Foxborough, Mass. (June 10, 2011) - Sixteen volunteers from across New England were honored as "Community MVPs" in a ceremony at Gillette Stadium yesterday.
Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Patriots Charitable Foundation President Josh Kraft, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Patriots Executive Director or Community Affairs Andre Tippett, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace were all on hand to congratulate the winners, who collectively earned $100,000 in grants for their charities.
The Community MVP Awards, a New England Patriots Charitable Foundation program for the past 11 years, honor individuals who exemplify leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism. The 2011 MVPs represent all six New England states and a variety of non-profit organizations.
"Volunteerism is such a vital element to the non-profit community, and these award winners represent some of the very best examples of community volunteers in New England," said Robert Kraft. "They each have a touching story that is deserving of this recognition. What I love most about this annual event is that we are able to recognize their hard work and dedication as outstanding individuals who give of themselves in extraordinary ways while also offering crucial funding to their charities."
Nomi Kaim, a volunteer at the Aspergers Association of New England in Watertown, Mass., was the grand prize winner, earning $25,000 for the association. Five runners up received $10,000 for their charities and 10 additional MVPs were awarded $2,500 (bios attached).
The Patriots Charitable Foundation treated the MVPs and their guests to a luncheon prior to the ceremony and a special visit to the field afterward.
Community MVP Bios:
$25,000 Grant Recipient
Aspergers Association of New England - Watertown, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts Resident
Nomi learned she had been living with Aspergers Syndrome when she was diagnosed at 20 years old after dropping out of school, being unable to work due to severe sensor, social and communication difficulties and dealing with depression and anxiety. When she walked through the doors of the Aspergers Association of New England (AANE), no one knew Nomi's impact on the organization would far outweigh the services they provided to her.
For seven years, Nomi has served as a tireless volunteer, honing her ability to use her experiences to help others also dealing with Aspergers. She uses her ability to communicate through writing in a range of special writing projects and is known by AANE staff as "our written voice of AS." She serves as an advocate and educator for adults with AS and their families at AANE. Despite her social and communication challenges, Nomi has spoken about her experiences with AS at over a dozen conferences, seminars, workshops, schools and universities to audiences ranging from children, parents, educators, healthcare professionals and others with AS. In the past two years she has spoken with students at four Boston-area elementary schools in the "Understanding Our Differences" disability awareness program where she encouraged fifth grade children to disclose that they, like her, have been diagnosed with AS. She has spoken on topics including stress management, learning challenges, isolation, relationships and living independently.
Nomi co-leads a monthly community support group for adults with AS to discuss emerging social topics that affect participants in their daily lives. She published two articles in Autism Spectrum News and she wrote two papers about depression and hospitalization with AS. In March 2010, she spoke on National Public Radio's "The Story" to advocate for preserving the term "Aspergers Syndrome" as a subcategory of autism, and is currently finishing a project to be distributed at an upcoming conference on the topic of "Sexuality, Relationships and Asperger Syndrome."
Her written and oral contributions have given families, educators and health professional first-hand knowledge that has been invaluable and she has chosen to participate even when it is uncomfortable and tiring for Nomi. She never complains and always does the best she can, giving her full energy, attention and passion, completing even short-term projects at the office. Nomi does whatever is needed to serve people with AS and those who live and work with them and is a role model for anyone with AS.
$10,000 Grant Recipients
Berkshire Hills Music Academy - South Hadley, Massachusetts
Dover, Massachusetts Resident
Kay is the co-founder and board chairperson at the Berkshire Hills Music Academy where she has created a unique residential school where young adults with special intellectual needs can develop their musical abilities and demonstrate their talent leading to achievement gains and other life skills. Kay who secured a 40-acre site, is a jack-of-all-trades and assumes any work that needs to be done including administering the school, managing operations, recruiting faculty, students and more. She helps run the two-year post-secondary certificate program, the Extended Learning vocational program and now a summer program. Kay's vision has always been to enhance the quality of life of the community by encouraging an appreciation of all that young adults with special needs have to offer.
