June 11, 2017

Children’s Smile Coalition turning poverty upside down, one kid at a time

Print More

Courtesy Mary Ellen Wessell

Mary Ellen Wessell, Children's Smile Coalition executive director, with Liam Fitzgerald, better known as the "fist bump kid," at the 2016 Young Heroes Night.

Over the last few years, the Children’s Smile Coalition has been helping children in Worcester County and beyond at a breakneck pace, expanding their work, and winning community awards all while remaining entirely nonprofit.

And there’s more to come. Which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s met Mary Ellen Wessell, the group’s executive director.

“The most important thing about this charity is that nobody gets paid,” Wessell, a 15-year resident of the Rochdale section of Leicester, said in a recent interview. Wessell and her staff receive no compensation for the volunteer work they do.

“One-hundred percent of all donations go to the programs. The executive director and all volunteers receive no compensation,” the CSC website states on the front page.

Wessell manages three initiatives that make up the coalition’s core: Santa’s Big League, Project KIN and Young Heroes Night. That’s in addition to an already jam-packed schedule. She is raising a 13-year-old daughter, Shelby, who will follow her footsteps to St. Peter-Marian next year, runs her own consulting firm, Baystate Business Solutions, has a part-time job at Tufts University, and is working to grow CSC.

More from the June 11-17 Worcester Sun:

Wishing to avoid all unnecessary costs, and to keep money flowing directly to helping children, she packs her myriad priorities into her home office.

Wessell has found the key to thriving in her hectic schedule. “It’s all balancing,” she said.

“From September through June, I work on Project KIN; June through September I work on Young Heroes Night; October through December I work on Santa’s Big League,” Wessell said. “There’s some overlapping of programs and it gets very busy, but I always manage to get the work done.”

An occasional assist from technology never hurts either.

“The Amazon Echo is the best thing I ever bought to stay organized,” she said. “Being able to add something to my calendar or to-do list by just telling Alexa to add them to my lists has been a life saver!”

Courtesy Mary Ellen Wessell

Mary Ellen Wessell, with Patriots legend/executive Andre Tippett and owner Robert Kraft, received a 2016 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award.

Her first initiative, the reason Wessell founded the Children’s Smile Coalition, was Santa’s Big League. Come Christmastime for kids over the age of 12, there were no organizations that focused enough, she thought, on giving presents to older kids. Wessell asked herself, “What do the kids from 13 to 18 do?”

Wessell saw opportunity in that question, and teamed up with a few trusted board members — Julie Pingitore, her eldest daughter; Nancy Barrett, a childhood friend; and Vanessa Costa, co-founder of Advantage Benefits Group — to create Santa’s Big League. Its purpose was to give gifts and cheer to the teenage children that fell through the cracks of other organizations’ age limits.

Santa’s Big League sponsored 125 teenagers across the county in 2016, which translated to Wessell keeping 125 large gift bags in her garage.

“Last year one 13-year-old boy got a new mountain bike,” Wessell said.

Other gifts included clothing, sports items such as basketballs and boxing gloves, MP3 players and headphones, watches, perfume, makeup, Patriots and Red Sox gear, winter coats, jewelry and “lots of gift cards.”

“Kids pretty much got what was on their list – no two bags were the same. The sponsors are very generous to these kids,” she said.

All the children who Santa’s Big League sponsored come from the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. More than 80 percent of the kids from the Boys & Girls club are in poverty.

Courtesy Mary Ellen Wessell

Julia Dougherty of Marlborough, a 2016 Young Hero, poses with guest of honor Liam Fitzgerald, the “fist bump kid.”

The second initiative of the CSC, Project KIN, is a proactive and thoughtful approach to tackling child poverty. Wessell believes that the best way to reach kids in poverty is through the school system. Because of this belief, Project KIN (short for Kids in Need) brings bins to four schools — Goddard School of Science and Technology, Jacob Hiatt Magnet School, Forest Grove Middle School and Marlborough High School — filled with shoes, socks, toiletries and seasonal clothes including winter coats.

Wessell, who estimates more than 500 children have benefited from Project KIN, communicates with the faculty, nurses and guidance counselors of the schools, in order to fill the bins with what’s most needed. This way, kids in poverty can discreetly get the supplies they need straight from the schools.

Additionally on Fridays, Wessell delivers snack packs to each of the Project KIN bins, so kids can have nutritious things to eat over the weekend.

“In Worcester, [public school students] don’t have to apply [for subsidized meals] anymore. Every student in Worcester gets subsidized meals.” Wessell said. Over the course of the weekend, however, students don’t have that option. The snack packs are a way to fill the stomachs of impoverished students.

Wessell hopes to get additional volunteers next year to pack snack kits and work on the logistics of Project KIN. Additionally, a central location to distribute food to the bins would help the project even more, and Wessell hopes to find a base of operations for Project KIN soon.

Young Heroes Night takes place at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts and will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this year on Sept. 30.

