“Changing the world with kindness one person at a time…and let it begin with me.”
That’s the official vision statement for a two-year old, homegrown nonprofit – the Indian Orchard-based For the Love of Good Foundation.
For Kevin Joslyn, founder and executive director of For the Love of Good, it’s more than just a statement. It’s a mantra by which the retired Hampden County Sheriff does – and has always – lived his life.
From taking his young children with him on trips to give out coffee and donuts to the homeless at the old bus station on Thanksgiving – and to buy gifts for disadvantaged children at Christmastime – to volunteering to help the poor internationally, Joslyn has always felt the need to give of himself. “I always knew there was a great feeling to give personally, not just writing a check, but giving to people personally,” he shared.
Despite his years of volunteer work, Joslyn said founding a nonprofit wasn’t something that was on his radar when he retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2014, after serving 21 years in law enforcement. He tried a “second act” as an entrepreneur, but the “little business” he launched “didn’t work out,” he shared frankly. Semi-retired for a second time – he works per diem in security at Baystate Medical Center – he then turned his focus to something he knew how to do.
“I did missionary work in Haiti, in Cité Soleil, from 1999 to 2015,” Joslyn said, explaining that the area of Haiti he had volunteered in with Catholic Charities was one of the poorest, and most dangerous parts of what is overall, a poor and dangerous country. “Once I retired I thought. ‘I know how to help people, I know how to do this.’”
The mission of the all-volunteer For the Love of Good Foundation, which Joslyn incorporated into a 501c3 in November of 2018, is simple – to help people on the fringes. The Foundation’s website lists children, the elderly, women in shelters, the disabled, the homeless, families, veterans, newly released inmates, and the unemployed as the groups it reaches out to with aid. Joslyn said he and his and his colleagues most recently have targeted their work toward the barely-scraping-by wage earners and the homeless. The Foundation focuses its work in the poorest areas of Holyoke, though the non-profit has recently branched out to some locations in Chicopee as well.
“[Our] main purpose is to help the working poor, those who aren’t getting Section 8 [housing] help, SNAP benefits, or other assistance. The people who are working paycheck to paycheck that, if something happens, they’re screwed,” Joslyn said. The Foundation also supplies food and clothing to the homeless.
“We don’t turn anyone away. We don’t care who you worship or who you love. If you’re cold and hungry, we want to help you. Simple as that.” Joslyn said.
Joslyn and a handful of volunteers – he’s been keeping the numbers down lately because of COVID – go out to serve the homeless and working poor three times a month, usually on a Sunday. He puts up flyers in the area ahead of time to let the neighborhood know the group is coming. If they are going into an area with a lot of homeless, like the Appleton-Chestnut area of Holyoke, the Foundation arrives equipped with grab-and-go sandwiches and bottled water, a trailer of donated clothing, new socks and gloves, and toiletries to give out. On the Sunday they visit the Kate’s Kitchen area, they just bring the clothing trailer and sundries, as Kate’s does the feeding. “They will feed 100-150 at that time,” he noted.
Joselyn said For the Love of Good started working with the homeless in Holyoke and Chicopee primarily because, unlike Springfield, those cities do not have permanent homeless shelters and since COVID-19, places like St. Stanislaus Church in Chicopee, which did work with that population, has suspended its work.
“We get them coming off the riverbank and out of the hallways,” Joselyn said of the homeless populations his Foundation works with in those two cities. “We are going out three times a month minimum.”
In addition to providing supplies and clothing to the homeless and needy families, Joslyn said For the Love of Good also helps the working poor with other needs, providing up to a $200 stipend – in the form of gift cards or bills paid – to those who demonstrate a hardship. “The Salvation Army’s application is three pages, and you have to provide a bill, proof of residence and a W-2. Ours is one page and I ask to see a paystub,” Joslyn said. For example, he said the Foundation recently paid $100 on an electric bill, and $100 on the gas bill of a single mother who was working multiple jobs to support her three children. In other recent situations, the Foundation provided a family with a gift card to Walmart to buy food and necessities, and Joslyn personally took a family out and bought boots and winter socks for a mother who called asking for help for her young son
Help with rent, car repairs, prescriptions, eyeglasses, school supplies, home repairs and medical emergencies are among the other ways For the Love of Good aids people in need, according to their website.
