Organizing Volunteers with The Mt Hope Community Center

Volunteers bag food for their neighbors

By Sherry Waldman and Ethan Gyles 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Providence in March 2020, Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune convened a call with local non-profit organizations including SNA, Mt. Hope Community Center (MHCC), Jewish Collaborative Services (JCS), and others to discuss how to prepare to help neighbors in need. SNA contributed by organizing a mutual aid list to match volunteers with need and administered it throughout the past year, as well as fundraised to offset the costs of food and goods purchased for folks who were experiencing financial hardship. Volunteer services included picking up medications and groceries for those who couldn’t leave their homes, or who were especially vulnerable to health complications. Over one hundred and fifty volunteers signed on. We also worked with Rep. Rebecca Kislak to run a check-in phone bank to call our elderly neighbors and make sure they were okay, as well as provide information about available resources. 

In addition to answering the dozens of individual requests for aid we received, tapping into the outpouring of community volunteers also helped SNA assist MHCC to deliver food bags to people who could not get out, as well as helped Higher Ground International’s Rukiya Center deliver hot meals to those in need. Volunteers were eager to assist and, on Wednesdays and Fridays, up to ten volunteers came to the MHCC offices to pick up groceries and bring them to primarily elderly and disabled community members. 

On Friday mornings, a few volunteers also help unload pallets from the RI Food Bank truck at the Camp Street Community Ministries (CSCM) across the street from MHCC, and then bag up the food for delivery. Each of the forty-three to sixty recipient households gets two to three bags of dried goods and fresh produce weekly. This has been a year-long effort of coordination between multiple community organizations and individuals –  an impressive feat of endurance! 

In addition, local business leaders Milena Pagan from Rebelle Artisan Bagels and Becca Brady from Hometown Poke & Cafe donated or offered at heavy discount a bounty of baked goods and fresh produce to the MHCC’s food pantry over the past few months. A big thanks to these businesses that continue to give more than delicious food to our neighborhood, and to all the community organizers and volunteers who jumped in to support their neighbors! 

SNA is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Helen Dukes, Eugene Monteiro, and Marcus Mitchell at MHCC, Jackie Watson at CSCM, Henrietta White-Holder of the Rukiya Center, Erin Minor at JCS, Rep. Kislak, Councilwoman LaFortune, and to help our neighbors! 

Contact Sherry at if you’d like to volunteer – the need goes on!

Observatory group meeting discusses concerns about neighborhood

The Observatory Neighborhood Association has held its second organizational meeting and discussed local concerns with members of the city administration as well as elected representatives.

According to minutes provided by Ruth Breindel, the meeting chair, the group convened at 7 p.m. Jan. 11 at the Rochambeau library branch and the main topics were parking hazards, breakins to cars and garages, water main leaks and dangerous sidewalk and road conditions. The group is working to develop a local association concerned with issues in the area from Rochambeau to Olney, and Hope Street to Elmgrove.

Present to respond to the raised issues were Sgt. Steven Courville of the police department, Adolfo Bailon and Kristen Dart of the mayor’s office, Councilman Kevin Jackson and Rep. Aaron Regunberg.

Courville told the meeting that if there are cars parked illegally overnight or too close to corners, resident should call police at 272-3121 to request ticketing, adding that special consideration can be given to overnight guests. He also stressed that residents should not leave anything in their cars, even in driveways, and be sure everything is locked. He reminded people that they are the eyes and ears of police and should call whenever something is suspicious.

Bailon, a staffer of the Center for City Services, said there are five people tasked with answering calls to 421-2489 and promised a city response to any problem with 7 to 10 days. He suggested calling that number to report the water leaks at Hope and Savoy plus Braman and Morris. Bailon also said he would talk with Waste Management, the trash collectors, to see if they would pick up leftover leaf bags with the Christmas trees.

As to pavement sinking at Hope and Cypress, yellow crossing mats in disrepair, catch basins and gutters clogged with leaves and crumbling sidewalks, Bailon gave the same answer – call and report the problems.

