Dozens of nonprofit organizations serving Newport County residents will share nearly $350,000 in grants from the Rhode Island Foundation, it was announced Tuesday at an event at The Maher Center in Middletown. The funding will support work ranging from housing and summer youth programs to food pantries and behavioral health.
“We are honored to be able to help these organizations carry out their crucial work. We are fortunate to partner with passionate donors who make it possible for us to support nonprofits that are on the frontlines of serving the needs of their communities,” said David N. Cicilline, the Foundation’s president and CEO.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, Conexion Latina Newport, FabNewport, Gnome Surf in Tiverton, the Jamestown Arts Center, the James L. Maher Center in Middletown and the Little Compton Community Center are among the 45 organizations that received funding from the Foundation’s Newport County Fund.
Aquidneck Community Table in Newport received $6,600 to support its Root Riders program, which provides summer jobs to island high school students tending school and community gardens in Newport’s North End.
“The program combines physical activity with hands-on horticultural, environmental, and jobs skills training. Students learn the importance of a healthy diet, how to grow their own nourishing food, and valuable business skills, all the while reducing food insecurity on Aquidneck Island through donations of fresh produce,” said Bevan Linsley, executive director.
Bike Newport received $5,850 to launch its Rogers HS Cyclistas Program, which will be a dual language program to provide bicycles and bicycle education to help students get to school and reduce risk of truancy that is so often due to transportation challenges. Inspired by a group of recent immigrant Spanish-speaking students, the dual language program will be for both Spanish- and English-dominant students and seeks to establish camaraderie and improved cultural competency for all participants.
“Earlier this year, we were approached by a teacher at Rogers High School with an idea. If these students had bicycles, we were told, they could get to school more independently and thereby more dependably,” said Bari Freeman, executive director. “We’ve refined and expanded the proposition to provide bicycle safety education along with the requested bicycles; activities and support to help build biking into their daily lives; and the fundamental piece of establishing a sense of shared community for our recent immigrant students together with longer-time students at their school, each gaining from the others.”
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County received $7,500 to support its Anchor Academy Program, a peer mentoring and leadership skills training program in partnership with Middletown High School. The goal is to stem ninth-grade academic problems, which not only affect school engagement and motivation to graduate, but is also one of the biggest predictors of dropping out of high school.
“Research shows that peer mentors can help vulnerable teens successfully transition into high school, a pivotal time in their lives, and get on a path to success. Research also indicates that unless teens feel welcomed, valued, respected and feel like they ‘belong’, their level of educational participation and engagement will always be limited,” said Joseph P. Pratt, executive director/CEO.
The Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation in Jamestown received $10,000 to support the Ocean State Citizens Pilot Program, a three-year curriculum for grades 6, 7, and 8 that teaches marine education through the lens of climate change. Each grade level will experience two in-school visits and one field trip to Fort Getty, culminating with an environmental action project.
“Action projects are tangible, hands-on activism methods, for example: a beach clean-up, developing a personal marsh field guide, or creating an anti-littering awareness campaign. The goal is to create meaningful connections to the ocean and the environment that translate into long-term sustainable activism and increased interest,” said Meg Myles, executive director.
Conexion Latina Newport received $10,000 to provide emergency funding for food, housing, clothing and medical needs of the area’s Latino communities, particularly in the winter months when work is scarce, and their income is greatly reduced.
“We know that these problems exist because community members come to us very frequently looking for help with rent, finding a new, more affordable apartment, food assistance to make it to their next payday and emergency medical needs,” said Rebekah Gomez, executive director. “By first referring people out to other organizations, we can stretch the support by using our funding to fill in the gaps.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport received $10,000 to subsidize its After-School Academy for students ages 5-12. The children will receive children a nutritious meal and help with homework, and then will be offered activities, including engineering, violin lessons, art, cooking classes and environmental education.
“This ensures that children are safely and meaningfully engaged after school, allowing parents to work. Our program provides affordable programing in support of student’s academic success, fosters self-sufficiency for families and provides basic needs to families such as meals and access to hunger relief services,” said Heather Hole Strout, executive director.
The East Bay Community Action Program in Newport received $10,000 to support its Baby Steps program, which provides family education sessions and family enrichment activities that engage family members as partners in the education of children through the age of four.
“Parents and caregivers are the most instrumental people in a child’s life, so developing effective parenting skills is vital. By promoting positive relationships and enhancing engagement, we can better prepare children and their families for the future,” said Rilwan Feyisitan Jr., president and CEO.
FabNewport received $7,500 to provide transportation for its Newport Experience Summer Program, which offers 80 unique opportunities, including surfing at Second Beach, clamming in Jamestown and art at Salve Regina University. Approximately 100 youngsters participate in the activities, 77% of which qualify for free or reduced lunch during the school year.
“Transportation is a critical component of our program. Without it, 35% of our kids would not be able to participate. Transportation is repeatedly cited as one of the top barriers faced by under-resourced youth and families. The Newport Experience was created to break down these barriers to ensure our young people can access all the people, resources and opportunities of their more advantaged peers,” said Steve Heath, executive director.
Gnome Surf received $5,000 to support adding skateboard, snowboard and Mountain Bike programs in partnership with Fab Newport and the Newport County YMCA. The organization currently offers surf lessons and summer camps to introduce youth to surf therapy.
“We will create a year-long program that will build connections, trust and mentorship by providing year-round access to physical and mental wellness through surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding and mountain biking. This will increase the season for our participants as well as position us as a year-round resource for families on Aquidneck Island,” said Christopher Antao, founder and executive director.
The James L. Maher Center in Middletown received $4,000 to support nutritional and fitness programs in its three Aquidneck Island residential homes.
