News & Event
By: Philip Cozzolino
CHARLESTOWN - Habitat for Humanity has welcomed a new face as its executive director. Colin Penney took over the position on Oct. 30 after a nationwide search. Penney takes over the post from Lou Raymond, who is set to retire later this year after 15 years of service to the Charlestown non-profit organization, a branch of the nationwide non-profit which seeks to provide affordable, quality housing for all. In announcing the appointment, Val Henry, president of the South County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, was excited to welcome Habitat’s new leader. “We are extremely excited to welcome Colin to South County Habitat,” Henry said. “We look forward to his leadership as we work together continuing in our mission of providing affordable housing in our community.”Henry went on to say the search for a new executive director led South County Habitat on a nationwide exploration of candidates that included over 150 applicants. Of that pool, Penney was the organization’s top choice. Penney comes to South County Habitat with over 15 years of experience in non-profits and affordable housing, and has extensive experience working with Habitat for Humanity various chapters across the country, both as a volunteer and staff member. Most recently, he served as the program director for Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley in the Youngstown area of Ohio. Youngstown, Ohio is currently one of the most affordable places in the country to live – a stark contrast from the pricey real estate market of New England.
“Land [in northern Ohio] has very little value because there’s lots of it available,” Penney said when asked what would be different between the two locations. “Working in a community where oftentimes the land is just as valuable as the materials you’re putting onto it adds an additional challenge to affordability in the area. And as land values continue to increase as more and more people want to move to such a wonderful area, that lack of land and access to land is definitely going to be an ongoing challenge that Habitat will be facing.” Penney became dedicated to combatting homelessness while studying sociology and anthropology at Ohio Wesleyan University, working with the Columbus, Ohio homeless population and studying how city growth and new infrastructure had triggered a system in which low-income individuals were forced from their homes and into the streets. While working as Mahoning Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Program Director, Penney was directly responsible for all of the organizations volunteer recruitment and training and selection of homebuyers. Working directly with those preparing to become homeowners for the first time, Penney assisted with mortgages, loans and payment collection.
As executive director for South County Habitat, Penney will oversee all operations of the non-profit organization.
“A lot of my experience, particularly on the loan and mortgage side, is something we’re really looking to remodel with the new affiliate and take the affiliate in a new direction to try to simplify and bring a lot of that [work] in-house,” he said. “It will be a big benefit.”
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community,” Penney continued. “Habitat really is a community-based organization, we couldn’t do it without our hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and all the donations that are coming everywhere from the University of Rhode Island to local businesses to community members who want to take that time either swinging a hammer or open their wallets to make a donation. I’m really looking forward to integrating myself into that community, getting to know as many folks as I can and figure out what the biggest need is in affordable housing.”
When asked about those housing needs unique to South County and New England, Penney spoke to the effect short-term rentals have had on the local housing market.
“I think one of the really unique housing issues in South County is the kind of housing carousel,” he said. “Where there’s individuals who might not qualify for traditional home loans through a bank but are very stable financially and just aren’t quite ready for that next step, and as a result, they’re forced to rent. With the nine-month academic rental paired with the three-month summer rental, finding consistent, year-round housing is incredibly difficult and very expensive and adds a lot of stress to individual families.” Being a native New Englander originally from Vermont, Penney is excited to return to the northeast.
“I have been fortunate to build with so many Habitat affiliates across the country, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to return to New England and serve a community so close to where I was raised,” the new executive director said. “I have seen the impact Habitat has on the lives of its homeowners, the hearts of its volunteers, and the spirit of the local community it serves. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved as quickly as possible.”
Courtesy of The Narragansett Times
October 26, 2017 08:16PM
By Catherine Hewitt, Sun staff writer
CHARLESTOWN — South County Habitat for Humanity announced Friday that Colin Penney has been named executive director, effective Oct. 30. He will take over for Lou Raymond, who will retire later this year after 15 years of service.
Most recently Penney, 34, served as program director for Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley, in Struthers, Ohio, near Youngstown. He has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofits and affordable housing, and has worked with Habitat as a volunteer and staff member.
Penney got his start working on housing issues as a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he studied sociology and and anthropology. He worked with the homeless in Columbus, Ohio, and studied how city growth and new infrastructure had forced low-income people out of their homes.
