For the past seven years, the ‘Blue across Rhode Island’ day of community service has taken place, in which Blue Cross and Blue Shield partners with local non-profit organizations across the state and their employees choose to spend the day at one of 15 volunteer project sites. This year, three of those locations were in Cranston, and teams of volunteers provided hands-on support at each site.
At Cranston’s ‘Gotta Have Sole,’ volunteers helped assemble and package new, unused shoes for Rhode Island children in need. According to GHS’s Lori Lowinger, the volunteers got shoes, socks and cards ready for 710 children. Additionally, 193 pairs of sneakers were logged into the computer system, socks were added in for future orders, and an additional 200 cards were made for future use.
“We are passionate about making sure that everyone has what they need to live healthy lives in Rhode Island,” said GHS site project manager Nell Paye.
Volunteers who spent the day at the Hope Alzheimer’s Center worked on a number of projects, including producing a fall festival carnival-type event, and creating a Snoezelen room, which is a multi-sensory environment that is therapeutic for people with dementia. They also spent time visiting one-on-one with the clients who were spending the day at the center, and painting furniture. “Alzheimer’s runs in my family,” said volunteer Linda Ether. “When I saw this on the list, I didn’t even look at any other projects.”
Samantha Grasso has been volunteering with Blue across RI since its inaugural year in 2012 and she lost her grandfather to Alzheimer’s.
“It feels good to be part of a bigger picture,” she said.
At Stadium Elementary School, the volunteers spent the day working with Playworks New England to turn the outdoor blacktop area into a brightly colored playground that included game spaces for kickball, basketball, football, foursquare, and hopscotch.
In total, according to BCBSRI, the volunteer employee teams provided hands-on support totaling nearly 3,500 hours and each site received a $5,000 donation from BCBSRI to support their work. “Community service is firmly embedded in our company DNA,” said BCBSRI president and CEO Kim Keck in a statement. “Blue across Rhode Island offers a wonderful opportunity to maximize our impact in one concentrated day of volunteerism, completing projects that organizations would otherwise not be able to execute. It’s an honor to partner with these organizations. Our employees share their dedication to improving the lives of Rhode Islanders in communities across our state.”