Around the Valley: Concert fundraiser, Long term care panel & $400K for tech


Livestream concert fundraiser

Mark your calendars for the chance to enjoy entertainment from the comfort of your home, while raising funds for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and RI Hospitality Association’s Employee Relief Fund.

A packed night of talented performers will take place on Thursday, April 30 from 7 to 9 p.m. on Facebook Live. Those performing include Tammy Laforest, Kelley Lennon and Heidi Nirk.

Laforest is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist born and raised in Rhode Island. In 2013, she was nominated as Best Female Vocalist and Breakthrough Act in the Limelight Music Awards. Her debut record, “Copper,” exposes her soul in a sonic representation of poetic perfection. From alternative pop, to retro rock, to haunting waltzes, her pure essence of natural talent and visual and aural beauty are displayed in her live performances. Tammy has performed in numerous types of venues throughout the United States as a soloist and with full alternative rock bands. Her current band is The Dust Ruffles.

Lennon, a Cumberland native, began singing in her church choir when she was just 7 years old. While in high school, she began formal training and by the time she entered Rhode Island College as a performance major, Kelley’s pastime had grown into a full-fledged passion. Pursuing music seemed the natural path to follow. Kelley’s musical passion lies with the timeless standards of the American songbook. Her influences include Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Celine Dion, Michael Buble and Eva Cassidy to name a few. She has sung the National Anthem to kick off many events, including Boston Red Sox and Celtics games.

Blues singer Nirk has an inimitable voice and style all of her own. She performs the blues with her band like she’s lived a few decades on the Delta, said former bandmate Tim Lindsey, of the Blue F.O.s. Heidi has been featured at Rhode Island hosted events such as the Woonsocket Autumnfest, the Stadium Theatre, Chan’s Egg Rolls & Jazz Series, the Union Station Blues Festival and the Newport Blues

Donations will be split between the two organizations.

Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), needs your assistance to ensure the agency can continue the critical work we do to help: restaurants and other small businesses and attractions with the marketing necessary to bring patrons through the doors; middle school teachers that want to use our RiverClassroom programs to educate students about the environment; and stakeholders that want to partner with the Council’s Keep Blackstone Valley Beautiful program to maintain and improve the communities in which we live, work and play.

The purpose of the RI Hospitality Employee Relief Fund is to provide food service, lodging, and tourism employees who have been laid off due to COVID-19 and are facing a financial hardship in supporting their families with food and shelter an opportunity to apply for financial assistance.

Make a donation via the BVTC website here.

Conference call on long term care

Join Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee and Maureen Maigret, co-chairs of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council in a conference call regarding long term care and related health issues on Wednesday, April 29 at 11 a.m.

The panelist will be as follows: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – Helen Mulligan; RIPIN – Emily Garthee & Deborah Masland; Community Provider Network of RI – Tina Spears; Office of Veterans Affairs – Director Kasim Yarn; NHPRI Integrity – Mark Cooper.

Question can be emailed to any time before, during, or after the call and all questions should be answered.

Dial in number: 1-866-880-0098

Code: 54933514#

Challenge raises $400K for tech

Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green has announced that a challenge issued by Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg has brought in more than $400,000 to provide computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to school communities with students and families in need.

The challenge attracted contributions from nearly 70 donors, with donations ranging from $25 to six-figure contributions from CVS Health and Brown University.

The technology supports RIDE’s move to Distance Learning on March 23, announced by Gov. Gina Raimondo in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Steinberg issued the challenge to the community on April 13, while announcing the Foundation would make a $100,000 donation to support RIDE’s Distance Learning initiative.

RIDE estimates that the more than $400,000 raised will fund the purchase of approximately 400 hotspots and 1,200 computers to close technology gaps for disadvantaged students and families.

At $150,000, CVS Health made the largest donation. The funding will enable the Woonsocket Education Department to purchase 750 Chromebook laptops for students in grades three through five. The assistance will round out the effort to ensure that every Pre-K through grade 12 student in the district has access to technology for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $100,000 donation from Brown University’s Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence is earmarked to support internet access for Providence students through the Cox Connect 2 Compete Program and the purchase of hotspots. The initiative is expected to provide access for 900 student households for the next year and serves a direct need identified by the Providence Public School District.

Statewide, the majority of students are able to access Distance Learning opportunities using technology provided by local education agencies. However, RIDE has identified pockets of need in some school communities, including families with multiple students or households without access to internet connectivity. The donations will be distributed to those school communities or used directly to purchase Chromebooks and hotspots.

All of the contributions were made to the Fund for Rhode Island Public Education at the Foundation, which was created to support initiatives that benefit the public education of Pre-K through grade 12 students in Rhode Island, including technology for virtual learning. The Fund will continue to accept charitable contributions in any amount at as long as the need continues.

Thurber named Granite’s artistic director

Northern Rhode Island’s own Michael Thurber of Chepachet has been named artistic director of the Granite Theatre in Westerly.

Thurber has diverse theatrical experience, and has graced the Granite stage with his portrayal in such roles as “Daddy Warbucks” in Annie; “Dr. Carrasco” in Man of La Mancha; “John Cristow” in The Hollow; and “Henry Higgins” in My Fair Lady, as well as numerous other shows including Moon Over Buffalo, One Man, Two Guv’nors, And Then There Were None, Mousetrap, Rumors and more.

He is the founder of the Theatre Company of Rhode Island, where his artistic endeavors have been celebrated for over 30 years. Thurber’s theatrical expertise and artistic expression is also showcased as an accomplished pianist.

“Not only has he offered his artistic interpretation to characters and directorial vision to numerous shows at various venues, he is a consummate advocate for Theatre and the Arts as Rhode Island’s State Representative for the American Association of Community Theaters,” the venue noted in a release on the appointment. “His life’s devotion to the performing arts and continued passion for it will translate beautifully as the Granite Theatre transitions into a new era.”

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