• MLK Community Center

How a Parking Lot Changes Lives: William's Story 🚙

Updated: May 15


THE CITIZEN BANK PARKING LOT ON WASHINGTON SQUARE: Affordable parking provides jobs ... and supports the MLK

One our most creative partnerships is with Citizens Bank for the Parking Lot on Washington Square. The lot on the corner of Thames and Marlborough St. is owned by the Bank, but they generously permit the MLK Center to staff and run it. Branch patrons and employees park for free during business hours, and parking fees collected from nights and weekends support the MLK's essential programs. Pictured: Parking Lot Attendant, William. Parking starts at $5 on weekdays and 100% of proceeds benefit the MLK. Photo Credit: Kate Whitney Lucey Photography

Thanks to Citizens Bank, the Center's parking lot program employs members of the community and offers affordable parking to the community and visitors -- all while raising funds to support the MLK's programs. So, gone are the days of feeling guilty for paying for parking for a night out: parking at the Citizens Bank lot won't cost you an arm and a leg, and your dollars do good while you enjoy all that downtown Newport has to offer.

Pictured is Parking Lot Attendant William, who has been employed by the Center at the parking lot now for 5 years. William, a native El Salvadorian, came to America after doctors in his home country could no longer help him with his medical condition. Eventually, he found himself in Newport and immediately felt at home here. William worked at a hotel for decades until his medical team finally ruled working there was no longer safe. He wanted to keep being productive. William explains he applied for other jobs. "I tried many places. No one would hire me. It felt like when they saw my wheelchair, they thought I couldn't do any job." At no point does William express frustration or anger. Rather, he expresses a gentle sadness about the time before he came to the MLK. "I was very sad. I want to DO something. It's not for the money. I want to get out, and be with people. I only needed one opportunity." A friend connected him with the Center. William was hired in 2016, and his eyes still light up when he speaks about finally being hired. "I was very excited! When [Executive Director] Heather [Hole Strout] asked me if I could work at the parking lot I said: I can do this job!" William is grateful: "I want to thank Citizens for letting the Center run the parking lot. I'm grateful to the MLK for not discriminating. My brain is not limited, my body still has ability. People just need one opportunity." Every work day, William navigates his wheelchair over a mile and a half across busy city streets to the parking lot. "I feel freedom. I can smile, I can feel the breeze. I've made so many friends! Work is good for my health and the money I collect helps other people, not just me. It doesn't matter what country you're from, you can find help at the MLK." The Citizens Bank on Washington Square parking lot is now open for the season. Parking starts at $5 on weekdays, and prices vary on weekends and holidays. 100% of proceeds support the Center.


Okay - we're food pantry people: We get excited about new equipment!

Thanks to a generous Agency Capacity grant from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, we've upgraded our food pantry refrigeration. While this might not seem like the most exciting news, these new refrigeration units allow us to offer even more fresh milk, meat, eggs, fruits, veggies, and prepared foods to the Newport County community. Pantry storage space is always at a premium, so anything that allows us to make better use of our space and save energy and allows for easier client choice is a major win in our book.

Pictured: Our new 3-door refrigeration unit, stocked with fresh milk from Wright's Dairy Farm, distributed to us by the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

The new state-of-the-art 3-door refrigeration unit in the pantry (pictured) contains dairy products, like milk, eggs, cheese, and yogurt, for distribution in the Food Pantry, Mobile Food Pantry, and Food2Friends grocery delivery service.


