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RI Pride rises to the occasion

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I desperately wanted to help my city through this crisis, but I’m just one person, with no medical training- what could I do?


It was March 15th, and I left for a fortuitous trip to see an old friend on Cape Cod; I had planned on running my first half marathon the next day, but it got cancelled due to a strange illness called COVID-19.

I was among those who believed it was like an aggressive flu; then my work closed, my flight to see my grandma in Florida was cancelled, the businesses that make the city of Providence a vibrant New England community began to shutter, and the Italian mother I never had started to tell me to “knock it off.” It was more than just the flu.

I desperately wanted to help my city through this crisis, but I’m just one person, with no medical training- what could I do? The answer came from Rhode Island Pride.

RI Pride is best known for its annual parade, but in this crisis, the organization has stepped to the front lines of COVID-19 response. The group met the needs of the moment and organized a food drive with delivery: volunteers sort, pack, and drive donated goods to those who request them. On the first day, I drove 66 miles from Providence to the East Bay and back, bringing food supplies to families who were either quarantined, at-risk, or experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic. They were ecstatic to receive them, saying things like: I don’t know what I would have done without you.

RI Pride made the selfless decision to feed everyone in need, not just members of the LGBTQIA+ community; as of April 4th, RI Pride spent over $25,000 feeding 3,000 needy Rhode Islanders, and the numbers continue to climb. Importantly, RI Pride follows United Way safety protocols for volunteering during the pandemic, mandating frequent hand washing, social distancing, and the wearing of gloves and masks when handling donations.


Can we please ask a favor?

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I am deeply inspired by the volunteers that come together day after day to feed our neighbors. With the leadership of a small team of dedicated people, RI Pride has fed (and continues to feed) thousands. The group has proven that they can be called upon in times of crisis to be true community stewards: if a pandemic won’t stop them, I’m not sure what will. To make a donation, visit here. To volunteer, email info@prideri.com.

Bradly J VanDerStad is a Rhode Island resident and MPA candidate at Roger Williams University.