Wessell — winner of a 2016 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, and $5,000 grant for CSC — thought the good guys ought to start getting more attention than the bad guys.

“Everyone knows what the Boston Marathon bombers look like, and what they did,” she said.

To turn a spotlight on the positive contributions made by young people in the community, Wessell created the event to give awards and recognition to children who “deserve to be up on a pedestal.”

The kids nominated as Young Heroes receive an award, the key to the city of Worcester, written recognition from U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern and Gov. Charlie Baker, and a special gift. Last year, the Young Heroes Night honored 26 children, including an entire troop of Girl Scouts.

“I had one girl last year, she at the age of nine started a 501(c) nonprofit.” Wessell said.

After the girl, Anna Murphy of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, went through a period of financial strain when she had to wear a coat to bed, she created Warming Families Makes Cents to help families in need pay their heating bills.

Heading into her sophomore year in high school, Anna has managed in the past five years to expand Warming Families Makes Cents into the neighboring town of Willington. The idea for the charity started in fourth grade, when classmates at Stafford School collected change in jars at area businesses to help pay the heating bills of families who couldn’t afford to heat their homes.

Heading into the sixth year, Warming Families Makes Cents is continuing to grow. In addition to collecting funds around late October and Early November, Anna helps WFMC put on an Annual 5k and Half Penny Dash to raise additional funds. In addition to the 5k, the Half Penny Dash is a one-lap run around the Stafford High School track for kids under the age of 11 to run for WFMC. “[Planning and fundraising] takes up a little bit of time, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.” Anna said.

In addition to helping the Willington and Stafford communities, Warming Families Makes Cents has done a lot to help Anna. “Doing this charity made me feel more confident in myself. When I was younger, I was afraid to speak in front of people. Doing this made me feel not so shy.”

Anna encouraged any kid with an idea to go and make it happen. “It doesn’t matter if you’re shy or small, you can still make a difference.”

“I always stress the fact that you don’t have to come from money to do these things,” Wessell said.

She also is not one to sit still.

Aiming to do even more for the community, Wessell and a friend, Cheryl Cooney, the director of the Leicester Food Pantry, started renting the former rectory of St. Joseph’s Church in Leicester and plan to turn it into a space that will support a new nonprofit called 24-7 Community Partners Incorporated.

In the “beautiful, Victorian” rectory, vendors and shops including an upscale consignment store will start business. According to Wessell, there is space for more than 20 vendors on the first floor of the rectory alone. All of the proceeds from 24-7 Community Partners Inc. will be split between the Leicester Food Pantry, the Rochdale Food Pantry, and the Children’s Smile Coalition.

Courtesy Mary Ellen Wessell

Mary Ellen Wessell meets Tom Brady at the 2016 Myra Kraft awards celebration.

One more thing that will be able to come from this expansion is a discretionary fund for 24-7. This discretionary fund will allow 24-7 to send immediate relief to emergency cases, such as victims of house fires and sudden medical emergencies.

Additionally, there is a huge parking lot in the back of the rectory where Wessell hopes to hold community yard sales and farmers markets.

“I’ve always said that I hope 50, 60, 100 years [from now] that the CSC will be around [and] my children and my grandchildren will be running Children’s Smile Coalition. It’s a legacy I want to leave,” Wessell said.

“We’re going to feed a lot of people, we’re going to serve a lot of kids in poverty, and we’re going to serve people with emergency needs in Leicester, Worcester, and all around the towns.”

That will put a smile on lots of faces — young and old.

101 thoughts on “Children’s Smile Coalition turning poverty upside down, one kid at a time

  1. I just wanted to send a quick note so as to say thanks to you for those amazing advice you are showing on this site. My time intensive internet investigation has at the end of the day been honored with excellent concept to talk about with my contacts. I ‘d express that most of us website visitors are extremely blessed to live in a remarkable place with so many wonderful individuals with beneficial things. I feel very fortunate to have used your weblog and look forward to so many more pleasurable times reading here. Thanks a lot once again for a lot of things. shillong teer result

  2. Excellent and really interesting blog. I really am into blogs that have to do with building muscle, so this is refreshing to me to see what you have here. Keep it going! force factor youtube SEO

  3. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any solutions to help protect against content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it. ufabet1688 มือถือ

  4. You certainly know what youre talking about. Man, this web site is simply great! I cant wait to read much more of what youve have got to say. Im really happy that we discovered this after i did because I used to be really starting to get bored using the whole blogging scene. Youve turned me around, man! ufa7777

  5. You made some respectable points there. I seemed on the internet for the problem and located most individuals will associate with together with your website. bayar77

  6. I’m a new pertaining to almost all of the articles or blog posts, My spouse and i definitely savored, I’d personally genuinely like additional files with regards to this specific, since it can be okay., Congratulations for the purpose of putting up. THC Vapes in Deutschland kaufen

