Julie Outar was in her office at Manpower when the front page of the Herald caught her eye. The headline, “CCAP cupboards are bare” took her by surprise, and she picked up the paper to read about the struggle to keep families fed through Cranston’s social service agency.
Outar knew she had to do something, and when she shared the news with colleague Gina Clapprood they sprung into action.
“I was really appalled and dismayed. I was stunned that there were that many families locally that were in need,” Outar said. “I said to Gina, maybe we can do a food drive to help them restock the food pantry.”
And that’s exactly what they’re doing. Thankfully for the staff at Manpower, they have a friendly relationship with their neighbors at 1375 Park Avenue. They went door to door telling neighboring business owners about the food shortage at Cranston’s Comprehensive Community Action Program, and without hesitation The Beauty Lounge at Magnolia, Yo-Mix and Body Complete Fitness signed on.
“We want to be part of the community, that’s the whole thing,” said Yo-Mix owner Cindy Cheng. “It’s the holiday season. I think everybody should help each other out in our community.”
Outar and Clapprood weren’t surprised in the least to see their neighbors pitch in and said the businesses have worked together on charitable events in the past, including the Light the Night event in Garden City to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
CCAP is experiencing tremendous demand at the same time that they have seen significant financial cuts, and feeding 500 to 600 families each month has become increasingly difficult. Joanne McGunagle, executive director of CCAP, said the support of local businesses is instrumental in providing for individuals and families that have fallen upon tough times. She was ecstatic to hear that Manpower was leading the charge to restock the pantry shelves.
“CCAP is thrilled with the response we received from the article in the Cranston Herald. The businesses at 1375 Park Avenue have done such an exceptional job of pulling together their resources and engaging their customers in this drive,” she said.
This cause, Outar said, is especially important because of its local connections.
“We really feel compelled to help, especially at this time of year. Sometimes you forget about the local entities – the local social service agencies that get swept under the rug,” she said.
Outar and Clapprood visited CCAP last week to see the food pantry for themselves and met with Scott Dodd, the administrative aide who oversees the program. Getting to see the facility first hand and learn more about CCAP services reaffirmed for them that the food drive was a worthwhile effort.
Manpower printed up flyers advertising their drive, which will run through Dec. 21, and Clapprood reached out to Steve Boyle at the Cranston Chamber of Commerce, who agreed to promote the drive through the Chamber newsletter.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can to get the word out there,” Clapprood said.
Donors can drop off non-perishable food items at any of the participating businesses at 1375 Park Ave. Both Body Complete and Magnolia have upped the ante, as well, taking the food drive one step further.
Body Complete is hosting a Zumbathon on Saturday, Dec. 22, and all participants are asked to bring as much food as possible, preferably a bag full of non-perishable items. The Zumbathon runs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and owner Donna Spinelli said participants are invited to come for that entire time or even just 15 minutes if that is all they can spare. Donations can be dropped off on the day of or in advance, at which time Spinelli will register you for the event.
“When I saw that picture with the empty shelves it was really touching, and I think it touched everyone here to help fill those shelves,” she said.
Spinelli hopes her members and regulars will bring family and friends, and the event is open to the public. She hopes to collect as many items as possible for CCAP.
“The more the merrier,” she said.
At The Beauty Lounge at Magnolia, every item donated will earn you a raffle ticket for a drawing for a free day of beauty. Magnolia’s menu of services includes facials, manicures, pedicures, massages, waxing, makeup application and the gamut of hair services. Co-owners Christine St. Hilaire and Angela Manzo wanted to offer something extra to motivate customers to donate.
“We figure it will be a good incentive for people,” St. Hilaire said. “The supply is so depleted, and we have hundreds of people that come in, so we hope to fill the shelves up very quickly.”
The people who will benefit from these efforts are coming right from the Cranston community.
“They are helping their neighbors and friends through their efforts to collect food for those in need. Once more, this is Cranston helping Cranston, and this city always comes together for its own. We are so thankful,” McGunagle said.
Helping people in their own backyard makes the donated services worthwhile, St. Hilaire said.
“When you hear it’s your own town, that there are people that are hungry in the city of Cranston, I think that’s what hit for us,” she said. “It was a no-brainer. I hope we fill that food box many times over.”
Many of the families served by CCAP considered themselves middle class not long ago and are utilizing services for the first time. Manpower sees many of those same people. As a workforce solutions company, Manpower works to help people find employment, and now more than ever many of those clients are coming to the agency for the first time, never before needing assistance in finding work.
“They’re coming upon hard times. I try to imagine how that would feel. That could be any one of us,” Outar said.
To support this CCAP food drive, bring donations of non-perishable food items to any of the participating businesses at 1375 Park Avenue, or contact CCAP directly at 467-9610. CCAP is located at 311 Doric Avenue in Cranston. For more information visit www.comcap.org.