Petition the RI Legislature: Pass Senate Bills 2368 and 2369 and House Bills 7841 and 7842 to fund the RI Center for Law and Public Policy |

I have been on the Board of the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy since its inception in 2008 and have watched as this organization has grown to have an amazing impact on the lives of Rhode Islanders in need of legal services, particularly the elderly, poor families, and small businesses.  I ask you to sign this petition to ask the legislature to put these bills to a vote, so that if there is sufficient public support, RICLAPP can be sustained.  Thank you, Kiersten Marek

Petition | Pass Senate Bills 2368 and 2369 and House Bills 7841 and 7842 to fund the RI Center for Law and Public Policy. |

Smart Charity

A woman who lives on a limited income and relies on food pantries to get through the month told me she likes a particular church, “they let you pick out what you need. I’m on a special diet and I can’t eat a lot of foods.”

I like the food pantry at First Unitarian. They group the cans and bags by type and let people pick a few from each group. It’s very practical to do it that way. A food pantry exists to feed people, not randomly dispense groceries.

Matt Yglesias in Money has a provocative post on why it is better to write a check, Can the Cans–Why Food Drives are a Terrible Idea

All across America, charitable organizations and the food industry have set up mechanisms through which emergency food providers can get their hands on surplus food for a nominal handling charge. Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that food providers can get what they need for “pennies on the dollar.” She estimates that they pay about 10 cents a pound for food that would cost you $2 per pound retail. You’d be doing dramatically more good, in basic dollars and cents terms, by eating that tuna yourself and forking over a check for half the price of a single can of Chicken of the Sea.

Plenty of cans get distributed and it’s all well meant and does some good, but if you’re really getting into a particular charity it makes sense to find out what they need the most.

Obituary for My Mother, Ann Marie (Nancy) Stoppleworth

Ann Marie (Nancy) Stoppleworth passed away on July 22, 2011 in Providence, RI. She was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 3, 1925, the oldest daughter of Mary and William Dwyer. Nancy was a graduate of Saint Francis Nursing School for her RN, Georgetown University for her Bachelors degree in Nursing, and The University of Connecticut for her Masters degree in Anthropology. She joined the convent twice as a young woman before choosing to live the secular life. She married Leland J. Stoppleworth on July 5, 1958, and was the mother of seven children.

Nancy led a successful career as a nurse and nursing administrator, serving as a nurse in many hospitals, visiting nursing services, and finally as the Chief of Nursing for the State of Connecticut Mental Health Services. Nancy was a devout lifelong Catholic who carried out the church’s mission of charity in myriad ways including serving the homeless in soup kitchens and shelters, caring for poor families in the community, participating in prayer groups and prayer lines for the sick, traveling to Haiti for charitable mission work, and establishing charitable annuities for medical and educational purposes with Maryknoll Sisters and Salesian missions.

In 2004, Nancy donated 55 acres of land to the town of Tolland, Connecticut in order to create the Stoppleworth Conservation area, a pristine and beautiful open space for all to enjoy. Nancy was a lifelong journal-writer, who left behind scores of honest and brave reflections on her many life dilemmas, successes, and concerns. She loved reading and knowledge, swimming in Bolton Lake, going to the beach, and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

She is survived by two sisters, Helen Stephenson and Lyn Jacoby, who reside in California, and six of her seven children: Laura Reave and husband Robert Reave of London, Ontario; Amalia Delorenzo of Guerneville, California; Anne Weber and husband Garry Weber of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Maria Dugan and husband Douglas Dugan of Brooklyn, New York; John Stoppleworth and wife Janice Kloo of Manchester, Connecticut; and Kiersten Marek and husband Kevin Marek of Cranston, Rhode Island. Her youngest child, Angela, died in childhood due to a muscular disease. She is also survived by grandchildren Melanie Reave; Seth Martel; Bryan, Paul, and Charles Weber; Elena, Avra, Isaiah and Patrick Dugan; and Katrina and Kalliana Marek.

Services for Nancy will take place at Church of the Ascension, 390 Pontiac Avenue, Cranston at 10 am on Wednesday, July 27, with reception to follow. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Maryknoll Sisters, P.O. Box 311, Maryknoll NY 10545.

Calling Hours will be from 6 – 8 PM at our home at 109 Waterman Avenue on Tuesday evening. Please send an email to me if you are planning to come.

New Roots Grant Opportunities for Non-Profits

New Roots Providence sent over a press release about some new grants available for non-profits in Rhode Island.

