2015-05-28 / Front Page

‘Fifty and Fabulous’ East Bay Community Action Program

Reporting by Olga Enger and James Merolla


Making a difference one family at a time, the East Bay Community Action Program proudly serves thousands of Newport residents, young and old. Making a difference one family at a time, the East Bay Community Action Program proudly serves thousands of Newport residents, young and old. A local community action organization that is fighting the war on poverty turns 50 this year.

Located in Newport and East Providence, East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) provides an array of human services, including Head Start, health and dental services, family literacy, case management, food pantries, and senior services.

EBCAP President Dennis Roy said that while many milestones have shaped the organization into what it is today, a landmark period was in 2003, when two agencies, Self-Help Inc. in East Providence and New Visions for Newport, merged into one organization, forming EBCAP.

“The decision transformed the way the agencies conducted business,” remarked Roy. As a result of the merger, EBCAP received federal funding to grow the two health centers. “We were able to keep administrative costs lean but at the same time add depth to these services,” he recalled.


The high-energy play area at the EBCAP Head Start facility, near the CCRI campus, opened in 2005. (Photo by Jack Kelly) The high-energy play area at the EBCAP Head Start facility, near the CCRI campus, opened in 2005. (Photo by Jack Kelly) The larger, stronger organization never looked back.

With two locations in Newport, at 19 Broadway and in the North End on Chafee Boulevard, it is a force for good in the city, and serves an expanding client base. “I think what has changed the most is the people who come for our services. What you know as ‘welfare’ has changed. Many of our families are working families with two jobs, but not enough hours in either one.”

Programs have evolved to meet the need.

In 2005, EBCAP found shelter on the island for more than 200 residents of the Gulf Coast displaced by Hurricane Katrina. “From under a large tent on West Main Road in Middletown, from daylight to sunset, for weeks, the work of caring for the Katrina evacuees, took place - work that would continue for a year,” recalled Carolyn Pellegrino, retired EBCAP family development director. “I watched people who had never met or worked together form a bond that would never be forgotten.”

The following year, EBCAP partnered with the Ronald Mc- Donald House to provide mobile dental care to area residents.

In 2010, the organization secured a $3 million federal grant to develop a comprehensive family center at 19 Broadway. The Jean Hicks Center, which opened in 2013, was dedicated to the late executive director of New Visions for Newport County who led the charge to purchase the building. Last year, a $500,000 grant funded an expansion to the dental center, which included two additional operatories, a spacious waiting room, an oral surgery operatory, administrative space, consultation areas and a conference room.

The legacy continues, making a difference one family at a time.

An Even Start in Newport, a family literacy program begun in 1995, held graduation ceremonies at the North End site last week, honoring the most recent success of students in its GED and ESL programs.

Bunny Clochecy, who has worked with Head Start for 44 years, observed, “I have been able to see first-hand the effect that our services have had on the community we serve, and how it has changed the lives of so many people. Because I also live in our catchment area, I read about graduates’ achievements in the local newspapers, and I see them in the library, the supermarket and sometimes in our classrooms when they return to volunteer.”

Roy said a major recent achievement was the enrollment of patients into the Affordable Care Act, with over 3,000 EBCAP clients gaining health insurance. “At one point, 35 percent of the people we were serving did not have health insurance. That number has dropped to about 12 percent. They now have access to care and to specialists and hospital services and prescriptions they never had before. How were they going to get their diabetes medication? How were they going to get other care? All that has changed dramatically.”

Also in 2014, almost 4,000 households were provided with heating assistance, the pre-kindergarten program was funded for another year, and over $2 million was returned to taxpayers through volunteers in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. EBCAP’s Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Feeding Program (WIC) was the recipient of three awards for program excellence, and a new dining option was launched for individuals 60 years or older, through the East Bay Café Program.

“With our ongoing commitment to high quality services and our ‘family centered, one-stop shopping’ approach to serving our most vulnerable children and families, we are creating healthier, more responsive East Bay communities for people across the life span,” said Roy.

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