by Catherine Macallister
What first caught my eye when I began to learn about the Harvey Foundation was an ad: A woman running on a foggy day, her race number pinned to the front of her shirt, making the sign of a heart as she ran by the camera. In a single photo, the Harvey Foundation captured not only their impact on the community but the love that is felt by the Nantucket community for the amazing family behind the foundation.
Before the official founding of the Harvey Foundation, a scholarship fund and the Run for Robin was organized after the passing of beloved community member, Robin Harvey, who died after being struck by a car on Nantucket while training for the Boston Marathon. In an effort to bring the community together in a positive and healthy way, the family began a scholarship in Robin’s honor: “We started really small, with a scholarship…the Robin Harvey Athletic Scholarship,” explained Adriene Lombardi, founder of the Harvey Foundation and one of Robin Harvey’s daughters. Every year, a golf tournament is held to raise funds for the scholarships given to graduating seniors. So far, The Harvey Foundation has given about $75,000 in scholarship money— an impressive feat that not only honors Robin’s memory, but also provides Nantucket students with support as they continue their educations.
From the scholarship fund came the Run for Robin and now the Harvey Foundation: “I wanted to make something more…and had a non-profit in the back of my head,” says Lombardi. Lombardi credits the Nantucket Community Foundation for helping her follow through with her vision to make the Harvey Foundation a nonprofit, while allowing her “to keep it close, and do it on our own terms as a family.” Lombardi, a seventh grade English teacher at Nantucket’s Cyrus Pierce Middle School, had limited experience with the inner workings of a non-profit when she first began; now she operates with a Board of Directors and a group of volunteers who have helped to create and run the Harvey Foundation. They reach out in the community as “needs pop up,” adjusting where needed to best address what the community requires. “It’s all about community,” Lombardi emphasizes, something that is especially clear under their mission: “to empower and assist the pathfinders of education, athletics, and community service.”
The fifth annual Run for Robin will be held on November 3, 2019—this is the biggest event that the Harvey Foundation organizes. This year’s run is at a new location: the run will start at the ‘Sconset Casino, go out to Sankaty Lighthouse, and return to the Casino. The funds raised help to power the other programs that the Harvey Foundation focuses on throughout the year. Special care is taken to ensure that as much of the community is involved as possible: “It’s the end of summer, people are gearing up for winter,” she says, “and it’s between sport seasons [for the students],” giving the community a chance to be together in a healthy way. Using some of what is raised from the run, the Harvey Foundation is able to provide books for their Book Boost Program, sports equipment for the GearUp program, and gifts for “graceful giving” throughout the year.
Their commitment to the community sports programs comes from a lifetime spent working with organizations like the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club and school sports teams. Lombardi and her sister were active participants, and their mother Robin was a coach. “We’re a basketball family…and we’re a little competitive,” says Lombardi, referring to her childhood and the mostly playful competitive spirit she shares with her sister Kari. Growing up on Nantucket, the Harvey family frequented the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club. “It was my sisters idea,” says Lombardi, who explained how the March Madness 3v3 fundraiser at the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club came to be. There is a need for a place like the club,” says Lombardi, and the 3v3 basketball game provides community service opportunities and a fundraiser that raises money for participants of the Club’s programs. Last year’s event had more than 65 volunteers, and they were able to raise partial funds to purchase a new eighteen- wheeler for the club, which helps to transport students both on and off the island. Additionally, the Harvey Foundation hosts GearUp at the beginning of each sports season, a chance for kids to get free gear for sports like cleats, shin pads, and baseball gloves, essentials that are not provided for kids. Families can reach out to the Foundation or “people will reach out for someone on their radar,” and kids and their families are able to drop by the Nantucket Boys and Girls Club and pick up the items they need. Last season, about 125 pairs of cleats were given to students, all made possible by donors and funds raised through the Run for Robin. The “athletics” portion of the mission statement of the Harvey Foundation is accessible to kids of all ages, whether you are running in Run for Robin or getting your first pair of cleats for a program at the Boys and Girls Club.
The Books to Boost program helps support a summer “booster” program that is offered to children who are entering kindergarten and may need a “boost of skills.” Through fundraising efforts, mostly from the Run for Robin, the Harvey Foundation purchases books, workbooks, crayons, and flashcards for kids in the booster program. Every child enrolled in the program gets to take a bag of books, encouraging them to build their own library. “We include bilingual books too,” says Lombardi, who says the ultimate goal of the program is to “drive home importance of literacy at home.” Kids from other grades in the Nantucket Public Schools have also gotten the chance to connect with the community through a Pen Pal Program. Students in a kindergarten class, third grade, and middle school class each get the chance to write to Nantucket community members throughout the year. In the past, nurses, police officers, the elderly, and board of selectman have volunteered, writing back and forth with students, culminating in a meet-and-greet ice cream social at the end of the year. This is the Harvey Foundation’s fourth year running this program, and they not only build community connections for students but also provide the writing and mailing supplies for the kids involved
The M.E.A.L program is one that Lombardi is particularly excited about. M.E.A.L, or Meaningful Eats in Adolescent Lives, is the newest facet of the Harvey Foundation. It provides an opportunity for a group of about 45 students to prepare and share a meal together. The group meets at least once a month, even participating in activities outside of the meal: last fall they went scalloping and most recently they attended the TWN’s production of Grease. Lombardi and high school English teacher Elizabeth Reinemo are the facilitators for the group, “putting their feelers out for kids who may need a little extra TLC” or for kids that might be a good fit for any number of reasons. The goal is to bring together students and kids who “may not usually chat with each other” and provide different and meaningful experiences. There are “mentor opportunities and life skills,” available to the kids involved, as well as the chance to genuinely connect with their fellow community members through policies like their “no cell phone rule,” building the importance of connecting verbally and through eye-contact. Great Point Properties has helped immensely, donating money for grocery bills each month so that the cost of the program is deferred. As the program continues to grow, Lombardi hopes that next summer they will be able to “help high schoolers find summer jobs,” as they have found that “kids need help navigating” the job market.
“We find a way to make it happen,” says Lombardi, a statement that not only rings true for the M.E.A.L. program but through outreach in the community as well. “If a family has experienced a tragedy, we try to do something,” says Lombardi, whether it is taking the children in the family out for an activity or preparing meals and dropping them by. The Harvey Foundation stands by their slogan, “it’s all about community,” showing time and again that they are ready and willing to help the Nantucket community if they can.
The entire founding of The Harvey Foundation has been “very organic” says Lombardi, “we’re in it to help in small ways that we can…It has evolved,” she says, “and we don’t want to take on more than we can handle…we’re taking care of what’s important to our mission and our island and really the youth of our island.” At the heart of their mission is an ever-deepening sense of community and opportunity to give back in any way to help out, especially the youth community. What followed the tragic passing of Robin Harvey was an outpouring of love from a community that felt the impact of such a tremendous community member, “our year round community has taken great care of us,” says Lombardi, whose question then became “what can we do to give back?”
The Harvey Foundation has only grown in its outreach over the last five years, strengthening the goals behind its core tenants of education, athletics, and community service. The non-profit has never been about being the biggest on the island, but rather doing everything they can to give back to their community, especially the year-round community. It’s about “ the mission, along with the woman who is inspiring us….’what would Robin do if she were around,’ is always at the back of our minds.”
Keep an eye out for an upcoming Brunch event at the SeaGrille that will benefit the M.E.A.L group and their monthly meetings. For more information about events, volunteer opportunities, and information on how you can donate to this community foundation visit harveyfoundationnantucket.org.