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Eight Crossroads Rhode Island clients recently participated in a Metalworking Program designed specifically for residents of Providence’s South Side who are living at, or below, the federal poverty line. The program, which was designed to teach participants employable skills and increase their eligibility for local jobs, was hosted by The Steel Yard in collaboration with Rhode Island Hospital and Lifespan Corporation.
Over the course of the intensive one-week program, participants spent 30 hours working closely with highly skilled and experienced instructors learning how to safely operate tools commonly used in metalworking. They practiced their new skills by working on functional public art pieces.
In addition to technical skills, participants had the opportunity to develop teamwork, communication, consistency, self-esteem, project management, problem-solving, and follow-through skills.
The mission of the Steel Yard is to serve low-income Rhode Islanders by providing access to training, education, and facilities to learn and practice the industrial arts. Partnering with Crossroads Rhode Island's Education and Employment Services team to identify potential participants for this program allowed the Steel Yard to offer their services to the Providence residents most in need, while the participants gained in-demand skills to help them secure employment and stable housing.
“It’s all very surreal” Michael said at his GED Certificate celebration party.
Michael came to Crossroads in the midst of acquiring his GED. Enrolled in a previous GED program that ran out of funding, Michael was only two tests away from completing his course. He was looking for an opportunity to finish what he started. That’s when he and his program manager contacted Crossroads. He was referred to the Learning Center at Crossroads in January and after working with our staff setting goals, putting together a plan, and studying hard, Michael achieved something he originally thought wasn’t possible.
Michael talked about his journey through Crossroads with other students in our education and employment services programs. Hoping to be an inspiration for them, he gave them tips that helped him get through the tougher moments of test preparation.
Michael achieved one of his goals and plans on continuing his education and going to school to work on small engine and motorcycle repair.
The Learning Center at Crossroads has a dedicated staff that works with students creating a personalized plan. Meeting one-on-one or in small group sessions, they commit at least 4 hours a week in working towards their identified learning goals.
Crossroads would not be able to continue offering these kinds of programs to the homeless and disconnected without the generosity of our donors and supporters in the Rhode Island community.
If you’d like to help make a difference in someone’s life, please donate now.
On Tuesday July 13, Performance Physical Therapy visited the community room at Crossroads Rhode Island to teach clients about the health benefits of stretching. This program was made possible by the Covidien Partnership for Neighborhood Wellness grant received by Crossroads in January of this year. Covidien is one of the world's leading providers of healthcare products. Covidien's Neighborhood Wellness program focuses on providing communities in need with the funding and expertise necessary to implement quality healthcare initiatives. Crossroads is currently utilizing the Covidien grant to provide clients with overall health and wellness education programs on a weekly basis.
The interactive stretching class led by Dr. Michelle Collie, president of Performance Physical Therapy, allowed clients to engage in interactive stretching techniques that utilized common items such as chairs and doorways to maximize the benefits of stretching. Aided by two of her staff members, Dr. Collie provided the 20-plus clients with worksheets and water bottles to keep motivation active once the program concluded. Clients expressed a great interest in Performance Physical Therapy returning for future programming as well as reported learning valuable techniques for stretching and better overall health. Dr. Collie explained her satisfaction with the wellness program by saying, “If you help one person feel a little bit better, it's worth it.”
Other recently held wellness programs have included a Nutrition 101 class and a derma screening and sun safety program led by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health & Wellness Institute. Under the guidance of health educator Jeff Rodrigues, the Wellness Institute has been conducting health programs at Crossroads for over 5 years. At the most recent blood pressure screening held on July 20, over 30 clients received a blood pressure screening. Clients also received information about the importance of screening for hypertension as well as the availability of free blood pressure screenings at local fire stations and many drugstores.
You can get more information at their websites: Performance Physical Therapy, Covidien, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Health & Wellness Institute.
Since late 2011, the Crossroads Family Center has sheltered a record number of families with small children. The Family Center has space for 15 families, but the demand for shelter has been so great in recent months that the staff has had to put cots and mattresses in the Center’s common area and computer study room to accommodate additional families.
At our downtown location, families have had to share our Family Room or sleep in conference rooms because no shelter could be found for them. Crossroads is working frantically to find additional shelter options for families, and the staff at the Family Center is doing everything possible to help parents and children cope with their situations. Homelessness is traumatic, especially for children, and the severe overcrowding at the Family Center presents additional challenges for everyone.
Chontell Washington, Crossroads’ Family Literacy Coordinator, tries to come up with creative approaches to brighten the lives of the families and help the children enjoy learning activities while they are with us.
“Last year, we had a grant from the Ronald MacDonald House Charities, and I was impressed by their mission to enhance children’s lives. That idea stuck, and I decided we could enhance the lives of the children in our shelter despite the difficulties we are having now,” says Chontell.
She looked through a catalog of arts and crafts supplies, and when she saw some materials that she could use to convert the common area into an impromptu theater, she ordered some paper “guitars” and a backdrop that depicted a curtain and stage lights. The guitars were a little too flimsy, though.
“I knew that Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island employees were coming to Crossroads for a volunteer day in April, so I brought my paper guitars and some materials I got from the recycling center to our downtown location and took advantage of some of the Blue Cross volunteers,” Chontell explained. “They cut out colored cardboard backing and glued them to the paper guitars to make them stronger.”
