2016-12-08 / Around Town

Giving Power – ‘What the Holiday is All About’

By Betsy Sherman Walker


On the tags are clothing sizes and toy items from the wish list; it is not necessary to purchase all the items. The purchase of even one or two items is greatly appreciated. Staff will match other items as closely as possible, according to Salvation Army’s Lt. Jina Bang. (Photo by Debbie Bailey) On the tags are clothing sizes and toy items from the wish list; it is not necessary to purchase all the items. The purchase of even one or two items is greatly appreciated. Staff will match other items as closely as possible, according to Salvation Army’s Lt. Jina Bang. (Photo by Debbie Bailey) No child should have to go to bed hungry. Ever. And on Christmas morning, only the Grinch would argue that any child should have to go without a gift.

As the second full week of December approaches, there are only about 15 shopping days remaining and the holiday countdown is upon us. Which – for the staff and volunteers at the island’s many food pantries and social service organizations – translates into something different than twinkling storefronts and Santas on the sidewalks. The organizations whose staff and volunteers work year-round to help feed and nourish the people and families they serve at this time of year are also incorporating gifts into their planning.


With the help of Angel Trees at Walmart and local banks, the Salvation Army will provide 400 children with three items of clothing and three toys this holiday season. Gifts will be distributed Dec. 21. With the help of Angel Trees at Walmart and local banks, the Salvation Army will provide 400 children with three items of clothing and three toys this holiday season. Gifts will be distributed Dec. 21. On Aquidneck Island there are nine “helping agencies” that coordinate the traditional surge of need – and surge of donations – during the month of December: Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County, Child & Family Services of Newport, East Bay Community Action Program, Lucy’s Hearth, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Salvation Army Newport, St. Vincent de Paul Newport and Portsmouth, and St. Anthony’s Church in Portsmouth. All offer varying assistance, and most also organize some version of providing extra Christmas cheer through gifts.

According to Alyson Novick, director of development at the MLK Center, these nine agencies work closely together to ensure that needs are met. “There’s a clearinghouse that operates among the social service agencies,” she explains.

For example, when a client signs up with the MLK Center, Novick says, “They sign a release giving their permission for us to talk to other helping agencies, simply to ensure we don’t duplicate services and that we best serve our clients.”

Jennifer Barrera explains the process a bit more. “Basically the nonprofits and the churches share names of families to avoid duplication. In the past, we literally met and looked at an Excel spreadsheet and passed it around. Now, we’re working more digitally and off one master list. And, of course, personal privacy is maintained.”

It is a time of heightened need in Newport County. Novick says they already have 400 children registered for Santa’s Workshop, a giving program that enables parents to come to the center, browse, and select three gifts per child, which are then wrapped. “We’ll keep registering families probably through the end of this week. We do everything we can to not turn anyone away. But, as quick math demonstrates, we’ll need close to 2,000 gifts.”

People wanting to donate gifts, clothing, the always appreciated cash, or those who would like to volunteer their time can contact any of these organizations listed.

Aquidneck Island Agencies Holiday Assistance

Boys & Girls Club of Newport County

Last year 200 club member kids received toys and about 10 families were given more assistance. What you can give: Gift cards best for teens or games for younger children, coat always welcome. 401-847-6927, x 115 (Lynn).

Child & Family

Childandfamilyri.org (Look for Holiday Giving Program button) Last year 160 Child & Family families were helped, including 457 children. What you can give: Unwrapped toys, gender neutral items for infants to teenagers, and elder clients (good hand lotions, scarves, puzzles), toiletries of all kinds, gift cards to TJMaxx or Walmart, cash always welcome. Volunteers needed: Dec. 15 and 16, call to schedule a time. 401-848-4210 (Landa Patterson).

East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP)

Families recommended by EBCAP advocates receive gifts and use of food pantry twice in December. What you can give: Holiday food and toys needed for Adopt-a-Family baskets. 401-847-7821, Angie x201.

Martin Luther King Jr. Center

More than 1,000 are expected to use the food pantry services and nearly 400 children will receive toys. What you can give: Holiday food, new toys for newborn to age 16, or gift cards. Volunteers needed: Elves of all kinds needed now until Santa’s Workshop on Dec. 19, call 401- 846-4828 x103 to sign up.

Lucy’s Hearth

Last year 38 families were given gifts through the Adopt-a-Family program. What you can give: Toys and gifts are still needed for a few families, monetary donations always welcome. 401-847-2021.

Salvation Army

So far, 420 children from 180 families have requested assistance from the Angel Tree –tag program. What you can give: Take a tag from a Walmart, People’s Credit Union all island branches, or Bank of America Angel Tree and return even one or two items requested. Volunteers needed: Dec. 13 and 14, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 401-846-3234, x 2.

St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Joseph’s Church, Newport

Soup kitchen clients assisted with food, emergency funds for electric bills, and gifts from the church’s Giving Tree. What you can give: Food for the holidays and ongoing food pantry always appreciated. 401-924-1161.

St. Vincent de Paul at St. Barnabas Church, Portsmouth

Assistance given to residents of Portsmouth. What you can give: Holiday food and toys needed for Adopt-a-Family baskets. 401-683-1343.

St. Anthony’s Bread at St. Anthony’s Church

Last year, 23 Portsmouth families were served. What you can give: Holiday food needed before Dec. 22. 401-683-0089

Toy Drives

Newport Police Department FOP Lodge 8 is currently accepting donations of new unused toys for its annual Christmas basket drive. Drop off toys at the Newport Police Station, 120 Broadway.

The Middletown Police Department is seeking new unwrapped gifts for its annual holiday toy drive, which will run until Dec. 18. The department will be working in conjunction with the Middletown School District and DCYF. Drop off items at the Middletown Police Department, 123 Valley Road.

Bridge to Fitness Toy Drive

Bridge to Fitness is helping with the MLK Center Santa’s Workshop. The athletic facility will be accepting new unwrapped toys and gifts for infants to teenagers at 951 Aquidneck Ave., Middletown.

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