Funding for public renovations and development in Pawtuxet Village just got scarcer. That’s because, according to Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, the average household income in the area has risen to a level where the village is no longer eligible to receive federal Community Development Block Grants.
That’s where the Pawtuxet Village Foundation comes in.
The newly created foundation made up of four founders, including President Matthew Tsimikas and 13 board members, all of who are unpaid volunteers. The “founding fathers” are actually Tsimikas’ family of four, which includes his wife Katie, seven year-old son George, and four year-old daughter Victoria. He said this his two kids love walking through the village, are a big part of the reason he wants to revitalize the area and make it a little bit safer for people to enjoy.
Tsimikas said that the plan is to have 17 board members in total, so the remaining four slots are still up for grabs. While that’s being taken care of, the foundation is beginning its journey to provide Pawtuxet Village with the funds for a safer community and to revamp the Aspray Park and paint the Baptist Church.
Tsimikas just moved to East Greenwich in September, but still rents out his previous home, which is on the Warwick side of the village, and is also closing on a home in Gaspee Point next month.
He and Katie took the initiative to create this foundation because they made their lives in Pawtuxet Village, and they see how many community members enjoy what the area has to offer.
He said that the foundation’s first goal is to rebuild the playground in Aspray Park to make it safer and more enjoyable for children. This playground project won’t be easy or cheap, and with no city, state, or federal funds to help, he knows that it’ll take a great deal of fundraising to reach the goal of $177,200 for the coming year. If that goal seems very specific, that’s because it is. 1772 is the year of the Burning of the Gaspee, one of Pawtuxet Village’s historic claims to fame.
“We need to raise at least six digits before we can even do anything,” Tsimikas said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
That work began last Thursday before, with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung joining Avedisian as guest bartenders at O’Rourke’s Bar and Grill in the village. The foundation requested patrons to leave tips of $17.72 to begin their fundraising journey. The mayors helped raise $2,200, according to Tsimikas. He said both mayors have been supportive to the initiative, despite the fact that city dollars aren’t being budgeted.
The foundation isn’t looking for any major donations from business owners or other foundations around the state. Rather, they’re taking a “grassroots” approach to fundraising, Tsimikas said. He hopes to get people excited revitalizing what he calls a “jewel.”
The fundraising that is in place already includes donations on their website and a planned event in Aspray Park on July 3 with the band Those Guys playing, which will be called the Family Freedom Festival.
Another way to raise money is just by asking customers of the businesses in the village. For example, Tsimikas said, the waitress at O’Rourke’s may ask patrons if they want to make a donation on their bill.
Tsimikas is going to need all the funding he can get to reach his annual goal and fulfill the lofty vision for the village.
This vision first includes the playground, then a revitalization of Aspray Park, which will include fixing the boathouse up, opening site lines for water views from the park, and improving the landscaping, hardscaping and lighting of the park. He also hopes to raise funds to paint the Baptist Church in the village.
In addition to the renovation and revitalization of the public spaces in the village, the Foundation has a broader goal to create more parking in the village to reduce safety concerns. Tsimikas said one of their concrete goals is to raise money for a parking feasibility study that incorporates all the owners of properties in the village as well as both cities, to create more parking. One potential location he pointed out the lots behind Basta and Citizens Bank.
Tsimikas also said that the issues that Pawtuxet Village Foundation aim to tackle are major for the people in the community, but aren’t being addressed to because Cranston and Warwick face other priorities, and recreational projects under $250,000 are “last on the list.”
Donations can be made as soon as the website is up and running, which Tsimikas said should be next week. The URL is PV.foundation.
“This foundation will be around forever from here on out,” he said. “It’s really going to enrich open spaces…the list is endless for things that need to get done.”