The holidays are challenging times for families experiencing hardship. The Jonnycake Center of Westerly is dedicated to making sure that families are able to gather around the dinner table to share a meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also believe no child should wake up to an empty Christmas tree on Christmas morning. To meet the holiday needs of families in the Westerly/Chariho (Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton) community which we serve, we offer both the Holiday Food Basket program, which provides a turkey and all the fixings for Thanksgiving and Christmas; and Adopt A Family special programs for the months of November and December.
The Adopt A Family Program provides Christmas presents for children who otherwise might not have a present to open on Christmas morning. Existing clients may sign up for the program and will be matched with a donor for the holidays. The client provides information about the family’s needs, including number of children in the household. The donor is asked to provide unwrapped gifts from the client’s Wish List. Both the adopter and the adopted are kept anonymous.
“The holiday baskets full of food and goodies have been amazing. The toys they so generously provide the children for the Christmas holidays have been so meaningful to my children and I,” said Giselle, a single mother of three. “I had no toys to give to my children … and with the help of the Jonnycake Center, the tree was full of amazing gifts for all three of my children. I cannot express the joy brought to my heart when my children received all those gifts. There’s nothing that fills my heart more than my children being happy,”
In 2016, generous donations from our community provided 312 Thanksgiving Food Baskets and 389 Christmas Food Baskets to local families. Through our Adopt A Family Program, 504 children received toys for Christmas.
The mission of the Jonnycake Center is to provide a continuum of services in cooperation with other agencies in the service area to assist people through crisis situations and work with each individual to find a path out of dependency toward self-sufficiency. Our motto is “Give a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.”
In keeping with this belief, our financial and housing assistance is integrated with programs that assist clients with setting goals and help clients learn valued employment skills. Through our Fresh Start program, case managers work with individuals and families in danger of falling into extreme poverty. Initial preventative steps might include food assistance and food budgeting counseling. Clients are then referred to the Westerly Regional Real Jobs Rhode Island Partnership where they receive four weeks of in-class training in Microsoft Office, resume writing, soft skills and job interviewing. Clients are then paired with local businesses and organizations to complete a two-week paid internship in order to practice and develop skills and gain an employment reference. Local Westerly businesses that have participated in the Real Jobs Rhode Island Partnership include Valenti Toyota, Tower Street School Community Center, Westerly Hospital, and Westerly Town Hall.
The impact of our services in aiding neighbors to sustain and advance out of crisis is evident. Giselle, whoc is also a Real Jobs Rhode Island graduate and Fresh Start client, said it all:
“If it weren’t for the Jonnycake Center, I don’t know where my children and I would be right now. Most likely homeless, hungry and desperate. The Jonnycake Center has given me a new reason to live, a new reason to push forward, and has brought back my confidence. I could never thank all the staff and the center enough for what they’ve done for me. I’m truly a new, better woman and mother because of them.”
As a non-profit organization, it would be impossible to provide all the services we do without the incredible support and donations of our community whose generosity makes our food pantry, emergency financial assistance, and education programs possible. Learn more about the Jonnycake of Westerly services and ways to donate at jonnycake.org.
The Jonnycake Center, a nonprofit, 501C3 organization, is located at 23 Industrial Drive, Westerly, R.I., 02891. In addition to social services, the agency also operates a popular thrift store, which is open seven days a week. You can see daily specials and new items on the store’s Facebook page; store hours are Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Denise Acker is the Marketing Coordinator for the Jonnycake Center.