Rhode Island’s Non-Profit of the Year 2013
Friday, January 03, 2014
In April, the United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI) announced it would be investing $3 million in Rhode Islanders. For the period starting July 2013 and going through June 2016, 28 organizations representing 36 Rhode Island cities and towns will receive funding to support programs in UWRI’s focus areas of Education, Income, and Housing and Homelessness.
According to UWRI's $3 million announcement, "Funding decisions were based on UWRI’s firsthand knowledge that when people have a safe, affordable place to live, a good education, and a higher-paying job, they can provide for themselves and their families."
"Throughout the 87-year history of United Way of Rhode Island, our work has helped to change thousands of lives across our state," wrote CEO Tony Maione in a letter to the community. "And, thanks to the unwavering commitment and generosity of the community, we achieved tremendous results during the past year," which included more than $12.6 million donated , more than 15,600 donors , more than 1,300 volunteers , and more than 9,500 hours donated.
Engaging Young Professionals
This fall, the United Way's Young Leaders Circle kicked off their 2013-2014 "Learn with Leaders" Series, embracing UWRI's campaign theme "Change can't happen without you." YLC highlights influential Rhode Islanders who have inspired change in the community and encourage others to be part of a change.
The goal of YLC, who has over 840 members from all over Rhode Island, is to engage RI young professionals in the work of United Way and develop the next generation of philanthropists. In the prior year, YLC hosted 4 volunteer events, 2 advocacy initiatives, 3 fundraisers, 4 professional development events, a four-part Speaker Series, and 3 networking events -- and members contributed over $65,000 to the United Way's Annual Campaign.
UWRI also fosters community engagement through its Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) which brings women together as a unique driving force to help close the gaps in early childhood literacy. Members volunteer in classrooms and community programs, organize book drives, advocate for important issues, and attend networking and special events.
In November, UWRI in conjunction with the Capital Good Fund launched its first "micro-branch" in Woonsocket, to help residents with a Payday Alternative Program.
"United Way and CGF began discussing this project last April. United Way and many other community based organizations were working at the legislature to lower the rate that payday lenders can charge from 260% APR to something more reasonable. One of the objections we heard was that there were no alternatives for people who needed short term loans," Maione told GoLocal.
Maione continued, "So we decided to work with CGF to bring their product to Woonsocket to see if people would use a better and cheaper alternative."
Between strengthening existing partnerships in the community, creating new ones, and supporting Rhode Islanders in need with the tools to succeed, United Way is GoLocal's nonprofit of the year for 2013.
14 To Watch in RI in 2014
One of the most exciting GoLocal up-and-comers to watch is only just starting to make her mark, as SlowFoodURI founder Neill is a URI senior in Kingston.
Named a Truman Scholar last spring—one of only 61 nationwide—Neill founded Slow Food URI "with a passion for food and great concern for the wellbeing of all things."
Co-owner of Midday Records and guitarist for Satellites Fall, Moore is making a major impact on the New England music scene. While he's been part of the Midday label since 2008, Moore has been taking it to another level, putting out a series compilation albums featuring some of the best bands in the area titled New England Indie Alt Rock, as well as a digital compilation with 80 bands titled Onefundboston.org: A Benefit For The Boston Marathon".
Brierley is a rising fashion designer who studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and resisted the lure of the Big Apple to open her flagship store in Newport.
"I just wanted to do something fresh," Brierley told GoLocal in July. "I love how much the community in Newport appreciates what we do and our windows. It is a rewarding connection to a community."
12 to Watch in 2012...Best Brunch in Providence in 2013...multiple nods for the James Beard Award...Farmstead's Matt Jennings is not one to rest on his laurels atop the always competitive Providence and RI culinary scenes.
With a loyal Twitter base nearing 10,000 followers, Jennings—known as "Providence's Pied Piper of Cheese" and "Prince of Pork"—continues to advance the culture and excellence that landed Providence atop Travel + Leisure's list for Food/Drink/Restaurants—the #1 city in the country—in 2012.
