ri foundation neil steinberg
Neil Steinberg, Rhode Island Foundation

The Rhode Island Foundation announced today (July 20th) it will award more than $270,000 to nonprofit organizations serving Newport County residents.

The grants, through the Foundation’s Newport County Fund (NCF), will underwrite a host of activities ranging from job readiness training and after-school activities to preventing relationship violence and stocking food pantries.

“From enriching arts and educational opportunities for young people to underwriting critical health and environmental programs, we are proud to work with partners that are improving lives here,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are grateful to the donors who make our support possible and the local men and women who keep us closely connected to the community.”

The NCF offered grants of up $10,000 in seven key funding areas: arts and culture, basic human needs, children and families, economic security, the environment, healthy lives and housing.

In making the funding decisions, the Foundation worked with an advisory committee comprised of Newport County residents, including Anne Sage, Jack Ellis, John Trifero, Kristen Humphrey, Sally Schott and Victoria Johnson.

Established in 2002, the NCF has awarded more than $3.8 million in grants for programs and services for residents of Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth and Tiverton. The NCF is one of one of several committee-advised funds at the Foundation established to fulfill the desire of donors and serving specific issues or geographic areas.

The announcement took place at Child & Family Services, which received $10,000 to expand its Friendly Visitor program to incorporate additional transportation options for homebound seniors. The program offers home-based and outpatient behavioral health treatment, caregiver support groups, protective services for older victims of crime and well-being checks for seniors who are suspected of suffering from self-neglect. The nonprofit expects to serve hundreds of elderly Newport County residents through this program.

“The program is designed to help alleviate the loneliness and isolation experienced by older adults living in Newport County who have retired from jobs, have lost friends and family members and have physical limitations that limit their ability to leave the home,” said Marty Sinnott, president and CEO.

“In order to maintain optimal health, elderly individuals must attend medical appointments, grocery shop and pick up prescriptions.  Furthermore, access to transportation encourages socialization and connections to the outside world, reducing loneliness while increasing feelings of self-worth,” he said.

The transportation options may include reimbursing volunteers for mileage when providing transportation to older adults and hiring someone with access to a van who may have the time and interest to serve as a driver for older adults in the area.

“The ability to travel within the community is essential for an older adult’s mental and physical well-being, yet transportation is one of the biggest challenges that older adults in Newport County are faced with. Our goal is to help older adults maintain their physical and mental health in order to remain in their homes and preserve their dignity and independence,” he said.

Among the other nonprofit organizations receiving grants are:

Baby Steps in Newport received $7,500 to support its monthly educational programs and enrichment activities for families with children ages birth to 36 months. These programs are based on professionally developed curriculum, promoted through community outreach and collaboration and supported by a cadre of volunteers. The goal is to promote the involvement of parents and children in the educational and enrichment programs.

“Baby Steps assists parents, with children under age three, in developing teaching and parenting skills that can enhance a child’s learning and social skills,” said Linda Finn who chairs the organization’s board. “Early development of learning and social skills can improve a child’s education experience during the crucial formative years of kindergarten through grade three. Baby Steps is a partnership with parents and children.”

The Best Buddies Newport County Friendship Project received $2,000 to support its Newport School Friendship Project for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IOD) at Salve Regina University and Rogers High School.

“Over the coming year, we will recruit, train and guide student leaders in running successful chapters on their campuses. At the beginning of the school year, student leaders will recruit high school and college peer buddies, to be matched in a mentoring friendship with a peer or an adult from the community with IDD,” said Matthew Netto, state director.

Clean Ocean Access in Middletown received $7,500 to support its Aquidneck Island Experiential Environmental Education initiative through classroom education, field work and student-led outreach

“We aim to educate, inspire, and empower the children of Aquidneck Island to become environmental stewards, via a hands-on problem-based initiative to develop student awareness, sensitivity, understanding of their affective relationship to the natural environment, and how to manage behavior and ecosystems to live sustainably,” said David McLaughlin, executive director.

Common Fence Music in Middletown received $10,000 for its Connecting the Beats program, which brings African and Afro-Caribbean drumming and dance to the youth of Newport County through collaborations with local youth organizations and schools, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County, the East Bay Met School in Newport; Rogers High, Thompson Middle and Pell Elementary schools in Newport, Melrose School in Jamestown, Gaudet Middle School in Middletown, Portsmouth Middle School and the Norman Bird Sanctuary’s summer camps.

“Connecting the Beats will begin its eighth season of participatory concert and workshop offerings for young people throughout Newport County. Our program offers musical training and cross-cultural education in a cooperative setting and is enthusiastically embraced by parents and teachers as well as the students themselves,” said Thomas Perrotti, the organization’s musical director.

The Common Fence Point Improvement Association received $5,000 to purchase movable partitions for the new Gallery at Common Fence Point, which is located in the Common Fence Community Center.

