By Sydney Ciano
Josh Kraft, president of the New England Patriots Foundation and son of team owner Robert Kraft and the late Myra Kraft, had it instilled in him from his youth to “always look out for the groups that are overlooked, the most marginalized groups… [and] create access and opportunities for them,” and he has used this message throughout his career to bring communities together to accomplish projects.
At 23, Kraft started doing public housing outreach in South Boston, working to provide opportunities for students not doing well in school. He then launched a Boys & Girls Club in the basement of public housing in Chelsea, eventually transferring the Club to the Mary C. Burke Elementary School Complex and then the old Chelsea High School. Then, because of Kraft leading a major fundraising campaign that included very generous contributions from the Kraft family, Gerald and Darlene Jordan and others, the Boys & Girls Club of Chelsea officially put itself on the map.
“During that time [at the high school], businesses, community folks, people who had grown up in Chelsea, all came together. We raised over $11.5 million, and we built a new Club on Willow Street. It was just a great community effort,” he said.
The Gerald and Darlene Jordan Boys & Girls Club, now located at 30 Willow St. in Chelsea, “became a prototype for Boys & Girls Club of America,” according to Kraft.
In 1993, Kraft became the founding Executive Director of the Jordan Boys & Girls Club in Chelsea, and remained in that role until 2008 when he became the President and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, of which Chelsea is a member. He held that position until 2020.
The City of Chelsea recognized Kraft’s outstanding leadership by naming a street in his honor: Josh Kraft Way.
“I loved what I was doing, I loved all [of] the neighborhoods in the city,” Kraft reflected. “After my family, it’s the most important thing in my life.”
With the Boys & Girls Club, his most notable highlights were the inclusion initiative, the comprehensive campaign that raised over $132 million over a five-year period, the rebuilding of the club in South Boston (the Edgerley Family South Boston Club), and the construction of the Mattapan Teen Center at the former public library on Hazelton Street. The vibrant neighborhood youth facility was renamed the Josh Kraft Teen Center in another tribute to his positive, lasting effect on an entire community.
The Teen Center was an inspiring project, according to Kraft, and held its grand opening in November, 2014.
“When we opened [the Teen Center], Mayor Walsh, [the] police commissioner, local police from across the city, political leaders, people [who] lived in the neighborhood… philanthropists,” all gathered for the grand opening. “It really showed the power of community.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Boston had submitted a proposal to build a Teen Center and brought in local labor to help complete the project. A major contributor to the contracting was Gregory (Greg) Janey, founder of Janey Construction Management. In total, 70 percent of the workers were from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan with subcontractors coming from minority-owned and women-owned companies.
“[Kraft] walked in my office and sat with us at the table and talked together about… ‘we,’ what can ‘we’ do to make sure everyone’s involved on this project,” Janey recalled of the early beginnings of the project.
Janey said that working with Kraft was effortless and enjoyable, and that it was a simple decision to want to partake in creating a safe space for young community members.
He said, “How could you not give back to a place like this?”
Leader of the Patriots Foundation
In taking on the leading role as president of the Patriots Foundation, Kraft said that the Foundation gives him the opportunity to “work with some great community folks and [find] ways to make our community better, support those who are marginalized and most in need.”
In 2008, the Foundation worked with the Federal Reserve in Boston, mortgage companies, and banks to hold a mortgage relief workshop for those losing their homes. At the workshop, people received counseling and learned how to get into better mortgages. It served as a great resource for those affected by the economic recession, which impacted everybody.
“The most powerful thing is, the lot for people with disabilities was the first lot to fill up,” he said.
Having the opportunity to give back to the Greater Boston area did not stop there for Kraft, though. The Kraft Center for Community Health, an organization for which he serves as president, furthered his ability to provide basic needs to the community. He noted that one of the biggest initiatives was creating mobile vans to treat those with opioid addiction, providing them with resources and aftercare.
“Everybody deserves access to… basic things like food, food banks, education, afterschool programs, and one of the most important things is health – good healthcare,” Kraft said, adding that the organization acted as a vehicle to first-class healthcare for everyone.
Advocating for Cancer Screenings
Kraft has also taken steps to advocate for medical cancer screening. In 2018, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and found nearly two years later that his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) count was high again after having his prostate removed when the cancer was detected. He was re-treated with radiation and hormone therapy a second time.
“All people should get screened… screening is prevention,” he said, remembering the common phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Will be Teaching a Course at Suffolk
Creating equal opportunities and accessibility to all is something he continues to emphasize throughout his career. In the Spring 2024 college semester, Kraft will be teaching a non-profit management course at Suffolk University.
Kraft, 56, graduated from Williams College in 1989 and was the recipient of the Bicentennial Medal from his alma mater. He continued his education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, completing his master’s degree in Education and Social Policy. This past May, he was the commencement speaker at Nichols College.
Alongside his course at Suffolk, Kraft also hopes to help students earn and complete non-profit internships.
Bringing a Community Together Through Sports
“My brothers and I have seen how important [philanthropy] was and how powerful it is for the community,” said Kraft.
Being directly connected to such a large and influential sports culture in New England, Kraft discussed the special importance of sports in giving back to their communities one initiative at a time.
“When you’re on the parade route [through Boston] you see everybody. It doesn’t matter their socioeconomic status, who they love, what their religion is, everybody’s celebrating… to have that power, sports teams can do so much for the community because it brings everyone together,” Kraft said. “So, when a team takes the lead on an initiative, no matter what it is – fighting racism, LGBTQ+ rights, homelessness, food insecurity– usually it’s going to inspire a lot of people because sports have that ability to unify.”