Providence-based biotech EpiVax, Inc., is an immunology company that has "developed comprehensive analytical capabilities in the field of computational immunology" and applies those tools to re-engineer therapeutic proteins and to design new vaccines. The company continues to forge ahead as a groundbreaking health science company in the state. Basically, as stated on their website, they "do it all."
Microfinance proponent and co-founder of the Capital Good Fund, Posner is working to be the "best best financial empowerment organization in America by providing high-quality, innovative and transformational financial services to underserved families."
In October, the National Consumer Law Center gave Rhode Island a "C" for debt protection laws for consumers in the state. Posner told GoLocal that "One of the biggest problems is that we are the only New England state that allows payday lenders to charge more than 36% APR. In fact, in RI they can charge up to 260% APR thanks to a special carve out in the general laws. These loans target the poor and trap them in a cycle of debt that leads to tremendous stress and a significant drain on their finances."
This Betaspring darling and Walker Williams brainchild is set to revolutionize the way that custom-designed tee-shirts are produced. The company allows customers to design a style, set a sales goal, and pre-order the product, cutting out the need for a middle man.
"No paying thousands of dollars upfront, no guessing how many shirts or what sizes you'll need, and no passing out t-shirts one by one and chasing people down for cash," writes Teespring on their website. And folks are taking note—Forbes contributor Alexander Taub wrote in January of Teepsring, "Is this Rhode Based startup the future of custom apparel?"
This consummate public relations professional struck out on her own in 2013 after years at RDW Group with Patti Doyle Communications, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Doyle's clients include Twin River Casino, which officially launched its table game offerings after a successful 2012 referendum. The gaming licensing process has been slow and deliberate in Massachusetts, which in 2011 approved legislation to allow up to 3 casinos and a slots parlor, promising stiff competition to Twin River once those are up and operational. Once the fight is on, watch for Doyle to be spearheading the communications strategy from Rhode Island's third-largest source of revenue.
A 2013 RI YWCA "Woman of Achievement," Cano-Morales is no stranger to accolades for her work in the community. The Central Falls native is the Director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University and is Chair of the Central Falls School District Board of Trustees.
Cano-Morales was no stranger to GoLocal's Hot or Not lists this year, earning multiple "hot" nods for her work, including LPI reports focusing on the state's latino workforce. And Cano-Morales is forward thinking when it comes to educational opportunities, and talked with GoLocal about the biggest challenges she saw facing Rhode Island.
Which way will the wind blow in 2014 for the Deepwater Wind project?
2013 saw Deepwater Wind win key leases in the first round of federal auctions in August for offshore wind projects, taking the bids at just over $3.8 million. In December, the state properties committee approved agreements to allow for an underwater transmission cable to go through Scarborough State Beach, to allow Deepwater to build a "demonstration" wind farm off of Block Island.
In 2012, the legalization of same-sex marriage was the top social and legal issue addressed and approved by the General Assembly. Will the full-scale legalization of marijuana be on the table in 2014? Expect to see State Rep. Edith Ajello front and center in the debate if so.
While medical marijuana and the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of it have moved through the General Assembly, the question is whether Rhode Island will follow Colorado and Washington's lead and pass full-scale legalization legislation.
Will he, or won't he?
One of the burning questions for 2014 is whether the former two-time Mayor of Providence will toss his hat in the ring for a third go at the office.
GoLocal posed the questions back in September, asking political experts and pundits their thoughts on the matter. Of the longest-serving Mayor of Providence, who was in office from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002, Darrell West of the Brookings Institute and formerly of Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy said, "There would be tremendous media and public interest if Cianci ran. It would turn this into a high-profile campaign. It is not clear what will be the deciding factor. It would be very different if Cianci is in the race or not."
In October, GoLocal broke that Clay Pell, grandson of six-term Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, was weighing a potential 2014 gubernatorial run in Rhode Island.
Pell, who's resume includes being a White House staffer and Coast Guard Reserve Officer, married Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan in a ceremony at First Unitarian Church in Providence in 2013, and was appointed by President Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education in April.
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