“This is a unique and moving art experience for the Portsmouth community and its neighbors. The partitions will enable us to create classrooms and double our art programming capacity,” said Conley Zani, chair and development director.

Day One in Middletown received $10,000 to support the provision of evaluation, advocacy and treatment services to child and adult victims of sexual violence and abuse. More than 250 Newport County residents are expected to be served through the programs.

“The assistance will help us provide critical advocacy and  treatment for sexual abuse victims, and expand prevention education to help end sexual violence in Newport County,” said Peg Langhammer, executive director.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport received $10,000 to expand the number of free health and wellness program it offers. The nonprofit expects to serve 2,800 people in Newport County.

“Many of our families represent the working poor. They are employed but not earning enough to keep up with rising housing, heating and food costs. Ensuring that low-income people have access to healthy food, nutrition education, and wellness classes can help reduce health risks such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Marilyn Warren, executive director.

FabNewport received $7,500 to train 10 volunteers from diverse backgrounds as lab coaches in order to expand the number of days each week the lab is open.

“It is essential for trained coaches to be available to assist students of all ages with the lab equipment and materials, and also to provide encouragement. This will lead to increased staff for the emerging maker space, fab labs, and after-school programs,” said Steve Heath, executive director.

The Jamestown Arts Center (JAC) received $4,000 to support the Heifetz on Tour Residency Program. Now in its fourth year, the program brings young, world-class classical musicians to Newport County and provides unique educational and artistic opportunities for residents.

“This will help us provide the necessary transportation, housing and stipends for the musicians and will allow us to continue this truly remarkable program,” said Lisa Utman Randall, executive director.

Lucy’s Hearth in Middletown received $10,000 to support residential counselor personnel for the on-site emergency shelter and transitional housing. Last year, the organization served  24 women and 43 children in its on-site emergency shelter and transitional housing program. An additional 12 women and their children were sheltered in the off-site transitional housing program.

“Children are particularly vulnerable to lasting effects due to homelessness. Thus, providing quality emergency shelter and trauma-focused support services for homeless Rhode Island children is critical in preventing adverse health, social, mental health and academic outcomes later in life,” said Jennifer Barrera, program director.

The Newport Community School received $10,000 to continue implementing its summer learning programs, including Grade Transition Programs. Offered after grades 5, 8 and 11, the initiative alleviates student anxiety, encourages grade readiness and provides initial academic preparedness for the new grade level and aids academic performance and extended learning summer programming.

“Our summer learning initiatives produce measurable gains in stemming summer learning loss, assisting students in attaining new skills or catching up to grade-level by working over the summer months and preparing them for important grade transitions between fifth grade and post-secondary education,” said Tracy Shea, executive director. “These initiatives are intended to not only boost students’ core literacy and numeracy skills, but also to ensure they have the tools they need to be academically successful as they move through school.”

The Newport Partnership for Families received $5,000 to support educational enrichment activities for Newport students during the summer vacation in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newport County and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

“During summer vacation, many students find themselves without access to mind stimulating activities and by end of the summer, many students perform, on average, one month behind from where they left off in the spring,” said Sharon Carter, director. “Reducing ‘summer slide’ by helping students maintain their literacy skills will enable them to begin the academic year ready to learn with equivalent or improved literacy skills.”

The Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown received $10,000 to expand its educational programing for Newport and Middletown 2nd- and 3rd-graders to Portsmouth and Tiverton.

“The grade-wide outreach programs at schools, combined with field trips to the Sanctuary, will provide a high-dosage learning experience with multiple hours of programming that allow for in-depth presentation of concepts, repetition of STEM themes and the introduction of new concepts that build on previous learning experiences. All programs are experiential and inquiry-based, engaging children with the natural world in fun, hands-on learning activities,” said Rachel Holbert, education director.

“Our primary goal is to instill a love of nature and appreciation for the fun and excitement that science and nature can provide, positioning children for more complex concepts as they begin a years-long process of formal science education,” she said.

The Rhode Island Mentoring Partnership received $10,000 to support mentoring activities for approximately 135 children in Newport and Middletown public schools.

“We’ll work to retain existing mentors, recruit new mentors to account for attrition, strengthen program practices through revised and additional mentor trainings, and build on our program assessment process. We believe we can maintain the number of children served through the program and ensure that each child experiences the quality mentoring relationship they need and deserve,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, president and CEO

The St. Vincent de Paul Society, St. Joseph’s Conference of Newport, received $7,500 to provide financial assistance to individuals and families facing emergencies including eviction, utility shut-offs, lack of home heating oil, need of prescription drugs and clothing.

“We receive referrals for financial assistance from Newport Housing Hotline, McKinney Homeless Shelter and Halfway House, Newport Mental Health, Newport Housing Authority, East Bay Community Action, Seamen’s Institute, Red Cross and the community at large,” said Richard Turcotte, treasurer of the St. Joseph’s Conference of the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Newport, which helped hundreds of households last year.

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. For more information, visit www.rifoundation.org.