Camp Sunshine - Casco, Maine
Hudson, New Hampshire Resident
At age 11, Joey wanted to help those facing serious illnesses because of his family's annual visits to Camp Sunshine. Because he was too young to be considered a volunteer at the time, he turned his dream of helping families unable to attend due to financial difficulties into reality when he created "Joey's Plunge," an event where community members raise funds by plunging into the cold ocean water during the winter months. Since 2006, he has worked to grow the plunge to numerous participants and multiple locations resulting in an endowment fund and raising more than $500,000. Now old enough to be a volunteer, he works with the special groups of Camp Sunshine families that have lost a child. Having accomplished so much it is easy to forget how young he is and one can only imagine the changes he will continue to make during his lifetime.
Hebron Interfaith Human Service - Hebron, Connecticut
Hebron, Connecticut Resident
Rich as been a board member at Hebron Interfaith Human Services (HIHS), a food pantry serving Hebron, CT since 2004 after stepping in when it threatened to close. He averages more than 40 hours of volunteering a week ensuring service of more than 3,500 meals to families each month. He has served as the backbone of the organization where his efforts include purchasing and delivering food. He recently created a backpack program with local schools to provide backpacks full of food to children who receive free lunch. Rick tirelessly tries to do the most with the least. He shops sales, works deals and will go out of his way to provide for those who have little.
Link to Libraries - East Longmeadow, Massachusetts
E. Longmeadow, Massachusetts Resident
Susan Jaye-Kaplan's life has been built around giving back. She created the Link to Libraries program which collects new and gently used books and donates them to elementary schools and nonprofit youth organization libraries in low-income areas. Since 2008, Link to Libraries has distributed more than 26,000 books to more than 100 organizations and has impacted 20,000 youth. She created individualized Link to Libraries "Read Aloud" programs for preschool, kindergarten and elementary schools in an effort to promote literacy. She also started a "Senior Connection Project" which connects children with seniors who will read to them, and "Welcome to Kindergarten," which provides books to children entering kindergarten. In 2010, she heard that a school in Springfield had never had a library. Susan single handedly organized local businesses, community members and school officials, and within four weeks a library was in place with more than 400 books, shelving, couches, computers and more.
Marguerite's Place - Nashua, New Hampshire
Nashua, New Hampshire Resident
For more than five years, Bob has been assisting Marguerite's Place, a transitional housing program for homeless women with children, through his financial support, civic and business connections and direct on-site service. Bob's volunteer work including handyman duties, moving and storing furniture, help in the child care center and cooking for families has been invaluable to the program. Prior to his involvement, Marguerite's Place was not able to take advantage of furniture donations for their homeless families. Bob's background as a longtime business owner of a local furniture store helped fully furnish 10 apartments for homeless families. His can-do attitude and positive approach to problem solving which is a model for the enrolled children, resident families and staff.
$2,500 Grant Recipients
CASA Project - Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester, Massachusetts Resident
As a volunteer for CASA, Linda helps abused and neglected children in the care of Worcester County Juvenile Court to find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. She advocates for needed medical, educational, mental and behavioral services while the child is in the care of the court. She had dedicated her time to get to know the children and interviewed people in their lives to objectively recommend what is best for the child in court. She has also been active in fundraising after CASA lost state funding and has continued to advocate to have it restored. In the cadre of morally courageous CASA volunteers, Linda stands out as the best and provides a wealth of in-depth, detailed and verified information to help make decisions in the best interest of the children she serves.
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Natick, Massachusetts
Southboro, Massachusetts Resident
Christine has been married to her husband who battles Cystic Fibrosis (CF) for 27 years and is his primary caregiver. She puts her experience and passion to find a cure for CF to good use by organizing and participating in fundraising events which have raised significant funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation including the "Great Strides Walk," "American Airlines Celebrity Ski," and the "Cystic Fibrosis Golf Classic" in memory of her sister-in-law Beth. She has personally raised more than $1,000,000 for the organization by utilizing creative fundraising techniques. Christine also shares her family's fight with the disease by speaking at annual events as well as research and science summits. She has uses her creative strength to continue strong fundraising in hopes to find a cure for her husband and the many people fighting CF.
Castleton Community Seniors, Inc. - Castleton, Vermont
Bomoseen, Vermont Resident
Judy has volunteered with Castleton Community Seniors, Inc. for six years. She organizes other volunteers to help knit wool helmet liners for active duty troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She also helped design lap-robes for patients at Vermont Veteran's Hospital so they could use them without danger of tangling while moving about in wheel chairs for Castleton Community Seniors, Inc., which provides transportation, meals and care for seniors along with care for other local residents and active and veteran soldiers. She also helped raise funds to build a hospice family room at the local hospital, where there was a need for such a room to offer privacy and consolation to families in the final days of a loved one's life.
Main Street Art - Newfields, New Hampshire
Newfields, New Hampshire Resident
Natalie has been one of the founding forces that began Main Street Art three years ago. She helped secure the piece of property that was remodeled into Main Street Art, a community arts organization dedicated to providing a place of education where children, teens, adults and seniors can come together to experience, appreciate and participate in the arts. She currently serves as President of the Board of Directors. In that role, she manages the day-to-day issues of running a non-profit art center, has helped devise the curriculum for Main Street Art, and teaches comprehensive classes for children grades 1-5.
Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center - Fairfield, Connecticut
Fairfield, Connecticut Resident
Katherine has volunteered with the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center since 2000. A breast cancer survivor, Katherine speaks at community organizations to raise awareness, talks to young women about the importance of testing, and addresses fertility and sexuality issues in young women with cancer. Katherine has also helped raise money for the Breast Care Center, which offers all women, regardless of their ability to pay, a comprehensive breast health program by providing coordinated care through an integrated approach in the community and in the hospital.
Mary Kay Salomone
Operation Support Our Troops, Inc. - North Kingstown, Rhode Island
North Kingstown, Rhode Island Resident
Mary founded Operation Support our Troops, Inc., an all volunteer 501(c)3 organization made up of military family members in 2002. Since starting the organization, Mary Key has helped send out over 2 million pounds of goods to deployed troops. In 2005, she helped initiate the "Wheels for Warriors" program, which raises funds and buys new adaptive vans for the most severely wounded and injured service members. To date, 21 vans have been given to members of all branches of service.
Peer Health Exchange - Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, Massachusetts Resident
Currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Heather volunteers with Peer Health Exchange (PHE) which trains college students to provide teenagers with the knowledge and skills to make healthy decisions by teaching comprehensive health curriculum in public high schools that lack health education. As a Health Educator, Heather is skilled at public speaking, classroom management, discussion facilitation and more. In 2008, she taught weekly workshops on pregnancy prevention in several Boston Public School classrooms each week. She has led groups of undergraduate volunteers at UMass Boston, taught workshops and is a proven natural leader with a sense of humor and poise. Heather has been an instrumental member PHE during a time of great growth, which has been made possible by the dedication of volunteers like Heather.
Samaritans - Boston, Massachusetts
Milford, Massachusetts Resident
Barb has volunteered at Samaritans, an organization devoted to reducing suicide, for 25 years donating more than 5,300 hours to answering calls at on their 24-hour helpline from some of the community's most vulnerable members. She has been a dedicated and faithful anchor of support for Samaritans as it has evolved, changed and grown. In addition to taking calls, she trains volunteer mentors on non-judgmental befriending, how to make a caller feel safe and how to assess if a caller is at risk for self harm or suicide. She is a member of the Volunteer Grief Support Services Team which goes to the homes of the families who have recently lost a loved one to suicide to provide support, information and resources. In addition to raising her own children, she is a foster parent, a cancer survivor and a big Patriots fan.
Springfield Boys & Girls Club - Springfield, Massachusetts
Longmeadow, Massachusetts Resident
In 2005, Mary took it upon herself to develop and run a music program for the Springfield Boys & Girls Club. She has volunteered more than 2,000 hours, working with over 300 children in first through fifth grade, teaching them how to read music, use instruments, follow rhythms and understand musical language. She gone above and beyond to secure children admission to a prestigious summer music program. She has also established a relationship with several venues in the city where her chorus performs exposing in attempt to expose the importance of giving back to the community and organizes dozens of trips to parks, museum and events. She is also a key volunteer for the club's two main fundraisers. Mary is an inspiration to those she works with and is a terrific example of humility, generosity and reliability.
Dr. Anita Huse
The Upper Room, A Family Resource Center - Derry, New Hampshire
Londonderry, New Hampshire Resident
During her 11 years of volunteering for The Upper Room, Dr. Anita Huse, has volunteered at weekly fundraisers, volunteered as a grant reader, sponsored food drives and monetary collections to support the food pantry, volunteered weekly to pack and distribute food to families, and provided free annual CPR classes for staff and families for 10 years. Huse has secured financial and volunteer support from the community for the Upper Room, which as a food pantry tries to strengthen families and serve children, youth and families in southern New Hampshire.