It takes generosity to build a community

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Barbara Corcoran called Monday morning to report that residents of Sparrow’s Point 1 housing had collected toys for Warwick Police Toy Drive and officers would come later today to collect them.

Barbara didn’t need to convince me that the training success was good news that we had to cover. I told him I would get there before the toys were picked up. It was a plan, until Barbara gave me her cell number so she could let me in when I arrived.

Over the years, I believe I have been to every senior housing complex in town, whether owned and managed by the Warwick Housing Authority or by Section 8 housing owned and operated by private companies. It could be a chowder and clam cakes or pizza served by incumbent or aspiring elected officials, a 100th birthday party, St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day celebrations, or a member of the state congressional delegation was visiting. On these occasions, just about the entire population of these establishments would perform. I was expecting pretty much the same when I got to Sparrows and Barbara drove me to the community hall.

But I didn’t find any people, usually women, unless there was a good game of poker, sitting at tables drinking coffee, chatting in groups, and knitting.

The room was empty except for a long row of tables against a wall. New unwrapped toys, carefully displayed, filled the tables under the watchful eye of Sharon Martineau. She was the only tenant of Sparrows Point I present besides Barbara.

It seemed simple enough: place Barbara and Sharon in front of the impressive collection of toys, take the picture, get some details and go. First, I needed more light. Barbara turned them on. And then came the question of being in the picture. Barbara protested.

She said she just brought a toy. Barbara said the reader was Sharon’s idea. Sharon reluctantly accepted the photo.

But then, as stories can, it became so much more than a toy reader legend. It was a story of renewal, a story of coming together and a story of giving.

You see, if you don’t already know, becoming a tenant in one of these developments is no small feat. To qualify, renters must meet income criteria and face restrictions on what they can have in their apartments. Even when they meet all the requirements, the waiting lists are long and it can take years for a unit to become available.

All of this to say that tenants don’t have a lot of money and are grateful for the little things family and friends give them.

What prompts 150 tenants to dig in their pockets and find $ 20, $ 30 or more to buy a gift for a child they’ll never meet? Sharon offered answers when I hadn’t asked the question.

First there was the brown porcelain teapot Sharon was holding. She had placed a raffle ticket there for everyone who gave a gift. Two tickets would be drawn after police picked up the toys and the winners were reportedly given $ 50 gift certificates to Walmart.

“Sharon runs the store,” Barbara said.

Is there a store in Sparrows I?

“For the basics,” Sharon explained. “Ice cream is the biggest seller. ” I understood it.

Barbara suggested that Sharon show me the store so we took the elevator to the second floor. The store, no larger than a living unit, contained shelves of neatly arranged canned and boxed goods, a glass cooler with eggs, cheeses and other dairy products. Then there was the large floor-standing freezer filled with ice cream and a smaller standing unit with frozen dishes for something quick and when you were fed up with your own kitchen, Sharon explained. There are no products or fresh meats.

Sharon looks for bargains – it might be a few boxes of Oreos or Lady Fingers for half the price at Walmart or Aldi for example – and buys them for the store. There is a slight note. Cookies that sold for $ 4 in most stores were marked $ 2.38. Sharon knows the tenants and what they love, going out of her way to meet requests, but always looking for the best price. The small margin cleared goes to the store to cover the cost of maintaining and repairing storage equipment, gasoline for Sharon’s tours, and gift certificates. She and others who help volunteer their time. Barbara runs the store a few days a week.

As Barbara explained, Sharon came up with the idea of ​​collecting toys for police driving. She posted a notice in the store and goodies started appearing.

Sharon downplays her involvement and attributes the outpouring to the generosity of the tenants and seeking to come out of the gloom and anxiety of the pandemic and help a cause. Toys became that cause, and the store became the center of training. Donations were displayed on one of the displays and tenants could see the growing collection every time they stopped. Sharon was the leader.

She doesn’t think of herself in those terms. She wasn’t looking to get media attention, or for that matter wanted to be in the picture. Barbara called.

Something bigger was at work. Sharon played a key role. The store was essential, but it was a community coming together that made it possible. I see it in many places, whether it’s donating trees in banks and restaurants, adopting a family, or collecting food and clothing.

Warwick is fortunate to have people like Sharon and so many donors like the tenants of Sparrows Point I.


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