South Providence Neighborhood Ministries can trace its beginnings to 1902, when Calvary Baptist Church opened its door for community shelter in response to a severe coal shortage.
In the 1960’s, the new Pastor Robison became involved in ecumenical efforts to serve the South Providence and Elmwood areas. By 1967 cooperation with the national American Baptist Convention led to a Neighborhood Missionary, Marvin Marsh, and in 1978 Calvary Church opened a food pantry. In 1979 Patricia Halsall began as Christian Education Director for the church and became Executive Director of South Providence Neighborhood Ministries after it became a separate 501 C3 non-profit entity. SPNM remains an official “Neighborhood Action Program” of American Baptist Churches USA.
In the 1980’s through Calvary’s Outreach Committee contributions of food, clothing and money along with volunteers came from the larger community. The Rev. Paul Schoonmaker led the transition from the Calvary Outreach Com. to the formation of the separate SOUTH PROVIDENCE NEIGHBORHOOD MINISTRIES. In 1985 Lois Deware completed a space study of the building and Grace Wilcox was hired as Coordinator of Direct Services. She served until 2009.
The first meeting of the Board of South Providence Neighborhood Ministries was held on January 28, 1987. Officers elected were Lois Deware, President; Lois Ryden, Secretary, and Miriam Morrison, Treasurer. The 1987-88 budget was $111,272. The 1988 church annual report showed an average of 30 families receiving food weekly and 35 families receiving clothing. The Board has continued to be an active, responsible, ecumenical group representing many churches, ethnic and cultural groups.
In August 1988 Becky Waugh became the 2nd director of SPNM and on October 27, 1988 SPNM was incorporated as a charitable, non-profit organization. By September 1989 the group moved to the renovated quarters downstairs at 747 Broad Street where it continues to operate in 2014.
In 1991 SPNM youth programs were named “Louie’s Place” in honor of Alan Shawn Feinstein’s father as Mr. Feinstein gave generous contributions upon its founding. Starting as a two afternoon program it has grown to become a DCYF licensed facility operating Monday through Friday after school during the year with full days during school vacation and for ten weeks during the summer except for legal holidays. Louie’s Place offers homework help, tutoring, life skills, leadership development, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and summer camperships. Outstanding coordinators of Louie’s Place have been Amy Schneider, Jen Ward, Amy Thomas and co-coordinators, Felicia Byrd and Albert Diaz. In 2015 Jeanette Rolon became Youth Program Director.
From 1993-2004 Wanda Michaelson served as Executive Director and with the vigorous support of the Board in fund raising expanded LOUIE’S PLACE for youth; continued DIRECT SERVICES, providing food, baby layettes and some financial assistance for housing and heating; ENGLISH as a Second Language, SEWING for Adults; and added the state supported HEALTH PROMOTION CENTER with Bobbi Houllihan as Coordinator who spearheaded the creation of the Broad Street Path to Health, fitness programs, health education, screenings and case advocacy.
Beginning in 2007 our present Executive Director, Yvette Kenner, an experienced executive who grew up in the neighborhood, has brought special expertise to SPNM. The overall budget has now reached $288,000. 4 Louie’s Place students graduated from high school in 2013, several graduates attend college and some serve as SPNM staff members, with several college graduates working in social work agencies and at the URI Talent Development Program. This year 7 teens are in our College & Career group with 14 in Leadership Training. We serve 600 hot meals to students each month. 97% of the children have improved their reading levels and 92% improved their math skills. 80-100 children participate in SPNM’s all day ten week summer camp. In Direct Services the food pantry is supervised by Doreen Fortes with the help of many, many volunteers including her husband, Joe, as a full time volunteer. 500 families receive food each week, 1700 people receive food monthly and 421,000 lbs. of food were distributed in 2013.
Our challenges remain strategic planning, fund raising and finding adequate and attractive space for expanded services under DCYF licensing requirements.
SPNM’s purpose continues to be to respond directly to the growing needs of the South Providence community. Toward that end, SPNM offers a variety of services aimed at meeting the needs of our community such as providing adequate and nutritional food for the hungry, financial assistance for families in need, and a positive and safe place for youth to learn, grow and prosper.
South Providence Neighborhood Ministries envisions a community where all people have the education and resources necessary to lead stable, healthy and prosperous lives. We also foresee a community where all young people have opportunities to learn, flourish and grow to their highest potential. SPNM works to make this vision a reality by providing vital resources to the community we serve.
We believe in our motto: “Bring Hope. Find Hope.” SPNM is a place that brings hope to our community and allows community members to find hope as well!
747 Broad Street, Providence, RI 02907-1601