Earlier this month, United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI) hosted its 91st Annual Celebration at the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, recognizing the 10th anniversary of 2-1-1 in Rhode Island and honoring community champions for their selfless contributions.
Launched locally in 2007, 2-1-1, a free informational and referral call center available 24-hours day in a variety of languages, has changed the way Rhode Islanders in need access help—even in times of natural disaster. Over the past decade, 2-1-1 has handled more than 1.6 million requests for help while expanding its capabilities to reach even more individuals and families needing assistance. From incorporating a real-time online chat function and ‘text to help’ feature, to becoming the only 2-1-1 in the nation to offer mobile services aboard its Outreach RV, 2-1-1 in Rhode Island has become among the top programs in the country for volume as a percentage of its state’s population.
“It’s amazing how three simple numbers transformed how our neighbors in need access help by directly connecting them with a person who cares about them and who completely understands the social services system,” said Anthony Maione, President and CEO, United Way of Rhode Island. “And when you add that up, it amounts to something that’s very special for our state and for everyone who lives here.”
RI Market Executive for Citizens Bank, Barbara Cottam, added, “Neighbor by neighbor, 2-1-1 is here to help all Rhode Islanders. Knowing that you can pick up the phone when times are tough and get help from a friendly voice when you need someone on your side is truly invaluable.”
Following the recognition of 2-1-1 in Rhode Island’s 10th anniversary, UWRI presented awards to community champions. The honorees and their respective awards are:
- 2017 Corporate Partnership Award: Citizens Bank
- Young Leader Spark! Award: Bennett Thompson, Medicare Inside Sales Rep, Marketing, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
- Dante Mollo Labor Award: Matthew Taibi, Secretary Treasurer and Principal Officer, Teamsters Local 251
- John H. Chafee Lifetime Service Award: Patricia Martinez, Executive Director, Family Supports and Student Development, Central Falls School District
- 2-1-1 10-Year Anniversary Award: Paula McFarland, Executive Director, RI Community Action Association
The recipient of the 2017 Corporate Partnership Award, Citizens Bank was recognized for its significant and longstanding financial investment to funding 2-1-1. Citizens’ generous philanthropy has not only been integral to the daily operations of 2-1-1, it has also helped to position the service as a go-to resource for the state and its residents during times of natural disaster, such as the historic floods of 2010 and Tropical Storm Irene.
The second award, the Young Leader Spark! Award, was given to a member of UWRI’s Young Leaders Circle (YLC) in recognition of their efforts to spark change in Rhode Island. This year’s award was presented to Bennett Thompson of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. A member of YLC since 2011, and instrumental in helping to grow membership to more than 1,500 strong—the largest young professionals group of its kind in the state—Bennett’s commitment to his community is unparalleled. Dedicated to being a positive influence in the lives of others, Bennett has been a longtime mentor to young men of color through his involvement with Year Up Providence.
Recognizing the strong partnership between the Labor community and UWRI, the Dante Mollo Labor Award was presented to Matthew Taibi of Teamsters Local 251. In supporting and advocating for his fellow union members, Matthew goes above and beyond their work-related needs, with everything he does focused on the family behind each individual member. In demonstrating his commitment to our larger community as a whole, Matthew recently coordinated the relief efforts of hundreds of Laborers to provide aid following the hurricane devastation in Houston and Florida.
The John H. Chafee Lifetime Service Award, presented by Zechariah Chafee, son of late Rhode Island Senator John H. Chafee, was awarded to Patricia Martinez. Among the many programs she initiated as director of the RI Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) earlier in her career, Patricia implemented Kinship Care, making it possible for children who need to be removed from their home to be placed with relatives. Today, as Executive Director of Family Supports and Student Development for the Central Falls School District, Patricia created the “Parent College,” which partners together the district, RI College and community agencies to provide evening adult education classes to parents while children are engaged in learning activities. She has also integrated the 2-1-1 Outreach RV into the district’s parent-teacher conference schedule to deliver social services information to families where they will already be, and implemented the availability of social services during before and after school hours.
The final award presented was the 2-1-1 10-Year Anniversary Award, honoring Paula McFarland, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Community Action Association. Epitomizing what United Way stands for and embracing the power of working together to strengthen communities, Paula has been pivotal in developing and growing 2-1-1’s partnerships with local Community Action Agencies. In the last year alone, the Ocean State’s Community Action Agencies provided services to more than 175,000 Rhode Islanders, with 75 percent of those helped having been referred to agencies by 2-1-1.