The Village Common Newsletter - May 2020
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Spring Blossoms Forth During COVID-19/Callery Pear Tree, photo by Phil West.
A Message from the Executive Director
By Jo Ellen Mistarz

Socially distant? Yes. Socially isolated? No!

Although we are unable to enjoy the many important in person social connections fostered by our “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” philosophy, members and volunteers of The Village Common of RI have rallied behind the new concept of a remote Virtual Village. In Barrington, new Villagers are recruiting and training volunteers with the help of Liza Sutton, who is using Zoom to conduct online volunteer training. In Burrillville, where a pilot transportation program launched in 2020, volunteer drivers are providing essential trips as well as socially distant assistance with errands. In Providence, members and volunteers are connecting through good old-fashioned “CareCall” phone visits, as well as selected personal services such as help with errands and rides for essential appointments.

One important new offering of the Virtual Village is a series of online social and educational activities accessible on the internet or through a phone call. The first event, a coffee gathering with Board President Suzanne Francis, attracted Barrington, Burrillville, and Providence participants. As of April 20, scheduled events included a high tea, a garden gathering, a weekly movement class, a comedy hour, and a house tour. The Oakhill Circle also offered a series of regular events, including social and book club gatherings. For more information, please check The Village Common website’s calendar, developed by volunteers Jim Fredrickson and Jim Maxwell.

Need help with technical issues so that you can access the Virtual Village offerings? Village Service Coordinators will set up a telephone appointment with a Village tech expert. Interested in hosting a Zoom gathering for Villagers? Please contact Liza at COVID-19 is keeping us all physically distant, but it is not diminishing our Village connectiveness. To quote an insightful Kenyan proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Photo credit: Ginger Harkey in the "Movement for Small Spaces" class, photo by John Harkey.

A Big Thank You to Our United Way 401Gives Supporters!
The Village Common had a very successful day during the United Way’s 401Gives Day of Giving on April 1st . “Given that the United Way’s fundraiser occurred right in the midst of all of the pandemic tumult, the generosity of the community was truly amazing,” said Cy O’Neil, who coordinated the Village Common Board’s 401Gives effort. By the end of United Way’s Day of Giving, The Village Common had the fifth highest total of donations among the over 400 RI non-profits that participated.  “We want to thank everyone who supported this effort,” said Cy. “You couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to hold a fundraiser.  And you couldn’t have picked a more important time, as well,” he said. “We want to especially thank the Rhode Island Foundation for their matching gift donation, and the United Way for creating such a great opportunity for all of Rhode Island’s non-profits."
Register to Vote by Mail

Don’t forget to register to vote by mail for RI’s June 2 presidential primary. The State is mailing forms to all Rhode Island voters. If you don’t receive a form by May 1, call the Secretary of State’s office at (401) 222-2340 or email

Applications may be downloaded and printed from:

If you choose to vote by mail, application forms are due to your local board of canvassers by May 19. Registered voters who request the mail ballot will receive one in the mail, along with a postage paid envelope. Please return your ballot so that it arrives by June 2. Thank you for participating in our next election!

Volunteer Spotlight
by Rosalind Ladd
photo by Phil West


If you describe Anne Connor as friendly, cheerful, and helpful, all of this would be true, but make her sound like a Pollyanna - and she is so much more than that. She also has a keen intellect, a broad and well-honed intellectual curiosity, and an unfailing competence in getting things done.

Anne's life journey has taken her half-way across the country, from the Midwest to the Brooklyn Public Library, then New York City, then a thoughtful choice of Rhode Island as a good place to grow roots and raise children. She and her husband Sean lived first in Barrington, then moved to Providence, where she found what she calls her dream job as a part-time paralegal for Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Cy O'Neil introduced Anne to the Providence Village in 2015, and she has gradually assumed leadership roles while continuing to volunteer weekly as driver and service coordinator. Currently she serves on the Providence Village Steering Committee, the Village Common Coordinating Council, and is Secretary of the Village Common Board.

Mondays are "Grandma Day" for Anne. She travels by train to Boston and spends the day caring for her 16-month old grandson, recently welcoming a new baby to the family. However, lest she not have enough to do, she carries her laptop with her and at nap time, phones in to do her stint as a service coordinator stint.

Anne's interests are wide-reaching. Often her strong concern with world affairs takes her to the Watson Center at Brown, but she was also spotted (pre-COVID) at a lecture on infant psychology and at Grant Recital Hall enjoying classical music.

Anne says she believes in being a good citizen. Clearly, if any of us need a role model, we should look her way.