Val Henry, president of the board of directors, said, “We are extremely excited to welcome Colin to South County Habitat and we look forward to his leadership as we work together continuing our mission of providing affordable housing in our community.” Henry said the board conducted a nationwide search that attracted more than 150 applicants.
Penney, a native of Vermont, said he was excited to return to the Northeast. “I have been fortunate to build with so many Habitat affiliates across the country, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to return to New England and serve a community so close to where I was raised,” he said. “I have seen the impact that Habitat has on the lives of its homeowners, the hearts of its volunteers, and the spirit of the local community it serves. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved as quickly as possible.” For more information go to www.southcountyhabitat.org.
NLIHC announced the honorees of the 2018 Housing Leadership Awards who will be recognized at NLIHC’s annual Leadership Awards Reception in Washington, DC on March 20, 2018. The honorees are U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME); Lisa Hasegawa, former executive director of the National Coalition for Asian and Pacific American Community Development and NLIHC board member; and Matthew Desmond, PhD, MacArthur Genius Awardee and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
Senator Collins will receive the 2018 Edward W. Brooke Housing Leadership Award for her years of leadership in Congress, unwavering commitment to addressing the needs of the lowest income people in the U.S., and steadfast support for federal affordable housing and homelessness programs. The Brooke Award is named for the late Senator Brooke (R-MA), who championed low income housing as a U.S. senator and as chairman of the NLIHC Board of Directors after he left the Senate. The Brooke award goes to an exemplary housing leader with a record of fighting for affordable housing on the national level.
Ms. Hasegawa will receive the 2018 Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award for her years of dedication to affordable housing on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The Dolbeare Award, named after NLIHC’s late founder who has been referred to as the “godmother” of the affordable housing movement, goes to an individual who has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to achieving safe, decent and affordable homes for low income people over a long period of time.
Dr. Desmond will receive the Sheila Crowley Housing Justice Award in 2018 for his groundbreaking work to elevate the need for affordable housing for the lowest income people in America. The Crowley Award, named for former NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley, goes to an outstanding leader who has elevated the conversation around affordable housing for those most in need.
Please make a Leadership Award Reception sponsorship donation honoring these outstanding leaders and supporting NLIHC’s mission of promoting socially just public policy to ensure the lowest income people in America have decent, affordable homes. To register for the 2018 Leadership Reception at which Ms. Collins, Ms. Hasegawa, and Dr. Desmond will be recognized, contact Christina Sin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsorship donations can be made at: http://bit.ly/2fSOtEH
Courtesy of The Westerly Sun
By Sean Flynn | Staff writer
Nov 24, 2017
NEWPORT — About 150 people from all walks of life with a range of experiences gathered Thursday afternoon at the Seamen’s Church Institute for a Thanksgiving dinner that is an annual celebration of community.
Hugo Wallgren of Newport, a retired chief financial officer, and Zolton Phillips of New Bedford, Massachusetts, a retired real estate developer, sat at one of the long tables in the main room and regaled guests with stories and jokes.
“We met in a nursing home in Plymouth (Massachusetts),” said Wallgren, who is a cancer survivor. “We are the only two who walked out of there at the time and have been friends ever since.”
“We’re both retired and the kids are gone,” he said.
“We can’t even chase women anymore,” Phillips said.
They both came to the dinner for the first time three years ago and vowed to make it an annual event.
“It’s awesome,” Wallgren said. “The food is good and all the people are so nice. It’s the cross-section of humanity here that makes it so different. It’s beautiful.”
“It makes my Thanksgiving,” Phillips said. “That’s for sure.”
When so many banks folded during the bank crisis in 1989-1991, Phillips had millions of dollars in mortgages held by banks that were taken over by the federal government, he said. He was given the choice of paying off all the mortgages, which he wasn’t able to do, or having the government repossess all the properties that had lost value in the recession at the time. The process left him owing huge amounts of money after bankruptcy.
“I accept it for what it is,” Phillips said. “I don’t complain about it. Everyone here is so close. People are family.”
“I used to think this dinner was for the homeless, but now I see it is for everyone,” said Arthur Marshall of Newport, a retired restoration contractor who once did work for the late billionaire Doris Duke. He was at the dinner for the first time.
Spouses split up, children go their own ways, and the Seamen’s Thanksgiving dinner is a way to reconnect with old friends, participants explained with different stories.
