May 17, 2017 – Middletown, RI – Last Thursday, May 11th, 100 women and special guests gathered for the 3rd Annual Ellen Townsend Luncheon at Brix Restaurant at Newport Vineyards. Child & Family Board members, Jennifer Klemmer and Kimberly Pucci co-hosted this annual celebration of the impact that stemmed from Ms. Townsend’s initial act of generosity in 1866.
This year’s theme of “Lunch to Launch” was selected to bring awareness to the needs of older teens as they transition from group home care or foster care into adulthood and independent living at the age of 18. This is a critical life transition and with the proper resources and support, the likelihood for their fullest development and future success increases dramatically. As noted by Marty Sinnott, Child & Family President & CEO, “The number of youth in this category of “aging out” of the child welfare system in a small state like Rhode Island each year is about 200 – roughly the size of a high school graduating class.”
During the luncheon program, State Senator Lou DiPalma and State Representative Deborah Ruggiero we recognized for their support of Child & Family’s work on behalf of Rhode Island families, and especially for being the lead sponsors for current legislation to extend the age of care and support for Wards of the State from 18 to 21. Marty Sinnott presented each legislator with a plaque thanking them for “fulfilling the promise we make to children in care”.
Featured speaker, Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky, Program Manager for the New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors, shared her experience as a foster alum from the Ohio Child Welfare system. Kimberly Pucci said “[Grace was a]sincere, informative and witty speaker. [Her] truth has touched many women and has them thinking!”
Following Grace’s presentation, Jennifer & Kimberly introduced a paddle auction. A conservative estimate for funds needed to “launch” a young adult is $2,000. Flyers on each table listed common items of need, ranging from a month of rent or security deposit and a laptop computer at $1,000; a 3-credit course at community college at $500; a month of transportation for $250; a week of groceries for $100; and $50 to help with utility payments or to purchase an interview outfit. The goal was to raise enough to launch three young women. “We raised $14,300 and surpassed our goal!” Kimberly Pucci.
Thanks to the generous donations of event sponsors, all women at the complimentary luncheon were entered to win two raffles. Marc Tripari of Skydive Newport donated a jump, which was won by Marie Charles. Devotion Diamonds and Baxter’s Fine Jewelry donated a Forevermark diamond, with a laser inscription of the number 18 to acknowledge the significance of the life transition from foster or residential care to independent living. Congratulations to Jessica Phillips for being the lucky winner!
About Child & Family, and the Ellen Townsend Luncheon
In 1867 following the Civil War, Ellen Townsend persuaded her brother, Mr. Christopher Townsend, to donate their family home on the corner of School, Mary and High Streets along with $500 for repairs to be used as a home for orphaned children and children of destitute parents. Miss Townsend’s generosity and the generosity of other women in Newport who followed her lead to help provide a home and care for those children in need set the stage for over 150 years of community support for what is now Child & Family.
Now in its 151st year, Child & Family is the largest and most comprehensive social service provider in Newport County, and one of the largest in the State of Rhode Island. With state-of-the-art Community Centers in both Middletown and Providence, Child & Family strengthens the fabric of family by providing important services and programs to thousands of children, teens, families and elders each year through multiple services and evidence based programs.
About Grace Hilliard-Koshinsky (www.gracehilliardkoshinsky.com): Grace is a foster care alumna and adoptee from the Ohio child welfare system whose work explores the intersection between the fields of Art and Child Welfare. Grace is a metalsmith and sculptor who primarily works in steel. She earned her Masters of Fine Art (MFA) with a concentration in Metalsmithing from the Artisanry Department at UMASS Dartmouth. As a welding instructor at Stonybrook Fine Arts in Boston and Metalwerx in Waltham, Grace teaches a variety of clientele interested in working with metal. Grace is the Program Manager for the New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioners and Directors (NEACWCD). As a Program Manager for NEACWCD she manages three projects which include the Massachusetts Network of Foster Care Alumni (MassNFCA), the New England Youth Coalition, and the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) work for the state of MA. She has designed products such as MassNFCA Connect, which is a custom online platform for current and former foster youth in Massachusetts.