Rhode Island Company will Feed 1,000

A free dinner for the less fortunate will take place on Dec. 17 at Rhode Island Convention Center. Here's how you can help.

The spirit of giving is alive and kicking here in Rhode Island. Everywhere I turn, I hear about people giving back. From adopting a family to giving to Toys for Tots and donating money to various organizations, there are many ways to help out this holiday season. Even if money is tight around the holidays, you can still donate your time.

One Rhode Island Company is going above and beyond this season to feed 1,000 Rhode Islanders who are less fortunate and in need of help. Priority Management Group, Inc., will hold a dinner for 1,000 people, no questions asked. The dinner will take place noon to 4 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 17 at Rhode Island Convention Center.

Rich Santilli, chief financial officer of PMG, said for five years around the holiday season, the company has practiced what they called Pay it Forward. Previously, each employee was given $300 to help someone less fortunate, and then they would all come back and share their stories. But this year, Santilli wanted to help people on an even grander scale.

“I said, this year, let’s feed a lot of people,” says Santilli.

He and partners Ray Jorgensen and Robert Skeffington put the wheels in motion. First, Rhode Island Convention Center donated the space. Then the center’s staff members agreed to volunteer their time to cook and serve a buffet-style meal. United Health donated backpacks, and CVS kicked in with supplies and toiletries to fill those backpacks. Project Undercover is supplying socks, and many warm winter coats have already been collected. RIPTA is providing free transportation to and from local homeless shelters. La Salle Bakery donated goods. Even the Rhode Island Department of Health will be on hand to administer free flu shots, which were also donated by Ocean State Adult Immunization Coalition.

“It’s become like a mini-expo of services,” Santilli says, adding that they helped get the word out by contacting the governor's and mayor's offices, local homeless shelters and Crossroads, and The Episcopal Diocese of RI and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

What’s also special about the dinner is that it will include a multitude of options at ten different stations. “People at shelters are used to getting whatever’s available, but we’re going to give them lots of choices,” says Santilli. “We also have linens for the tables, and linen napkins, and we’re going to serve soup and dessert right at the tables.”

“We have a lot of people who have really helped to pull it all together. Everyone has stepped up, and not one person said 'no,'” he adds. “Whatever you give back, you get back three times.”

Those interested in helping out, by volunteering or donating funds or supplies, can go on the website, www.feed1000.org, for more information.