Josh Kraft, who led the immense effort to build an $11.2 million Boys and Girls Club facility on Willow Street and served as its founding executive director, will be stepping down as president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston in October.
Kraft’s generous family, along with others, paved the way for the construction of the state-of-the-art Gerald and Darlene Jordan Girls and Boys Club that has served thousands of Chelsea youths in its athletic, educational, and arts programs.
Kraft has been with the BGCB organization for close to 30 years, 15 in Chelsea, where he started the first club in the basement of the Innes Housing Development on Central Avenue. The club also had locations at the Mary C. Burke Complex and the old Chelsea High School building on Clark Avenue.
Kraft has been lauded for putting together the current, great team at the club that includes Executive Director Gina Centrella and Program Director John Montes. He has been the president and chief executive officer of the BGCB for the last 12 years, overseeing 11 clubs and the Youth Connect Program in a collaboration with the Boston Police Department. The BGCB organization places clinical social workers in police stations throughout the city. The Youth Connect Program has been in operation for 24 years.
Kraft talked about his decision to leave the organization.
“This decision comes after a year of careful consideration about what the next step in my career might be. After decades with BGCB, I know that my work will always connect back to the Clubs and my family’s efforts to support education, families, diversity, and health,” said Kraft, who will be moving on to lead the philanthropic activities as President of Kraft Family Philanthropies.
In his new role, Kraft will manage the Kraft family’s many philanthropic initiatives, including the Kraft Family Foundation, the Kraft Center for Community Health, the Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism, the Patriots Foundation, and the Revolution Charitable Foundation, as well as assisting with the family’s participation in the REFORM Alliance.
Kraft said he hopes to stay involved with BGCB in some capacity. “Maybe to start it off, I’ll join the local board in Chelsea,” he said. “I’ll always stay involved in the organization because it means so much. So many of our staff in Chelsea are club alumni. It shows how we keep the cycle of history, legacy, and opportunity going for so many.”
Kraft thanked the City of Chelsea, Darlene and Gerald Jordan, Richard Voke, Mark Robinson, Mark White, Chelsea Record President Stephen Quigley, the Monkiewicz family, the Mahoney family, City Managers Guy Santagate Jay Ash, and Thomas Ambrosino and others for their support throughout the years.
Kraft praised former executive director Michelle Perez and current executive Gina Centrella for their excellent leadership at the local club.
“We were able to maintain the continuity by having directors from within the Clubhouse taking over,” said Kraft. “The great thing about Michelle and Gina is that they’re both completely mission-driven and they have no ego. They just care about the kids, the families, and the community and they continue to always put them first.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots assisted Chelsea with the donation of 28,000 meals to local families.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, a mentor and coach himself to Chelsea youths, said Josh Kraft and his family will be forever admired and remembered for their many contributions to this city.
“Josh Kraft helped so many youths continue on the right path in life and advance diligently toward their goals such as college, the military, and positions of employment,” said Robinson. “We are fortunate in Chelsea that he came to our city 30 years ago, worked hard, and made such a tremendously positive impact on our youth. I wish him all the best in his new position and hope he will maintain his vital association with the JGBC in the future.”