INSPIRE Northeast makes a genuine human impact in the midst of the pandemic
- Posted on August 2, 2021
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many families’ access to healthcare, educational resources, and transportation, especially families with children. Living in New York City (NYC), I was able to see this impact firsthand on my own community and wanted to do what I could to support my community in conjunction with my Avanade family. In March, my INSPIRE Black Employee Network Northeast team and I organized a bookbag giveaway in NYC as a means of assisting elementary, middle and high school students living in underserved NYC communities during the pandemic. The giveaway was hosted in collaboration with the Brooklyn Stuy Dome powered by Game Over NYC, located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Game Over is an organization and brand that has been integral to the NYC streetball culture and the underground grassroots basketball scene since the early ‘90s. They are the “go-to” for players who see basketball as a way of life – “the 10-year-old that takes the rock to bed with them, the sixteen-year-old that gets up and shoots 500-1,000 jumpers every morning, the 19-year-old who spends their summers tightening up their footwork for the upcoming season. The grassroots ball junkie who just can’t get enough.”
Game Over’s mission is a personal one to me: I’m a former NCAA Division I basketball player and know the value that sports can provide to kids. I’ve volunteered as a coach with Game Over every weekend since the fall of 2018. What began as a search for a gym to workout in quickly turned into a volunteer opportunity to teach local kids the game I love and give back to the community I live in.
As a resident of Bed-Stuy, a historically West Indian and Afro-Latinx neighborhood, I have witnessed the impact of the pandemic on families living in underserved communities. Many heads of household in the neighborhood are middle-to-low-income essential workers, making it especially difficult to fulfill both the parent and teacher roles required at home over the past year and a half. In addition, many of those families depended on schools for access to school supplies, meals and other resources they struggle to afford.
Game Over has been a safe haven for families in Bed-Stuy. They have provided low-rate childcare to keep kids out of the streets, connected youth with part-time job opportunities, provided mentorship and family resources, and given kids access to opportunities to play basketball at many levels – all of which those families would not have had access to otherwise, especially during the pandemic. So, it was a no-brainer to collaborate with them. The community they serve is exactly who the bookbags and school supplies were collected for.
During the event, I provided some insight on who Avanade and the INSPIRE Black Employee Network are, as well as why we were hosting the giveaway. The kids were surprised and excited and couldn’t wait to receive their new bookbags packed with supplies. After the giveaway, several parents shared their appreciation for the donations and how timely it was because their kids needed new bookbags and more school supplies to finish out last school year. I even had a relative of one of the kids reach out to me about his potential interests in working at Avanade! It was fulfilling to hear that, and for the kids to be able to see me – someone who looks like them and that they know personally – supporting them outside of just basketball. Avanade employees donated 40 bookbags and a plethora of school supplies and the giveaway helped lighten the load for families in Bed-Stuy.