a charismatic ability to engage others in service. She is often the first to step forward to work on a new project, or to improve an existing one. She not only takes on multiple volunteer opportunities, but she expands them to serve new needs she identifies.

Fabrien introduced a monthly "Zoom Boggle Night," an opportunity for members to have fun and connect with one another. When members lacked personal contact, she created an outdoor wine and cheese gathering. Although masked and staying six feet apart, seeing one another in person lifted people's spirits in the midst of those difficult days.

Fabrien's greatest effect is on the lives of aging members of the community. Every one of her volunteer activities contributes to alleviating seniors' isolation and loneliness, teaching them skills to extend their ability to be self-reliant, and providing opportunities to engage, learn, and have fun.


Bette McBride

Hopkinton, Mass.
Project Just Because

Project Just Because helps struggling families in their times of greatest need by supplying basic necessities including warm clothing, food and school supplies. They are dedicated to serving as many men, women and children as possible in a caring and dignified environment. As a conduit between those who want to give and those in need, Project Just Because fosters a stronger, more empathetic community.

Bette volunteers as the lead role of the Project Just Because Food Pantry free grocery store a minimum of two full days a week. She has been volunteering for over three years. Her work has evolved into dependable leadership for volunteers and patrons. On a typical day, Bette helps an average 60 households/families as they shop in the food pantry.

Bette greets everyone with a warm welcome and ensures that their food pantry experience goes smoothly. Her efforts and hard work keep the food pantry process at Project Just Because running efficiently, while bringing an element of hospitality. Patrons typically come to Project Just Because during a hard time, and Bette makes it a more dignified, low stress situation for customers during those times with her friendly, confident disposition upon greeting and getting patrons out the door.

Bette's energy is contagious to the rest of the volunteers. Food pantry volunteers and patrons look to her as their guide. She creates a cohesive atmosphere between volunteers serving, and patrons in need of services. She always encourages friends to come along and volunteer. She handles the challenges of her day-to-day volunteer work with great grace.


Terry Stonecipher

Haverhill, Mass.
Emmaus, Inc.

Terry Stonecipher has been a volunteer at Emmaus for the past eight years. Emmaus distributes supplemental perishable and non-perishable food, fresh produce, personal care items, and diapers to low-income, homeless, and formerly homeless households enrolled in their programs.

Terry has direct contact with clients on a weekly basis. He knows all of them by name and also makes sure to fill their bags with their preferred brand choices, if available. His friendly and warm personality brightens the day for Emmaus clients, volunteers, and staff. He volunteers two nights a month at the Tuesday evening food distributions.

In addition to his bi-weekly volunteering at the food distribution center, Terry also picks up a weekly donation from a local food manufacturing facility in Haverhill. Terry's consistent volunteer service has ensured that Emmaus receives this weekly donation and maintains a positive relationship with this community partner.

Terry is an integral part of the volunteer crew and serves as a leader and role model to his volunteer peers. Terry is dedicated and committed to Emmaus and their clients.


Megan Jusczyk

North Attleborough, Mass.
For Kids' Sake Foundation Inc.

On April 1, 2010, Megan and her husband Glen received the devastating news that their two-year-old daughter Malia was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma. After moving to Orlando from Boston, they quickly packed up their things and moved back so their daughter could receive immediate treatment at Boston Children's Hospital. Megan and her husband established For Kids' Sake Foundation shortly after Malia was declared to have no evidence of disease in 2012.

With her continued enthusiasm and empathy for families going through what her own family did, Megan brings hope to them at a time when they may feel their lives have been turned upside down. She knows first-hand what a cancer diagnosis can bring to a family and she stays in communication with the appropriate staff at the hospitals who help her identify families in need of financial assistance. For Kids' Sake Foundation has provided over $500,000 in family grants and donated $750,000 to pediatric cancer research. 

Each year a 5k and 10K is held in Plainville to bring the community together for a day of walking, running, children's games, food, a silent auction and an all-encompassing fun day for everyone. Megan leads by example in every event held. What sets Megan apart is her ability to make every volunteer feel as though they are making a difference. Many who have experienced what she has would want to move on with their lives, but Megan made the decision that she wanted to do whatever she could to ease the pain and suffering of patients and their families.


Jhondell Smith-Young

Boston, Mass.
Greatest MINDS Boston

The mission of Greatest MINDS Boston is to provide mentorship and guidance to citizens and first-generation college students seeking to become active and successful contributors to civil society. Their goal is to give students access to college, career, and community networks.

Jhondell is a student in Boston. He has worked in distressed inner-city neighborhoods and has always kept mentoring and volunteering as a core of his character and commitment to the community. Over the last two years, he has led a team of high school students teamed up with college students to help students with learning loss during the 2020-2021 academic year. Many of those times, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been able to help set up many in-person college programs, volunteer programs feeding the less fortunate and also set up recreational camps in the summer at the Washington Park in Roxbury, MA for pre-teens.