“Increasingly, our focus has expanded to include supporting the families of people with developmental disabilities, who are integral to the well-being of the people we serve and who are often also experiencing behavioral health challenges and other challenges associated with lifestyle, aging, economic strain and other social determinants of health,” said Lynne Maher, executive director. “We plan to provide nutritional counseling and guided food procurement and preparation, including in-home cooking classes, which would be open to residents, their family members and the direct support providers and other staff who work in the homes.”
The Jamestown Arts Center received $10,000 to support its Arts Experiences program presenting a year-long series of free arts experiences for Newport County residents. More than 250 people are expected to participate in at least one of the activities.
“The project will expand opportunities to experience and learn from the arts, with particular emphasis on children and families. The joy of arts experiences, and particularly early arts experiences, can shape educational success, community connections, and physical and mental health,” said Maureen Coleman, executive director. “We’re committed to ensuring that children can join their peers in accessing extraordinary arts experiences without cost as a barrier.”
The Jamestown Community Food Pantry received $10,000 to support the increased costs of purchasing food and personal care and pet items. The organization provides clients with meat, fish, juice, cheese, yogurt, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to non-perishables.
“People often think that a town like ours can’t possibly have a need for an emergency food pantry. We have witnessed the exact opposite of that. The beneficiaries of our program are those individuals and families in Jamestown who need emergency food help when their budgets are tight. Many of our clients are shut-ins, or without reliable transportation, and our services offer them what they need without having to travel across one of the bridges to get help,” said Deb Nordstrom, executive director.
The Little Compton Community Center received $10,000 to support its Senior Lunch Program. The center prepares meals for pick up, for home delivery and to be served in its dining room.
“Over the years, senior resources in Little Compton have dwindled and with inflation rates on the rise, the community has demonstrated a need for this program more than ever. We have seen consistent program growth over the past three years, averaging a record 132 meals a week at the close of 2022,” said Samantha Snow, interim executive director.
The Little Compton Food Bank received $5,000 to support operations. Open Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., the facility serves approximately 40 households a week that are facing food insecurity.
“We want to increase the awareness in our community to be able to serve all who may be in need in our area. Our goal is to be a resource and remove the stigma that some feel coming to get help from a food bank and welcome all without judgement,” said Cynthia Dawson, co-president.
Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown received $10,000 to support an on-site counselor during the evening and overnight hours at the shelter, which serves approximately 160 adults and children. The work includes encouraging resident involvement in all phases of the shelter program and helping residents attain basic daily living skills.
“Our counselors serve as positive models of adult behavior. Residents are healing from the victimization and trauma that come along with one or multiple episodes of homelessness. Our counselors provide critical services, maintaining a safe and secure environment for residents coping with the collateral damage of the pandemic and housing crisis,” said Ashley Tarvis, director.
The Newport Community School received $10,000 to support for a summer program for middle school students that offers four distinct summer learning opportunities in partnership with Newport Public Schools, Newport Hospital, Salve Regina University and the state Department of Education.
“The goals are to improve and expand the summer teaching and learning environment for rigorous and personalized instruction and to help students develop high aspirations for their own achievement in meeting or exceeding educational standards,” said Tracy L. Shea, executive director.
Newport Mental Health in Middletown received $5,000 to transport clients to behavioral health and medical appointments. The organization expects the funding will cover the cost of hundreds of rides for clients.
“Frequently public transportation is not a viable option due to service routes not including our clinical locations. Providing transportation increases access to medical and mental health care, which reduces the need for costly hospitalization thereby providing better outcomes for our clients,” said Jamie Lehane, president and CEO.
Newport Partnership for Families received $7,500 to support its Reading Reaps Rewards’ Summer Learning Initiative. The program will support close to 200 children this summer in Grades 1-4 at the Boys & Girls Club of Newport County, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the Newport County YMCA in Middletown.
“Our focus is on local children who are at the greatest risk of falling behind in literacy based on STAR testing and classroom performance. The primary objective is to reduce reading regression, or ‘summer slide,’ by helping students entering Grade 1 through 4 to either maintain or improve their literacy skills,” said Donna Curry, executive director.
Shri Service Corps received $5,130 to support programs in Jamestown and Middletown. The Adaptive Yoga Project serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in partnership with Looking Upwards in Middletown. The Seniors Yoga Project serves adults ages 55 and older in partnership with the Jamestown Food Pantry. The School Yoga Project serves Jamestown students, educators and administrators.
“Shri’s programs run off its own curriculum, designed to promote wellness in inclusive community settings. Since 2010, Shri is the only yoga outreach program of its kind in Rhode Island in this behavioral healthcare space, and we are committed to doubling the number of students served thanks to this sort of continued, foundational support,” said Alison Bologna, the organization’s founder and executive director.
Amenity Aid, the American Red Cross, Best Buddies, Day One, Girl Scouts of Southeast New England, Habitat for Humanity, Katie Brown Educational Program, Live & Learn, Looking Upwards, Meals on Wheels, Mentor Rhode Island, Newport Art Museum, Newport String Project, Newport Tree Conservancy, RI Arts Foundation, RI Elder, Sail Newport, Save the Bay, St. John’s Lodge Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Star Kids Scholarship Program, Strategic Prevention Partnerships, Turning Around Ministries and the Washington Square Services Corporation also received grants.
The Newport County Fund awards grants of up $10,000 to strengthen or expand established programs, to support policy or advocacy efforts on behalf of community concerns, to fund new projects that focus on significant problems or opportunities, and to leverage strategic collaborations and partnerships.
In making the funding decisions, the Foundation worked with an advisory committee comprised of residents from every community in Newport County.
Established in 2002, the Fund has awarded more than $5.6 million in grants for programs and services for residents of Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth and Tiverton. It is just one of the grant programs that enable the Foundation to serve Newport County communities.
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