Make a Difference This Summer

Make a Difference This Summer

By The Rhode Island Community Food Bank

Here are a couple of fun ways kids can help others during their summer vacation.

Get Their Hands Dirty – Volunteer at a Community Farm

All summer long, the community farms of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank grow fresh produce to distribute to food pantries across the state. The farms are completely run by volunteers, so they need your help!

Community farms provide a great opportunity for families to work together to make a difference. And no experience is necessary.

Each farm has its own scheduled volunteer shifts for planting, weeding and picking. Most of the times are at night and on the weekends to accommodate busy schedules.

Last year, these farms, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, produced 80,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

For farm locations and contact information, click here.

Hold a Food Drive – They CAN Do It!

Each summer, the Food Bank sees a drop in food donations but the need in the community is still great. School-aged children no longer receive the meals they enjoy during the school year and their families struggle to fill the gap, often turning to their local food pantry for assistance.

That’s why it is critical that we keep food and funds coming in the door all year long.

Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation. Neither can we.

Holding a summer food drive is easy. We have bins, barrels and posters to help you. You can host one at home, in your neighborhood, at your place of worship or at your business or other organization.

Let people know that you will be collecting food and remind them of the date you need it. You may have to remind them more than once!

Some of the most needed items at the Food Bank include: peanut butter, whole wheat pasta, tuna, brown rice, canned & dried beans, boxed macaroni & cheese, canned soups & stews, granola bars, canned fruits & vegetables, tomato sauce, and breakfast cereals

For more information on how to get started, click here.

About the Food Bank

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank helps get healthy, nutritious food to the people who need it most. Every day, staff and volunteers bring in food and distribute it through a network of 160 agencies across the state.

Moms for Moms – Families First Rhode Island

Moms for Moms – Families First Rhode Island

A Families First RI mother and her twin babies with mentor.

A Families First RI mother and her twin babies with mentor.

It takes a whole village to raise a child -Igobo and Yoruba (Nigeria) Proverb

No matter what her circumstances, even with the most abundant resources surrounding her, when a woman becomes a new mother her hormones surge, her sleep is deprived, and her life as she knows it is completely rocked. When stressors like post-partum depression, lack of family proximity or support, single parenting, health problems, or financial concerns are added to the universally-experienced demands and fears of new-parenthood, the weight is simply too much to bear alone.

One local organization is bringing “the village” that much closer to mothers in need of a helping hand and listening ear. Families First RI is a non-profit organization that matches pregnant women and new mothers with compassionate, experienced mothers trained as volunteer mentors in the innovative “Moms for Moms” program. In this unique relationship, the lives of the mentor, mother, baby and entire family are positively impacted. Executive Director Beth Hurt, whose involvement with Families First RI began as a mentor, posed, “How often in your life can you help someone so directly, supporting a person in the most vulnerable time in her life?”

How to Get Involved

Be Matched with a Mentor
If you are in the late stages of pregnancy or the mother of a new baby and feel you could benefit from a weekly visit in your home to ask questions, share concerns, and receive guidance from an experienced mother mentor, all you need to do is reach out. The program is free of charge. A Families First RI clinician will do an initial visit to learn more about you for your match and help guide you toward additional resources if needed.

Become a Mentor
Perhaps you’ve made it to “the other side” of your own early parenting struggles and want to be there for a new mother in a way you wished someone had been there for you. After participating in a 4-week training with Families First RI clinicians, you will be asked to commit weekly 1-hour visits for a 1-year minimum with a mother to offer confidential, non-judgmental support, mom-to-mom.

Monthly Community Gatherings
Families First RI offers monthly Community Gatherings which feature guest speakers and an opportunity for parents to connect and nurture themselves while babies and older children play together. Community Gatherings are open to all families with an infant – you don’t have to be involved in the Moms for Moms program. These drop-in events are held the first Saturday of the month from 10:30-12:00 at the First Unitarian Church of Providence at 1 Benevolent St., Providence. The next Community Gathering is May 7, 2016, then they will take a break during the summer. Check back at the website for fall gatherings.

Annual BBQ Fundraiser at Mulligan’s Island
Support the mission of Families First RI while having a blast at this family event featuring BBQ fare, live music, a silent auction/raffle in addition to the usual fun Mulligan’s Island activities: miniature golf, pitch & putt, driving range, batting cages. There will also be a golf tournament on Mulligan’s 9-hole, Par 3 course. This year’s event honors the Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, LCSW of Rhode Island New Moms Connection for their impact on the RI community of pregnant and new mothers.

