DA’s office, Athol YMCA land $100K grant for community space, police overtime

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-03-2023 2:32 PM

ATHOL — The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office and the Athol Area YMCA will split $100,000 in federal money to help pay for police overtime and youth programming.

The DA’s office plans to use $50,000 to help 12 local police departments — including in Greenfield, Montague, Orange and Athol — and the State Police to provide overtime pay for officers addressing drug trafficking. Meanwhile, the YMCA will put the same sum toward a community space, as well as sending teenagers to leadership trainings.

“It’s about prevention, really — about having really good programming for youths,” said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. “It’s really about investing in kids, from the perspective that safe kids thrive. It’s a real godsend for the kids.”

The six-figure grant, dispensed by Gov. Maura Healey’s office, is part of nearly $1.5 million in federal funds being used to support violence prevention, response and community engagement efforts through the summer and fall months, when violent crime is often at its highest.

“They can’t afford the overtime,” Sullivan said of local police departments. “Their budgets are pretty limited.”

The Safer Communities Initiative is offered by the Office of Grants and Research, a state agency that is part of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. The program provides funding, which is made available through the federal Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, to district attorneys and the State Police.

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Jennifer Gordon, executive director of the Athol Area YMCA, and Desirae Burke, the organization’s director of community engagement, said a portion of its $50,000 will be used to find and acquire a home for a community space, preferably in downtown Athol. They said the YMCA has identified a few locations that could serve as potential sites.

Burke said the money will also be used to operate retreats at Camp Selah in Orange and Camp Wiyaka in Richmond, New Hampshire, where teenagers are taught leadership, team-building and job-readiness skills.

“It will pay for the programming that we will run,” Burke explained.

Gordon and Burke noted the grant money is held by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, which will be billed by the YMCA.

Gordon said the grant process was competitive, “so it was nice to have Athol included.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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