Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday – these are well known days to find great deals on material items, but of course the holidays are about more than just what you can get. It’s also about the spirit of giving, and that’s where Giving Tuesday comes in. A global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, Giving Tuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, kicking off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.
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The official website for the day suggests getting involved in your own community and they offer a directory of organizations who are in need of volunteers and donations, but we here at Westerly Life decided to start a directory of our own!
Southern Rhode Island Volunteers
If you’re interested in volunteering but unsure of where to start, Southern Rhode Island Volunteers is kind of a one-stop-shop organization which works to place individuals with local organizations that need their help. Incorporated in October 1981, the Southern Rhode Island Volunteers (SRIV) is driven to provide invaluable service and assist at-risk populations in the twelve communities of Southern Rhode Island through three main programs: Independent Aging Services, Community Volunteer Opportunities, and Disaster Preparedness.
You can volunteer at one or more of their 70+ Community Partners and make a difference in some of the following ways: transporting homebound seniors or disabled adults to healthcare appointments, pharmacies, or grocery stores, delivering food from local food pantries and/or Meals on Wheels, grocery shopping and delivery for a senior client, providing companionship for a homebound older senior and/or respite care for their full-time caregiver, or by helping with fall clean ups and snow removal for walkways for senior safety. Behind-the-scenes office and clerical tasks include data collection and entry, client services, marketing and fundraising, and committee work.
Beyond the more tangible help that SRIV provides, such as appointment transportation or meal delivery, Executive Director Deb Tanner says some of the most important work they do is simply being present for seniors, whether in person or on the phone.
“It’s frustrating to call someone and only be able to reach a machine. It’s not helpful. People need to hear a human voice and get confirmation that their message was received, that they’re going to get a ride, that they’ll get to their doctor,” she explained. “The goal is to alleviate that anxiety and frustration and provide access to services that folks need for healthy aging – and we’re all aging from the moment we’re born. It’s part of the process of life, and for the generations in the middle, it’s our job to be supporting the young ones and the older ones. It’s who we are, it’s who we’re supposed to be, and I see it as a privilege to help to folks who have helped others.”
Donations may be made through their website.
“Since we don’t receive any funding from the town, everything we are able to do to help seniors in need is donation based,” Deb explained. “So if people are looking to donate, what they’re supporting is service that goes directly to the senior in need, and we keep costs down by relying on our volunteers.”
SRIV accepts volunteers of all ages (13 plus years of age-children are welcome to accompany parents/guardians on appropriate volunteer activities). A background check is required of all volunteers over the age of 18 before placement. You may complete your volunteer sign up form and complete the Attorney General’s Disclaimer for a Background Check online, or you can print-out, complete and mail these forms to SRIV, P.O. Box 1047 Charlestown, RI 02813 or call our main office at (401) 552-7661 and we will mail you the forms. SRIV will also need a copy of your license, accompanied by $5 in cash or a $5 check made payable to the RI Attorney General.
Westerly Animal Shelter and Stand Up for Animals
The Westerly Animal Shelter and its support organization Stand up for Animals (SUFA) are responsible for the impoundment, adoption, safekeeping (in the event of an emergency), and education of pet owners in the community. The shelter provides a clean, safe, loving, healthy environment until animals find their forever homes, and also provides community outreach through our volunteer program, microchip/wellness clinics, summer camp, obedience training and an annual rabies clinic.
You’ll never find a more grateful and accepting comrade than an animal that you’ve comforted. If you’re interested in making a difference in an animals’ life in your community, just stop by the shelter for a volunteer application. The most precious gift you can give to an animal is your time.
Beyond financial donations, which you can make in person or on the shelter’s or SUFA’s websites, some high-priority wish list items include good quality canned and dry food for dogs (especially grain-free varieties, and “small bites” varieties for little dogs) and canned food for cats (especially Friskies pate), dog treats of various sizes and types, Temptations or Delectables for cats. Donations of dog beds, KONG dog toys, tennis balls and ropes, cat beds, cat trees, cat toys, catnip, scratching boards and posts will also help to make the animals feel happier and comfier as well.