On one of the regularly scheduled Family Literacy days, Chontell took over the Family Center dining room and brought out all the materials so that parents could work with the children to decorate each guitar.
“It was a great learning experience for the kids,” Chontell says. “They learned about guitars, counted the number of strings and learned how each one makes a different sound. It was a good activity for hand and eye coordination, dexterity, and learning new words.”
When the guitars were all decorated, Chontell put up the stage backdrop, lowered the lights and started the music, which turned out to be a universal language for the multi-lingual group of children. One by one, kids volunteered to be rock stars.
One little boy called his song ‘4’ and happily sang the words, “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro,” rocking to the music, with all the other children joining in.
“The parents were so proud of their little rock stars,” Chontell says. “So many of the children in the shelter are suffering from the trauma of having lost their homes, and they don’t talk to anyone. But when we started rocking, they all began to join in the dancing and singing. It was a wonderful time for them, and parents were so happy to see their children doing something fun.”
After the concert, the children enjoyed healthy snacks and continued to sing and show off their very own guitar creations.
This effort, which brought so much joy to children enduring very hard times, shows how a small effort by community volunteers can make a huge difference in the lives of our clients.
“I am so happy that the Blue Cross volunteers will be able to see how their work making paper guitars turned into so many smiles and so much happiness,” Chontell says.
Crossroads is very proud of Chontell and her woquatrrk to bring a successful Family Literacy program to our Family Center. These kinds of programs are a rarity in a shelter setting, but they are a powerful way to help children create positive memories while they are with us.
If you would like to help dedicated staff members like Chontell continue to enrich the lives of homeless children and give their parents the essential support and services they need to move their families out of homelessness, please consider donating now.
With the opening of 5 new units at the Harold Lewis House and the release of the Aging and Homelessness Report, Crossroads Rhode Island has recently been featured in various news media outlets.
Providence Journal - "Crossroads Rhode Island: Homelessness among people 50 and over has increased sharply "
Providence Business News - "Crossroads sees homelessness rise among older Rhode Islanders"
RINPR - "A Growing Number of RI’s Homeless Population Is Elderly"
WPRI - "As Non-Profit opens new wing, more elders becoming homeless"
Providence, RI, April 17, 2015 – Crossroads Rhode Island Board of Directors’ chair, U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. today announced that the Board has named Karen A. Santilli as President and CEO of the state’s largest provider of services to the homeless. Ms. Santilli will succeed Anne Nolan, who will retire after 14 years of service. Ms.Santilli, 48, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, and a member of the Senior Management Team of Crossroads Rhode Island joined Crossroads in 2008 and brings more than 25 years of non-profit experience to her new role starting June 1, 2015.
Ms. Santilli has recently led the organization through a strategic planning process that confirmed organizational values and redefined the mission, establishing and implementing a housing first model geared toward housing people and ending homelessness. In addition, Ms. Santilli has led the Marketing & Development Team to raise $2.8 million annually through a multi-media mix including direct mail, special events, grants, web-based marketing, major donor development, Planned Giving and community outreach. Under her leadership, Ms. Santilli has doubled the active donor base over a 5 year period.
“As President of Crossroads my first priority will be to continue to build on the strong foundation that Anne Nolan has built as well as ensuring that the organization’s values continue to be the driving force behind everything we do,” said Santilli. “I’ve had the opportunity to spend the past eight years actively engaging with Crossroad’s Board, management team, front-line employees and clients,” said Santilli. “I am honored to have the opportunity to now lead the Crossroads team as we move forward to ending homelessness.”
Prior to joining Crossroads, Ms. Santilli was the Marketing Director at Plan USA (formerly Foster Parents Plan) where she provided leadership and direction to the organization’s operations, participated in strategic business planning and ensured sound financial planning, as well as implementation of new systems and procedures. In addition, she managed all aspects of sponsor and donor acquisition and development, and coordinated with international field staff to identify appropriate overseas development projects.
“After a nationwide search, and with a very strong pool of finalists, the Board unanimously and enthusiastically elected Karen Santilli,” said Judge McConnell, Crossroads Board Chairman. “Karen is an accomplished and outstanding leader, and a dedicated social service advocate who has successfully led the organization through a profound and multi-layer organizational change. She has been a key part of our success, and the Board believes that Karen has the vision and leadership to guide our organization as we continue to put housing first and end homelessness in Rhode Island,” said Judge McConnell.
“On behalf of the Board I sincerely thank Anne for her valuable contributions and outstanding service throughout her career at Crossroads. We will be indebted for her passionate leadership, dedication and service to thousands of homeless individuals and families, and for being the embodiment of Crossroads values – Safety, Respect and Effectiveness”, said Judge McConnell.
“I’m proud of the work that Karen has done, particularly during a difficult economy, and I’m optimistic that Karen will build on the Crossroads foundation to succeed in the future,” Anne Nolan said. “Karen has been a great addition to our organization and her marketing and business savvy, and strong leadership skills make her an excellent choice to lead Crossroads going forward. It’s been an honor to have led such a dedicated staff for more than 14 years. It’s tough to say goodbye to the Crossroads family and clients, but I am truly confident as I pass the reins over to Karen, that she will continue to move our agency and our mission forward.”
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