3 RI Organizations Celebrate the Reason for the Season

RI Coat Exchange, Plates with Purpose, and Lasagna Love volunteers share ways to give back during the holidays

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No matter who you are, we want to help keep you warm,” says Becka Carroll, the digital outreach manager for Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange. This sums up the goals of their largest coat drive, which culminates with a distribution event the day after Thanksgiving on the State House lawn in Providence, but this message of no-strings-attached giving is echoed by several Rhode Island organizations ramping up their holiday campaigns this month.

“Whoever needs a coat is welcome to show up and take what they need, no questions asked,” Carroll continues. “Some folks who come to the event are unhoused and need help staying warm through the winter; others are families who simply can’t afford to buy coats for their kids or themselves.” For volunteers with RI Coat Exchange, the days leading up to Thanksgiving are spent transporting donated goods from all over the state via U-Hauls, and then the “sorting and organizing frenzy” begins.

Similarly, the “lasagna mamas” behind the North Kingstown chapter of Lasagna Love are taking time away from their own holiday cooking to spread warmth in their communities – but in the form of steaming aluminum trays filled with cheesy pasta.

“We make the lasagna, or a baked ziti if they prefer, and deliver it with love. There are meat lasagnas, veggie lasagnas, gluten-free, etc.,” says Kimberly St. Onge, who stumbled upon Lasagna Love during an insomnia-induced bout of midnight scrolling during early pandemic times and saw it as the perfect way to help those who were sick, stressed, or facing food insecurity. She teamed up with Amy Simmons and Katrina Delicato – and home cooks all over the state – to get the pasta train going.

“I think sometimes people think they shouldn’t ask for help if they don’t need it financially, but need comes in all different forms,” says Simmons. “We deliver to many families who are stressed from caring for sick or elderly family members, we have parents who are working late hours, we have individuals who live alone, who just really appreciate that someone is willing to cook for them.”

Another meal delivery service started during the pandemic, Plates with Purpose has served more than 2,000 meals to senior citizens, families with children, food pantry visitors, and those without permanent housing since December 2020.

The two founders, Jennifer Fantozzi and Jennifer Capracotta, share, “While the issue of food insecurity is complex and multi-layered, our model is fairly straightforward: we allocate donations to restaurants who, in turn, distribute meals to members of their communities that may be struggling to meet sufficient food needs.” Participating restaurants include The Neighbors Kitchen & Bar in North Providence, Thirsty Beaver Pub in Cranston, Iggy’s in Warwick, Gel’s Kitchen in West Warwick, and Blackie’s in Smithfield.

Plates with Purpose, and involved restaurants, will be helping with the 10th annual Thanksgiving meal event hosted by RI Dream Center and Praise Tabernacle, and on the horizon for December is a fundraiser for St. Mary’s Home for Children to help bring cheer to the youth residents and families with restaurant gift cards and grocery items.

None of these organizations could spread goodwill without help from the community. RI Coat Exchange’s call for donations is well underway for this year’s event, with collection sites across the state to drop off coats, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, sweatshirts, and sweaters – especially children’s sizes and XXL+, which can be more difficult to come by. Those interested in volunteering or setting up collection sites in their towns can email
ricoatdrive@gmail.com.

And whether you can use some Lasagna Love in your life, know someone who can, or want to help by donating, delivering, or cooking, you can reach out to the lasagna mamas on Facebook: Lasagna Love - North Kingstown RI or online at LasagnaLove.org.

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