The COVID-19 pandemic makes it feel almost as if we are living in a science fiction flick. Quarantines and social distancing leave our streets deserted, mask-wearing is the new not-so-normal-normal, and the news and information we are processing seem to change at the speed of light.
Here are a few resources for important information and where to find guidance for our communities:
The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce has compiled a comprehensive resource guide for businesses in the two-state region they serve. The guide has information on SBA loans and is updated daily: oceanchamber.org/covid-19-resources
“At the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce (OCCC), our role becomes more vital than ever in times like these as businesses need help in ways they never anticipated,” said Lisa Konicki, president of the OCCC. “We have shifted our efforts from keeping the economy growing to keep the economy going.”
The chamber launched a campaign to support member hospitality businesses that had to close their doors during this time and made up a huge part of the local economy. The chamber created a comprehensive graph of businesses that are offering take-out/curbside and delivery foods including breweries that can sell take out and package stores that can deliver or mail beer and wine The comprehensive graph is on the website, social media, advertised on WBLQ, in the Westerly Sun, Stonington Community Forum on Facebook and other high visibility locations.
Despite social distancing, the chamber is encouraging people to come together via social media and photograph their delicious take-out/delivery/curbside meals, tag the restaurant, deli, chocolate factory, and brewery take out and share with their friends on social media. According to Lisa: “if you also share on the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce page, we will award up to five $10 Chamber gift certificates each day to say thank you to the public for supporting small businesses during these challenging times. Our office is open for curbside service and we continue to sell gift certificates that can be used throughout the region. Our small but dedicated staff stands ready to assist you in whatever way is most helpful.”
Before COVID-19 the Jonnycake Center of Westerly was a bustling hub of positive energy with people shopping for treasures at their Thrift Store, going to fundraising events, and picking up necessities at their food pantry. Despite the pandemic, Jonnycake Center is here for the community and operating their most needed services.
Their social services department and food pantry remain open and are serving both new and existing Jonnycake Center clients. Any resident of Westerly or the Chariho area can quickly register to receive services by calling 401-377-8069.
While most of the Social Services and Food Pantry supplies are for clients, the Jonnycake Center of Westerly is a public distribution point for Westerly Public Schools’ “Grab and Go” meal kits, with each kit containing a nutritious breakfast and lunch. This service is open to anybody with school-age children in the Westerly area. No ID is necessary, but a child must be present with an adult when they come to pick up a “Grab and Go” kit. Pick-up times are 12-1 p.m. Mondays-Fridays at the loading dock outside the Food Pantry (23 Industrial Drive in Westerly).
According to Matt Levy, Jonnycake Social Media Marketing Manager they have already seen a 15 percent rise in new client signups.
“We expect this figure to continue to climb in the coming weeks,” he said. “Our social services office and food pantry are providing assistance six days per week as we meet the anticipated surge in demand.”
They invite any Rhode Island resident in need of food or emergency financial assistance to call 401-377-8069 to see how Jonnycake can help. The Thrift Store, ordinarily open to the public daily, is currently undergoing a large expansion and renovation, thanks to a generous grant from the Champlin Foundation. They look forward to unveiling the renovated store and reopening it as soon as possible.
Visit jonnycake.org and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the most current information about Social Services, the Food Pantry, and Thrift Store updates.
“Our entire staff is grateful for the support of the entire community as we work together to fight the COVID-19 threat and continue to lift neighbors out of crisis situations,” said Matt.
The WARM Center
The mission of the WARM Center is to provide a continuum of care and service to the homeless and needy by providing affordable housing and assuring supportive services and to help the homeless and needy build self-esteem and move toward independent and responsible living. During this time they are offering free brown bag lunch and dinner seven days a week. This is open to the public for lunch between 12-1 p.m. and for dinner between 5:30-6:30 p.m. If interested, you can pick up a meal at the side door to the kitchen at their 56 Spruce Street location in Westerly.
According to Russ Partridge, Executive Director for the Warm Center they are also still doing community outreach and offering residents assistance with utilities, rent, and heat. If you need assistance please call 401-596-2976 and ask to speak to Noella or leave a message.
“We have seen a tremendous outpouring of support and willingness to do whatever we need in the community,” said Russ. “This is an amazing thing and when there is any kind of crisis Westerly steps up.”
Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center
“Each year, approximately 1,400 individuals and families regularly use our Emergency Food Pantry. When the coronavirus arrived in our region, we began to see an increase in new clients. Most never expected to find themselves in their current situation,” said Susan Sedensky, Executive Director of the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center (PNC) “With the closure of small businesses, employee layoffs and sickness hitting our community at an unprecedented rate, we are anticipating a greater need for our services, especially the distribution of food, in the upcoming months.”
Even though the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center (PNC) closed all senior center activities out of concern for the health and safety of the senior population in Westerly and Stonington, they are still operating some of their vital services. They are providing food to the community through their food pantry that is open to all on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. And even though they had to limit staff and client exposure and are not accepting unsolicited food donations during this time, community members are still encouraged to donate: visit pawcatuckneighborhoodcenter.org and hit “Donate Now.”
The weekender backpack food program remains open for children residing in Mystic, Stonington, North Stonington, and Westerly. Children receive a backpack full of meals for the weekend, pickup for the program is on Fridays. Call 860-599-3285 for details.
TVCCA in partnership with PNC is running their Meals on Wheels program out of the kitchen at the PNC and is busier than ever, delivering hot and frozen meals to homebound seniors living in the Stonington and Mystic communities. And the Senior Transportation program continues to provide rides to seniors for medical appointments and grocery shopping.
For updated information on Rhode Island COVID-19 visit: