2008-04-17 / News

Women's center celebrates 'Men Who Make a Difference'

By Michaela Kennedy

"Someone once said it takes a village. It's true. It takes everybody contributing," islander Connie Slick said about coming to the aid of fellow community members. Slick is guiding efforts to support community needs as chairwoman of this year's annual fete, "Men Who Make a Difference," which raises money for the Women's Resource Center of Newport and Bristol Counties.

Lori DiPersio, executive director for the women's center, said that the event celebrates men of distinction who make a difference in Rhode Island communities and in the lives of women and children. The main fundraiser for the organization moves to a different venue every year and is hosted by the communities the center serves. This year, the black-tie event will be held at the Hotel Viking of Newport on Friday, April 25.

Jamestown volunteers like Slick and Tina McIntyre, who is president of the center's board of directors, agree that fundraising is more crucial than ever in these days of disappearing government funds. "The government isn't always going to be bailing everybody out," Slick said. "We need to have that compassion to help our neighbors who may be hurting."

DiPersio talked about the effects of budget cuts on programs offered through the resource center. Jamestown recently lost its designation as a rural area, so the town is not eligible to benefit from the rural outreach grant. "Because Jamestown and a few other communities we service are no longer considered rural, our funding got cut in half," she said. The uncertainty of funds places even more pressure on this year's signature event to be a success.

Almost 10 years ago the women's center, in collaboration with the Rhode Island Sexual Abuse and Trauma Resource Center, partnered with Jamestown to bring community-based support for victims and children of domestic violence and sexual assault, Di- Persio said. Since then, the community partnership team involved members of the school committee, police department, and Visiting Nurses Association, to name a few. Since the outreach effort started, calls for help from Jamestown residents have increased significantly.

The rural outreach that has buoyed awareness of domestic abuse within the community through counseling and education is one of the federally-funded programs hit by budget cuts. Mc- Intyre and DiPersio both agree, nevertheless, that Jamestown has always had a good volunteer program. "We are trying to expand our volunteer effort, especially at the board level," DiPersio says, mentioning that Stephen Farrelly, another island resident, also serves on the board.

Slick became involved with the volunteer group after she noticed an article in the Press asking for donations for the women's center. She started thinking about how blessed she felt that she never experienced the hardships that many in this and other local communities endure. "I thought, aren't I lucky that this has never touched my life," she said. Slick lost her husband three years ago, just before fulfilling their dream of moving their family here from East Greenwich. She followed through with their dream, and now lives on the island with her daughter. Despite her personal tragedy, Slick expresses thanks for the caring people she has met here. "I found such incredible support here in Jamestown. A lot of generous people on this island seem very receptive to donating what they can." Among the donations received in support of the fundraiser is a "beautiful still life painting" from local artist Lizzy Congdon, and a gift certifi- cate from Cathy Jamieson to her salon.

Slick shared an experience she had at work just the other day. She works part-time as a dental hygienist, and a female client opened up about some domestic problems she had at home. Slick told the woman about the volunteer work she does at the center, but was surprised to hear that the client did not know such help existed. Slick said she pointed out that help comes on many levels - educational, financial and more. "Even just having that conversation makes a difference," she said, adding that government funding cuts should not be taken as defeat. "There are a lot of good people out there who help."

The Women's Resource Center of Newport and Bristol Counties, one of the six member agencies of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, provides an array of services for women and men who are victims of domestic abuse.

More information can be found about the Women's Resource Center online at www.wrcnbc.org.

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