When Prime spoke to Joslyn in early January, he said For the Love of Good had helped 3,900 people between Thanksgiving 2018 and the end of 2020. “I figure in the next week or two, we will be breaking the 4,000 barrier,” he said of the charity. He added the Foundation helped meet needs for 43 families during the past Christmas season alone.
Joslyn said neither he nor the Foundation’s volunteer secretary and treasurer, retired New York City Police Officer Deb Maisonave, receives any compensation for their work with the Foundation.
“Everything runs out of my house, my second bedroom is now my office, no one takes a salary,” Joslyn said. “I’m the executive director, but I’m actually at the bottom; without volunteers and donations at the top nothing happens.”
Maisonave, he said, relocated to the greater Springfield area after her retirement to take care of her mother. He credits her with the success of the Foundation’s pre-COVID fundraisers, which ranged from wine tastings to family picnics.
“When we have events she does 90 percent of the work,” he joked, adding that she’s taken it upon herself to make all the sandwiches the Foundation hands out to the homeless at this time to limit the number of contacts
To keep the Foundation going as COVID-19 continued to shut down traditional fundraising, Joslyn said he’s reached out to people he knew for help.
“In November I wrote a simple letter to 900 friends asking for help to keep going out through the winter, for enough [funds] to get us to March,” he said. “We get clothing donations, but we do buy the socks, gloves, food and toiletries.” He added that the Foundation has enough assorted clothing to continue distributions through the winter months, and at the present time is only accepting donations of “tents, sleeping bags, men’s pants and men’s boots.”
He’s also run a calendar fundraiser through the month of January to help boost the Foundation’s coffers.
Individuals interested in supporting the work of For the Love of Good will find a donate button on the Foundation’s website, https://fortheloveofgoodfoundation.org, as well as on
its business Facebook page at Facebook/fortheloveofgoodfoundation.
”We have enough clothing, but money always helps,” Joslyn said.
Though he’s had to limit the number of volunteers participating in the Foundation’s forays out to support the homeless and working poor to people who would not be severely impacted by COVID-19, Joslyn said he’s looking forward to a time when he can welcome more individuals, and especially families, back to For the Love of Good’s work.
He said he’s had “parents bring their kids [to help] – and a guy pulls up with a grocery carriage – and he has all that he has in the world in the carriage. I tell [the kids] ‘you have more in your bottom drawer at home than he has,’ and they can help by giving him a pair of gloves and some winter socks.” It’s that kind of experience, the same kind he gave his own children when they were young, that helps foster a spirit of kindness, Joslyn said.
Though the majority – 65 percent, according to Joslyn – of the work For the Love of Good does is right here in Western Mass., he still partners with, and supports, several charities in Cité Soleil. For example, the Foundation has supplied money for food to the Guepart boxing school – “he takes [children from the filthy streets] into a clean facility for the day, does exercise with them and feeds them.
“We just paid for his month of December, $1,076 – that feeds 180 kids two meals a day four days a week, it comes down to 11 cents a kid,” Joslyn said.
The other group he works with, Kids Rising, works with mostly young girls. For the Love of Good has supplied this nonprofit sporting equipment. “It take kids away from violence, rape and human trafficking,” Joslyn said. “It takes 50 to 70 girls out of the slums to read books and play soccer.”
With the worldwide pandemic still impacting lives in so many ways, Joslyn said it’s important to spread as much kindness as possible, even in our daily lives.
“How easy it is to be kind – I called it the 19 seconds of kindness time,” Joslyn explained. “It’s 15 seconds you might lose if you let a car in front of you in traffic. Next, if the light turns green, not beeping your horn. Now you just did two kindnesses in18 seconds. Next, open the door for the person behind you, and then you smile. You did four kindnesses in 19 seconds,” he said. “With COVID going on and everyone stuck at home, there’s a lot of tension. Just be kind.”