The results are in: The Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce's annual Ton of Love Food Drive was a success yet again, thanks to all of the participating member-businesses and the support of the community. This year's drive brought in just shy of one TON of food (1,921 pounds, to be exact) and almost $700 in monetary donations. Given how hard it's been to run a business during the COVID-19 pandemic, we're especially grateful for the ongoing support from the Chamber and the hard work of the Chamber's Ambassador Committee. Huge thanks to these incredible Chamber members who hosted collection bins at their locations:

AAA - 49 East Main Rd., Middletown Avid Products - 72 Johnny Cake Hill, Middletown Balfour Beatty - 8 Constitution Ave, Middletown BankNewport - on 1740 Main Rd., Tiverton; 2628 East Main Rd., Portsmouth; 528 West Main Rd., Middletown; and 614 Main Rd., Tiverton Boys & Girls Club of Newport County - 95 Church St., Newport Clements' Marketplace – 2575 East Main Rd., Portsmouth College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving: 53 Venturi Ave, Warwick Edward Jones - 790 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown Innovate Newport: 513 Broadway, Newport James L. Maher Center - 906 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown Jamestown Arts Center - 18 Valley St., Jamestown Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. Ltd. (KLR) - 97 John Clarke Rd., Middletown Minuteman Press - 687 West Main Rd., Middletown Natural Creations - 540 Thames St., Newport Newport County Computers - 683 West Main Rd., Middletown NPT Sportswear - 8 Marlborough St., Newport OPT Physical Therapy - 1181 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown People's Credit Union - on 2537 East Main Rd., Portsmouth; 43 Memorial Blvd., Newport; and 858 West Main Rd., Middletown Polo Cleaners - 698 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown Ranew Salon & Spa - 580 Thames St., Newport The Barber Shop by Ranew - 580 Thames St., Newport Train with Jane - 699 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown Trinity Church - 1 Queen Anne Square, Newport Webster Bank - 716 Aquidneck Ave, Middletown Thank you to everyone who participated! Want to contribute to Ton of Love? You still can! Donate online, but be sure to select "Ton of Love" from the Optional dropdown menu.

Last week we called Norman*, who uses the food pantry, to check in after receiving a kind note along with a donation to the MLK. Our staff member thanked him and insisted that no payment is expected for use of the food pantry, and offered to return his check. Here's what he said to her:

*name changed to protect client privacy

Will you stand with clients like Norman?

Yes! I'll support Newport County by supporting the MLK


Imagine: You're a single parent. You work full time and are the primary caregiver to your 2 children. You rent an apartment and your housing community doesn't have amenities like a dishwasher. You prepare dinner after a full time work and parenting schedule, and then it's time to do the dishes.

When you wash dishes by hand, dish soap is one of those things that you feel like you're constantly running low on. And, when every dollar spent is a well-thought out choice, even dish soap can be considered a luxury. For this reason, our food pantries are always in need of dish soap. If you're looking for a different way to uplift your Newport County neighbors, consider grabbing an extra bottle of dish soap or 2 at the market this week. You're welcome to bring any donations by the Center's loading dock Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM.

HERE TO HELP View all: Google Calendar / Facebook events

Please note: The MLK will soon be able to offer community members the ability to register for Community Programs online! So, you would no longer have to call or email the Center in order to RSVP. Of course, anyone who is unable to register online will still be able to call, but we hope this new technology adds convenience and flexibility to your lives and schedules. Programs with online scheduling capabilities will eventually include: all fitness programs (yoga, Toning in '21, Zumba), Sabores Latinos, LivFit, and Lunch & Learn. The Center will be closed on Memorial Day: Monday, May 31st. Please plan food pantry shops accordingly. Thank you!

  • Grab & Go Breakfast Mon-Fri, 7:30 - 8:30 am. (Marcus Wheatland Blvd entrance)

  • Food Pantry: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and Wednesday evenings from 4 pm to 6 pm; first Saturday of each month from 10 am to 12 pm

  • Food 2 Friends delivery for homebound seniors. Contact Ed for more info

  • Mobile Food Pantry visits to low-income housing communities. Schedule

  • Daily Bread: Mon-Fri at the Marcus Wheatland Blvd entrance, while supplies last

  • Produce to the People (formerly Veggie Days): weekly vegetable distribution, Thursdays 10 am to 1 pm or while supplies last.