Jackson said there are two sources of funds for sidewalk maintenance – Community Development Block Grants, which are used in each ward, and the Department of Public Works, which are used city wide. He also urged constituents to contact him at 25 Dorrance St, Room 310, Providence 02903, call his office at 521-7477 or cell at 286-4223.

Other concerns were discarded mattresses, which cost $25 to be removed, and broken furniture, which Waste Management will remove three free per week per home if they are called by Friday for pickup the next week.

Residents were reminded that city ordinance requires that snow be removed from sidewalks to a width of three feet and by eight hours after the fall stops. ServeRI has a program to assist the elderly.

The meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.



Residents condemn racial, ethnic slurs

Racsim signsA house on Hope Streets displays the neighborhood’s revulsion.

On Oct. 15, several plastic bags weighted with rice and containing literature composed of racial and cultural slurs were found strewn on lawns and driveways on Methyl and Ogden Streets, Lorimer Avenue and Overhill Road.

The police and fire departments, the mayor’s office and the state police responded to the incident and law-enforcement officials said then and subsequently that they were investigating the dissemination of the offensive literature linked to national extremist groups, normally a constitutionally protected activity, to determine if it crossed the line into a violation of the state’s anti-hate crime statute.

After meeting with residents of the blocks targeted and discussing the situation, the Summit Neighborhood Association’s board of directors made this statement:

     The Summit Neighborhood Association condemns the attacks on the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of our community. Such cowardly and despicable action runs counter to the history of our neighborhood and to the values of inclusion that we cherish.

     The SNA commends the Providence Police, the mayor’s office and the State Police for investigating the incident as a possible criminal act and urges that such inquiry continue with the full force of appropriate law.

The neighborhood group remains open to further discussions and suggestions as to how the residents can demonstrate their revulsion of such activity. The SNA board meets the evening of the third Monday of each month at Summit Commons and the public is invited.


How to help cut crime in our neighborhood

Hello Neighbors

There will be a meeting on how to organize your block for those interested in serving as “Block Captains”

in order to improve security in the neighborhood.

Date: Monday, March 16th

Time: 6:00 p.m.- 7:00 p.m.

Location: The Miriam Hospital, Main Building, 3rd Floor Department of Medicine Conference Room

Questions:  Call The Neighborhood Hotline at (401)-793-4040

Resources and recommendations on how to organize a block watch will be provided.  This is not a meeting to discuss crime statistics, or to meet with Providence Police.  This meeting is  a “HOW TO” to organize neighbors to look out for one another.  Please attend if you want to actively participate in organizing your block or street for improved safety and security.

Feel free to call with questions at the number listed above.


Monica Anderson

SNA’s Rhode Island Gubernatorial Forum

On Wednesday, July 30, 2014 the six candidates from the two major parties vying for the opportunity to run for governor of Rhode Island came to Summit to ask for support.

On stage at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave., Republicans Ken Block and Allan Fung joined Democrats Todd Giroux, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras in a question-and-answer forum sponsored by the Summit Neighborhood Association and attended by about 135 residents, supporters and news-media members.

Video courtesy of Steve Ahlquist.

Aspirants to be governor come to Summit seeking support at second political forum

Candidates, from left, Ken Block, Allan Fung, Todd Giroux, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras appear at the second of two SNA-sponsored public forums.

See the video of the event by Steve Ahlquist…

On Wednesday, July 30, the six candidates from the two major parties vying for the opportunity to run for governor of Rhode Island came to Summit to ask for support.

On stage at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Ave., Republicans Ken Block and Allan Fung joined Democrats Todd Giroux, Clay Pell, Gina Raimondo and Angel Taveras in a question-and-answer forum sponsored by the Summit Neighborhood Association and attended by about 135 residents, supporters and news-media members.

Introduced by SNA President Dean Weinberg, board member and moderator Thomas Schmeling, assistant professor and chair of the political science department at Rhode Island College, posed a series of questions developed by SNA with input from residents and audience members. The forum, which came a week after one featuring Providence mayoral and District Four General Assembly hopefuls, began at 7 p.m. and lasted until about 9 p.m.