It is important that young people see young Black men take leadership in their communities. The volunteer work that Jhondell exemplifies is the caring and healing work that Greatest MINDS Boston aims to see in the community: showing pre-teens and teenagers to not give up, to be resourceful and doing their best to help one another.


Ellen Keefe

Concord, N.H.
Future In Sight

Future In Sight is a nonprofit organization in New Hampshire that supplies a range of services to people of all ages who live with low vision or blindness. The organization serves a large population of low to moderate income households. Ellen has helped provide support with fundraising for any services that people may reach out and need – this includes necessary aids & critical vision care. Since 2016, Ellen has volunteered with the organization – providing support with visiting clients and driving them to appointments.

As a community driver, she drives clients to doctor appointments, the grocery store, peer support groups, social events, etc. During this time, she has served 25 clients for a total of 391 contacts and 1,017 hours given. She has given 897 rides and driven over 15,000 miles.

As an ambassador for the organization, Ellen advocates for the mission of advancing the independence of people who are blind or visually impaired and attends a variety of events on behalf of the organization such as health fairs and other tabling opportunities. In her volunteer roles, she interacts with clients, donors, other supporters, and the general community.


Karla Marleny Ortega Diaz

Lawrence, Mass.
Uncommon Threads

Uncommon Threads empowers low-income women to live their best lives by utilizing personal development coaching and individualized wardrobe styling to build self-esteem and self-worth. They provide clothing to women who have lost everything (e.g., fleeing domestic violence, a natural disaster, or other crises), need emergency clothing, winter essentials, and outfits for job interviews/the workforce.

Karla first became involved with Uncommon Threads when she utilized their services in 2016. She quickly jumped in and served as a volunteer for the organization. Karla can be found helping out with translating, styling clients, processing inventory, assisting at events, preparing food for workshops, and many other tasks.

Karla is highly involved in the Lawrence community, and she gives back in numerous ways. Through her church and work with the homeless, she has made many referrals to Uncommon Threads and helps us to distribute clothing directly to those in need. If Karla hears of someone who is struggling, she is the first to rush in to help. Karla's firsthand knowledge of the community combined with her own personal experience and struggles make her an integral part of our organization.

Even though she is a mother and works two jobs, Karla never misses a volunteer shift. She also pulls from her own personal experience to educate volunteers and staff members on how to work with disenfranchised women. She has touched the lives of hundreds of people in Lawrence.


Carol Collins

Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Island Grown Initiative

Island Grown Initiative's mission is to build a regenerative and equitable food system on Martha's Vineyard that engages, informs, and integrates the community. Together with their volunteers, partners, and supporters, they help sustain their neighbors in times of need by providing a dependable source of wholesome food.

Carol Collins has been volunteering for Island Grown Initiative's Gleaning program for 13 years, since the program began in 2009. Gleaning is the process of collecting leftover harvest from a garden or field. After each glean, she delivers hundreds of pounds of produce to local food pantries, schools, senior centers, and other community organizations.

In addition to Gleaning, Carol reduces food waste by picking up surplus food from grocery stores six days a week. Her partner and sister help with these pickups and they each deliver surplus food to organizations across the Island. Each day, they pick up several hundred pounds of surplus groceries. Carol has provided food to thousands of people each year.

Carol is attuned to the needs of community and is knowledgeable about food access challenges on the Island. She is involved at many levels of our food system, from grocery stores to local farms. She is engaged with the MV Food Equity Network which is a group of 25 organizations that work together to address food insecurity and equity on Martha's Vineyard.


Jonathan Valdez

Newton, Mass.
The Carroll Center for the Blind

The Carroll Center for the Blind empowers those who are blind or visually impaired to achieve independence and to lead a fulfilling life. Jonathan is 26 years old and was born with Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, an inherited retinal disease that causes you to lose your eyesight. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School and currently attends Middlesex Community College. 

Jonathan, who lives in Lawrence, travels by train to the Carroll Center for the Blind. He is on the first train out of Lawrence at 5:30 a.m. arriving to volunteer at the Carroll Center by 8:00 a.m. This 2.5-hour commute does not prevent Jonathan from volunteering at the Carroll Center approximately 20 hours per week. 

His volunteer role involves supporting both clients and the organization's vision professionals who participate in their summer residential camps for children and young adults along with their year-long programming designed to support individuals on a pathway towards independence. "From any maintenance tasks that are needed, to supporting clients who visit the Carroll Store to purchase adaptive equipment to making sure all campus facilities are prepared for our residential guests, Jonathan does all of this with a smile on his face and a lift in his heart."

