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Grants build community throughout RI
By Chris Barnett / July 14, 2017 /   Loading Disqus...
The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded nearly $225,000 in grants to fund community-building activites across the state. The Community Grants program will support work that ranges from creating performance spaces and urban farms to restoring playgrounds and historic parks.

“Initiatives like this would not be possible but for the foresight of those who came before us, the donors who generously invest in our state and the nonprofits that transform those resources into action,” said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO of the Foundation.

The Foundation received nearly 130 proposals; 30 received funding. Most of the work is expected to be underway before the end of the year.

“Our grants will create places to gather, build relationships and inspire new collaborations that will strengthen community connections all over Rhode Island,” said Steinberg.

The announcement took place at Chase Farm Park in Lincoln, where Friends of Hearthside received $10,000 to complete the restoration of the historic Pullen Corner School House in Chase Farm Park in partnership with the Town of Lincoln. The work will include period lighting, artifacts, seating, chalkboards and school bell as well as displays and interpretive panels.


“Our shared vision for the school house is for a flexible space, serving as an example of our community's earliest schools that groups could visit as well as hosting a variety of arts and cultural presentations,” said Kathy Hartley, president of the all-volunteer nonprofit.

The other grant recipients include the Town of Warren, which received $7,500 to revitalize the Baker Street Playground off Water Street. The improvements include adding gates to the existing fencing, a trash and recycling center, a preschool-appropriate play structure, seating, a bike rack and a security camera.

“At just under 7,000 square feet, this pocket park provides an important community space to a densely populated neighborhood. This will be the town's only fully enclosed play space, which parents with young children in particular will seek out,” said Parks and Recreation Director Tara Thibaudeau.

Navigant Credit Union worked with the Foundation to fund the project, donating an additional $2,500 that made underwriting the full scope of work possible.

“We are excited to partner with the Rhode Island Foundation and help bring the Baker Street playground to life. The ability for Navigant Credit Union to co-fund this project with the Foundation allows us to stretch our resources and participate in our communities in a broader way,” said Tim Draper, Navigant’s vice president of marketing.

The Adams Public Library in Central Falls received $8,600 to update its solarium and repair and enlarge the adjoining garden for the community to use, in partnership with the Southside Community Land Trust.

“Food insecurity is a problem in Central Falls. Many residents live at or near the poverty level and do not have cars. There is no large grocery store here, so access to fresh vegetables can be a challenge,” said Cynthia Muhlbach, director.

The African Alliance of R.I. in Providence received $10,000 to convert a vacant lot at 62 Saratoga St. into an urban farm for residents of the Southside. The grant covers the costs of leveling the lot, fencing, irrigation, mulch, compost and material for raised beds.

“Our goal is to help newly arrived refugees and immigrants utilize their ancestral skills to cultivate specialty crops that are important to their native diets and generally unavailable in local markets,” said Julius Kolawole, president.

The Aquidneck Island Land Trust in Middletown received $9,200 to provide free rain barrel to Middletown residents in partnership with Clean Ocean Access and the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. The give-away will take place at a planned community festival that will also include rain barrel painting, rain barrel installation demonstrations and storm water education.

“Rain barrels are the ultimate do-it-yourself community infrastructure and are useful for building community and fostering a community stewardship ethic with regard to watershed conservation,” said Charles B. Allott, executive director.

The Bristol Art Museum received $8,000 to produce a summer-long Portuguese Arts and Culture Project. The centerpiece is an exhibit in the Museum’s main galleries featuring Portuguese art, which will be complemented by a program of classes, lectures and workshops.

“Our goal is to engage and unite the community in celebration of Bristol's significant Portuguese cultural heritage. We will leverage our summer exhibit of Portuguese art to showcase Luso-American culture throughout the East Bay, because a vibrant community honors our differences as much as it celebrates what binds us together,” said Jane Lavender, who chairs the Board of Directors.

The College Hill Neighborhood Association, working in partnership with the Providence Parks Department and the Partnership for Providence Parks, received $10,000 to support the restoration of the historic Prospect Terrace.

“The park is heavily used but it is dire need of renovation. The project that we envision will restore and enhance the park by replacing deteriorated walkways and worn benches, repair the retaining wall supporting the iconic Roger Williams monument, repair fences, add interpretive signage and do trimming and other landscape work,” said Sara Bradford, treasurer of the College Hill Neighborhood Association.

The Cranston Public Library Association received $10,000 to purchase a pop-up library for community events as well as locations such as playgrounds and bus stops that serve children from underserved communities.

“This is all about meeting the public where they are rather than making them come to us. We will bring this pop-up library everywhere there is a lot of foot traffic to surprise people with an opportunity for browsing, reading and interacting with others,” said Ed Garcia, executive director.

