Best of Rhode Island 2020

While the pandemic changed life as we knew it, we’ve still got a lot to celebrate. Check out this list of do-good Rhode Islanders with whom we are lucky to share this place we call home, plus the results of our annual readers’ poll.

The Best of Rhode Island issue is one of our readers’ favorites and we work on it for months. In a normal year, the editors travel around the state, checking out new things to do, places to eat and quirky attractions to include in our annual celebration of the best of the Ocean State. This COVID-19 summer, as we know, was anything but normal and we realized early on that with the statewide shutdown, we had to overhaul our approach. It was a necessary editorial pivot that turned out to be a gift; as the spring stretched into summer, we witnessed Rhode Islanders going to inspiring lengths to help our community. Those on the frontlines deserve much of our applause, of course. There are others as well who rose to meet this unprecedented challenge, using grit, smarts and generosity to keep their lives, their businesses and their neighbors afloat during the crisis. We’ve highlighted some here, albeit in a different kind of celebration from our usual one, but everyone who’s contributing reminds us of what’s best about living in little Rhody.

Edited by Sarah Francis. Contributors: Emma Bartlett, Theresa Brown, Jamie Coelho, Samantha Labrecque, Kaitlyn Murray, Casey Nilsson, Isabelle Paquette

Beyond Business As Usual

Initiatives that prove you can do well by doing good.

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Courtesy of Sons of Liberty Spirits and JAVA Skincare.

Sons of Liberty Spirits and Java Skincare
In response to the shortage of hand sanitizer in the midst of the pandemic, Sons of Liberty Spirits and JAVA Skincare were the first companies to team up to make 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer for the community. The free bottles were then distributed in a drive-through process. The companies are now also producing larger amounts of sanitizer for local businesses. 1425 Kingstown Rd., South Kingstown, 206-0436, solspirits.com; javaskincare.com

CVS Health
When schools statewide went virtual for the academic year, at-home education posed multiple challenges for families. The Woonsocket-based CVS Health helped close the technology gap by purchasing 750 Chromebook laptops for students to use. Kids from kindergarten through twelfth grade in the Woonsocket school district received access to computers and WiFi for remote learning. cvs.com

Haven Fitness
Haven Fitness in Cranston and its South County pop-up offered free virtual classes to health care workers and first responders for their hard work during COVID-19. This fitness boutique studio offered access to roughly twenty-five virtual classes per week. Haven Fitness supported the idea that everyone deserves a moment for self-care and they encouraged other studios to offer similar services for essential workers. havenfitness.com

Ocean State Job Lot
Ocean State Job Lot launched the Mask Fabric for Free campaign to supply customers with free fabric to create homemade face masks. “During this critically important time, it’s our responsibility as community partners to think outside of the box and provide as much assistance as we can,” says Paul Conforti, chief marketing officer of Ocean State Job Lot. The company has also donated surgical and N95 face masks to medical facilities.oceanstatejoblot.com

Blount Small Ship Advertures
Blount Small Ship Adventures transformed its two docked ships into temporary isolation housing for medical staff and first responders. The vessels were near the community in need and were operated by the ship’s crew who provided food, beverages and cleaning services for all aboard. blountsmallshipadventures.com

Kim Clark, Rhody Craft and Voz Perkins, Fishcakes
Kim Clark of Rhody Craft, a fun, colorful shop crammed with an eclectic mix of locally made arts and crafts, teamed up with local artist Voz Perkins of Fishcakes to create a Rhody Raccoon “Flatten the curve” T-shirt and mug. Both Clark and Perkins wanted to support their neighbors during the pandemic, so 20 percent of the proceeds went to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. 769 Hope St., Providence, 626-1833, rhodycraft.com; fishcakes.shop

Not Just Child’s Play

Using inspiration to entertain housebound kiddos.

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Photograph: Meghan Costic.

Epic Movie Cars
The collective, which includes reproductions of the Batmobile and the DeLorean Time Machine, normally revs its engine at festivals and holiday parades. But, during the stay-at-home order, they offered free drive-by birthday parades for fans. Epic Movie Cars pays homage to the good guys on the big screen, but they’re the real-life birthday heroes. epicmoviecars.com

Frank Picozzi, Picozzi Family Christmas Display
Flashy displays aren’t just for Christmas. Over thirty-four nights, Frank Picozzi and his family drove down every street in Warwick — that’s 800 miles! — in a pickup truck bedecked with twirling lights to cheer up neighbors during social distancing. Picozzi also trucked down to Providence for Good Night Lights, the light-flashing event for kids at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Elizabeth and Ben Lane, Lighthouse Park
This indoor skatepark and library aimed to be a beacon for Pawtucket families. But when the shutdown delayed the grand opening, the Lanes moved their lending library to the web for locals to peruse for free curbside pickup. Now that the indoor park is open, kids skate free in exchange for a half-hour of reading. 881 Main St., Pawtucket, 396-6643, lhsktpark.com

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