Jonathan is a "change maker" and his dedication and commitment to the blind and visually impaired through his volunteer role has greatly impacted the lives of those he serves.


Sophia Gentile

Everett, Mass.
Eliot Family Resource Center

Eliot Community Human Services provides community-based services to more than 50,000 individuals and families throughout Massachusetts each year, delivering state-of-the-art, evidence-based programming. The Eliot Family Resource Center (FRC) is a program of Eliot that provides community-based, multicultural support groups, parenting programs, assessment services, information and referral resources, and education for families whose children range in age from birth to 18. 

Sophia eagerly began volunteering at the FRC as soon as it first opened its doors in December 2017. Throughout the year, she helps to fill grocery bags for their food pantry pick up. Since the start of COVID-19, the need for this service has increased and the organization fills as many as 500 bags per week. Each year, she also comes to the FRC, and joins other young volunteers, to assemble thousands of backpacks that the FRC distributes at their annual backpack event. 

Beyond Sophia's role in assembling the gift bags the FRC distributes to approximately 500 children during the holidays, she has taken on the extra task each year of creating 100-150 fleece tie blankets to give to children with their gifts. She does this in her own time at home, and even takes the extra time to write and attach personalized notes with each blanket.

Finally, Sophia is a participant in one of the FRC's Girl Talk support groups and has taken on a leadership role in that group, asking difficult questions when other young girls in the group are not comfortable doing so. The other girls often gravitate to Sophia, looking to her for insight. She handles this responsibility with grace.


Marie DiMartino

Pinehurst, Mass.
Equally Different Inc.

Marie created Equally Different after consistently running into bumps in the road finding the right fit in the community for her two sons with autism. Programs that worked for one son, failed for her other son. Equally Different was born with the idea that everyone is equal regardless of their differences.

She raises funds to provide families with scholarships towards supports not otherwise covered by insurance such as autism service dog costs, social skills camps, art, music or equine therapies, and town recreation programs. The services are integral to allow these folks to be involved in their community, yet the costs can be prohibitive, and Marie wants to make it happen for these families.

She spends her days working full time, raising four children and all her spare time, researching grants, funding opportunities and running fundraisers to build their scholarship fund. She has spent the past year working towards what she hopes will become the annual "Find the Right Fit Special Needs Resource Fairs" which include therapy providers, community programs representative from state insurance and service providers. These inclusive fairs would be a place for families to find resources all in one place and gain an understanding of what might work for their family member.


James Flynn

Dorchester, Mass.

EVkids empowers underserved Boston youth with the skills and confidence needed to realize their potential. EVkids are low-income students, grades 4 to 12, matched 1-on-1 in multi-year tutoring and mentoring relationships with student volunteer tutors from Boston College, Harvard, Northeastern, Tufts, UMass Boston, and others. 

James is a New Hampshire native and has been a volunteer with EVkids in Boston for 6 years. Throughout his four years as an undergraduate at Boston College, he traveled to Dorchester weekly to tutor a high school student at one of EVkids' after-school sites. Every week James and this student worked on everything from homework to study skills. As their relationship grew, James mentored the student on how best to navigate the high school social scene and plan for college. James has always met the student where he was at and helped guide him to success.

In high school, this student was struggling with keeping his grades up while taking care of his ill father with whom he lived and experiencing housing insecurity after his dad's passing. James was always able to offer academic and emotional support as needed. An extraordinary example is when James attended his father's funeral. Instead of being afraid to speak about the death of a parent with his tutee or feeling like it was not his place to attend a family funeral, James knew how important it was for this student to have his support.


Kathy Arabia

North Adams, Mass.
AYJ Fund

After losing their 16-year-old daughter to a rare brain tumor in 2013, Kathy and her husband Joe established the AYJ Fund in memory of their daughter Anna. The AYJ Fund has three primary areas of focus, the Smiles Program, Connections Program, and Cures Program.

The Smiles Program helps bring smiles to kids battling cancer by delivering over 200 gift-filled string backpacks to teens at several local hospitals. In addition to the "Smiles Program," Kathy provides "fun days" for kids undergoing cancer treatment. For example, the AYJ Fund sent a young boy and his family to an indoor water park as one of his last wishes. The second focus of the AYJ Fund is the "Connections Program." The AYJ Fund continually provides iPads and other tablets to teens with cancer, which allows them to connect with school and friends. This helps with the isolation so many teens face when they are not able to attend school themselves.

The third focus area is "Cures." The AYJ Fund is committed to supporting research and finding effective treatments for the devastating disease that took Anna's life. When Anna was diagnosed with Gliomatosis Cerebri in 2009 at the age of 13, there was no research being done on her rare type of brain cancer. Thankfully this has changed. The AYJ Fund now supports research laboratories at Dana Farber, Weill Cornell, and Stanford. In addition, the AYJ Fund collaborated with similar family foundations to financially support the first International Conference on Gliomatosis Cerebri in Paris in 2015.