  7. This method is usually successfully definitely best option. Every single one connected with incredibly tiny features usually are supposed by using quite a few historical past ability. I might suggest the software program tremendously. trang chủ bongbet

  8. This is the reason online marketing specials efforts so you can effective analyze earlier than post. Put simply to write down more beneficial destination of this nature. go88

  9. 我想对您对那些需要有关此特定主题的指导的人的善意表示感谢。 你对解决问题的真正奉献精神令人惊讶地有趣,并且总是让像我这样的男人和女人能够实现他们的追求。 这些宝贵的技巧和提示对我和我办公室的同事来说意义重大。 非常感谢; 来自我们每个人。 香港網上博彩

  10. There are incredibly plenty of details this way to take into consideration. Which is a wonderful examine mention. I supply the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly you’ll find questions like the one you retrieve the spot that the most critical thing is going to be doing work in honest excellent faith. I don?t determine if recommendations have emerged about such things as that, but Most likely that the job is clearly recognized as a reasonable game. Both girls and boys feel the impact of simply a moment’s pleasure, through-out their lives. 슬롯사이트

  11. Unquestionably consider that which you said. Your favourite reason appeared to be at the web the simplest factor to be mindful of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed even as folks consider worries that they just do not recognise about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest neatly as defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you! click here

  12. Comfortabl y, the post is really the freshest on this deserving topic. I harmonise with your conclusions and definitely will thirstily look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks definitely will not simply just be adequate, for the extraordinary clarity in your writing. I can directly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Gratifying work and also much success in your business dealings! patio cleaning bristol

  13. Their particular obtained onto your website despite the fact negotiating reputation merely several tid tad submits. Rewarding strategy for forth-coming, I am bookmarking prior to starting grab goods bottom line spgs entirely upwards. Hi88

  14. Wow, this is fascinating reading. I am glad I found this and got to read it. Great job on this content. I liked it a lot. Thanks for the great and unique info. ufabet365

  15. Excellent post. I was always checking this blog, and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part, I care for such information a lot. I was exploring this particular info for a long time. Thanks to this blog my exploration has ended. ufa356

  16. The subsequent seems including it goes without saying excellent. Almost all these trivial details are meant by employing volume of footing understanding. I love to these individuals drastically. sweet777

  17. Promptly this kind of extraordinary internet site must unquestionably become identified inside of every one of the web site a lot of people, as a result of meticulous posts or perhaps critiques or perhaps comments. 789club vip

  18. Aw, this became an exceptionally nice post. In idea I must put in writing in this way additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and also by no means appear to go done. Packers and Movers Chandigarh

  19. Great – I should certainly say I’m impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related info. The site ended up being truly simple to access. Great job. https://daga1.tv

  20. Aw, this became an exceptionally nice post. In idea I must put in writing in this way additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and also by no means appear to go done

  21. The the very next time I just read a blog, I hope that this doesnt disappoint me around this place. After all, It was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have some thing intriguing to mention. All I hear is usually a number of whining about something you could fix in the event you werent too busy in search of attention. patio cleaning surrey

  22. Necessary marketing communications that you really convenient search previous to putting up. It’s going to convenient to write down better write-up in which. bk8

  23. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later on. All the best Miss Herbal Vitamins 英文補習

  24. Congratulations on having Hands down the most sophisticated blogs Ive come throughout in most time! Its just incredible how much you can detract from a thing mainly because of how visually beautiful it’s. Youve put collectively a very good blog space -great graphics, videos, layout. This really is undoubtedly a must-see weblog! tür folieren

  25. It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article. I want to read more things about it!

  26. The appearance positively wonderful. All of these miniature info are fashioned utilizing massive amount historical past experience. I want it all significantly 82vn

  27. Can I just say what a relief to seek out somebody who truly knows what theyre speaking about on the internet. You undoubtedly know how one can convey an issue to mild and make it important. More folks have to read this and perceive this aspect of the stor url

  28. I very much like “longest current winning streak” as a tiebreaker in theory, but I think SOS issues are likely to make it tough in practice. sv388

  29. I simply could not go away your web site prior to suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard information a person supply on your guests? Is going to be back steadily to inspect new posts Rent a car kosova 오피야

  30. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks topcer88 slot

  31. Hello! I would wish to provide a enormous thumbs up for the great info you could have here about this post. We are coming back to your blog for further soon. 오피쓰

  32. I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve got hit the nail for the head. Your notion is outstanding; the pain is something that insufficient everyone is speaking intelligently about. We’re happy that we came across this at my look for some thing concerning this. fintechzoom.com

  33. You lost me, friend. I mean, I imagine I get what youre declaring. I understand what you’re saying, but you just seem to have overlooked that you will find some other persons inside the world who look at this issue for what it actually is and may perhaps not agree with you. You may perhaps be turning away a decent amount of folks who might have been supporters of your web log. 78win.li

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *