FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Dec 17, 2020) – Ten years ago, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation introduced a season-long theme called Celebrate Volunteerism. The main focus of the initiative was to recognize community volunteers and to promote the importance of volunteering. Since its inception, New England Patriots players, coaches, alumni, cheerleaders and fans have donated hundreds of thousands of hours to giving back to their New England communities.
Throughout the 2020 season, the foundation will continue its Celebrate Volunteerism initiative by teaming with nonprofit organizations to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlighting deserving volunteers from across the region and seeking to inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. The foundation will present a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week" award, which recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their New England communities.
"This has been a challenging year, unlike anything we've experienced in our lifetimes," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Charitable organizations have been called upon to support more children and families than ever before. We admire all of the hardworking volunteers that have stepped up and helped these nonprofits to continue to serve those in need. Through this Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, we will shine a light on some of these outstanding volunteers, make a donation to their respective charity and encourage our fans to get involved."
Bob Crook from Wayland, Mass. was selected as a 2020 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for his commitment to the United Way of Tri-County. As part of this recognition, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation will be making a $5,000 donation to support the United Way's Call2Talk program.
For the past 17 years, Bob has been volunteering his time with the Call2Talk mental health, emotional support and suicide prevention program. He answers incoming calls from people who are emotionally despondent, feeling isolated or lonely and struggling with suicidal ideation. Bob engages with callers who are looking to connect with someone and feel more hopeful about their current situation. He helps callers move from a place of crisis to a calmer state.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, many mental health professionals cannot accept additional clients, day programs are at capacity and in-patient units have a reduced number of beds.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an even larger gap in services and has led to a record number of callers for the United Way. Call2Talk provides a confidential and lifesaving 24-hour service that reduces the burden on first responders. Trained call-talkers like Bob help people find their voice, listen to their struggles without judgement and offer hope.
"I learned the value of volunteerism at an early age from my mother," said Bob. "She very quietly made a difference in the world as many do. I have been fortunate to attempt to make a difference as well with the support of my family, friends and amazing fellow volunteers."
Bob has volunteered as a shift supervisor and a shift mentor, supporting new call-talkers and teaching them how to effectively help people. He has supported training preparation for new volunteers and facilitated grief-support groups to help individuals who recently lost a loved one to suicide.
Bob is also a volunteer member of Call2Talk's TeleCheck team, a peer-to-peer outgoing call service for adults age 60 and above. Through this program, he makes outgoing calls to seniors that may need additional support because of a major life transition, such as bereavement, medical diagnosis or change in mobility. Bob calls participants twice a week, giving them someone to talk to during a difficult time in their life.
"As a volunteer you give but you also receive in many ways," said Bob. "Being part of the Call2Talk, Telecheck, and United Way of Tri County teams is something that I truly enjoy."
Seven years ago, due to a side effect from a surgical procedure, Bob was declared legally blind. Even though he is no longer able to drive, he is always able to secure transportation to and from his volunteer shifts. In addition to his efforts at the United Way, Bob volunteers at a local hospice residence and serves as a volunteer coach for the Wayland Middle School track team. Bob inspires those around him with his infectious enthusiasm. He takes great pride in his volunteer work and remains committed to making a difference for those in need.
"I am grateful to the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation for their support of the Call2Talk and Telecheck programs," said Bob. "Their generosity is especially appreciated during these challenging times."
The Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation encourage fans to show their support for local charitable organizations and to nominate a volunteer for the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week Award. To get involved, visit www.patriots.com/community.