Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 02-18-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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20 CUMBERLAND FEBRUARY 18-24, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION hopefully being pointed toward social service or counseling resources that can help them. The Valley Breeze reported last month that the town is seeking a $10,000 Certified Local Government grant to hire an architect to assess and determine options at the former Valley Falls Company store at 16 Mill St., which was once occupied by the Valley Falls Free Library and post office from the 1890s until about 1920. Portuguese immi- grants Seraphim C. Cardanha and Ezequiel A. Pires purchased the property and installed a grocery store on the first floor and living quarters above. Joaquim and Maria Amaral owned and operated the store from the early 1940s until 1988, and the town acquired it in 2007. The Breeze reported in November 2019 on Cumberland's Town Hall Historic District, including the old post office, being listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Mutter said he and staffers aren't just going on what they hear is happening, but they see tan- gible evidence of the struggles people are going through as they interact with the homeless citi- zens who stay around Town Hall. "People are struggling so much," said King. King and Mutter said they've been having numerous conversations about what it means to be a healthy community, and they believe that a vital component of that involves reaching out to the town's more vulnerable populations. King has done a great job developing relationships with various people in different areas of service, said Mutter, and the idea would be to partner with the organizations they represent on this effort. King said these initiatives, particularly around mental health efforts, are really important to her and the mayor, and as their discussions contin- ued, the ideas kept getting bigger and bigger. One of the questions that kept coming up is on "what actually makes a healthy community, what does that look like?" Overall health relates to one's environment, whether related to personal spaces or geographic location, she said, and it's become abundantly clear to them in talking with various service providers and other experts who are doing such great work that you can't address mental health unless you address the stressors people are under, which have worsened during COVID-19. Those stressors are related to housing, food insecurity, rising domestic violence, substance use disorders, veteran issues, etc., she said. They realized that if they wanted to tackle the issue of community health, they had to "take a good hard look at all the stuff that really plays into that," and these aren't the simple issues some make them out to be. Neither she nor Mutter are "anywhere near experts on any of these things," King said, but their realization that the town could leverage the good work already happening through non- profits and service providers morphed into the larger goal of doing it in a physical space, such as the empty one next to Town Hall. The hope, said King, is to staff the community center with people who are "experts in the vari- ous stressors that are impacting our community." How cool would it be, say she and Mutter, if the town could turn that building, which is so close to Town Hall and connected to public busing, into a space to make such a difference. Knowing that the town is still a good way off from actually bringing a community center online, said King, staff- ers are hoping to start a sort of pilot program, and are currently focused on housing it in a vacant home pur- chased as part of the Pascale property off Mendon Road, previ- ously purchased for a new highway garage. It may not be a per- fect location, she said, but "it serves a lot of the goals we're trying to meet," including maybe getting some- one a meal or hot shower. There were pre- COVID-19 conversa- tions with some of the town's potential partners on creating an ideal partnership, she said, but the pandemic for those partners brought the focus more to just trying to meet immediate needs. The idea is to reach back out to those people to see how they might use the Pascale space immediately to start address- ing needs, she said. "It's a really exciting first step," she said. This pilot effort isn't just about implementing the ideas they want or think people need help with, but they may realize that what people are looking for is not really what they thought and then readjust, King added. Perhaps they can't meet every need, she said, but they can con- nect people with someone who can and "do our darndest" to hear them and help them. King said it makes her really proud to have Cumberland leading this conversation on topics that aren't always easy to deal with. She said she realizes that it can't just be talk, but that if the town is going to tackle these difficult issues with something new, with nothing really to model it after, she's going to have to put herself out there a bit. It won't always be perfect, she said, but she sure is going to try. King said Chief of Emergency Medical Services John Pliakas is passionate about com- munity paramedicine and has indicated an inter- est in having an EMS paramedic be the commu- nity paramedic representative at the community center, conducting wellness screenings or run- ning blood pressure or cholesterol tests, among other offerings. Many times, said King, referring people to services or agencies can come across as preachy, such as declaring "what you need to do and this will make everything better," but the town would like to set a better standard of engag- ing and empowering. Many times people don't feel engaged enough in their community to say something or don't feel empowered enough to do something about it, she said, and while this service-based community center wouldn't solve all of their problems, it would create that designated space where they know they can get professional and compassionate service. Beyond making sure that every service is provided with compassion and professionalism, she said, the goal would be to ensure reaching the most vul- nerable people who need help the most. The eventual physical space will be fantastic, she said, but the mechanism for reaching those vulnerable people won't happen there. It will involve committed outreach to explain to them why they might want to "come to this place for X, Y and Z reasons." The Valley Breeze is committed to keeping quality news stories like this one free to our readers. You can be a huge part of this local journalism success story by making a one-time or monthly contribution to what we do every week at valleybreeze.com/support. Thank you as always for reading. COMMUNITY From Page One The dream for the old POST OFFICE, shown here next to Cumberland Town Hall, is to turn it into a community resource for residents. KING Commitment to Quality Dependable Trusted Accurate Inspirational 6 Blackstone Valley Place, Suite #204, Lincoln, Rhode Island 02865 Phone 401-334-9555 Fax 401-334-9994 Website valleybreeze.com Making our communities stronger by telling their stories. Please consider supporting The Valley Breeze today – Visit valleybreeze.com/support In our 25 years of existence, we've been all of this and more. From the beginning, we've believed that a hyper-local news model is what best serves our readers. The Breeze is free to our readers, and will remain free, but our hope is that those readers with the resources to invest in journalism where they live will choose to take a more active role in this local news success story, joining advertisers in helping to bring it to the people each and every week. Thank you to all who have donated! Your monthly or one-time contributions are greatly appreciated!

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