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Founder of Cradles to Crayons eyes online model to expand into other states

Amazon doles out to youth sports; big ideas for fixing healthcare; can House and Senate reach a deal on clean energy?; the kids love Bob Kraft.

Lynn Margherio, CEO of Cradles to Crayons.Chris Morris

For Cradles to Crayons founder Lynn Margherio, the “pandemic pivot” her nonprofit made could end up serving as a model for a nationwide expansion.

The Newton-based nonprofit kicked off its 20th-anniversary celebration last week with a virtual event, featuring supporters such as Bruins star Patrice Bergeron and author Peter Reynolds. It has come a long way from when Margherio started collecting donations of new and gently used clothing and backpacks for kids out of a consulting office in Quincy. Today, the organization has a $13 million budget, 90 employees, and warehouses (aka “Giving Factories”) in Chicago and Philadelphia as well as the one in Newtonville.

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What could end up being the biggest change came about partly because of COVID-19. Margherio was about to sign a lease for a fourth warehouse, to serve the New York City market, when the coronavirus forced her to rethink the physical model and explore a digital expansion. Eventually, she developed a new online platform called “Giving Factory Direct” that enables people to match with a specific child in need and ship items directly to a social service provider that can deliver the items. That effort launched last year, to serve New York, and has since collected donations from 32 states. Margherio expects to serve additional cities this year. She estimates roughly 20 million kids across the United States suffer from “clothing insecurity.” “That’s a big lift,” she said. “Kids are [often] outgrowing clothes a couple times a year.”

Many companies have both brick-and-mortar and digital arms. The same is now true of Cradles to Crayons.

“We are very hopeful that we’ll be able to scale up Giving Factory Direct to serve kids across the country,” Margherio said.

The physical locations will remain important, in part by providing a volunteer option for employers and their workforces. The number of local companies with volunteers who have sorted through packages or helped in other ways is too long to list, but some notable ones include retail giant TJX Cos., law firm Foley Hoag, consultancy Bain & Co., and Bank of America.

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The former business consultant knew she was on to something 19 years ago, the first time she wandered into her then-new warehouse in Quincy — her office landlord told her to get a new space for all that stuff — and saw a roomful of volunteers she didn’t recognize. Margherio said, “That was when I realized the power of volunteerism to drive our mission.”

Amazon aids youth sports

Amazon isn’t just delivering a seemingly never-ending supply of packages to Boston. The online retail giant also just committed nearly $1 million to help youth sports in the city and a number of “underserved neighborhoods” across the state, several of them in close proximity to an Amazon warehouse. Amazon made the announcement on Saturday, timed with South End Baseball’s opening day parade.

Among the dozens of beneficiaries: the Boston Triathlon, held each summer at Carson Beach on the South Boston/Dorchester line. (Amazon doesn’t yet have a warehouse in Boston, although Widett Circle, not far from the beach, has been rumored as a potential site.)

Ethos, the company led by race organizer Michael O’Neil, announced Amazon is now a community partner with the triathlon, helping to ensure its “Kids Day” events on July 23 will be free for all. Columbia Threadneedle Investments remains the triathlon’s title sponsor.

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Jerome Smith, a former top City Hall aide in Marty Walsh’s administration, is now Amazon’s head of community engagement for New England and helped make the triathlon sponsorship and the other youth sports donations happen.

“I’m really glad that the race has reached a stature that we’re recognized by such a big company,” O’Neil said. “And I’m flattered that they have a shared vision with us and the important work we’re doing with kids.”

Simplifying healthcare

Should the healthcare system be more like the banking system?

That was essentially the question posed by CNBC reporter Bertha Coombs last week, to Anne Klibanski, chief executive of the Mass General Brigham hospital network, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan. The trio appeared together at the World Medical Innovation Forum held at the Westin Copley Place, an event hosted by MGB and sponsored by the bank.

“If I were in Fiji, I would probably go to the ATM, and securely get money from my account at an ATM,” Coombs said. “Probably pay a couple fees, but I would get it.”

In contrast, Coombs mentioned her late mother’s experience a few years ago. She went to the ER at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to treat a broken arm. But getting her scans from the Brigham transferred to her mom’s orthopedist at the New England Baptist Hospital, less than a mile away, proved difficult. How do you create an infrastructure, Coombs asked, to transfer this information securely between health systems?

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Klibanski said MGB (formerly known as Partners HealthCare) is working on solving that problem, in part by hiring Jane Moran late last year to be the system’s first chief information and digital officer. Moran, the former chief information officer at Unilever, “has already started to completely transform how we look at data” and to ensure data can be transferred securely to other providers, Klibanski said.

“We need people to be on a completely digitized healthcare platform,” Klibanski said. “That’s of course the future we’re all aiming for.”

All eyes on energy deal

Governor Charlie Baker gave the keynote speech, and panelists included executives from major energy players such as Avangrid Renewables, National Grid, Vicinity Energy, and Mayflower Wind.

But all eyes were on Representative Jeff Roy and Senator Mike Barrett at the forum that the State House News Service held last week to discuss how Massachusetts can meet its 2050 goal of being net-zero with regard to carbon emissions. That’s because Roy and Barrett are leading negotiations to assemble the state’s new climate bill. And it sure sounds like there will be a lot of negotiating, mostly cloaked in the secrecy of a House-Senate conference committee.

The House version, championed by Roy, is focused on stoking the state’s offshore wind industry. Barrett’s Senate proposal, meanwhile, is much broader in scope, also addressing heating emissions and other climate issues. Can they get it done by the Legislature’s July 31 deadline? It won’t be easy.

Barrett said the House bill is too focused on “near-term business opportunities,” while Roy said the only people who don’t want the Massachusetts Legislature to focus on offshore wind are in rival states such as New York and New Jersey that are trying to foster their own offshore wind industries.

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Barrett tried to assure the crowd of environmental advocates and energy industry types that the talks will be fruitful. “We’re personal friends and enjoy working with each other,” Barrett said of Roy.

To which Roy jokingly responded: “It depends on what food you bring to the conference committee.”

Kraft makes an appearance

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sure got the attention of young Pats fans at the annual dinner for The Rashi School, held at the Seaport Hotel last week. One of Kraft’s foundations had purchased a table for the event, but head of school Adam W. Fischer didn’t necessarily expect Kraft himself to make an appearance.

Kraft was supporting the Dedham school because alum Clara Scheinmann was being honored for her dedication to social justice. Scheinmann is director of programs and strategy for the Kraft Group’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.

“In our conversation, he was kind enough to say, ‘This must be some great place if you graduate people like Clara,’ ” Fischer said.

Kraft created a bit of a stir when he entered the room, specifically among “a particularly sporty group” of eighth-grade boys, Fischer said. “They gathered around him,” Fischer added, “like he was the biggest pop star in the world.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.