Doors Open RI in Providence received $5,000 to support its September festival, which will give the public free, special access to over 20 locations in diverse neighborhoods across Providence. The festival is expected to involve more than 100 volunteers and 15 community organizations.

“We are guided by the belief that there's a community behind every door – from the congregation of Sons of Jacob Synagogue in Smith Hill to the friends who hold together the deteriorating Atlantic Mills building in Olneyville,” said Caroline Stevens, director.

The East Providence Arts Council received $8,000 to install landscaping, seating walls and walking paths at the Watchemocket Sculpture Garden in partnership with the City of East Providence. The centerpiece of the park is a “Rigging,” a sculpture funded with a grant from the inaugural round of Community Grants last year.

“Public art will bring the community together, creating fellowship and a sense of togetherness. This site off the East Bay Bike Path is a perfect location for bringing people together,” said Rick Lawson, chairman.

Friends of the Bay Spring Community Center in Barrington received $5,847 to support the installation of a permanent outdoor event and performance space in partnership with the Town of Barrington. The work will include erecting a 16’x8’ outdoor stage and 16’x8’ boathouse-style shed to store tables and other outdoor equipment.

“Expanding the scope of these programs to support local artists and a broader array of activities is part of our three-year strategic plan and vital to our long-term success. As it is now, we must shut down during the hot summer months due to a lack of air conditioning,” said Chris Watson, chairman.

Friends of Canonchet Farm received $6,000 to install two trail and wetland interpretive signs along the Canonchet Nature Trail in partnership with the Town of Narragansett and the University of Rhode Island.

“The signs will educate visitors who wish to explore and learn about the culture, history and scientific aspects of the property,” said Thomas Hoagland, vice president.

Friends of the Hopkinton Land Trust received $5,100 to build a permanent stage for community performances in Depot Square Park. The organization supports the mission of the Hopkinton Land Trust through trailblazing and maintenance, publicity, fundraising, education and grant writing.

“This is a rural aggregate of farm land, old mill villages, homes and small businesses tucked into 44 square miles of land on which 8,200 people live. Community here involves gathering together to work, enjoy down-time, and to find meaning in shared experiences like music and theater,” said Christine Anderson, president.

Historic Warren Armory received $3,800 to restore and replicate an historic, circa 1882 painting titled “Indian Chief” that was uncovered during the process of restoring the facility’s former drill hall. The restored original will remain on the north side of the stage, while a newly commissioned, but historically accurate, reproduction will be placed on the south side of the stage.

“Our ‘Indian Chief’ has thrilled our community. These unique paintings will document the historical significance of our town and demonstrate the commitment to the continued use of the Armory as a public hall and an historic public property of significance and pride,” said Richard J. Valente, president.

The Land Conservancy of North Kingstown received $10,000 to restore a historic walking path in Wickford Village. The path traverses the Lower Mill Cove salt marsh, connecting Wilson Park, the town boat launch and nearby neighborhoods with the Conservancy’s Bush Hill Preserve and historic Wickford Village. The grant will support the initial engineering studies, permitting and fundraising needed to stabilize the eroded banks of a circa 1700s causeway, install a footbridge, clear trails and add signage.

“A culvert in the earthen causeway built in the 1700s by farmers to connect their pastures and woods collapsed about 20 years ago, severing this tie among the community. Our work will once again make this historic pathway accessible for all to use and enjoy,” said Gidget Loomis, project co-leader.

The Memorial and Library Association of Westerly received $7,690 to install 10 interpretive signs and an informational kiosk in Wilcox Park.

“This project will vastly aid the visiting public in learning about the culture, history and environmental aspects of Wilcox Park and the Westerly Library,” said Alan Peck, Wilcox Park superintendent.

The Town of Middletown received $9,405 to install eight park benches in the Middletown Valley, the town’s newest public park. The 45-acre site runs along High Street behind the Aquidneck Shopping Centre.

“Residents told us that walkable, scenic open spaces are central to their vision for our community. This site has newly constructed walking paths and newly planted trees, but there are currently no amenities. These benches will add to the identity and character of the park,” said Shawn Brown, town administrator.

The Town of Narragansett received $9,000 for landscaping and irrigation enhancements at Kinney Bungalow in partnership with Sunset Farm, the Narragansett Land Conservancy Trust and the Narragansett Parks Department.

“We will extend the privet hedge, provide a new irrigation system and plant trees and ornamental shrubs to enhance the grounds of this majestic building,” said Steve Wright, director of Parks and Recreation.

NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley in Woonsocket received $10,000 to install the state's first outdoor, wood-fired, community bread oven in Market Square.

