Mother-daughter team hopes to fill 15,000 backpacks for homeless this holiday season

Mother-daughter team hopes to fill 15,000 backpacks for homeless this holiday season

NORTH PROVIDENCE - A mother-daughter team from Smithfield is hoping to collect and fill 15,000 backpacks as part of their "Homeless Backpacks for R.I." plan to distribute snacks and basic supplies to local shelters throughout the state this holiday season.

Deborah Lisi, who is organizing the drive with her daughter Deana, said that there are approximately 15,000 homeless people in Rhode Island of which 7,000 are children.

Once the backpacks are filled, Lisi said they will be brought to Providence Rescue Mission, as well as other shelters throughout Rhode Island, including women's and children's shelters.

Lisi told The Valley Breeze & Observer that she and her family have been giving to the homeless for years, but this is the first time they've organized a drive on such a large scale.

"Every time at this year for the past couple of years, my daughter and I would feel so bad when the cold weather came," Lisi said. "We were sitting in the house, thinking about how many homeless (people), especially children, there are and said 'that's it, we're going to do something.'"

To start, Lisi said that she and her daughter contacted philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein who offered to have his Junior Scholars collect donations for the homeless from local elementary schools.

"(Feinstein) has been guiding us every step of the way," she said.

Lisi said that they also contacted the elementary schools in Smithfield and North Providence to do drives for backpacks and items for the homeless.

Joan Piccardi, principal of Centredale Elementary School in North Providence, has agreed to conduct a school drive.

"I am so touched," Lisi said. "We need 7,000 backpacks for children alone."

Mike Grieco and his family of Metro Motor Group have donated space at 85 Douglas Pike in Smithfield to serve as the office of "Homeless Backpacks for R.I." All donations can be dropped off at the back of the building.

"People have been very helpful," Lisi said. "I'm impressed."

Lisi said that with each backpack and supplies costing around $30, they're looking at $450,000 worth of items to donate.

"We need a miracle," she said. "We want to give every single homeless person (in the state) a backpack by Christmas."

As of Monday, several individuals and businesses have contributed to the drive, including North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, who has given 25 backpacks, Musician's Corner in North Providence, Lisi Construction, Shore's Fresh Food Market in North Providence who donated cases of granola bars and juice boxes, Keep It Clean of North Providence, Anthony of Andor's Furniture in North Providence, Savon Shoes of North Providence, The Last Resort in Smithfield, Beals and Sons, Inc., and DePetrillo's Pizza in Smithfield.

Lisi and her daughter are both local authors, and Lisi said that the sale of three of their books on Amazon - "Treasures of Wickedness," "Treasures in Heaven," and "Two Handmaidens of The Lord" - will be donated to the cause.

In addition to backpacks, many of the items needed include umbrellas, scarves, hats, gloves, socks, t-shirts, note pads, pens, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, wash cloths, hand towels, band-aids, combs, tissues, non-perishable snacks, blankets, and sleeping bags.

Donations must be in new and "clean-smelling" condition. New jackets, sweat suits, boots, and sneakers are also accepted. Snacks and drinks must not be expired.

Lisi added that they would love to include gift cards to Dunkin Donuts, Honey Dew, and Subway in the backpacks.

"With the help of loving hearts giving as they can, we can show the homeless that they are not forgotten," Lisi said.

In addition to Lisi and her daughter, Lisi's sons Dino and David and her sister Penney are on board to help fill the backpacks, but more volunteers are needed to help reach the goal of 15,000.

"It's a sacrifice for us, but it's so worth it when we see the happiness on someone's face," Lisi said.

Lisi said to call her before dropping off items at 401-270-1109, or Deana at 401-451-6657. The pair can also be reached at


Blankets, coats, warm socks, sure. But backpacks say only one thing:

Hit the road, Jack, and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.