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When: Saturday, May 21, 2016 from 3:00 – 6:00 PM
Where: Mulligan’s Island Golf & Entertainment Center, 1000 New London Ave., Cranston, RI
Tickets: $30 for regular admission, $15 for children aged 3-11, $50 for golf tournament (includes regular admission, space is limited)
Purchase tickets HERE

For more information on Families First RI – Moms for Moms
To be matched with a mentor or learn about volunteering as a mentor, contact Tania at (401) 383-9933 or email
Follow them on Facebook

It takes a village: Help children of incarcerated parents RISE above the cycle.

It takes a village: Help children of incarcerated parents RISE above the cycle.

I am not a statistic.

I should be one. I should be caught in the cycle of poverty, addiction and crime. Growing up I had an incarcerated father who struggled with alcoholism. I was raised by a single mother who became victim to the power of prescription pills. I felt voiceless. I felt alone and unimportant. I needed people to care for me.

How am I not a statistic?

I broke the cycle by having a good education, caring teachers and positive role models in my life. When I grew old enough to advocate for myself I reached out to people who could fill in the places I needed. There were many people who lent a helping hand in my life. I stayed in other people’s homes, did my homework in little shops downtown and was fed by local pizza and bagel shop owners. As cliche as it might sound, it takes a village to raise a child. If it wasn’t for the people in my community, my village, I am certain I wouldn’t have made it this far.

I am not an isolated case. The State of Rhode Island has 3,342 (2011 Rhode Island Kids Count Fact Book) children who have an incarcerated parent. We can’t turn our backs on these children because they need someone to advocate for them.

DSC_1114My purpose is to give them a voice and a chance. They need someone to care for them. I am so thankful for Rhode Island Sponsoring Education (RISE), a local organization whose mission is to empower children of incarceration like I once was.

RISE is a non-profit organization that provides educational and mentoring opportunities to children of incarcerated of formerly incarcerated parents. According to the organization children with an incarcerated parent are more vulnerable and present specific needs that often get overlooked. They are more likely to feel disconnected from the community and often times are at risk for poor academic achievement. Children of incarcerated parents are 7 times more likely than their peers to become involved in the criminal justice system. Others can help break the cycle by being proactive and stepping into one of these children’s lives.

DSC_1116RISE started fifteen years ago in September of 1997 when two Brown University physicians began working inside the women’s prison. Their observations drove them to build an organization to combat the intergenerational cycle of poverty, violence and addiction that faces a child who has an incarcerated parent. RISE began on the premise that if children of an incarcerated parent gained access to a private education it would foster resilience. A smaller private school meant each child had more of an opportunity to foster positive relationships and that those relationships would help each child make it through high school.

The intergenerational cycle of poverty is almost impossible to break without a high school education. Statistics clearly show that high school drops outs are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, receive public assistance, serve jail time, be divorced, and be single parents who have children who drop out of themselves. Currently, RISE provides scholarships to more than thirty private schools in the state such as St. Raphael Academy and St. Mary Academy.  Education is the key.

Along with the scholarship program they offer a mentoring program. Children as young as 7 years old are matched with a mentor.  Presently, there are 126 children matched with a mentor but sadly 60 children on the waiting list. A mentor must be able to commit to spending at least 6 hours a month with their mentee. The mentor is encouraged to take their mentee out into the community and to explore what the community has to offer like events, parks and attractions. It’s about giving these kids opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had without a mentor.

Jonny Skye, the executive director, reports that RISE only has the capacity to serve a small amount of their target population. They have also hit a plateau in community growth. She stated, “We really want to evolve into an organization that is a center of expertise for the State of Rhode Island on how to empower children of incarcerated parents.”

On the last Wednesday night of each month RISE hosts an evening out at the Art Bar. It’s a fun night offering conversation, appetizers and free music. The proceeds from this event go directly to the organizations mission. It’s a great way to meet the people behind the scenes and network. So come on down and say hello to Jonny Sky and Kaitlin Fiorenzano.

As a community we can’t turn a blind eye to this population. We must make the world better for everyone in order to make it better for our own children.481287_10200237298007733_523002574_n

If you would like to find out more information about how RISE is involved in the community or how to support RISE please visit their website, or like them on Facebook.

The office of RISE is located on the first floor of:
143 Prairie Avenue
Providence, RI 02905

Volunteers needed for Kidoinfo activity table at AS220’s Foo Fest!

Volunteers needed for Kidoinfo activity table at AS220’s Foo Fest!

Kidoinfo-Fairy-House-webKids are invited to help build a large fairy house and mini elf doors at AS220’s 2010 Foo Fest on August 14th from 1- 5pm.

I am looking for a few volunteers to help Elyse Major (Kidoinfo contributor and crafter extroadinaire) and myself at the Kidoinfo table. Volunteers are asked to sign up for 1 or 2 hour shifts between 1 and 5PM. If you are interested, please contact me: anisa(at)kidoinfo(dot)com