FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Nov. 21, 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."
The LeBlanc family from Ashburnham, Mass. was selected as a 2020 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for their commitment to the "Sew the Masks" campaign. This initiative is led by AIS and conducted in partnership with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts. As part of this recognition, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation will be making a $5,000 donation in their honor.
Back in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country, many businesses were forced to close their doors. One local business – AIS from Leominster, Mass. – wanted to do their part to support first responders and those most at risk. The office furniture manufacturer partnered with the United Way of North Central Massachusetts to launch the "Sew the Masks" campaign. With the support of volunteer sewers, the initiative is committed to donating one million high-quality, reusable cloth facemasks.
AIS and the United Way recruit volunteers and sends each of them a sewing kit. Each kit contains pre-cut materials for 50 facemasks. All of the materials are designed and developed on the AIS manufacturing floor in Leominster. Once the sewing is completed, the volunteers use a prepaid shipping label to return the facemasks. AIS then conducts a quality check and donates the masks to first responders and those at risk.
The LeBlanc family jumped in with both feet to support this initiative and made it a true family affair. Three generations of LeBlancs – Edith LeBlanc, Therese Packard and Skyler Packard – have been actively involved, sewing more 250 masks as a team for this campaign. But their efforts don't stop there as the family has sewn additional masks for family, friends and local frontline workers.
"I started sewing masks for family and friends immediately since there was a shortage and I wanted the ones I loved to be protected," said Edith. "I then realized I could help more people and donated hundreds of masks to hospitals, doctor's offices and residential programs that were in need."
"Being part of the Sew the Masks campaign has given us a way to use our talents and time to give back to our community," said Therese. "During the pandemic it has been very difficult trying to find a way to make a difference. The Sew the Masks campaign gave us a way to use our talents and time to do something positive for our community and to help in some small way."
"Some kids don't think they can do much to help out during the pandemic," said 13-year old Skyler. "Helping my mom and grandmother put the finishing touches on the masks make me feel good."
Since its inception, the "Sew the Masks" campaign has recruited nearly 1,000 talented sewers from 45 states. Over 250,000 facemasks have been donated to first responders and organizations in need.
"During such a challenging time in the world, AIS is honored to do our part against the spread of COVID-19," said AIS President and CEO Bruce Platzman. "Through our Sew the Masks program, we are constantly amazed by the spirit of volunteerism that exists across the country. The LeBlanc family is a model of how together we are stronger and can make a difference. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed and it's wonderful to see them recognized as a 2020 Patriots Difference Maker of the Week."
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.