Marshall was talking to Tom Stolarz of Jamestown, who has been doing residential masonry work for 35 years and first met Marshall on a construction job in 1983.
“I’m single, have my own business and don’t have any family in the area,” Stolarz said. “It’s really nice to drive over the bridge, come here and socialize with people.”
Marshall said extended families sometimes get together these days in restaurants and have their Thanksgiving dinners there, pay up and then they all leave for their separate homes.
“I miss the way I was brought up, when my mother made a big Thanksgiving dinner and all your cousins, aunts and uncles were there,” Marshall said.
Katy Grovell of Newport is 91 years old and has been a guest at the dinner for many years.
“I come here once a year and really like it,” she said. “It’s a great place to get out and socialize, and just be thankful. I’m a vegetarian, but all the food I receive here is very good.”
Kim Comfort is the head chef who put this feast together with many other volunteers.
She did it with 10 large turkeys, 50 pounds of potatoes, 30 pounds of mushrooms, 15 pounds each of celery, onions and carrots, and 10 pounds of green beans.
“We started slicing and dicing early Tuesday night and then assembled everything on Wednesday,” Comfort said.
One of the volunteers came into the kitchen at 6:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to prepare the turkey stock, but the cooking really started at 8:30 a.m., Comfort said.
She has some deep roots in this tradition. Her family ran the former Music Hall Cafe across from Seamen’s Church Institute, in the building that later became the Rhode Island Quahog Co. restaurant and is now SpeakEasy Bar & Grill.
The Thanksgiving dinner tradition at Seamen’s Church Institute began in conjunction with the Music Hall Cafe, where the dinners were initially held, in 1995, Comfort said.
“My father, Lyn Comfort, started it with Patience Connerton,” she said. “At some point, the dinners came over here to the Seamen’s.”
Rebecca Northrup, the superintendent of Seamen’s Church Institute, said about 50 volunteers helped with some aspect of the dinner event, whether it was food preparation, setting up, cooking or serving the meals.
“We’ve noticed the number of guests going down each year,” she said. “About five years ago, we were seeing up to 300. Now, more community organizations offer Thanksgiving dinners and more Thanksgiving baskets are given out. It’s great.”
“What we offer that is so important is the sense of community at the dinner,” Northrup said. “People all talk to each other and there is a strong sense of belonging and good will.”
All the food is donated and cash donations pay for the use of china, silverware, linens and centerpieces, she said.
Besides the community tables in the main room, there were smaller tables set up in a room on the second floor.
Among the many volunteers on Thursday was Ruth Thumbtzen, a tireless volunteer for many organizations who taught for more than 40 years in Newport Public Schools and at Salve Regina University before retirement.
She was helping out with her two grandchildren who were here with family from Annapolis, Maryland: Eric Johnson, a senior at Virginia Tech, and his sister, Michaela Johnson, a freshman at Boston University.
“It’s a good feeling to make other people’s lives a little more tolerable,” she said. “Everyone here is having such a good time. I get more out of this than I give.”
Courtesy of The Newport Daily News
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The Welcome House of South County and Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale are partnering to make the holidays brighter for local residents who are struggling to make ends meet.
“Hunger and homelessness exist in every corner of the state, including South County,” said Allison Martinez, interim director of the Welcome House, a local organization for the homeless that operates a 17-bed shelter, emergency winter shelter, and transitional housing for individuals and families.
The two organizations are working together to make sure local children, seniors, and homeless adults have gifts and necessities this holiday season.
They have identified the following needs:
“Our community is extremely generous. This year, we are continuing to strengthen our partnerships with the local school departments, social service agencies, businesses and civic organizations, like George’s of Galilee and the Elks Lodge #1899, in order to meet the need,” said Kate Brewster, executive director of the Jonnycake Center.
By Joseph Fitzgerald / email@example.com
WOONSOCKET — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley were doing their part to answer that question Saturday at St. James Baptist Church on South Main Street, where more than 30 volunteers young and old kicked off a year-long service project repurposing old newspaper boxes into mini-food pantries called Blessing Boxes.
The concept is simple. The box is a miniature food pantry – receiving items from those who want to donate, and offering it to those who need them.
