The Westerly Comprehensive Plan currently under review identifies some select social service agencies and programs functioning in our town. The narrative section acknowledges the effectiveness of the Basic Needs Network in coordinating the efforts of these agencies. For 10 or more years it was my privilege to represent the Westerly-Pawcatuck Clergy Association at the Basic Needs Network Table. I had the opportunity firsthand to observe the effectiveness of this collaborative network. Appreciation is extended to the Rev. Ruth Shilling Hainsworth, Pastor of the United Congregational Church of Westerly UCC, who currently represents our local clergy group at the BNN table.
The Basic Needs Network meets monthly. Gathered around the table are representatives of Jonnycake Center of Westerly, Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Washington County Coalition for Children, WARM, Westerly Housing Authority, Wood River Health Services, and many more. Each representative is made aware of the services provided by sister agencies. Collaborative efforts often result in more effectively meeting the needs of individual clients.
Some of these agencies receive limited support from municipal budgets. Many are dependent on a variety of grant programs. All rely on the generosity of individual and family donors. There is a heavy dependence on volunteerism. Collectively hungry people are fed, those without homes are assisted in finding shelter, heating assistance is provided, health services may be made available, and many are provided with opportunities to develop job skills. As stated in the Westerly Comprehensive Plan, “This network of social service agencies and organizations continues to effectively meet the needs of Westerly residents.”
These agencies, whose outreach extends beyond our town borders, are dependent on your generosity to continue serving those in need. As you wrap up your holiday shopping I encourage you to make sure one or more of these agencies is on your list. Your gifts will help provide basic provisions for those in need.
As a longtime member of the WARM Board of Directors, I have had many opportunities to witness the value of a gift given. Together, let us keep the lights of love aglow.
Joyce B. Duerr