Our Blog RSS

The latest news and occasional commentary about what’s happening at the Foundation and around our great state. 

Rhode Island Foundation Blog


We are proud to be part of the Rhode Island community! Follow our blog for the latest news and occasional commentary about what’s happening at the Foundation and around our great state.

Willett Free Library Endowment Fund
By Jean Cohoon / September 27, 2016 /   Loading Disqus...

The line “Good things come in small packages” certainly applies to the Willett Free Library. Noted on its website to be the smallest library in Rhode Island, the 1,452 square foot library attracts patrons who enter through a welcoming, fireplaced front room, complete with comfortable chairs. They come, not only to borrow books and other items available for circulation, but also to attend events ranging from a weekly story time to a poetry reading group and from movie nights to travel talks.

“We figured out early on that we wanted to morph the library into a community center,” says Ellie Ferguson, who has chaired the library’s board of directors since 2000. “We’ve found that ‘If you build it, they will come’ is absolutely true. If you supply a place where people can gather, they will.”

Located in Saunderstown, a village in the Town of North Kingstown, the library was founded in 1885 as the Society for Mutual Improvement. Its home since 1903, at 45 Ferry Road, underwent a major renovation and expansion in 2013, a project Ellie believes “successfully preserved the architectural history of the building.” The library is a member of Ocean State Libraries consortium, is handicapped accessible, and has a collection of nearly 10,000 volumes.

Ellie is appreciative of the support the renovation received from foundations and townspeople alike. “Village life is alive and well in Rhode Island. The town really has been behind us,” she shares, adding, “We had contributions that just kept coming.”

Those extra funds, along with monies the board had set aside earlier, memberships, and funds raised through events including the annual book and bake sale, allowed the library board to establish this endowment. “As we were growing from country mice to city mice and getting more serious about our governance, we realized how important an endowment is,” Ellie explains on behalf of the nine-member board.

Referring to the Rhode Island Foundation as “the jewel in the crown for its credibility,” Ellie states, “If you say you have a fund at the Foundation, you have an advantage with supporters.”

blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Post

  • Making science come alive Posted last month
    Thanks to our Carter Spark Grant, Narragansett Elementary School students just learned a lot about life around Narragansett Bay. Special education teacher Karen Festa used the grant to bring Save the Bay’s living “Bay Classroom Experience” to school.
  • Roger Williams' ideals come to life in scholarship recipients Posted last month
    The Rhode Island Foundation is sending seven high school seniors off to college with scholarships honoring Roger Williams, the state’s founding father.The four-year, renewable scholarships are through the Carter Roger Williams Initiative, which was launched last year by philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter.
  • Carter fellowships inspire innovation Posted 2 months ago
    The recipients will receive $200,000 over four years to test and implement their proposals to dramatically improve life in Rhode Island thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Letitia and the late John Carter.
  • Grants will improve health of RI'ers Posted 3 months ago
    Our RIGHA Foundation Fund awards more than $280,000 in grants to promote primary health care.
  • Introducing moves to fuel growth and expansion Posted 4 months ago
    We are launching a new grantmaking opportunity, refining our strategic priorities, adopting impact targets and adding new staff positions to support work with partners, donors, nonprofits and community leaders.
Read More »


LocationOne Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


(401) 274-4564

E-News Sign Up