Jaywalking

AC does it

I’ve been working here for more than six years now and I’ve seen the name Turners Falls Athletic Club plenty during that span.

Whether it’s the defending Franklin County Babe Ruth Baseball League champion team named after the club or a Co-Rec softball team, you probably see TFAC pop up plenty on these pages. A quick search back over the past year shows the club appeared on The Recorder pages 50 times, roughly once a week.

But ask me what exactly the TFAC is and I’d stumble around looking for an answer like I was back in Mr. Shellito’s Greenfield High School chemistry class 15 years ago. Sure, I see the name in print all the time, but I know nothing about it. The reason I mention this is because, until recently, I had a mental image of a bunch of guys sitting around an Elks-type bar, smoking cigars and talking sports; maybe even one of those places where only members are allowed to enter, perhaps a secret-coded knock to get in, I don’t know; an imagination can run wild.

That, however, is nothing like what the TFAC actually is. First of all, there’s not even an actual building in which the club resides anymore. But that’s only part of the story. Let me start at the beginning.

The Turners Falls A.C. was organized in 1934 with the sole purpose being to support Powertown sports. The organization was created by Samuel H. Couture (treasurer) and Jimmy Guy (president), and the two got the opportunity to buy a building to house the TFAC. That building, now the Montague Senior Center, was purchased by Couture and Guy from the Roman Catholic Church for one buck in 1951. TFAC wound up selling the building in 1982, when all the money went into a fund used for student scholarships as well as sponsorships for local teams. There is still a sign hanging above a door reminding folks that it used to house the club.

And that’s how it’s been ever since. There is no longer an actual club for members to go to. There’s not even a clam bake anymore, which had been TFAC’s trademark annual fundraising event. Instead, the organization relies on member donations.

The TFAC does a lot of good work. Last year, the organization gave out five scholarships of $750 each to Samantha Caouette, Jesse Langknecht, Jeremy Mankowsky, Taylor Croteau and Jenna Costa. Since 1978, 112 students from Turners Falls have been awarded $73,700 in scholarship money. And that doesn’t even include the money used to support local teams and such. On top of the scholarships, TFAC also donated money over the past year to the FC Babe Ruth, YMCA, Montague Parks & Recreation Department, Post 81 American Legion team, Turners Suburban basketball, EDGE Basketball Club, the Salvation Army and others for a total of $1,600.

The problem is that the TFAC can only award the money raised, and one issue plaguing the group is that many of the members are getting up in age. Over the past year, eight members — Harold “Ozzie” McCarthy, Louis M. Kozloski, Henry “Spike” Mleczko, Eugene “Bruch” Richotte, John “Jack” F. Bassett, Henry Milonas, James “Tripp” Treml Jr. and Charlie Woodard — passed away, bringing to a total of 61 members that have died over the last 16 years. The organization is looking for new members, and the organization itself has gotten younger. Chris Couture, grandson of Samuel H. Couture, is now president/treasurer (he is actually the third treasurer in TFAC history, his father Samuel I. Couture was the second), while Rick “Turbo” Legere and Nancy Barry-Yankowski (vice-president) are also taking more prominent roles.

But getting a younger board of directors is not the only area of concern. In fact, there is a much more pressing matter to attend to. What Chris Couture and others have stressed is the importance of getting newer, younger members in order to keep the organization alive. Because they rely solely on the money donated by members and others, they must continually recruit new members. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to be a member.

A membership costs just $3 per year, which goes toward the cost of mailing out the newsletters. From there, members are simply asked to donate any amount they can afford to help out local sports. There are currently 125 paid members, but the TFAC is down nearly $1,000 in donations from a year ago.

“The only requirement as a TFAC supporter/member is to make a small cash contribution to support the local youth,” Yankowski said. “We understand these are very tough times so any contribution is greatly appreciated.”

It’s a worthy cause any time you can help out young athletes, especially when so many young kids are straying away from athletic fields these days. And those individuals who benefitted in the past don’t forget it. Take the letter recently sent by Athol Dr. Robert Knight to the TFAC along with a $200 check. It said that in 1946, Knight received an athletic scholarship from the TFAC that was desperately needed. He goes on to state how happy he is to return the favor by sending a donation of his own.

Anyone interested in learning more about the TFAC can do so by calling Couture at 863-4346 or Yankowski at 665-7359 or by e-mailing to tfacinc@gmail.com.

And any students interested in applying for the TFAC athletic scholarships can pick up applications at Turners Falls High School and Franklin County Technical School and applications must be turned in by April 15.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com.

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