The Jonnycake Center
You may already be familiar with their amazing thrift store, but the Jonnycake Center of Westerly is more than just a place to find a hidden designer bag or piece of antique furniture. Established in 1975, they offer student scholarships, heating and financial assistance for local families, particularly those that contain minor children, elderly or disabled adults, or veterans, and a full-choice food pantry.
Qualified residents of the towns of Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond and Westerly, Rhode Island may receive a one week supply of food for each member of the household every thirty days. Food baskets contain enough food for 21 meals per person – three meals per day for seven days, and food items include milk, eggs, cheese, meat, bread, assorted produce, and a variety of non-perishable groceries.
Winter is a busy time for us all, but especially the Jonnycake Center as they work to provide clients with Thanksgiving and Christmas meal baskets, Christmas presents for children through their Adopt a Family program, and an annual coat drive for children.
The Jonnycake Center also partners with local organizations to offer a wide variety of programs to support the community year-round. Some of their many partners and joint initiatives include The Summer Program Looking to Alleviate Student Hunger (SPLASH), which ensures that students have access to nutritious food over the summer, the Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County to advocate and problem-solve for victims and survivors, and the RI Real Jobs Partnership, which allows the Center to offer free education and training on digital literacy, resume writing, and interview techniques.
Regular volunteers are always needed to help staff the food pantry, thrift store, and in the office, and seasonal volunteer opportunities open up in the summer and around the holidays. You can also make a difference by making a one-time or ongoing financial donation to the Jonnycake Center through their website or by mailing in a check to The Jonnycake Center of Westerly, PO Box 273, Westerly, RI 02891.
“Donations at this time of year provide an incredible amount of support to those in need within our community,” Executive Director Lee Eastbourne shared. “The winter months and holidays are an expensive time, and the Jonnycake Center of Westerly strives to meet the needs of every client. Over the next five months, the Center will provide tens of thousands of dollars worth of assistance to approaching 400 families a month, for needs such as food, winter heating oil, utility assistance, rent, medical needs and Christmas gifts for children, so financial donations are very much appreciated.”
Please drop off clean, salable material items such as clothing, furniture, and household goods most mornings and early afternoons – please check their website for specific days and hours. The top 5 year-round pantry needs are bread, cereal, peanut butter & jelly, soups (low-sodium is preferred), and disposable diapers (all sizes) & wipes.
“At this time of year, however, as we are preparing for the holidays, items that would make up Thanksgiving and Christmas meal (stuffing, gravy, canned vegetables, boxed desserts, etc.) are especially helpful, as well as soups, mac and cheese, rice and pasta. Condiments are also a regularly requested item,” Lee added.
Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center
The Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center provides food to more than 1,400 people on a yearly basis, which equates to more than 400,000 pounds of food. Through the Center, eligible individuals and families who are homeless or reside in Westerly, Stonington or North Stonington have access to fresh fruit and veggies, dairy, bread and non-perishables. In addition, children receive food through the year-round Weekender Backpack Program. Each week, the Center changes the menu so that parents can offer a variety of meals. In the spring, fresh vegetables arrive from the community garden, local stores, and the gardens of donating neighbors.
Their Pet Shoppe provides free pet food, and Keeping Babies Warm and Well provides free diapers, formula, and baby food. The Daily Living Closet provides free personal hygiene items, and the Clothing Closet provides free clothing and linens.
The Center also has caseworkers available to help people find housing, obtain heating and utility assistance, enroll in SNAP benefits, and search and apply for jobs, and they host a free wellness clinic from the VNA, coffee hours for Veterans, and free books from the Stonington Library on a weekly basis.
“Giving Tuesday is an ideal way to contribute to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. More than 1,500 people use our food pantry on a routine basis,” Executive Director, Susan Sedensky shared. During the holidays, we need volunteers who are able to lift cases of food, turkeys and organize toys for 500 families. Stop by the PNC at 27 Chase Street during business hours to learn how you can volunteer, organize a food drive or donate.”
Donations may also be made through their website.