New Roots Providence Announces Funding Opportunity:

Organization to Provide Capacity Building Grants for Nonprofit Organizations Focused on Workforce Development or Access to Federal or State Benefits

Today, New Roots Providence announced the release of its 2011 Request for Proposals, for Capacity Building grants for organizations or collaborations carrying out Workforce Development or those helping, or preparing to help Rhode Islanders with Access to Federal or State Benefits. New Roots Providence provides grants, technical assistance, and training to Rhode Island nonprofits and community and faith-based organizations to help improve the quality of life for all Rhode Islanders. Information about the program is available at

New Roots Director Marti Rosenberg stated, “New Roots’ 2011 Grant Program is part of the Strengthening Communities Fund – a project funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars aimed at sparking economic recovery. Therefore, eligible Rhode Island nonprofits must have a meaningful workforce development program in existence now, and/or must be providing, or plan to provide Rhode Islanders with assistance in increasing their income or accessing federal benefits.”

These workforce development or access to benefits programs should focus on helping low-income individuals secure and retain employment, earn higher wages, obtain better-quality jobs, and gain greater access to state and Federal benefits or tax credits, including Recovery Act benefits. Examples of such programs are adult education institutions, workforce training organizations, or faith-based or community groups that assist people in applying for benefits like food stamps or RIte Care.

Rosenberg continued, “New Roots funds capacity building for non-profit organizations. That means that we help organizations become stronger in areas such as Leadership or Organization Development, Revenue Development, or Technology.” New Roots does not fund general operating or program costs.

Community organizations and faith-based organizations which have secular programs and which serve or work with people living anywhere in Rhode Island are encouraged to apply.

New Roots will be holding Information Sessions throughout January where organizations can learn more about the grant program’s other requirements. See the New Roots website for more information and for Information Sessions dates and locations (

This past year, New Roots provided funding for technical equipment for the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy (, and being that I am RICLAPP’s treasurer, I am particularly grateful for their assistance.

Donate to RICLAPP’s End-of-Year Fundraising Drive

I just donated to the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy. I am the treasurer of this organization and I challenge all of my friends to make a donation, because I know for a fact that RICLAPP is doing great work and contributing to a better community. Donate at

If you enjoy this site on a daily basis and want to do something that is good for the community, please make a donation. Thanks for your support!

The Incredible Lightness of Giving

It is easy to fall prey to cynicism and despair. Greed and cruelty—and their offspring, deprivation and suffering—abound. A glance at any newspaper or newscast makes their dark ubiquity clear. In such an environment, the simple act of getting out of bed in the morning becomes an act of faith and defiance.

Some acclimate to the darkness and turn inward, becoming disaffected and disconnected. Others shrug off the shadows and turn outward, striving to generate light and hope. It is not easy.

This past January, confronted with turning 50 years of age and feeling the weight of my unrealized ambitions and narrowing days, I succumbed for a time to despair. I retreated from the world—not for the first time. On an earlier occasion, I captured my dour mood in a poem:

The Pull of the Cave

It is happening again.
With mute apology,
the land drains of color and light,
the air sharpens its icy teeth,
the body slows.
I feel little now
but the pull of the cave
and the long sleep that awaits me.

Somewhere in the wild,
by a chill stream,
a bear pauses in its feeding
and feels it, too,
tugging at the rough thatch of its fur,
stirring in the thick timbers of its bones.
What hope or thought of resisting does it have
or, for that matter, do I?

On this more recent occasion, I resisted the pull of the cave. I clambered towards the light. What freed me from my self-imposed exile was an act of personal benevolence. On my 50th birthday, I visited my local food bank and distributed 50 dollars to 50 people in need. The experience was energizing and satisfying, moving and humbling. Simply by giving of myself, I cast away the gloom and managed to reconnect not only with those in my community but also with my own humanity. It was amazing.

Since then, I have been promoting benevolence at every opportunity. Last week, my friend Julie, who is also a social worker, donated $1,200 to Berkshire Hills Music Academy, which is “a private post-secondary school providing young adults who have learning or developmental disabilities the opportunity to live in a collegiate setting and acquire independent living skills while developing their musical potential.” In March, my friend’s son, Alex, turned 11 years old, and I helped him to celebrate by gathering signatures on a large birthday card. For every signature that he obtained (in his classroom, at my workplace, at local shopping venues), I donated a dollar to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. We dropped off a check for $105 the following week:

Alex visits the Food Bank and shows off his birthday card

Benevolence is an antidote to cynicism and despair. It presents a way out of the cave. Others are catching on to this idea, as reported yesterday by National Public Radio:

It’s a safe bet that the last thing you’d do after losing your job is give away money. Reed Sandridge was laid off last year as a director of a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. The 36-year-old came up with a pet project to keep him busy while he looked for work. He calls it the “Year of Giving.”

Every day, Sandridge walks up to a stranger and gives away $10. So far, he’s handed out close to $1,200. [link]

Reed Sandridge is documenting his efforts on a blog that is worth visiting. When asked why he has chosen to devote himself to a Year of Giving, he told NPR, “I really wanted to concentrate on doing something that would just give me an opportunity to interact with my community and maybe inspire others.” He seems to be doing just that and, no doubt, has been enriched immeasurably by the experience. I know just how he feels.