Partner Spotlight: First Tee – Greater Chicago

By Isabella Gonzales

First Tee – Greater Chicago, the non-profit that serves children ages 7 to 17 throughout Chicagoland, is using golf to teach life lessons and leadership skills.

And Connect is partnering with the Morale Supply Co. to sell the Morale Blend — a medium-dark roast Guatemalan coffee whose profits help support First Tee – Greater Chicago’s effort in accomplishing those goals.

Each pound of Morale Blend sold contributes one hour’s worth of programming for kids at First Tee – Greater Chicago. Through the sale of coffee and merch to date, Connect has funded more than 1,100 hours for kids to golf, build leadership skills and be mentored.

“The phrase ‘Empowering Communities’ is part of our company’s mission statement,” Connect founder Caleb Benoit says, “and this partnership with First Tee – Greater Chicago is an example of how we do that.”

A pillar of Connect’s business is a giveback model that supports development in both coffee-producing countries and local communities.

First Tee – Greater Chicago has impacted more than 50,000 kids throughout the Chicagoland area and will deepen its impact even further through its new Waveland facility.

The $2-million project is revamping and building a youth development facility adjacent to the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course, a 9-hole public course situated on Chicago’s lakefront.

First Tee – Greater Chicago has renovated a portion of the once-dilapidated adjacent clock tower building into a youth clubhouse and learning center, complete with a fully furnished lounge, computers, golf simulator and Morale Blend coffee bar.

Phase two is scheduled to be completed next summer and will include putting greens, full swing cages and a 9,000-square-foot short game practice area.

These resources will enable First Tee – Greater Chicago to offer more youth programming. First Tee’s Life Skills Experience programming includes youth clinics taught by pro-golf athletes like Luke Donald, and its partnership with the Western Golf Association (WGA) gives kids access to many youth caddie programs and college scholarship opportunities.

Once fully operational, First Tee – Greater Chicago will run daily summer camps from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Our programming centers on golf, but it’s about so much more than that,” says Jane Seder, Assistant Director of Development and Operations at First Tee – Greater Chicago. “It’s about supporting these kids to grow into their best selves.”

Seder and Lea Jesse, CEO of First Tee – Greater Chicago, recently offered a tour of the new facility, which serves as a training ground for kids of all backgrounds. Many kids get connected to First Tee – Greater Chicago through organizations like the YMCA and Girls Inc., as well as First Tee’s partnerships with specific schools.

Support from partners like Connect is important so that no child is turned away from First Tee – Greater Chicago.

“We never want lack of finances, equipment or transportation to be a barrier to a kid participating in our programs,” Jesse says.

Future plans include not only bringing new technology to the Waveland clubhouse — like video blogging equipment for kids — but also more facilities like Waveland throughout Chicagoland.

More information about First Tee – Greater Chicago can be found here.



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