Helping a neighbor in need is now easier than ever, and with 1 in 4 Rhode Islanders facing food insecurity, there’s never been a more crucial time to reach out for help.
Launched April 1st of this year, Be Kind RI seeks to bridge the gap between growing food insecurity, while encouraging more social engagement, happiness and volunteerism in Rhode Island. It’s able to easily connect people in need of a grocery pickup or food pantry delivery with neighbors willing to lend a hand. This makes it easier for more seniors, new parents, those with medical concerns, or those with transportation challenges to get the food they need. So far, the free program has signed up over 300 volunteers and received over 100 requests from community members to solve the problem of food access– one text at a time.
Elisabeth Woodhouse, the director of Little Compton Food Bank and a volunteer with Be Kind RI, knows well the obstacles confronting both community members facing food insecurity and food pantries seeking to distribute resources.
“Often what is the case with these food pantries is they’ve got so much; they’ve got plenty of food. And getting it to people who need it is fantastic,” Woodhouse said. “Something that we haven’t been able to do is do deliveries, or promise that we’ll drop it off to folks that can’t make it there. So, it’s wonderful that a volunteer managed by BE Kind RI can do that.”
Ease of use is one of the hallmarks of the program, both for the volunteers and the clients seeking food deliveries. With the help of the creators at Nesterly, volunteers receive a text notifying them a client has requested a food pick-up and delivery, including all the details needed. It makes it possible for anyone to volunteer where and when they are able, on their own terms. As the program grows, volunteers could continue to be matched with tasks such as book deliveries from local libraries, yard work or other simple errands.
In addition, while many volunteer programs require set hours, minimum participation or other firm commitments. Be Kind RI allows community members to help when they can and where they can, a great set up for shift nurse Annie Loerke, of Barrington, RI.
“Its super easy to do, flexible and really cuts through all the red tape,” she said.
The program’s flexibility makes it the perfect opportunity for professionals working from home, busy parents or college students to give back to other community members as often as they are able in a safe and impactful way.
Loerke adds “It feels awesome that you can make that human connection with somebody, see where they live, see their face, say hi to them.”
Other volunteers, like Zach Krase, were drawn to the program looking for a way to help more directly in his community. As the very first Be Kind RI volunteer, Krase saw firsthand the direct impact and potential this program could have on those around him. He reflected on clients ranging from large families to single older adults, all positively impacted by the program.
“It’s great to see how relieved people are when they receive the food,” Krase said. “I had one person that texted me ‘Thank you so much’ after I had texted them a picture of food on their doorstep.”
Recipients aren’t the only ones who benefit from Be Kind RI. Volunteers spoke about feeling happier in their own lives, appreciated, more involved with their community, and being positively impacted by the people they meet. In a time when physical contact has been limited and human connections are harder to make, every small impactful moment is a victory.
“It’s nice for people not to feel like their shouting out into the void.” Loerke says, “You demonstrated that you had this need and someone responded to it and there like right here at your front door.”
That’s exactly what Be Kind RI aims to do: answer the voices of community members in need with neighbors who are eager to lend a hand. Do you, a neighbor, friend, or relative in Rhode Island need assistance with food access? Visit www.BeKindRI.org to make a request for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, or call (877) 958-8785 for more information.
Want to be part of the kindness movement? Sign up to become a Be Kind RI volunteer in your area at www.BeKindRI.org.