“We will use the power of food to bring diverse cultures together in a fun and unique way and build neighborhood unity and pride,” said Joe Garlick, executive director.

The Old Slater Mill Association in Pawtucket received $4,000 to support a free, outdoor weekly film series. The movies will be projected on the exterior of the mill’s bell tower. The site can accommodate approximately 150 movie-goers.

“This will stimulate dialogue and compassion, foster community, provide free and accessible cultural enrichment for our residents and visitors and better bridge the relationship between us and our neighbors,” said Lori Urso, executive director.

Operation Stand Down in Johnston received $5,000 to purchase waterproof, reusable name tags for its annual Memorial Day "Boots on the Ground" tribute to Rhode Island veterans at the Temple to Music in Roger Williams Park.

“The memorial involves placing almost 7,000 boots with flags and name placards to represent all of the American servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives defending our freedom since 9/11,” said Erik Wallin, executive director.

The City of Pawtucket received $10,000 to purchase approximately 100 rain barrels to distribute free of charge to residents in partnership with the Pawtucket Arts and Culture Commission, the Jacqueline M. Walsh School for the Arts and the R.I. Green Infrastructure Coalition.

“We are working to make Pawtucket cleaner and greener,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “Thank you to the Rhode Island Foundation for supporting our efforts to improve the City’s stormwater system and lessen our impact on the environment.”

The Rhode Island Children's Golf Course in Coventry received $2,619 to renovate and upgrade its grounds and youth learning center. The work includes soil aeration, top dressing and rolling and dragging the practice tee as well as installing kid-friendly golf targets, simulated practice greens and flagsticks.

“This will guide, nurture and positively influence children by creating life-enhancing values and building character through the game of golf, leading to their growth into responsible, strong adults,” said David McBride, executive director.

St. Gregory the Great Church in Warwick received $5,000 to help create a community garden that will provide clients of the West Warwick Senior and Community Center with fresh produce for their meal distribution program.

“Our vision of our garden is that we will tailor it to the tastes and cultures of the center clientele, providing a taste of home along with nutrition. Once established, we will explore incorporating cooking and other educational efforts,” said Donna Cimini, a member of the planning committee who wrote the grant application along with Marty Davey and Virginia Parker.

The South Kingston Senior Center received $2,350 to purchase exercise equipment, including exercise mats, hand weights, Pilates stability balls and yoga blocks, exercise straps and meditation cushions.

“A community has formed, as active, involved South Kingstown seniors, who attend the Center, have come together in support of one another and their attempts to remain healthy and independent while leading purposeful involved lives,” said Susan DiMasi, director of senior services

The South Providence Neighborhood Association received $9,000 to purchase 10 trash receptacles for the Trinity Square commercial district in partnership with local merchants.

“When people travel through our neighborhood, the most apparent symptom of its distress is the swirling and mounded heaps of garbage scattered around the Square. This reinforces a perception that no one cares enough to keep the neighborhood clean, much less safe,” said Dwayne Keys, interim chair.

The Watch Hill Conservancy received $9,400 to install educational signage designed to protect the ecologically fragile Napatree Point Conservation Area from the wear and tear of having upwards of 1,000 visitors a day.

“The challenges include keeping visitors from trampling the dune grass vegetation and wandering into closed bird-nesting areas. The signs will ensure visitors know the right things to do to keep Napatree unspoiled,” Grant G. Simmons III, vice president.

The West Greenwich Land Trust received $8,950 to repair clapboard, install energy-efficient windows and paint the historic Palmer Meeting House on Escoheag Road.

Formerly known as the Escoheag Advent Christian Church, the circa 1897 building is used for meetings, weddings and other community-based events.

The William Winsor Parent Teacher Organization in Smithfield received $5,100 to create an outdoor learning garden at William Winsor Elementary School in partnership with the Smithfield School Department, URI Master Gardener Program and area businesses.

“We envision an outdoor learning classroom for children to connect gardening to other educational pursuits, including science, math, reading, literature, history and art,” said Mary Kate Harrington, board secretary.

The Women’s Resource Center in Newport received $9,710 to install public art along the newly marked walking and bike trail that winds through Miantonomi Park in Newport’s North End. The “Tree Path Project” is a partnership with the Newport Health Equity Zone and the Newport Art Museum.

“Residents, community groups and neighborhood organizations will create whimsical ‘sleeves’ that will decorate tree trunks The tree path will provide an opportunity for community stakeholders to co-create pieces of public art that will beautify the neighborhood throughout the summer,” said Lori DiPersio, executive director.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. In 2016, the Foundation awarded a record $45 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.
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