Community center offering food, hope to those affected by gas outage


NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — The basement of the Florence Gray Center on York Street in Newport has been turned into a makeshift cafeteria for people left in the lurch by the massive natural gas outage affecting thousands of homes on Aquidneck Island this week.

While crews work to restore gas service, Newport public schools are closed and the district’s food provider, Chartwells, is now offering breakfast and lunch at the center for the rest of this week for people impacted by the outage.

Amy Wittekind and her daughter Sophia said the food is a blessing because their home was becoming a place of dire straits.

“The heat started to deplete, and it was getting colder and colder,” Amy said Wednesday. “My water had been shut off, so I can’t even do any cooking or anything there.”

“When you come up in situations like this, it takes everyone – it takes a village! – and Newport is well known for being a city with great partnerships,” Newport Public Schools Superintendent Colleen Burns Jermain said.

Burns Jermain said St. George’s School and Salve Regina University are helping to host sports practices for student-athletes. Principals and teachers are also working to get assignments available online for students.

Aquidneck Island Gas Outage: Vital resources

Amy said she is looking forward to her daughter getting back on track with lessons.

“She’s already a little behind in reading. I don’t want her to lose anything,” she said. “We’re going to have to do a lot of practicing and working together this week.”

They’re also looking forward to going home. Amy said she waited about three hours in a line to get a hotel voucher. She’s grateful for somewhere warm to stay in the interim, but, “I’m hoping that we get our house back, and our warmth, so we can have our pets back reunited, and have our family again.”

Burns Jermain said the district will also work with the Rhode Island Department of Education once they know exactly how many days students will miss due to the outage. They’ll seek a waiver for some minimum school days, and think of other creative solutions to make up the time.

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