  • Grab & Go Lunch: Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 am to 1 pm. Free! Presented in collaboration with McGrath's Clambakes & Catering. Menu TBD. Eating on-site not permitted. Main Entrance on Marcus Wheatland Blvd

  • NOW ENROLLING: Preschool for registered students. DHS accepted & generous scholarships available. Openings available for 3 year olds. Contact Tanya by email or by phone: (401) 846-4828 x117

  • After School program for registered elementary school students. DHS accepted & generous scholarships available. Contact Jeanine by email or by phone: (401) 846-4828 x209

  • NOW ENROLLING: Summer Adventure Camp: Offered June 28 - August 20, 2021 Monday - Friday, 8 am to 4 pm for registered campers. Rising 1st through 5th graders eligible. Campers enjoy daily field trips around Aquidneck Island, and make & maintain academic strides in math, literacy, science, & more through daily lesson plans. DHS accepted & generous scholarships available. Contact Jeanine by email or by phone: (401) 846-4828 x209. Registration documents available to download online

  • WAITLIST ONLY 6/30: SafeSitter Babysitting Safety Course: This free class, presented by LifeSpan, will introduce aspiring babysitters ages 11-14 to essential babysitting safety guidelines, including first aid, CPR, sitter safety, and more. Wednesday, June 30th, 8:45 am - 2:30 pm. To join the waitlist in case of any cancellations, contact: Jeanette Nessett, LifeSpan: email or call (401) 444-8088.

  • NEW DATE ADDED 7/14: SafeSitter Babysitting Safety Course: This free class, presented by LifeSpan, will introduce aspiring babysitters ages 11-14 to essential babysitting safety guidelines, including first aid, CPR, sitter safety, and more. Wednesday, July 14th, 8:45 am - 2:30 pm. Space is limited & classes book fast, so reserve your child's spot ASAP: Jeanette Nessett, LifeSpan: email or call (401) 444-8088.

  • NEW TIME ADDED: Yoga Class: Yoga is offered at the Center every Tuesday and Friday morning at 8 am. All skill levels welcome. Masks required & space is limited. RSVP with Mel: email or call (401) 846-4828 x124.

  • Toning in '21 Fitness Class: Every Wednesday at 8:30 am, this full-body workout aims to improve balance, bone health, flexibility, and strength of participants in a safe, welcoming, and fun environment. All skill-levels welcome. Masks required & space limited. RSVP with Mel: email or call (401) 846-4828 x124

  • Zumba Fitness Class: Every Thursday morning at 8:30 am. All skill levels welcome. Masks required & space is limited. RSVP with Mel: email or call (401) 846-4828 x124

  • NEW: Sabores Latinos: Every Monday at 5 pm, Spanish speakers are invited to join Yoli and Chef Carmen for Sabores Latinos, the MLK's first cooking class offered completely en Español. Yoli will teach recipes from around the Latin world, while Chef Carmen of Sprout & Lentil will teach plant-based recipes & nutrition. Participants cook alongside the instructor, take home a meal for their families, and learn a new recipe. Classes will alternate between traditional (taught by Yoli) & plant-based (taught by Chef Carmen). This coming Sabores Latinos class on Monday, May 10th will be taught by Chef Carmen. Spanish speakers are invited to attend & RSVP in advance: email or call (401) 846-4828, ask for Jose

  • LivFit Cooking & Nutrition: Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 pm. to approximately 6 pm. Participants explore healthy, low-cost recipes using ingredients commonly found in the food pantry. Participants cook alongside the instructor, take home a meal for their families, and learn a new recipe. RSVPs required with Kristin via email or text (401) 368-7614.

  • Lunch & Learn, the MLK's lunchtime meal and lecture series for older adults, will return to the MLK for a recurring schedule starting in May. Registered seniors can enjoy a hearty meal, socially distant socialization, and a fun activity or informative speaker every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 12 pm. Tuesday, May 18th at 12 pm: the RI Center for Healthy Aging will give a talk (topic TBD). RSVP with Mel: email or call (401) 846-4828 x124

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