Cranston East seniors use prom money to donate food to assisted living center

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — High school seniors in Cranston hope a movement to give back to essential workers in the community catches on.

On Wednesday, the Cranston High School East Class of 2020 organized lunch and dinner to be delivered to staff at Scandinavian Communities, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center and assisted living community.

Senior class president Genesis Aldana tells Eyewitness News the class was able to fund the deliveries by using a portion of the senior prom budget.

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Governor Gina Raimondo has not announced if Rhode Island K-12 public students will finish the rest of the school year remotely. In a press conference for kids last week, Raimondo did note it would be very unlikely proms and graduations would go on as planned.

“So we said ‘Why not give back to our community?’ That’s what we’re gonna remember right now, that’s what’s important,” Aldana said.

Aldana says a part of the budget that would have paid for “all the glitz and glam,” like centerpieces instead went towards meals for Scandinavian’s 150 staff members.

“When we contacted them, they were completely caught by surprise,” Aldana said, noting that nursing staff nationwide are under immense pressure to keep some of the most vulnerable population healthy.

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Skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities have also not been allowed visitors since mid-March.

“These nurses are practically like their parents, and they’re the ones that are caring for them 24/7,” Aldana said.

Colette Silverman, Executive Director at Scandinavian Communities, called the donation a “lovely gesture,” and sent Eyewitness News a video thanking students from Cranston East.

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“These students were so thoughtful to think of us as my staff are really the ‘heroes’ here at Scandinavian Communities,” Silverman wrote in an email to Eyewitness News.

As a second wave of generosity, the senior class also patronized a local restaurant for the meals, noting that the restaurant industry has also been hit hard by the pandemic.

Tables of smoothies and meals from Tropical Smoothie Cafe lined the inside of the Cranston nursing home, with posters thanking Cranston East seniors for their kindness.

Aldana says she didn’t realize how much it would mean to staff when she set it up.

“Being able to talk to someone and see that just a simple lunch, a simple act of kindness is really gonna boost up their whole team because that’s the kind of hope that they need, so that really stood out to us,” Aldana said. “It was just something within us that we wanted to do, we weren’t really expecting anything in return.”

Aldana says if prom were to happen, even if not on June 3, it will be a more humble affair that serves as a reunion.

“The girls don’t have to dress up,” Aldana said. “It would kind of just be like, ‘Hey, we did it! After this whole thing, let’s just celebrate and have music and food, and let’s all enjoy.”

Aldana says she hopes giving back doesn’t end with Wednesday’s donation. She says the senior class is encouraging other classes to donate their profits to purchase meals for essential workers in the community.

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