MLB employees pitch in to aid victims of gender violence

Baseball partners with NY nonprofit Sanctuary for Families

MLB employees pitch in to aid victims of gender violence

NEW YORK -- It was the first day of Spring Training on Tuesday, and all around Major League Baseball you could hear the happy sound of baseballs popping into leather gloves and baby rattles being stuffed into hundreds of big blue bags.

While the former took place on the fields in Arizona and Florida, the latter happened at the Commissioner's Office in Manhattan. MLB partnered with New York-based nonprofit Sanctuary for Families to host a toiletry packaging event, helping a cause that is dedicated to the safety, healing and self-determination of victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. The toiletry kits will go to area shelters to support victims in crisis relief and recovery, and to provide basic comforts to those in need at a time of life transition.

Photos: MLB employees give back

The day was symbolic of what goes on year-round in MLB, as the official return of baseball coincided with a community initiative involving baseball employees. That is simply part of what it means to work in the National Pastime.

"We were excited to partner with Sanctuary for Families, a leading nonprofit in New York City working to end gender violence, on our February employee volunteer event," said Melanie LeGrande, MLB's vice president of social responsibility. "Our employee community and partners not only came together to donate thousands of items, but took it to the next level through packaging more than 225 kits for SFF clients. In each of our employee volunteer engagement opportunities, from granting holiday wishes to Earth Day programs, it's been important for us to provide a rewarding and worthwhile experience that supports efforts important to our community."

Volunteers gather Tuesday after partnering with Sanctuary for Families on a toiletry drive.MLB

Through comprehensive services for clients and their children, and through outreach, education and advocacy, Sanctuary for Families strives to create a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right. It operates out of 19 locations throughout New York, providing services to more than 15,000 survivors of gender violence every year.

SFF provides shelter to more than 500 women and children annually, helping them to find safety and stability as they start over. Eighty-six percent of SFF clients live in poverty and 77 percent of adult clients are immigrants. Ninety percent of the participants in SFF's Economic Empowerment Program graduate with career readiness skills, and 70 percent find work within one year.

Typical requested items for packaging included full-size shampoo and conditioner, body wash or soap, combs, toothbrush and toothpaste, facial wipes, deodorant and Kleenex. There also is a need for baby items, which ranged from receiving blankets to washcloths to onesies, to diapers and diaper cream, wipes, bibs and, yes, those welcomed noises of Spring Training rattles.

SFF reaches more than 40,000 community members through education and training annually. It engages more than 2,000 volunteers, including 500 pro-bono attorneys, making it possible to maximize services for those in need. On Valentine's Day 2017, MLB employees showed the love, as they did last summer for a packing event to help Stop Hunger Now.

Fans who have been voting for "MLB in our Community" know that these kinds of public-service commitments go hand-in-hand with the game played by the world's best players. It is about the soaring Play Ball initiative for youth -- supported by hundreds of U.S. mayors -- and the Baseball Tomorrow Fund to give those kids a place to play baseball and softball. It is about all of those programs you can find at

Here in the middle of Black History Month, it is important to remember that it is also about Jackie Robinson's legacy of breaking barriers and the lesson he taught us: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

"We're proud to continue the tradition of responsibility and citizenship," LeGrande said, "exemplified by two heroes of our sports in Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente, through employee volunteer events throughout the year."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.