Outreach Program For Backstretch Employees Expanding

Reported by: Tom Kenny
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Updated: 9/13/2013 8:18 pm

Keeneland and Blue Grass Farms Charities are partnering on a new initiative - the Backstretch CORE Program (Comprehensive Outreach and Enrichment) - to provide expanded services to the track's backstretch employees.

Founded in 2003, BGFC (www.bgfcky.com) is a non-profit organization devoted to providing social services to people who work in the Thoroughbred industry in Central Kentucky.

Last year, the organization assisted more than 2,300 people through its various programs.

The organization’s outreach has concentrated on employees at farms, but now is expanding to Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike.

“The industry cannot function without the people working on the backstretch and on farms,” said BGFC President Mary Lee-Butte. “They are the backbone of the industry.”

Chaplain Israel “Izzy” Avelar is the director of Backstretch CORE. He will be based at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.

Backstretch CORE will offer free health clinics and referrals, recreation, Bible studies, counseling, a food and clothing pantry, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, recreational activities, and fellowship to enhance the quality of life on the backstretch.

One of its first events will be an ESL class that begins Sept. 23 at The Thoroughbred Center. A similar class will be held at Keeneland during the fall race meet in October. BGFC also will participate in the Horses and Hope health fair at Keeneland on Oct. 21.

“Keeneland is pleased to partner with Blue Grass Farms Charities to provide services that will enrich the lives of our backstretch workers,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason. “They are vital members of the community at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.”

BGFC’s other activities have included basketball and soccer tournaments; free summer camps for lower-income children of industry employees; a free Thanksgiving dinner; and an annual Christmas party at the Keeneland Entertainment Center called “Festival of Christmas” with gifts, clothing, and a hot meal for some 1,000 guests.

BGFC is supported by individuals, farms and organizations in the Thoroughbred industry, as well as by a number of area businesses, through sponsorships, donations and fundraisers. On Oct. 18, it will host the “Racino Rendezvous” fundraiser at the Marriott Griffin Gate in Lexington.

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