By Seth Shuman
Having recently moved to Portland from Boston, I’ve found myself in a unique situation to really lend a hand and make a difference. Having served as a Corps member with City Year Boston, I have always had a passion for volunteering and truly believe that progress comes first through seemingly small steps taken by the individual.
Now here in Maine, I am inspired by what I see from a community chalk full of people so willing, so anxious to do their part. As a Senior Account Executive with the Maine Red Claws, the NBA Development League Affiliate of the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats, I meet hundreds of people from different organizations and worthy causes who hope to use the assets of the Red Claws to help their cause. While none are turned away, we are still a small business and staff and don’t have the manpower to do everything I’d like to. While we are unable to make financial donations, we do have unique assets, including our players, mascot, and donations of autographed memorabilia. We also have the ability to act as a lightning rod to bring together these wonderful organizations with other like-minded and sympathetic people and companies.
As I am constantly reminded by my bosses and our ownership group, that regardless of how good we are on the court, we have the ability to be great off of it. It is our mission, and paramount to who we are as an organization, to be not only a member of this community (“Crustacean Nation”) but to have a positive influence on this great state and its wonderful people. To that effect we have partnered with numerous charities including Strive, The Boys and Girls Clubs, developed a Young Leader Program geared at developing the state’s next civic leaders, developed in-school reading and healthy living programs, partnered with local companies to renovate two inner city study centers, and established a fund to keep Portland’s fireworks alive.
Our latest community project is refurbishing a Windham basketball court. The Windham basketball court renovation project is a great example of how individuals can have an impact on their community. The Red Claws were approached this summer by two high school students who had launched a project to renovate a dilapidated outdoor court in the basketball-mad town of Windham, a blue collar suburb of Portland. The town had long proposed renovating the court, only to see it eliminated from the budget year after year. After getting approval from the town to try to renovate the court on their own, the two boys negotiated with area businesses for reduced or donated services. They approached the Red Claws, hoping for a contribution, impressing the team’s general manager so much that the team offered to partner with the boys. The collaboration encouraged the town to come up with some funds for the project and combined with additional donations, the project will go forward late this fall with the project to be completed next spring. And it all started with two high school seniors who brought together the right people at the right time to complete a project that others had failed to.
Nonprofits are facing difficult times. Reduced funding and increased need make it even more essential for individuals to get involved in whatever way they can. I consider myself fortunate to be employed by an organization committed to doing what we can to help these worthwhile causes. While there is always more to be done, we encourage those goodhearted people and organizations to leverage our assets to help see their projects be as successful as possible. It is amazing the effect team sports have on people. It is a unifying and strengthening topic that when effectively used can shed light on more important issues. Numerous nonprofits last year benefitted from simply enhancing their events by bringing our team mascot, using Red Claws autographed memorabilia for raffles and auctions, even selling tickets with a fundraising component where additional donations go directly to the various causes – and it is hard to put into words the effect a 6’7” player has when they walk into a class or hospital room. It is truly amazing.
So whether it is to help shed light on an event or cause, or something bigger, the Red Claws, and professional sports teams in general, can be an effective partner in helping Maine’s nonprofits be successful in doing the crucial work they do.
Seth Shuman is a Senior Account Executive with the Maine Red Claws, the Development League Affiliate of the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats. Seth is a City Year Alum and is submitting his post as a member of Maine AmeriCorps Alums, one of our featured bloggers.