SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Dena Calvanese remembers a particular success story of a young Springfield man who came through The Gray House not too long ago.
“He and his sister were in care with his grandmother, his father had been in jail, he was this kid who grew up knowing really rough things, but took the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I do like learning, & I am going to stay in school’”, Calvanese recalls.
In fact, the program had such an impact on him that kept on coming back to volunteer for Kid’s Club.
It aims to keep kids in the North End off the street, in an area that struggles with illegal drugs.
They provide homework help, and “tricks” kids into learning through arts and crafts, science experiments, even baking.
So when Calvanese heard The Gray House was getting $10,000 from Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni’s office, she was elated.
“When we got the letter, we were like, ‘Oh my god, this is a huge help for us!’ That coupled with another grant that we received is allowing us to increase the hours of another position of our after school director, so she’s going to be able to do more family outreach, and teacher outreach as well,” says Calvanese.
The money comes from the office’s Drug Forfeiture Program, which uses money and property that has been forfeited by the court, after criminals get convicted for selling narcotics.
The D.A. then uses that money for these kinds of community efforts.
Just about everything at The Gray House is donated, from the clothes at the thrift shop, to the food in the pantry. Dina says it’s because of pure generosity that they’re able to keep on serving the community.
“If kids aren’t engaged, that’s when they’re likely to stray. That’s when they’re enticed by being a part of a group that could ultimately become a gang if they don’t have a good group to be involved in,” she said.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Hampden County, and the Boys and Girls Club of Holyoke were also presented with $10,000 checks to further their community based and youth mentoring programs.