Mass. Nonprofits Get $155K for Volunteers Who Support Them

August 25, 2019 — Fourteen Massachusetts nonprofits were recently awarded $155,000 in recognition of the work of local volunteers, who were honored last week for exemplifying leadership, dedication, and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism.

The funds were granted in connection with Myra Kraft Community MVP Award, an annual honor bestowed by the New England Patriots Foundation.

“This event has always been one of my favorites because it not only highlights the organization that is positively impacting the lives of others in our communities, but it also allows us to shine a spotlight on each organization’s most-deserving volunteer,” said Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of the New England Patriots.

“The stories describing the many volunteers who are nominated each year are inspirational. They serve as a reminder of how much good there really is in the world and how committed some people are to making their community a better place.”

A total of 25 New England organizations received grants of $10,000, and another received a $25,000 "grand prize" donation.

Jillian Tsiplakis, of Salisbury, was selected as this year’s $25,000 grand prize winner for her volunteer efforts at Stepping Stones Family Services, a nonprofit based in Haverhill that provides child care items to low-income families in the Lawrence area, as well as assists with job searches, offers tutoring sessions, and provides emergency services.

Tsiplakis dedicates more than 50 hours a week to Stepping Stones, the foundation said. In addition to the donations provided to families, Tsiplakis hosts Stepping Stones Family Gathering, a twice monthly event for mothers in need to learn more about services offered, speak with child development specialists, make connections with one another, participate in free child care/healthy family classes and shop their free family closet.

Last year, following the gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, Tsiplakis jumped in to help as many families as possible. Within a month, Tsiplakis went from serving eight families to more than 250 families, even taking $4,000 of her own personal savings to help provide essential items for families in need.

“The security this grant provides will help ensure we are able to keep our office open, keep babies in clean diapers, provide training to families in need, and continue with our monthly outreach programs,” said Tsiplakis. “This award means everything to me and to the families at Stepping Stones Family Services. I am grateful beyond words for the opportunities we will be afforded thanks to the Myra Kraft Community MVP Award.”

Also receiving grants, each for $10,000, were the following:
  • Born to Run Foundation, Medfield, in honor of Noelle Lambert
  • Comfort Zone Camp, Bridgewater, in honor of Steven Roy
  • East Boston Soup Kitchen, East Boston, in honor of Sandra Aleman-Nijar
  • Families for Depression Awareness, Waltham, in honor of Elizabeth Keeling
  • Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, Lawrence, in honor of Scott Paganelli
  • GrowHope Foundation, Brockton, Mass, in honor of Sesay Johnson
  • Laps 4 Backs, Haverhill, in honor of Noelle Gregoire
  • Lynn Economic Opportunity, Lynn, in honor of Thelma Velasquez
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness, Fall River, in honor of Brenda Venice
  • One Summit, N. Andover, in honor of James Flatley
  • Plummer Youth Promise, Salem, in honor of Amanda Gonzales
  • Salute Military Golf Association, Concord, in honor of Jerome Shanahan
  • The Sharewood Project at Tufts, Malden, in honor of Kelly Ohlrich
More than 350 applications were received this year from nonprofit organizations looking to recognize outstanding volunteers.