Mollie Kregor, director of the Mitchell Family Foundation, says it’s impossible for anyone to fully appreciate what Jenna and Matthew Mitchell do to support so many charitable efforts in Lexington and Fayette County.
“They are just unbelievable people and not a lot of people know all they do because they don’t need or want any recognition. They just want to help others,” said Kregor.
Matthew Mitchell, the head women’s basketball coach at Kentucky, and his wife started their foundation in 2014. Samantha Bowie, the daughter of former UK All-American Sam Bowie, was the first director before Kregor took over in October of 2018.
Kregor, who is from Louisville, graduated from UK in 2016 with a degree in communications but had always been passionate about “giving back” to others. She came from an athletic family — her older sister played golf at Alabama, her younger sister played tennis and her brother was a baseball player. Mollie showed American Saddlebred horses — and even won a few world championships — but every time she competed it was also a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital as her passion for helping others started at an early age.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mitchells have been doing even more charitable work. “It’s really awesome what they have done on top of everything else they were already doing,” Kregor said.
The Mitchells partnered with Blue Grass Community Foundation/United Way of the Bluegrass Coranvirus Response Fund with a $35,000 matching gift for donations as well as a $10,000 donation. Over $400,00 has been raised with this fund to help those in need.
“They just do things out of the goodness of their heart,” Kregor aid. “They are two of the most giving and wonderful people I have ever been around. They love Lexington and if anyone needs help, they are there supporting them.
“They give back more than anybody knows. They are very passionate about character building, too, and that’s why we have three youth education programs we do in the Fayette County school system through their foundation that really are never talked about a lot but touch so many people.”
One is a 10-week program that instills character values in sixth-grade students. The foundation hires UK students to teach and work as mentors — last year 30 were hired — to talk about bullying, lying, stealing or other subjects that can impact sixth graders.
Another program is a summer project for at-risk and vulnerable high school students.
“We will take them to local business, visit colleges and other things that might not have been able to do but can benefit by doing,” Kregor aid.
The third program is a first-grade book project. Former Mercer University women’s coach Susie Garner wrote a children’s book based on teamwork that Kregor reads to students and then gives each one a book.
“It teaches the value of being a good teammate,” Kregor said.
The Mitchells have contributed $25,000 to the UK student emergency relief fun along with $132,000 to Fayette schools to provide backpack meals to needy students, cleaning supplies and utility assistance for families in need. The foundation also donates $60,000 to Project Elevate in the Fayette
Schools along with additional funding for the other school education projects each year. They have been involved with Nourish Lexington, a way for out of work hospital industry workers to make money delivering meals to those in need, and one other feeding program — EastEndFeeds — with personal donations not through the foundation.
If that’s not enough, the foundation has made contributions to The Well of Lexington, Children’s Charity of the Bluegrass, Lighthouse Ministries, Idle Hour Employee Relief Fund, Lexington Arts Resilience Initiative, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“They are just loving, giving people who really enjoy helping others and expect nothing in return except the joy of helping people,” Kregor said.
Remember a few weeks ago Matthew Mitchell had a chance to possibly get the vacant coaching job at Mississippi State. He quickly said he had no interest because of his love for Lexington — and this charitable work helps substantiate what he meant.
Because he had not seen Kentucky signee Isaiah Jackson play in person like he had most of this year’s top college basketball recruits, Aaron Torres of Fox Sports took time recently to study film of the 6-9 Jackson.
“I’ve seen BJ Boston multiple times, Devin Askew multiple times, Terrence Clarke, on and on. So I just wanted to pull up a little tape to better familiarize myself with his game — and wow was I was impressed,” Torres said. “He isn’t super skilled, but has the athleticism of few high school big guys I can remember.
“And on the surface it appears as though he plays really hard. Elite athleticism, high motor and intensity is a hard package to come by.”
Jackson played his senior season at Waterford Mott High School in Michigan and had a triple double — 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks — in his final home game to help his team win its conference title.
He finished the season averaging 19.7 points, 13 rebounds, 7.7 blocks, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
“Isaiah is a guy that has tremendous energy on both ends of the court. He seeks the ball and should be a great rebounder for us and also should be able to really protect the rim,” Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus said.
“We have to take advance of his speed and athleticism. It can start with him grabbing boards and flying out in transition. We are going to have guys that are versatile next year. Isaiah is tall, but he is a guy that can move around offensively. What is frustrating for Cal (John Calipari) right now is that we normally get guys here in the summer and try to figure out what they can do best. It’s really more about what they cannot do more than what they can do so he can blend the team together. But we all know Isaiah can do a lot of things.”
If Wake Forest transfer Oliver Sarr is eligible next season, he will certainly be the starting center. But if the 7-footer is not given a waiver by the NCAA, then Jackson likely could play a lot of center in a smaller lineup.
“If Sarr is not eligible, it is hard to see Kentucky reaching their potential. The only saving grace is that fans have wanted John Calipari to ‘embrace small ball’ for years, and he might have no choice with Isaiah Jackson at the five, Keion Brooks, BJ Boston, Terrence Clarke and one of the guards — Devin Askew/Davion Mintz — at the point guard,” Torres said. “That isn’t ideal though. We’ll see if Sarr can get eligible — it is one of the biggest questions in all of college hoops this off-season.”