RI nonprofit helps 27K+ families put food on the table throughout pandemic

West Bay

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The founder of local nonprofit organization tells 12 News that they’ve helped a record number of families put food on the table since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last March.

Project Hand Up, created several years ago by Coreen St. Jean, is a food supplement program that offers a variety of products in exchange for a $6 donation.

Right now, the organization is offering a curb side, COVID-friendly service where residents can drive up and receive their groceries from volunteers.

“We serve everyone,” St. Jean said. “We serve all of Rhode Island and Massachusetts — if they want to come this far, which a lot do.”

Mindy Horan, the vice president of the organization, tells 12 News the food is mostly donated by local stores, which include Ocean State Job Lot, Whole Foods and Traders Joes.

“The $6 goes right back into the program, so a lot of people like that,” Horan said. “It’s almost like a ‘pay it forward’ type of thing because they know they are helping the next person.”

One year ago, St. Jean said they helped nearly 9,000 families through the program. Since the pandemic began, she said they’ve served 27,534.

When asked why she thinks a record number of families came to them for assistance, St. Jean believes it’s likely due to the significant number of people who lost their jobs.

Since people are gradually re-entering the workforce, St. Jean has noticed the demand for their services has slowed down, though it will never completely go away.

She said no matter what your situation is, no one should go hungry. That’s why they’re here to help.

“We even encourage people to come if they know of a family, because there are a lot of dignity issues too and if they happen to know a family, we encourage them to come,” St. Jean said. “It all goes back into the program, so we don’t care who comes. Everyone is helping each other.”

Anyone who wants to partake in the organization’s services are encouraged to visit their location on 15 Factory Street:

  • Residents with a last name that starts with A-K can shop on Tuesdays from 2:30-5 p.m.
  • Residents with a last name that starts with L-Z can shop on Thursdays from 2:30-5 p.m.
  • Residents ages 55 and older can shop on either day.

Any and all updates to the program are posted in the organization’s Facebook group.

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