Barrington Village Steering Committee Members on the COVID-19 Crisis: All Dressed Up And...

Francis Cummings:
The CoVID-19 pandemic has made me realize how relevant BV Tech Help is today, as we have had to explore new ways, such as Zoom, to stay in touch with each other. It is also important to be in contact with those who need volunteer help electronically and by phone, so we they can remain safe in their homes and have a connection to their community during this crisis. Ironically, with staying at home, person-to-person communication seems improved, as has our concern for our neighbors' well-being.

Patricia M. Keefe:
My first reaction to sheltering in place was feeling disappointed and frustrated. As time has passed I now see the brighter side of this crisis. We now have more time to develop our services, and because of the efforts of the Town of Barrington and the outpouring of support of the citizens, we now have numbers of people who are willing volunteers. Hopefully, they will join us in the Barrington Village.


Judie Knilans:
I feel fortunate I can safely venture into my gardens to welcome my flowers emerging, my bushes blooming, and my trees budding. But regretfully we cannot welcome the Barrington Village's new members as we launch our collective efforts for Seniors. With this disease, I worry about the most vulnerable, which includes older persons like us. Some people may not think we are a priority. We must join together as a community to help one another.

Susan McCalmont:
In mid-March everything came to a screeching halt - no launch, no member sign-ups, no ride service, and we had just trained 10 volunteer drivers! It’s mid-April, and we’re starting to adjust. A first! We are having a virtual new drivers’ training next week! Still no rides, but we have offered to help a small, local business distribute food orders. A chance to give back and help a business that is providing lunches to seniors in the East Bay.

Mira Meyer-Oertel:
As it became clear that the launch of the Barrington Village in March would not happen, I took some solace in reviewing the materials we had prepared for that event, especially the mission statement and the values we had chosen for the Village. Pondering the meaning of all this, it occurred to me that two important values need to be added for this time: “patience” and “hope,” and I sincerely wish that for us all.

Laura Young:
A head full of planning, a heart full of gratitude, an unexpected halt. Sad that all the effort and generosity of so many would go unrealized, at least for now. Relief to have my head back. Adjustment to new ways to connect, improve our processes, getting ready for a return from social distancing to connection. Appreciative of Town of Barrington, neighbors, and the outpouring of concern for each other.

Barrington Village News
By Laura Young

The Barrington Village Steering Committee has been inspired and encouraged during this COVID-19 crisis. The support of the community by the Peck Center staff, town leaders, neighbors and friends has been remarkable. Creative solutions with meal delivery in collaboration with East Bay Community Action and Savory Fare has ensured home delivered, nutritious meals for those who are isolated and quarantined. Barrington Village volunteer drivers have supported this delivery effort. TapIN has continued to provide food for those in need, by appointment, pre-packaged. Errands have been run, and check-in calls have been made.

When we return from social distancing, it is this spirit of neighbors helping neighbors that we hope will continue. We have been holding Zoom meetings, volunteer trainings by Zoom, and getting our web pages on the Village Common website up and running. We currently have 15 vetted volunteers, many of them drivers, and 3 more in the queue.

We would like to ask for your help to expand our developing committees, and are seeking leaders for Communication, Membership, Community Collaboration, and Volunteer Teams. Our Steering Committee is seeking to grow in these areas. Please help us sustain this spirit of support beyond this time of crisis.

Please call (401) 400-5599 to speak with a volunteer or email us at

Moments of Connection in the Barrington Village

Our group of members, volunteers and a few self-selected friends have been sharing Moments of Connection by email. We hoped in this way to begin to get to know one another and stay connecting as a fledgling group of committed Villagers here in Barrington.

We would like to share two favorites:

Offered by Elsa Grieder

The Business of Music | Zuill Bailey | TEDxUTEP

Offered by Pat Keefe

Inspirational Wildlife Video

There have been jokes, great ideas, and Judie sent along a FUN video, please contact us by email at and we will forward the attachment. It has been delightful to learn about each other, what we enjoy and are inspired by.

Neighborhood Circles
Are You a ZOOMer Yet?
by Sue Bayley

March 2020 is the month when we began to realize how much the world is changing in the Age of COVID-19. That is when RI businesses became shuttered, schools closed, government offices and agencies suspended their public access, parks and entertainment venues were put off limits, and we ourselves were asked to stay inside our homes except for grocery shopping and other vital errands.