The candidates were allowed two-minute opening statements as well as two-minute closing statements. In the opening salvos, Block stressed his intention to change the way the state does business, Fung emphasized his financial stabilization as mayor of Cranston, Giroux noted his working-class origins, Pell cited his non-elected background and new ideas, Raimondo pointed to her problem-solving record as state treasurer and Taveras recalled his mobilization to stem a $110-million deficit in Providence.


SNA 2014 Candidate Forums

Summit Neighborhood Association is pleased to announce our 2014 Candidate Forums for the upcoming primary elections!

This election season we will be presenting two evenings of candidate forums featuring the following primary races:

Tuesday, July 22
Providence Mayoral & Rhode Island State Representative

Wednesday, July 30
Rhode Island Gubernatorial

Both evenings will be held at Summit Commons from 7pm to 9pm. Summit Commons is located at 99 Hillside Avenue in Providence.

Come a few minutes early for refreshments and elbow-bumping. We hope to begin the program at 7pm sharp.

Building on our tradition of presenting candidate forums from a uniquely Summit-centric perspective, we ask that you submit your questions that you would like answered at the forums. Please do this ahead of time by emailing questions to SNAProv AT (Please indicate which set of candidates you would like your question presented to – Gubernatorial, Mayoral or RI State Rep.)

This is an opportunity to hear these candidates in a small-group setting and to get answers to the issues that matter to you specifically. We hope that you will join us and participate in these events!

Parking-lot proposal for North Main Street resurfaces with few modifications

SNA board member Michael McGlynn reads a letter to the Plan Commission outlining objections to the development proposal as UniteHere members hold up signs protesting the parking lot.

The proposal to demolish the Sears building on North Main Street and replace it with a 300-space parking lot is scheduled to come before a city hearing again, but with few of the changes urged by neighborhood residents and the planning panel itself..

The Procaccianti Group, the Rhode Island developers acting for the LA Fitness chain of health clubs, has filed revised plans with the Providence City Plan Commission that show some modifications to the planned building and a few additional plantings, but the size and scope of parking lot remain the same. (The new plans are included below.)

The plan board will resume consideration of the proposal at the regularly scheduled public meeting beginning at 4:45 p.m. May 20 in the Department of Planning and Development’s first floor conference room at 444 Westminster St. A similar hearing is to be held at about the same time in Pawtucket.

At the April 22 public hearing in Providence, members of SNA joined with other concerned neighbors to urge changes in the proposal.

Testifying before the commission, 11 opponents of the application objected to the starkness and lack of environmental safeguards of the plan. SNA board of directors member Michael McGlynn read into the record a letter detailing the organization’s concerns. Some North Main Street merchants, supported by about a dozens members of Local 217 of the UniteHere! union displaying protest signs, also voiced objections.

The commissioners said the city “can do better from this developer” and voted to table the plan until the next meeting after having denied the applicant’s request to combine master and preliminary plan hearings, which would have moved the project along quickly.

The action puts off consideration of the proposal so “we can work together and figure this out,” the board said. The panel also requested an environmental-impact study and told the developer to come back with improvements to its parking-lot design.

At the beginning of the hearing, Andrew Teitz, the lawyer for the applicant, outlined the scope of the proposal, which includes a new building on the Pawtucket side of the city border and the parking lot on the Providence side. The new LA Fitness center structure would face the parking area, not North Main Street, and the only entrance would be from the lot. The building would have large windows looking out onto the street.

The plan calls for the new parking lot to meet just the minimum requirements of the Providence Master Plan, but with few plantings. The lawyer said storm-water runoff management would be better than exists now, but also meet only minimum requirements.

After the developer’s lawyer presented several witnesses who testified to the economic benefits of the proposal, the commission opened the floor to public comments

The first was in a letter from City Councilman Kevin Jackson, who represents the district and who said he supports development, but not in a form that violates the city’s Comprehensive Plan. He wrote that the current proposal doesn’t fit with the urban model of mass transit and needs more landscaping.

