Since 1999, former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch and his wife, Latasha Wilson-Batch, have run the Best of the Batch Foundation, whose programs serve more than 3,200 kids across six counties in Pennsylvania each year.
In the fall, their BatchPacks program delivers hundreds of backpacks stuffed with new school supplies to kids in high-need neighborhoods in the Pittsburgh region. During the summer, Project C.H.U.C.K., their longest-running program, combines summer reading and structured sports for kids ages 7 to 18. But the Clubhouse, a three-story house on a quiet street in Pittsburgh’s Homestead neighborhood, is home base for the foundation’s day-to-day youth programming, and a welcoming drop-in space for neighborhood kids on their walk home from school.
Charlie Batch and his family grew up in Homestead. The foundation runs in memory of Charlie’s 17-year-old sister, Danyl, who in 1996 was shot and killed in the neighborhood where the clubhouse sits. Today, Charlie, Latasha, and the Batch Foundation staff work to support Homestead’s children in all aspects of their lives. They aim to provide a safe place for children to go after school, an ear for listening, and guidance to help kids reach their full potential. As Latasha described, it’s not a nine-to-five mission.
“All the kids have our cellphone numbers,” she said. “They know they can pick up the phone and send a text saying, ‘Hey, Ms. Tasha, are you up?’ And if I’m not up, I’m up now. Because sometimes the choices they’re ready to make can mean the difference between the right and wrong path.”
“There’s not too much we wouldn’t do for our kids.”
What’s new at the Batch Foundation?
We’ve outgrown the space we’re in and the kids are ready for more. This dream of expansion has been something just between me and Charlie for about six years. But finally, after sitting down with a strategic planner, we decided to make this dream a reality. And the first people we shared it with were the kids—ultimately it’s for them.
We’re hoping to take up about half this block and build a state-of-the-art education facility. It’s a $10 million project, and it takes nine months to build. But the way I know kids are embracing it is a few kindergartners did a penny drive and collected $18 and asked, “Is this enough to build the building?”
We’ve never done the big ask, but we’re excited to do the big ask. We’ve never been to big foundations before, though we have a lot of great corporate partnerships and individual donors, so it will be an all-around collaborative effort to make this a reality.
After thinking about expanding for so long, what’s it like to be in the early stages?
The first time I opened the rendering of the new Clubhouse I was speechless—tears just fell. I called Charlie into my office and just turned my computer around and he said, “Wow.” Being from this area, he said, “In my 40 years I have never seen something like that on West Street.” In this area, there are no community centers. There’s no Boys & Girls Club, there’s no YMCA. So where do kids go to hang out?
What would you say is the foundation’s biggest accomplishment?
As a small nonprofit, our biggest accomplishment is to still be standing after 16 years, and to still have young people come through the doors. We have many kids who have graduated, moved on to college, and become successful. And we also have sad stories—but regardless of the good and the bad, we are still here. We don’t give up on kids. As long as one child keeps coming through our door, we’re successful.
What’s the toughest piece of the work you do?
The toughest part is knowing you can’t save everyone. We know that schools are doing the best they can—and as an afterschool program, we are doing the best we can. But there’s a window of time when you have to go home, that we can’t control.
What do you think makes a collaboration work?
Don’t just write a check. Have your organization or company be part of what we do. That’s the most value we have with our partners, they go back and are excited and motivated by the difference they made in kids’ lives. It’s all because that employer took time to let their employee go volunteer.
What’s your favorite thing to do on a Sunday in Pittsburgh?
This is the city that bleeds black and gold—if we did anything other than watch a football game on a Sunday, I’d probably be divorced by now (laughs.) For 11 years in Pittsburgh, 22 weeks of the year were dedicated to football. But we’ve always had family dinner on Sunday—Soul Food Sunday. It’s one of the most important things that we do.