After the first week or two, the new reality began to sink in: this is a major change and we don’t know how long it will last. That is when the Oak Hill Neighborhood Circle started a ZOOM Circle. On Tuesday and Saturday afternoons, anyone who wished to join a live conversation online was invited to connect with our neighbors and just chat. Anne Grant and Phil West initiated the ZOOM call with an email invitation to all members. Those who accepted found a friendly video conference for 40 minutes on Zoom. As most participants were new to ZOOM, we all experimented with the video and audio commands, different visual backgrounds, and finding the most attractive photo angles and lighting (sooo important!).

Now, just as we all see inside the homes of local and national newscasters and public personalities, our neighbors get a glimpse of our home cozy corners, casual attire, and favorite pets. We surprise ourselves with mastery of the video technology, trade recipes, and share stories of how to shop and when.

After a month of experimenting, we agreed on a new schedule, meeting once a week on Thursdays at 4:00 pm. We look forward to inviting guests to share topics of interest — who knows what will emerge? Anyone who would like to join is welcome. Just contact Anne Grant at to let her know of your interest.

Or you could create your own ZOOM circle. If you have a circle of friends or family with whom you would like to chat, it’s easy! You will be surprised at who shows up.

Social Events Committee Presents Pam Steager
Zoom talk on June 7. Further information to come.

Pam Steager is a researcher, trainer, and writer at URI's Media Education Lab. Her extensive experience with media also includes helping to develop media literacy curricula for the schools, writing a newspaper column for the Providence Phoenix, and performing as an actress and stand-up comedian.

She will be speaking on "Disinformation in the Age of Coronavirus." Please contact Ada Winsten ( if you have any questions.

The Occasional

The new feature of the Village Common Newsletter, The Occasional, welcomes your poem, story, recollection, or values statement for publication in the June newsletter. Or, compose 3 sentences on this topic: I was, I am, I will be.

Email your offering by May 15 to, or to John Harkey, 90 Larch Street, Providence, 02906. Submissions will be published as space allows. We will work with you to edit for clarity and brevity.

Patrice Moskow, volunteer, has this contribution:
Here's a poem I love - by the matchless W.S. Merwin, called "poet of life's damnable evanescence." The poem below is itself an evanescence: words shimmer and flow, and our thoughts with them: light-splintered, glinting shard-like from past moments to the present, and always in April's eternal cool play of light.

Before A Departure in Spring

Once more it is April with the first light sifting
through the young leaves heavy with dew making the colors
remember who they are the new pink of the cinnamon tree
the gilded lichens of the bamboo the shadowed bronze
of the kamani and the blue day opening
as the sunlight descends through it all like the return
of a spirit touching without touch and unable
to believe it is here and here again and awake
reaching out in silence into the cool breath
of the garden just risen from darkness and days of rain
it is only a moment the birds fly through it calling
to each other and are gone with their few notes and the flash
of their flight that had vanished before we ever knew it
we watch without touching any of it and we
can tell ourselves only that this is April this is the morning
this never happened before and we both remember it

Good Neighbors
by Ginger Harkey
photo by John Harkey

We moved into a neighborhood of elders in 1980 as a young family with a newborn and toddler. More recently John and I have watched young families and singles move onto our block as house ownership turned over. Now we find that we’re the elders! We all organize an annual block party, have backyard and holiday parties, and have gotten to know each other well. Then came social distancing and worse — discouraged by our age to shop for groceries. Those young neighbors quickly offered to shop for us when they go to the grocery store. They'll deliver bags to the porch and later we pay them through their mail slot. Sometimes I'll leave a little bouquet of early blooms from our garden or homemade brownies on their doorsteps. We're all so appreciative of each other's caring!

Crocus in the Blackstone Conservancy, photo by Phil West.
The Village Common of RI
Board of Directors
Suzanne Francis, President
Jim Maxwell, Past President
Anne Connor, Secretary
Peter Viner-Brown, Treasurer

Lenore Bunting, Lorraine Keeney, Pat Mattingly, Susan McCalmont, Bonnie Ryvicker, Terry Percelay, Joe Santarlasci, Phil West

The Village Common of RI
Advisory Council

Barry Fain, Jay Glasson, Beverly Ledbetter, Lynette Lopes, Marcus Mitchell, Herbert Rakatansky, Corinne Calise Russo, Barbara Sokoloff, Bill Twaddell, Phil West

Newsletter Staff
 Wendy Oliver
Design: Josh Kemp   
Writers:  Jane Adler, Sue Bayley, John Harkey, Rosalind Ladd, Vivian Malloy, Wendy Oliver, Diane Strommer, Eliza Sutton, Phil West 
Photography:  Jane Adler, John Harkey, Phil West,
Obituary Assistance: Anne Connor, Phil West
Copyright © 2020 Village Common of RI, All rights reserved.

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