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MWDN: Hopkinton charity nets needed donation

October 10, 2009

October 10, 2009
By Michael Morton, The MetroWest Daily News

 
HOPKINTON – Looking to provide backpacks and school supplies to returning students a couple of months ago, Cherylann Lambert Walsh and her Project Just Because charity scored a coup: a $100,000 donation from Wal-Mart’s foundation.

Yesterday, company representatives, charity staff and local legislators gathered to mark the gift, tour the organization’s new South Street site and look ahead to the holidays and the continued demand for services during the downturn.

“This unfortunately hit everybody,” said Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland.

In the past fiscal year, Wal-Mart’s foundation donated $9 million in Massachusetts, and company spokesman Christopher Buchanan told those gathered for the event that funding requests have gone up 40 percent as other sources have dried up.

“They’ve definitely skyrocketed,” he said. “When the state advisory council for Wal-Mart’s foundation looked at Project Just Because’s application, it was an easy and quick decision.

“If you look at the vision and goal of what they’re doing, they’re obviously giving back to the community,” he said.

Started in Walsh’s basement more than a decade ago, Project Just Because moved earlier this year from a South Street office to a 7,000-square-foot warehouse up the road. The charity runs 18 programs for MetroWest, plus the Hopkinton food pantry.

Walsh took $75,000 from Wal-Mart’s donation to buy backpacks and school supplies for returning students in need, then used the rest for desperately needed interview clothes for those looking for work, she said.

Given the economy, Project Just Because is starting its annual holiday drive early this year. Walsh said she is already seeing fewer requests for toys and more for warm clothes than in years past.

“If you looked at this area, you wouldn’t think off the top of your head, ‘Geez, there are a lot of needs here,”‘ Buchanan said of the economy’s widely felt impact.

“It’s a quiet need,” Walsh said, citing embarrassment. She said some volunteers and contributors have turned into clients.

Project Just Because is one of the service providers listed in the state’s 211 assistance line which helps direct people to human service agencies. With Walsh receiving plenty of rejection letters from sought-after benefactors, Spilka said she hoped Wal-Mart’s donation would inspire other corporate donors.

“You guys are really affecting lives,” state Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, told Buchanan.

(Michael Morton can be reached at mmorton@cnc.com or 508-626-4338.)

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