Lend a hand this Thanksgiving season

Lend a hand this Thanksgiving season

Bob Chaput, co-executive director of the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry, shows off the produce the pantry received last Thursday. The pantry is open the third Saturday of every month and interested volunteers can apply via the pantry’s website, www.nrifoodpantry.org. (Breeze photos by Melanie Thibeault)

CUMBERLAND – Thanksgiving is the time of year to reflect on everything we’re thankful for, and it’s also become a time when people give back to their communities.

Many towns, churches, and nonprofits are in the middle of collecting food items and assembling baskets and boxes for families who need extra help this season. Here’s a list of some local organizations that are hosting food drives and ways to lend a hand not only this holiday season but any time of year.

The Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry, at its new location on 1 Angell Road in Cumberland, is looking for help at all times, not just during the holiday season, Bob Chaput, co-executive director, told The Breeze.

The pantry is open every third Saturday of the month for people to pick up food. It serves the northern Rhode Island community, with the largest number of clients from Pawtucket and Woonsocket, Chaput said. “We don’t turn anybody away,” he said.

While the pantry has a regular core of volunteers, people interested in helping out can fill out a volunteer sign-up sheet on the nonprofit’s website, www.nrifoodpantry.org . Adults and children are welcome to sign up.

The pantry can always use food donations, Chaput said, especially peanut butter, tuna fish, maple syrup, and jelly, as well as financial donations. To find out how to donate, call 401-347-5714. People can also drop off food at the pantry and leave it in the hallway if no one is around; include a note with your name on it.

Ernie Connor, of Cumberland, who’s volunteered with the pantry for four years, said he does it to help people and make them feel comfortable and at home.

“It’s not always easy to ask for something,” he said.


• Laureen Grebien is hoping to help at least 750 city families in need this Thanksgiving with her ninth Holiday Basket Drive. “I try to take care of our community,” the mayor’s wife told The Breeze.

Baskets will be distributed the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and will include a 12-pound turkey, a box of fixings that includes corn, green beans, stuffing, a bag of potatoes, and a loaf of bread, as well as a blanket. A full basket costs about $60. People can sponsor one or multiple families, Grebien said.

If interested in volunteering or donating items, contact Herb Weiss, city economic and cultural affairs officer, at hweiss@pawtucketri.com or 401-728-0500, ext. 437.

The drive is all about “neighbors helping neighbors,” she said. “You don’t know really what’s going on in the house next door. … I love it that Pawtucket people come together to help other Pawtucket residents.”

• The Little Sisters of the Poor is hosting its annual Turkey Drop and is asking for donations of a frozen turkey through Saturday, Nov. 23. Turkeys can be dropped off at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, 964 Main St. in Pawtucket between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

For more information or to make special arrangements, call 401-723-4314.

While the Little Sisters don’t need volunteers for Thanksgiving, those interested in volunteering for future opportunities can contact the volunteer coordinator by calling 401-723-4314 or emailing pwvol@littlesistersofthepoor.org .

• Donations are also needed at the Blackstone Valley Emergency Food Center, 75 Benefit St. in Pawtucket. To help, call 401-724-7170 or email bvefc1@gmail.com .


Volunteers are needed to help assemble Cumberland Happy Baskets on Thursday, Nov. 21, starting at 6 p.m. at the Cumberland Senior Center. There are other volunteer opportunities on Nov. 25, Dec. 12, Dec. 14, and Dec. 16.

The Happy Baskets program, in its 28th year, distributes food baskets and toys during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and has distributed close to 15,000 baskets over the past 27 years. The team hopes to distribute more than 700 baskets this year in the Cumberland area.

Anyone who wants to volunteer by sorting donations, wrapping gifts and assembling baskets can call John Johnson at 401-487-1282 or email hbprogram@gmail.com .

For a complete schedule of activities, visit www.happybasketsri.com .

Donations, including fresh vegetables, canned or jarred gravy, dressing mix, canned goods of all kinds and bread and rolls, are welcome and can be dropped off at the Cumberland Senior Center, 1464 Diamond Hill Road. Financial donations are also accepted. Checks should be made payable to “The Happy Basket Program” and mailed to P.O. Box 7611, Cumberland, RI 02864.


• The town of Lincoln is conducting its annual food drive to benefit the town’s Holiday Basket program, which provides food to residents in need for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nonperishable food and canned goods can be dropped off in collection bins located at every public school, the Lincoln Public Library, Lincoln Senior Center and Town Hall. Thanksgiving Day pickup for baskets is Nov. 25, while Holiday Basket pickup is Dec. 20. Contact Peggy Weigner at 401-333-8431.

• The Genesis Project, a nonprofit agency that operates the Manville Food Pantry in Lincoln, is accepting new volunteers. To apply, call 401-757-0605. The organization works to help feed hungry families in Lincoln, Cumberland, Woonsocket and Central Falls, according to its website.

Founder Rodney Simonini said they accept food donations all the time.


• For the fourth year in a row, Missy’s Family Restaurant will host a free Thanksgiving dinner from noon to 5 p.m. at 801 Clinton St. While Tabitha Westerhuis, daughter of owner Judy Beauchemin, said they’re already full for restaurant volunteers, they’re still looking for volunteer drivers to help deliver meals to homebound individuals from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last year, the restaurant fed more than 600 people on Thanksgiving Day, including at least 315 meals delivered to homes.

“We like to see our children look at it and see the look on people’s faces about giving to others,” said Westerhuis. “The pay it forward type feeling.”

The restaurant is also accepting donated coats, scarves, hats and gloves to distribute on Thanksgiving Day and cash donations toward the purchase of food. Before hosting the meal at Missy’s, Beauchemin offered a free Thanksgiving meal at the former Zachary’s Food and Spirits on Main Street, making it the 14th year the family continues the tradition.

• Jeanne Michon, co-director of Woonsocket’s New Beginnings soup kitchen, said the kitchen won’t be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner this year; instead they will be helping out at Missy’s.

They will need volunteers for their Christmas dinner, she said, and those interested in helping can call the office at 401-356-4066.

“Although people need (help) every time of year, this is usually a time of family and kinship,” she said. “It’s nice to come together as a community” and show that people care.

North Providence 
and Providence

• Mayor Charles Lombardi and the North Providence Police Department are hosting a Thanksgiving Food Drive this year and could use help from volunteers on Nov. 23.

Lt. Michael Tavarozzi said he would be grateful for volunteers who can help at Stop & Shop, 1128 Mineral Spring Ave., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call Tavarozzi at 401-749-8180.

They will also be collecting food items, including canned goods and stuffing, until Nov. 25. Collection boxes are located at Town Hall, 2000 Smith St., the North Providence Police Department, 1835 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence Library, 1810 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence Pool and Fitness Center, 1810 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence Mancini Center, 2 Atlantic Blvd., Stop & Shop, 1128 Mineral Spring Ave., and Shaw’s, 15 Smithfield Road.

“Donations are greatly, greatly, greatly appreciated,” Tavarozzi said.

• The Providence Rescue Mission, 627 Cranston St. in Providence, a soup kitchen and homeless shelter, is looking for volunteers prior to Thanksgiving to help assemble boxes of food and on Thanksgiving Day. Call 401-274-8861 to sign up and visit www.providencerescuemission.org for more.


Karen Armstrong, director of the Smithfield Senior Center, said the center is always looking for donations of nonperishable food for its food pantry, as well as monetary donations for their heating assistance program.

Jeff Whitfield, left, and Bob Chaput, co-executive directors of the Northern Rhode Island Food Pantry, hold up donations from Stop & Shop last week at the pantry on Angell Road in Cumberland.