A Focus on the Future

An amazing commitment to island youth

by: Dean Geddes

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

On an island that boasts a major commitment to fundraising and philanthropy, the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation sets the gold standard. In its 17 years of existence, the foundation has raised more than $26 million for programs benefitting island kids.

Its money goes directly to supporting the children of Nantucket in a multitude of different ways, from its grant pro- gram, which has benefited more than 70 nonprofits on the island, to scholarship programs for Nantucket students that in- clude full rides to four-year colleges and most recently a voca- tional scholarship.

2019 Nantucket Scholars Jennifer Lamb, who will attend Northeastern, and Jenna Genthner, headed to Bates.

All its fundraising is done each year over a two-day period in August, at the Children’s Charity Classic golf tournament at the Nantucket Golf Club.

“People love that their money is staying here on Nantucket,” said Tom Bresette, chief operating officer at the Nantucket Golf Club and executive director of the foundation.

“They come here, they use the island, and they love it. I al- ways say it would be pretty hard for you to be a kid on Nan- tucket and not have been affected in some way from this funding.”

The Children’s Charity Classic begins with a dinner and auc- tion held the Sunday night after the annual Boston Pops con- cert at Jetties Beach. The following day is a golf tournament for 120 members and guests. Maybe it’s due to good karma, but the event has never been cancelled for weather or any- thing else.

The foundation was created in 2002, when board members Fred Green, Ed Hajim and Robert Greenhill of Nantucket's newest private golf club wanted an organized way to give back to the community of which they were a part. At the time, the island was in the midst of raising money for its first indoor ice- hockey rink, what would eventu- ally become Nantucket Ice on Backus Lane.

The Nantucket Golf Club of- fered the use of its facilities to host a fundraising event for the rink. As a result of the success of that fundraiser, it was inundated with requests from other non- profits to host similar events.

Instead of offering up space throughout the year, the board members decided they would take the bull by the horns and raise money through an annual charity event. Then came the question of what to use that money for, and the board quickly focused on Nantucket kids.

“They decided a golf tournament and dinner and auc- tion in August, at the busiest time of the year on Nan- tucket, would be attractive to a lot of people,” Bresette said.

The event raised $640,000 its first year. Organizers initiated a grant-application process for the nonprofit organizations across the island that benefit children, from the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club to Nantucket S.T.A.R, Mentoring Youth Nantucket, The Maria Mitchell Association, Small Friends Nan- tucket, and more than a dozen others.

“Right off the bat there was a lot more support than we thought there was going to be,” Bresette said. “That was really the basis and foundation of this event, that we were going to go out to nonprofits around the island that benefited children and see what the needs were.”

Throughout the years the program developed into a twice-annual grant-application process, and the foundation has a committee that reviews the applications and deter- mines where the grants will have the most impact. On average its donates to around 30 nonprofits each year, and a total of more than 70 since the program was created. Sometimes it’s a one-off grant for a specific project, but it also donates to a number of programs annually, like the Nantucket Boys & Girls Club. In 2014 the foundation got the ball rolling on the construction of a major expansion and renovation of the Boys & Girls Club gym with a $1 million donation.

The club has also applied for and – and received – a substantial grant each year that helps close the gap on operating expenses.

“It’s very helpful and we’ve come to rely on it,” Boys & Girls Club ex- ecutive Director Phyllis McInerney said. “We always allot that money for different programs. A lot of sports are funded by it. We have a huge dodge-ball league and we couldn’t afford uniforms without this money. The art program bene- fits from it and so does the com- puter lab. They’ve been wonderful to us.”

At the Nantucket Atheneum, the foundation annually contributes to the Weezie Library for Children’s summer programming. That in- cludes its summer reading program, which has been able to significantly beef up its outreach.

“I think without the grant, our reach would be significantly smaller,” children’s librarian Leslie Malcolm said. “The grant allows us to give a sports bag to each kid, that includes a reading record, a program brochure and a letter home to their parents.”

Thanks to the grant money, Malcolm is able to go to all 11 preschool and daycare providers on-island, as well as the Nantucket Elementary School, Nantucket Inter- mediate School, the Lighthouse School and Nantucket New School to promote literacy and the joys of reading.

“What typically happens is if a child doesn’t read 20 minutes a day in the summer, if you don’t read from kindergarten on, by the time you hit eighth grade, you can be a year to three years behind your peers,” Malcolm said. “Studies have shown that only one out of three eighth-graders are reading at grade level. The brain is a muscle and you have to keep exercising it.” As the fundraising for the Children’s Charity Classic grew to upwards of $1.5 million a year, the Nantucket Golf Club Foundation in 2006 added the Nantucket Scholars Program to its arsenal of outreach.

Since that time it has provided 30 Nantucket High School graduates the financial freedom to reach their full potential by awarding full schol- arships, including tuition and fees, to the college or university of their choice.

“The membership and the people who support the foundation through donations or coming to the event, I think they take a lot of pride in it,” Bresette said. “Some of the members have told me, they’ll be downtown and someone will come and see the logo on their shirt and say, ‘I just want to thank you.’ I get a lot of that feedback. It’s been a great thing for Nantucket, but also a great thing for the club to get on the same page as the community.”

The board recently set its sights on helping students who are not planning to attend a traditional four-year college and instead work in a vocational field. Now in its sec- ond year, in June it awarded schol- arships to Gideon Holdgate, headed to MassArt in the fall, Malkia Blake, who plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America, and Michael Bartley, headed to Johnson & Wales.

“We love the scholar program, but the vocational trade scholarship is almost helping Nantucket even more because they’re more apt to come back and go right into the workforce. There is a lot of oppor- tunity here in the trades,” Bresette said.

“I think the board wants to con- tinue to grow and expand that program. Every year we just try to make the program better. It blows me away every year. It’s nuts. It makes you feel good about the people who come here and use Nantucket and how much they are willing to give back. They really take pride in it.” ///

Dean Geddes is a staff writer at The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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