By John Lynds
Following a successful community fundraiser at Maverick Marketplace Cafe to help raise money for the struggling Piers Park Sailing Center (PPSC), the East Boston Project Advisory Committee Inc. (PierPac) voted unanimously last week to award PPSC a $25,000 grant. The grant will ensure the Sailing Center reopens for the 2017 sailing season.
Since 1997, PPSC has provided free sailing for inner city children living in East Boston who otherwise would never get the chance to acquire the invaluable skill that not only teachers the science of sailing but unmeasurable life lessons. However, at the end of the sailing season last fall PPSC was forced to layoff its year-round employees because there was no money left to keep the program going. And unless the sailing center was able to raise enough money before sailing began this spring PPSC most likely would not reopen.
PierPac, a legislatively created advisory committee made up of a Board of 19 volunteer members, advises Massport on the operation, security and maintenance of Eastie’s park system, including Piers Park, the Bremen Street Park, the Navy Fuel Pier and the Greenway Extension.
“The PierPac vote to provide a grant to Piers Park Sailing Center was evidence of the value the board places on such a valuable asset in East Boston,” said PierPac President Mary Berninger. “The direct beneficiaries of such a grant will be the children of East Boston who will join the ranks of other youngsters from the neighborhood who have benefited from having a sailing program within our community. The Pac is proud to have helped to secure the upcoming season of sailing in East Boston.”
Massport started the sailing center and gave the lion’s share of funding from 1997 to 2001 to the tune of $250,000 after constructing Piers Park as mitigation to the community.
Massport stopped funding the PPSC after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks due to a decrease in air travel. The money to PPSC was cut during the Port Authority’s Fiscal Recovery Plan that year.
However, the latest grassroots effort to save PPSC once again proved to be a success.
“Just a few weeks ago, it was unclear if Piers Park Sailing Center would be reopening for the 2017 season,” said PPSC Board Member Alex DeFronzo. “Since ending operations last November, the Sailing Center has been supported by volunteer efforts alone. PPSC’s ambiguous status mobilized the community and an outpouring of support from former students and instructors of the program, local elected officials, and families of East Boston bolstered hope for a miraculous comeback.Things continued to look up as the Sailing Center was granted $12,500 from the East Boston Foundation, with the potential for another $12,500 in matching funds. The PPSC community stepped up and triggered the $12,500 match, meeting the goal at the March 20 fundraiser at the Maverick Marketplace Café. Then, on March 21, it became clear that Piers Park Sailing would reopen when PierPac unanimously voted to provide a $25,000 grant to the Sailing Center, and asked Massport to match an additional $25,000.”
DeFronzo added that PPCS’s board was ‘incredibly grateful’ to PierPac for ensuring that the vital neighborhood program will continue to run in 2017. “Every year more than 1,100 youth learn to sail at PPSC,” said DeFronzo. “This year the Sailing Center will be expanding outreach efforts for East Boston youth, and registration for the summer program will be open to East Boston Families exclusively from April 1 – May 1. Tuition for the program will remain free for families from East Boston because of the incredible support of the Eastie Community, the hard work of the board and volunteers at PPSC, and the great efforts of Sen. Joe Boncore, Rep. Adrian Madaro, and Councilor Sal Lamattina, all of whom have given it their all these last few months to make sure the program could reopen.”
However, DeFronzo said while there is still a long road ahead to ensure a strong and sustainable future for PPSC but at least the board is out of the period of uncertainty and excited to start up for 2017.
“The Piers Park Sailing Center has been a fixture in the East Boston community for over two decades, providing unique opportunities to our residents,” said Piers Park Sailing Center Board Member Michael Bruno. “The years I spent at the sailing center as a child undoubtedly shaped my future and I recently joined the Board of Directors to join in their mission to re-open the sailing center in the spring. I am really proud to see the East Boston community come together to support this amazing program and thank PiersPAC and the East Boston Foundation for their commitment to the continued operation of the sailing center.”
The Sailing Center will hold a grand-reopening and launching of the fleet in Saturday, April 29 at 2 p.m.