New Initiative to Assist Backstretch Workers

Backstretch CORE Program to help workers at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.

Keeneland and Blue Grass Farms Charities have announced a new initiativethe Backstretch CORE Program (Comprehensive Outreach and Enrichment)to provide expanded services to the Lexington track's backstretch employees.

BGFC ( is a non-profit organization devoted to providing social services to people who work in the Thoroughbred industry in Central Kentucky. The organization previously concentrated on assisting farm employees but now is expanding to Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center.

"The industry cannot function without the people working on the backstretch and on farms," BGFC president Mary Lee-Butte said in a release. "They are the backbone of the industry."

Chaplain Israel "Izzy" Avelar is the director of Backstretch CORE and will be based at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center, which is located on Paris Pike in Lexington.

Backstretch CORE will offer free health clinics and referrals, recreation, Bible studies, counseling, a food and clothing pantry, English as a Second Language 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," Keeneland president and chief executive officer Bill Thomason said in a statement. "They are vital members of the community at Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center."

BGFC, which is supported by individuals, farms, and organizations in the Thoroughbred industry and other businesses, will hold its annual fundraiser Oct. 18 at the Marriott Griffin Gate and Spa in Lexington.