The first live witness, who identified himself as Bob Bacon, the owner of a restaurant across from the site, said the plan was the perfect proposal and that the area needed more parking.

Next was SNA Vice President Kerry Kohring, who said the organization supported development but had serious reservations about the proposal and deferred to the presentation of the letter from SNA.

The specific objections in the letter were read by McGlynn, citing problems with streetscape and layout, parking-lot size, landscaping and architecture. The complete text of the letter [PDF].

SNA board member Chris Bull said there was no vision in the plan and that it needed more than a bare minimum of environmental safeguards. Another board member, Grant Dulgarian, testified that the plan does not do justice to a vision of the city on a human scale and that more surface parking is not desirable. He pointed out that a parking deck already exists in the rear of the proposed building.

Several North Main Street business owners also criticized the plan. Peter Kammerer supported LA Fitness but called for a more imaginative proposal that would be interactive with pedestrians. Peter Gallant echoed the need for development along the street but said he had problems with the design and that it should be more pedestrian friendly.

Greg Gerritt, who called himself a friend of the Mosshasuck River, said the storm-water drainage plan was based on the size of the parking lot and was not friendly to the environment.

Jenna Karlin, the staff director of UniteHere! and a city resident, presented pictures of LA Fitness facilities elsewhere in the country that had better building designs for urban locations and did not have large surface parking lots.

Aaron Regunberg, a candidate for state representative from the district, urged the developers to “do it right” and said the current proposal isn’t the best possible design.

Plan Commission Chairwoman Christine West summed up that the board had a duty to the citizens of the area and that much of the current development proposal “works to the detriment of the City of Providence.” The panel then voted the continuance.

Peter Kammerer, of the Sandwich Hut on North Main Street, cites problems with the plan.

Neighbors, elected officials, candidates socialize at SNA’s annual meeting

Nearly 90 people gathered for social and political conversations on the evening of March 3 at the SNA annual meeting.

Held at The Highlands on the East Side, the event featured drinks and snacks with an opportunity for neighbors to socialize with neighbors plus their elected representatives and candidates for office.

House Speaker Gordon Fox, Sen. Gayle Goldin and City Councilman Kevin Jackson were all present as were mayoral candidates Lorne Adrain, Jorge Elorza, Daniel Harrop, Brett Smiley and Michael Solomon, plus gubernatorial hopeful Clay Pell and R.I. Senate candidate Chris Wall.  Representing the Providence Police were Capt. George Stamatakos and Lt. John Ryan.

Members of SNA plus other Summit residents were able to meet with the invited guests face to face to discuss state, neighborhood and individual issues. Many participants praised the rare chance for such personal exchanges.

After SNA President Dean Weinberg introduced Highlands Executive Director Valerie Houshar, who welcomed everyone, he presented a short summary of the organization’s achievements in the past year and a survey of projects for the coming year. Then board of directors member Tom Schmeling presided over the election of the 2014 governing body.

Approved by unanimous voice vote were Weinberg as president, Kerry Kohring as vice president, Anneliese Greenier as treasurer and Schmeling as secretary. New members Vishal Jain, Michael McGlynn, Lee Pichette and Sharon Waldman joined incumbents Jim Barfoot, Sierra Barter, Chris Bull, Joan Retsinas, Daren Bulley, Grant Dulgarian, Daniel MacLellan, Britt Page, Sheila Perlow, Mary Ann Rossoni and Peter Sandby-Thomas.

The rest of the evening was dedicated to one-on-one discussions and getting-to-know-you conversations while enjoying wine and beer provided by Campus Fine Wines, coffee by New Harvest Coffee Roasters, olive-oil tasting by Olive del Mondo, pizza by SNA and desserts from the Highlands own kitchen. There were also free massages by Harmony on Hope.

With the annual meeting concluded on a social note, SNA is planning more formal candidate presentations for future dates.

Councilman Kevin Jackson and a constituent discuss issues.

Mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop presents his case.

Summit residents sit with Senate candidate Chris Wall as mayoral hopeful Michael Solomon, right background, listens to ideas.