‘Southern Cares’ Funds Tennis Industry with $803,800

September 15, 2020

ATLANTA – Sept. 14, 2020 – USTA Southern was concerned about the financial instability brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to provide extra support to tennis industry professionals and volunteers who work in many occupations and live in nine Southern states.

Last April, the USTA Southern Board of Directors voted to fund a new initiative, named Southern Cares. After extensive outreach to the tennis industry in the Southern Section, USTA Southern awarded $803,800 to 917 recipients for an average of $876.55. It is expected the number of approvals and grant funds will increase slightly. Applications were received from 1,103 individuals and organizations.

Southern Cares offered needed aid to those who provide tennis to communities within the Southern tennis family and were impacted by COVID-19. The purpose of this initiative was to provide financial support for teaching pros, tennis facilities, tournament directors, league coordinators, officials, community tennis associations, NJTLs, adaptive programs, wheelchair programs and media who have lost income or revenue due to the cancellation of events and to help defray costs of restarting tennis programs.

The demanding challenge of reviewing and selecting applications fell mostly on the 11-member volunteer board. Additionally, six USTA Southern staffers with specific expertise in the program areas were also assigned to the task of reviewing applications. Staff members from the nine state tennis associations within USTA Southern were also consulted on the applications.

USTA Southern President & CEO Bonnie Vandegrift said, “COVID-19 has negatively impacted so many in our tennis family and USTA Southern is very fortunate to be in a strong financial position to help. As facilities are reopening, and tennis has been identified as a safe sport, we are seeing resurgence in play and an opportunity for our community partners to introduce the sport to both juniors and adults alike.” She also added other comments during an interview on the section’s podcast, Talking Tennis Southern Style.

“USTA Southern is pleased we have been able to assist so many in the tennis industry in the nine Southeastern states with this Southern Cares project,” USTA Southern Executive Director & COO John Callen added. “Tennis is rapidly picking up new players to our ‘COVID-19 safe’ sport and one that adds years to our lifespans. By helping our industry stay as strong as possible, tennis should be poised to grow and expand in South in the months and years to come.”

The Southern Cares program was divided into three categories:

Here is a sample of the more than 70 recipients who responded to a survey about their reaction to the support:

Neil Witherow; Jackson, Miss.; teaching pro This is a great example of how the USTA Southern continues to show its support for those in the industry. They could have easily just left this work to the government, or even saved its resources in this time of uncertainty. However, it chose to pay forward for the care that many in the industry will, in turn, show to their customers and tennis students.

Mike Hurley; Old Hickory, Tenn.; teaching pro It provided a needed positive “spark” to stay engaged and that we were not alone in our concerns. As well, it acknowledged the importance of tennis professionals.

Geoff Waring; tennis manager for Montgomery, Ala. Parks and Recreation; facility It has provided a buffer for my family’s income while my facility was closed. It was so helpful. The facility grant helped at a time when we know we will be having a tough budget crunch at our municipal facilities and will help us to maintain our facility and serve the public.

JoAnn Lee; Creekside Tennis & Swim; Charleston, S.C.; facility It was very helpful during this time when COVID-19 shut down our facility. We are now running at full capacity and all our tennis programs are up at least 15 to 20 percent.

Robert Sasseville; Fairburn, Ga.; tournament director Thank you to USTA Southern for establishing this program that acknowledges the significant sacrifice that all in the tennis industry have experienced during this once-in-a-lifetime challenge. It will be used to defray the cost of tennis balls and/or officials at the three USTA Georgia events we conducted in July and August.

Meg Farrelly; Isle of Palms, S.C.; official Southern has helped me finance being as safe as possible during this back-to-tennis time. In February I went to a dollar store and bought every pump hand sanitizer they had. 87 in all. Smartest thing I have ever done. I now share my emergency buckets with all the tournaments in the Lowcountry.

Carla O’Connor; Charlotte, N.C.; community tennis assoc. (Talking Tennis Southern Style) As a recipient, I think it is about much more than the money. It translates to a much-needed morale booster at this time. … It will go a long way to help solidify the partnership and the relationship tennis professionals have with the USTA.