Kathy's deepest inspiration is the hearts of children fighting big battles. The loss of a child is immeasurable, yet somehow Kathy finds the inner strength to make a difference in the lives of so many others.


Paul Squatrito

Melrose, Mass.
Melrose Alliance Against Violence

Formed in 1995, the Melrose Alliance Against Violence (MAAV) is a nonprofit community-based organization that focuses on outreach, education and community collaboration in order to raise awareness of the problems of bullying, teen dating and domestic violence.

Paul is a junior at Melrose High School. When given the opportunity to join MAAV, Paul immediately applied because he wished to make an impact and bring awareness to teen dating violence and sexual assault. Out of many applicants, Paul was selected to the school's Student Action Board. In joining and bringing awareness to his fellow youth, Paul has become a role model to teens.

A lot of times youth can have the ability to tune out adults when they are speaking however when you bring in a peer, they are likely to listen. It may be easier to speak to someone your own age if you are being bullied or in a relationship that is unhealthy. Paul wanting to understand why people hurt others and wanting to create a world where the impact of domestic violence, social injustice, and bullying no longer exists for children, friends, family, and the community is why he wanted to join the Student Action Board of Melrose Alliance against Violence. Paul is there to offer support, listen, and respect individuals. Paul understands the importance of simply listening, understanding, and respecting others.


Steven Becroft

Salem, Mass.
LEAP for Education

LEAP for Education runs free, after-school and summer programs designed to bridge the opportunity gap for students from underserved communities across Essex County, Massachusetts. These programs offer students the ability to explore and engage in their communities in a way that will lead them to careers that align with their strengths and interests.

Steven started volunteering for LEAP in 2019 and has spent time as a tutor, instructor and mentor in their programs. Within these programs, Steven provides one-to-one student support, giving homework guidance and facilitating games. He also facilitates STEM workshops for students, helping them build and fly drones, build robots, do 3-D printing and coding. As a retired engineer and former business owner, Steven designs the curriculum for these workshops that includes social-emotional learning.

Beyond the middle school programs, he also works on their College Success Program (CSP), helping guide conversations around postsecondary education and next steps. He works individually with students on their college applications, essays, and scholarships. Steven guides students in learning and exploring by facilitating hands-on activities. Through this he has renewed their love of education and sparked curiosity and appreciation for the STEM world. Students come with various backgrounds but Steven is able to meet each student where they are at with patience and understanding.


Mike Johnson

Manchester, Maine
Augusta Food Bank

The Augusta Food Bank was established in 1981 to provide residents of Augusta and Manchester, Maine experiencing food insecurity with healthy food in a kind and respectful manner and welcoming setting. Augusta Food Bank's food intake and distribution numbers have increased 67% over the last two years, to where they now provide the equivalent of more than 50,000 meals every month.

Mike Johnson has been volunteering at the Augusta Food Bank for more than 20 years. He volunteers every day that they are open from 8:30 a.m. - 11:30 doing whatever is needed - stocking shelves, coolers, and freezers; sorting produce and eggs, cleaning the facility, and pitching in wherever he can. Mike volunteers four days a week.

He helps customers load groceries into their cars, volunteers to make a home delivery to someone in desperate need, and he is always the first one to provide rides to customers who don't have transportation. The Augusta Food Bank has a number of dedicated volunteers, but Mike stands out as the one who consistently goes above and beyond. Mike is loved by staff, fellow volunteers, and customers. He knows every job in their operation. The Augusta Food Bank executive director said "I'm not sure how we would survive without him."


Christine W. Lai

Greenwich, Conn.
Special Education Legal Fund

Special Education Legal Fund (S.E.L.F.) helps economically challenged families of children with learning disabilities to navigate the special education system. S.E.L.F. provides grants of up to $5,000 per child for legal representation to help families achieve better learning and development outcomes. S.E.L.F.'s goal is to level the playing field in the special education system so that no child with a learning disability falls between the cracks due to legal or economic challenges.

Following over a decade of educational challenges for her own son, Christine Lai dedicated herself to making special education and services for people with intellectual disabilities more accessible and understandable to all families regardless of economic status. Christine volunteered with several special education charities, but in 2018 Christine had the idea to create her own charity which would explicitly target inequity in the special education system due to lack of educational or economic resources.

In four years, S.E.L.F. has provided over $400K in legal assistance grants to over 100 families and educated thousands more via direct community outreach programs and informational content on its website (in several languages). Christine is a woman of purpose on a mission to help as many families and children as possible achieve the best possible educational outcomes.