The first thing that probably comes to mind when thinking about the Westerly area is Misquamicut beach or one of the many exciting summer events, shops, restaurants, or venues that populate the area. But what visitors, or newcomers to this area, may not be aware of is that our citizens not only reach out to welcome summer visitors in a spirit of hospitality, but they also reach out to those who find themselves in need, many of whom are their year-round neighbors, in a spirit of helpfulness. One of the ways Westerly does this is through a place called the WARM Center.
As Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King, once said: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” That statement reflects the people in the Greater Westerly/Pawcatuck area. Every day the staff and volunteers of our local WARM Center, once known as the WARM Shelter, at 54 and 56 Spruce St., are busy helping in many ways.
A caring hub since it was founded in 1987, the WARM Center has undergone quite a few changes over the years, all of which have only served to make it better and more effective. What started out as a small community homeless shelter has slowly developed into a multi-service center that lovingly and respectfully provides for the needs of those who might be a little, or a lot, out of luck at any time.
WARM, which stands for “Westerly Area Rest-Meals-Shelter” is a a comprehensive social services agency providing professional and compassionate wraparound programming for those in need in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut.
80 percent of those helped through the Center’s programs are from Westerly. People can fall on hard times in many ways –whether it is from a financial or relationship crisis, health or housing situation, or even a mental health or addiction crisis. We should never be so bold as to say, “it can never happen to me,” because life can throw unexpected curve balls and knock us down.
Thankfully, our local WARM Center is here to help should the need arise. We are grateful that our own community has its own safety net –a multitude of hands that lift people up and help them get their lives back together.
The WARM Center has several programs that are very helpful for those who need assistance. The various types of assistance include short or long-term shelter, business clothing through the “Attire for Hire” program, and daily hot meals. The Center provides close to 100 meals a day in conjunction with local churches and volunteers. There is also a housing program and job training services available.
Community outreach and case management are offered by the knowledgeable WARM Center staff to help people access the services and funds they need to help get their lives back on track. The Center also provides summer lunch meals to children, tax preparation help, and a street outreach program for those who are living out in the elements.
All these extremely helpful things could not happen without the mutual support of area agencies, communities on both sides of the state border, area churches, law enforcement, and numerous volunteers and donations. It costs about a $1 million a year to keep the Center afloat and the needs are consistently rising and changing.
The WARM Center has 12 full-time and two part-time staff, and numerous volunteers. All the services provided are done so free of charge and they never turn anyone away. Looking forward, the Center staff under the direction of Executive Director Russ Partridge would like to see more affordable housing in the area. Donations and volunteers are always needed because the needs are constant. Currently, they have a need for computer printers and a volunteer I.T. person, so if any of our WesterlyLife.com readers can help with these needs please let the Center know.
Citizens in the Westerly/Pawcatuck area are generous and attentive to the needs of others, whether that is showing hospitality to visitors and tourists or helping those in need with a helping hand. The work of the WARM Center reflects the heart of our community.
Every year the WARM Center has a gala fundraising event. This year it will be a murder mystery/ Hollywood theme set in the 1920’s and will take place at the Westerly Armory. People who attend this highly creative fundraiser are invited to dress up in a Hollywood or 1920’s garb if they’d like, but it isn’t necessary. The event is on April 14. Tickets are $100 per person. To purchase, contact [email protected] or call 401-596-9276 ext.109.
For details about the WARM Center’s services, more info on the Gala, or volunteer information, please visit their website, www.warmcenter.org or call 401-596-WARM (9276)