This small-scale charity movement is starting to take hold in neighborhoods across the country, including Woonsocket, where volunteers representing the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, St. James Baptist Church, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Americorps and Citizens Bank spent most of Saturday afternoon turning 11 newspaper boxes donated by The Call/Times into Blessing Boxes to be placed at local churches and businesses in Woonsocket to provide food and supplies to anyone in need.
Carol Wilson-Allen, secretary of the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, said committee members, along with Margaux Morisseau, director of community engagement at NeighborWorks, got the idea for the service project after seeing a news story about a similar effort in Texas.
“This is something people are doing all across the country and we thought it would be a great service project for this year’s MLK weekend celebration,” said Wilson-Allen, adding the boxes will ensure that homeless and other food insecure individuals have access to food at all times of the day, every day.
The project fits perfectly the theme of this year’s celebration – “What are you doing for others?” – which recognizes the need to come together as a community to support one another, and as a prelude to Monday’s MLK Day of Service, the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.
“This will help meet the needs of our community,” said Wilson-Allen. “The importance of serving others is what Dr. King’s message was all about.”
The basement cafeteria of St. James Baptist Church was a beehive of activity where volunteers scrubbed the boxes clean and painted them blue and green. Each box will look the same with a stenciled design depicting a maple tree and apples.
“The design stencils were made by Riverzedge Arts to convey the idea of a giving tree,” says Morriseau, who was able to recruit several folks from NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley – including Execuitve Director Joe Garlick – to volunteer on Saturday.
NWBRV is a non-profit community development corporation that works with residents, businesses, neighborhood institutions, partners, and communities to enrich neighborhood life and make affordable housing opportunities available throughout Northern Rhode Island.
“It’s a beautiful idea,” says Irene Davis, a NWBRV employee for 22 years and a Woonsocket resident for more than 30 years.
After the boxes are painted and dry, they will be stocked with bottles of water, granola bars, other ready-to-eat foods, toiletries and other needed supplies. Each of the re-purposed newspaper boxes will be “adopted” by local churches, businesses and social service organizations, whose congregations and staff will keep the boxes filled all year long.
Five of the 11 boxes have already been adopted by St. James Baptist Church, 30 South Main St.; Calvary Worship Center, 120 Prospect Street; Community Care Alliance, 800 Clinton St.; Riverzedge Arts, 196 2nd Avenue; and Lot-O-Laundry, 150 North Main St.
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee is recruiting other organizations, businesses and churches to adopt a Blessing Box and to help out with donations of ready-to-eat foods, drinks and toiletries. Donations can be dropped off at St. James Church, 30 South Main St.
“It is better to give than receive,” said Thomas Gray, a committee member and deacon at St. James Baptist Church. “This service project that is part of the MLK weekend this year gives us all a chance to give throughout the year. We hope the community comes out strong to support the Blessing Boxes that will ensure that no one in our city goes hungry.”
The Blessing Box project is part of the 17th annual Woonsocket MLK Celebration, which kicked off Friday with the Hinson Scholarship Dinner at the Millrace Event Space on South Main Street. Proceeds from the dinner will support two scholarships for high school seniors who have made strong contributions to the community.
The celebration continues today with an interfaith workshop service at 3 p.m. at St. James Baptist Church, and ends Monday with the annual Memorial Service at the MLK Sculpture Garden at the intersection of South Main Street and mason Street. A reception will follow at St. James Baptist Church.
“Our annual MLK weekend gives everyone a chance to be involved,” said committee member Emma Dandy. “It really shows the unity that is here in our community.”
There are also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events planned in Pawtucket and Central Falls on Monday, including:
- Letter from Birmingham City Jail: Mixed Magic Theatre, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Pawtucket. 2 p.m. Dramatic performance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 response to Southern religious leaders who objected to his nonviolent activism. Pay what you can. Light refreshments afterward.
- Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa and the City of Central Falls Martin Luther King Jr. Day event from 6-7 p.m. at Chikondi Café, 590 Dexter Street. The celebration will feature Ricardo Pitts-Wiley and the Mixed Magic Theatre with renditions of various MLK speeches. The Cafe, which opened less than a year ago, was named chikondi which means ‘love’ in African dialects.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7
Courtesy of Pawtucket Times
Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter!
Newsletter Sign Up
Newsletter Sign Up
One Empire Plaza, Ste. 327
Providence, RI 02903
HousingWorks RI is a proud partner of RI Alliance for Healthy Homes