FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Throughout the 2020 season, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots Foundation continued 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 presented a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week" award, which recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their New England communities. Seventeen individuals representing 15 charitable organizations were celebrated throughout the season. On Feb. 3, the Kraft family and the Patriots Foundation hosted a virtual celebration for the 2020 honorees. Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, Patriots Foundation president Josh Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer Andre Tippett participated in a video call to congratulate all of this year's winners.
"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 were excited to shine a light on some of these outstanding volunteers and to support their charitable endeavors."
In honor of their outstanding volunteer efforts, each of the Patriots Difference Makers will be receiving a $5,000 grant to support the nonprofit organizations for which they volunteer. During the virtual celebration, Robert also made the surprise announcement that Barbara Gillmeister of Gilly's House in Wrentham, Mass. would be receiving a $20,000 donation as the 2020 Patriots Difference Maker of the Year.
In October of 2016, Steven "Gilly" Gillmeister lost his battle with addiction. Within six months of Steven's passing, his parents – Barbara and David – purchased a residential home for young men in recovery. Gilly's House provides 24-hour staffing that reinforces a lifestyle free of alcohol and drug use. They offer transitional life skills including healthy living, social services, career exploration, personal finance and self-help groups.
"I am completely overwhelmed and having a hard time catching my breath about receiving this award," said Barbara. "I can't thank the organization enough for supporting our cause. We are so proud of the home we have created for those who truly want to turn their lives around."
Barbara guides the young men in the recovery process, connecting them with the community through volunteer work, seeking out and securing jobs, navigating through the legal process and securing appropriate healthcare services. Recognizing that addiction is a family illness, Barbara has created a parents network and a support group for individuals who either lost a sibling or currently have a sibling that is struggling with addiction.
"Never underestimate the power of what you think is a small deed you could do for someone," said Barbara. "You always have the ability to make a positive impact on someone's life. Be passionate about what you do."
The 2020 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week range in age from 16 to 75 and support communities from the south coast of Rhode Island to northwestern Vermont. Charitable causes included education, healthcare, mental health, mentoring, youth development and more.
For more information about the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative and the 2020 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week, visit www.patriots.com/community/pdm.
2020 Patriots Difference Makers of the Week:
|Organization||Patriots Difference Maker||Hometown|
|Friends of the Blackstone School||Wiliam Wolff||Boston, Mass|
|The S.E.A.L. Foundation||Heidi Holland||Middletown, R.I.|
|Playworks New England||Kimberly Carrington||Mattapan, Mass|
|DetecTogether||Joanie Cullinan||Watertown, Mass|
|Southern RI Volunteers||Kevin Sullivan||S. Kingstown, R.I.|
|Women's Lunch Place||Donna Fessler||Wellesley, Mass|
|Seeds of Hope||Isabel Povey||Hampstead, N.H.|
|United Way’s “Sew the Masks” Initiative||Edith LeBlanc & Family||Ashburnham, Mass.|
|Voices of Hope||Greg Chastain||Winchester, Mass.|
|Gilly’s House||Barbara Gillmeister||Wrentham, Mass.|
|TeamWalk for CancerCare/Lowell Hospital||Robert Skirvin-Orr||Nashua, N.H.|
|United Way of Tri-County||Bob Crook||Wayland, Mass.|
|Strong Little Souls||Madison Quinn||Pittsfield, Mass.|
|Windham Chamber Foundation||Diane Nadeau||Mansfield, Conn.|
|Boys & Girls Club of Burlington VT||Robin Abramson||S. Burlington, Vt.|