Longtime donors provide lifeline to Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services


Submitted by Christine Mowry, Executive Director, Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services

Longtime donors provide lifeline to Shrewsbury Youth & Family Services
Howard Grossman (Grossman Development Group, LLC/Lakeway Commons), with John and Susan Haffty (The Haffty Family Fund)

Shrewsbury – Social services agencies are tackling some of today’s toughest mental health and wellness problems, requiring every resource possible, not only on their staff and board, but also through donors. 

Donors who make an exponential difference with their contributions are not only those who give, but those who are contagiously enthusiastic about the organization(s) they support, making it easier for a nonprofit’s administration to sleep at night knowing they are not alone in shouldering the burden of meeting their budget to stay open to serve. 

To this end, donors who share their reasons for providing support can encourage others to do the same. As the Coronavirus pandemic reached the doors of Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, the agency found itself in the very difficult position of responding to the dramatically increasing need for their services while being forced to cut not only programs, but also their major annual fundraiser. 

Two of the agency’s largest sponsors, John and Susan Haffty (The Haffty Family Fund) and Howard Grossman (Grossman Development Group, LLC/Lakeway Commons), were the first to respond with generous gifts to support the continuation of the agency’s critical services.

Sharing their early connections to work reflected the agency’s mission, Susan Haffty began as a social worker out of college, later earning her M.S. in counseling. She has remained active in the fields of counseling and social work, while Howard Grossman embarked on a career in social work out of college before ultimately finding his calling in commercial real estate. 

With a strong sense of advancing mental health and support of vulnerable citizens, the Hafftys’ and Grossman’s paths led them both to SYFS. 

While attending an SYFS Annual Gala, Susan Haffty heard a story about a young girl who was bullied and completed suicide. She and John immediately reached out to SYFS to fund an anti-bullying program in correlation with SYFS programs aimed at addressing bullying in schools. Since that time, the Haffty Family Fund has continued to underwrite the agency’s long running, positive youth development programs “to build self-esteem and leadership skills while preparing young people to navigate the complex social-emotional challenges of adolescence and middle school.” Susan Haffty has been a member of the agency’s Board of Directors for the past five years. 

Grossman’s support of the agency began as his company began re-developing the former Spag’s property into Lakeway Commons. 

“I looked for the need, the human need, that I thought was closest to my values, and that was SYFS – children and families, our most precious gifts,” he said. For the past five years, he has been the co-presenting sponsor, along with John and Susan Haffty, of the agency’s most critical annual fundraiser and also supports the agency through the Hannah Kane Charity Classic golf tournament, an event that Susan Haffty also volunteers at.

Both the Haffty and Grossman are acutely aware of the increasing prevalence and complexity of the issues the agency is responding to. 

“SYFS is a small, nonprofit agency that provides an incredible volume of services with compassion on a shoe-string budget, and it does so efficiently and with low overhead,” said Haffty. “I’m most interested in the focus on mental health and preventative services that the agency provides.” 

Grossman noted, “Helping families in crisis is the most vital work SYFS does, many times in emergency situations where families have nowhere else to turn. What SYFS stands for to me is a safety net for the Shrewsbury community and the surrounding towns it serves.” 

Both sponsors listed their fondness for the agency’s mission and the personal joy of giving as reasons for their sponsorship and emphasized how the work that SYFS is doing is changing the quality of life in the communities it serves. 

“I expect and do see SYFS attacking the most critical issues facing families today, including mental health, abuse, substance use and various types of training to assist children, teens and adults in coping with negative situations,” remarked Grossman. “SYFS is spot-on in its methodology, clinical intervention and counseling, training for schools, and so much more.”

Susan Haffty concurred, “There are wonderful success stories that are shared routinely. Each of these successes is a measure of results. I feel the best way to produce those results is through continued outreach to schools, families, seniors and the entire community.”

By making financial contributions to SYFS, Haffty and Grossman believe they are ensuring that no individual or family is alone on their mental health journey or in facing any other life challenge.

“The reality is that these needs are relevant, urgent and could happen to any of us,” said Grossman. “I believe in philanthropy that goes straight to the heart of the need, and especially to groups like SYFS who don’t get the huge, windfall gifts that other organizations receive.”

According to Susan Haffty, “having mental health services available for our community is imperative. My husband and I have been blessed and it is very important to share those blessings.”

SYFS provides counseling, positive youth development programs, school-based support services, vaping-treatment and social services, such as fuel assistance and links to other vital resources to those who are most in need. For more information or to donate to their online fundraising campaign through Sunday, May 31, visit charity.gofundme.com/SYFS.


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