Piers Park Sailing Center Kicks off 20th Sailing Season

On Saturday Piers Park Sailing Center  (PPSC) board member and sailor Tim Brown approached the podium and told his story of why the neighborhood Sailing Center  is so important to him and the community.

For Brown, the Sailing Center  means a bit more than your average sailor that takes part in the wide array of programs and camps. For Brown the Sailing Center  meant the return to the activities on the water he loved and cherished before being paralyzed in an accident.  Brown had a passion for the outdoors through a variety of positions which included work as a ski patroller, backcountry ski guide, naturalist and educator and sales and inventory manager at a surf film startup.

Since his youth he was also an avid sailor and surfer.

On Saturday in front of the crowd that had gathered to celebrate the opening of PPSC’s 20th sailing season Brown told the crowd how the Sailing Center  has helped him, and people like him, continue to enjoy the sport they loved through adaptive sailing.

Brown’s story was just one of the many stories told during the annual ‘Raising of the Sails’ ceremony. Others like board member and former PPSC sail instructor Johanna Young talked about how her time as a youth sailor and later as an instructor the valuable lessons she was able to use throughout high school and college. Sailing, said Young, taught her how to size up a situation, adapt and tackle head on any problem that may arise.

In fact for two decades the non-profit community sailing facility on Eastie’s waterfront that offers free programs to neighborhood youth has been taking kids off the streets and into productive programming. The center has built a population of confident youth with social and leadership skills that connect them to their natural environment, their community and to each other. Throughout the sailing season kids work closely with instructors, and learn everything from sailing basics to advanced racing, boat maintenance, and navigation. Besides learning to sail, kids learn how to work as a team, build self-confidence, gain leadership and character skills, and develop a deeper appreciation for the sea and its natural surroundings.

“Sailing is fun,” said PPSC Executive Director Alex DeFronzo Saturday. “It makes us brave, it makes us fearful, it makes us respect mother nature.  It makes us take control, sometimes it takes away our control, and it makes us respect each other. To the instructors that taught me, and to the students that I taught, and to the students that they now are teaching, never forget what a great thing we have here. To all of the brave souls who’ve taken the helm over the years and sailed the waters of our beautiful harbor, thank you for helping keep us afloat. To our Elected Officials, Representative Madaro, Senator Boncore, and Councilor Edwards, thank you for being the best trio a constituent could hope for. To Massport and Piers Pac, and Pac President Mary Berninger thank you for creating this place.  I spent every summer of my childhood here and it is a place that brings me joy. And again to Massport, CEO Tom Glynn and board memberJohn Nucci and to the East Boston Foundation and Board Members Gail Miller and Diane Modica, thank you for sustaining this organization, and helping us grow to become a year round provider of programs for youth.”

The celebration of 20 years in the community Saturday came with the promise from Massport board memberJohn Nucci that the Port Authority is ‘all in’ on helping keep the Sailing Center  afloat.

“We donated $25,000 last year and in May we will vote to send another $25,000 to Piers Park Sailing Center ,” said Nucci.

There was a lot to celebrate on Saturday at the Sailing Center  as the program nearly sank after the 2016 sailing season. Following a harrowing community effort to raise enough funds to keep the cash strapped PPSC from sinking into the abyss, PPSC’s board announced in spring 2017 it had raised enough money to keep the Sailing Center  going for another season. Only a few months before that announcement it was unclear if PPSC would be reopening for the 2017 season and it was reported that the Sailing Center  fell into financial difficulties at the end of the 2016 season when a large grant they were counting on did not materialize. The Sailing Center  found itself with no money in the bank, and a maxed out line of credit.  The Board of Directors personally–out of their own pockets–covered staff salaries for the last month to keep the center open and finish out the season.  They also paid personally for crane services and wrapping supplies to winterize the boats.

However, the thought of losing PPSC, a place that has provided free sailing for inner city children living in Eastie who otherwise would never get the chance to acquire the invaluable skill, mobilized the community. An outpouring of support from former students and instructors of the program, local elected officials, and families of Eastie all pitched in for the effort to keep the Sailing Center  going.

PPSC 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 by meeting the goal at a March 20, 2017 fundraiser at the Maverick Marketplace Café. Then on March 21, 2017 it became clear that the Sailing Center  would re-open when PierPac unanimously voted to provide a $25,000 grant to PPSC and asked Massport to match an additional $25,000, which they did.


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Massport CEO Thomas Glynn, Massport board memberJohn Nucci, Rep. Adrian Madaro, Diane Modica and Piers Park Sailing Center  Executive Director Alex DeFronzo cut the ribbon on the Sailing Center ‘s 20th sailing season on Saturday.

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