Frank Olean Center
Established in 1966, the Frank Olean Center exists to provide support and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to achieve their desired level of integration, independence, and productivity. The Olean Center serves more than 150 disabled adults, children, and their families each year, the majority of whom are residents of Westerly, Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Richmond, Rhode Island, as well as southeastern Connecticut, and Children’s Services are provided to children and their families throughout Rhode Island, in 16 communities. With a few exceptions, door-to-door transportation is provided by the Olean Center, and the organization also participates in the Regional and Summer Games for the Special Olympics.
“We are always looking for new ways to help our clients fulfil their potential, and we need support from our community to be successful,” Development Assistant Kate Roschmann shared. “This Giving Tuesday, we are grateful that so many people will be taking a break from holiday shopping to give back to important organizations like the Olean Center.”
To volunteer, please contact Tony Vellucci, Executive Director, by calling (401) 315-0143 x108 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can make a tax-deductible, charitable donation any time by clicking on the DONATE button on the website, or you can also make a check payable to the Olean Center and mail to Frank Olean Center, Inc., 93 Airport Road, Westerly RI 02891.
The WARM Center is a comprehensive social services agency providing professional and compassionate programming for those in need in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, the Center offers stable and alcohol/drug-free environment for each resident. The WARM center also hosts the only soup kitchen in the area, which offers two nutritious, free meals a day and serves over 100 people daily thanks to the generous support of local individuals, churches, and other organizations.
Additionally, the Center provides a variety of programs, including Harvest Homes for homeless families, supportive transitional and permanent housing, Community Critical Needs which assists community members in crisis with case management and financial assistance to help them maintain housing, Work Readiness and Culinary Job Training, Attire for Hire, a children’s summer lunch program, street outreach, and free tax preparation for low-moderate income households.
If you are interested in volunteering at WARM, please contact Joy Cordio at (401) 596-WARM to talk about opportunities for service.
You may give a financial gift to the Center via their website. Donations of food (either uncooked or cooked and hot or cooked and cold, but please no leftovers) are gratefully accepted at certain times of day – details are available on their website or by calling ahead. Attire for Hire accepts clean, laundered and/or dry-cleaned clothing for men and women who are returning to the workforce.
Westerly Education Endowment Fund
The Westerly Education Endowment Fund (WEEF) was established in 2001 by a group of Westerly citizens who wanted to provide enhanced educational experiences to Westerly students, beyond what state and local taxes can support. Each year, people who work with Westerly students are given the opportunity to submit grant requests to the Endowment. WEEF’s grant committee then selects the grants it feels will have the greatest impact and sustainability potential for Westerly Public School students. WEEF’s goal is to provide the seed money for programs that will have a lasting impact on students, and which may eventually be adopted by the district or sustained by other means for long-term success.
WEEF supports a wide array of programs, in many aspects of education, and has established funds that can specifically be directed to grants relating to Science & Technology, Literacy, Performing Arts, Business & Professional Development, and Student Initiatives [such as Project T.G.I.F. (Turn Grease Into Fuel)]. WEEF also supports programs that concentrate on the emotional well-being and physical safety of students, such as Rachel’s Challenge.
Your donation helps to provide support to those who most closely support our students.
“The funds raised by WEEF have allowed the growth of the grant process to include separate focus grants, which can reach a broader cross-section of students throughout the district and provide teachers with greater flexibility in developing exciting programs to benefit those students,” WEEF President Michael Lynch shared. “Because of the support we receive, WEEF can look forward to the upcoming year with confidence, knowing that we are making a difference in the ongoing development of all our students.”
To donate, please visit their website or mail a check to P.O. Box 1219, Westerly, RI 02891.
Now go forth and give!
No matter who you choose to give your time and money to this season, remember to do so with an open heart and an open mind – you never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn in the process.
On a personal note, I have felt many times in my life that I did not have enough to give to make a difference, but then I began effectively tithing my own “unnecessary” purchases (for me, that means things that aren’t food or shelter or transportation costs) and donating a percentage of that total at the end of the month. It helps keep me more aware of my spending habits, and also makes me feel better about occasionally treating myself as well.
I also like to stop by a dollar store and fill bags with things like hygiene products, winter hats and gloves, and snacks and treats, and then keep them in my car to hand out to people in need. It’s very inexpensive to put together these little “blessing bags” and assembling them is actually pretty fun, and it’s something that you can get your kids to help you with.