• MLK Community Center

MLK Preschool: Our 'Hungry Caterpillars' Turn into Social Butterflies 🐛🦋

Updated: Jun 9


Friday, May 28, 2021

PRESCHOOL IN 2021 - FRIENDSHIPS MADE OVER ZOOM, INSTEAD OF THE PLAYGROUND: Preschool virtual book club draws to a heartfelt close

Had it not been for the pandemic, our kids might have crossed paths or shared a swing set at a Newport County playground. But this school year, friendships were fostered via Zoom between preschoolers at the MLK Community Center and preschoolers at Pennfield School, through the MLK's virtual book club.

Over the course of the year, class instructor (and the MLK's Imagination Library Program Coordinator) Judy Hall, together with Preschool Teacher Jenny Williams at Pennfield School, selected books with diverse characters and themes to read to both classes of students. The students then virtually enjoyed a physical activity together, whether it was dance or a routine of simple yoga poses, and returned to their respective classrooms to complete a shared activity.

This past Tuesday was the last virtual book club meeting of the school year. After reading Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" together in English and Spanish via Zoom, students in both classrooms went up to the camera to wave goodbye to their new virtual friends "face to face" and give virtual hugs. Miss Jenny and Miss Judy are working to organize a socially-distant in-person meet & greet for the kiddos.

Perhaps it was no coincidence that, before even learning of his passing, virtual book club instructors Judy Hall and Jenny Williams selected the English and Spanish version of Carle's classic "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to center their last virtual book club meeting around, as students in both classes will soon be unfolding their wings and moving on to Kindergarten. We thank Eric Carle for making the lives of generations of readers that much more colorful. We extend our love and thoughts to the Carle family.


It doesn't seem that long ago: last Spring, even churches had to close their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, which discontinued the daily meal services that some of the most vulnerable in our community rely on. On top of church meal site closures, Newport County had long seen a deficit in midday meal programs for quite some time. Thus, our Grab & Go meal program was born, 15 months ago.

Thanks to a PPP loan, McGrath's Clambakes & Catering was able to continue paying their workers, but they needed work. ...That's where the MLK comes in. Executive Director Heather Hole Strout had two goals: to feed people, and to help a struggling business stay alive. Grab & Go lunches were that solution. The program began as two businesses, a non-profit and a for-profit, being able to creatively meet needs and solve problems, and the relationship between the two deepened because of it.

As the PPP money ran out, owner TR McGrath worked to give the Center his best rates on catering to sustain the Grab & Go meal program that had served thousands of individuals from all across Newport County. Generous donations from the community allowed us to contract McGrath's to provide these meals and their staff's stellar service. A mark of things slowly returning back to normal, the McGrath's team is getting busier and busier, as celebrations and weddings start to fill up the calendar. We are grateful for this special relationship with McGrath's throughout these past 15 months. All of us at the MLK have grown used to seeing the McGrath's van outside the loading dock, and we're going to miss seeing TR, Rob, and Aidan out and about the Center. Thank you, McGrath's!

As it has become such a community staple, the Center sought a way to pivot to allow this program to continue. We are excited to announce that twice-weekly Grab & Go lunches will continue every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 AM to 1 PM thanks to Blount Fine Foods, who have so generously committed to underwriting this program. (More on that to come!)


It's already looking like it's going to be an incredible summer here at the MLK Community Center, thanks to generous community support that has allowed us to expand our Community Program offerings. Can you believe next week is the first week of June? Many of these programs will be offered next week so mark your calendar now, and register today(for those that require RSVP, that is!).

Produce to the People (formerly "Veggie Days"), the MLK Community Center's free produce distribution program, is hitting the road for the summer! We're kicking off Produce to the People on June 1st.

Every Tuesday from 10 am – 1 pm (or while supplies last), Produce to the People will be set up in the Newport Heights area, behind the Florence Gray Center in Newport (W Evans St., between Girard and Fahey). Innovative programs like this one that address community needs, while overcoming barriers like transportation, are made possible thanks to generous donors and funders, notably the Bank of America Hunger and Wellness Grant. Thank you for empowering in community, BofA!

Not in the Newport Heights area? No worries, Produce to the People will still be set-up on-site at the MLK on Thursdays from 10 am - 1 pm, too (or while supplies last). Both locations will be well-stocked with a wide variety of produce (much of it locally-grown), so simply attend whichever is closest to you!

Stop by with your reusable bags to receive fresh, local fruits and vegetables for you and your family – completely free of charge. Kindly take only enough for your household. Community members are able to attend either Produce to the People distribution at the MLK or Produce to the People: Newport Heights, but not both.

"Live from the [Loading] Dock," the MLK's new summer music series, will be held on every second Weds. in June, July and August. On Weds, June 9th at 4:30, bring a blanket/chair and enjoy the music of Yacouba Diabate, thanks to the generosity of event sponsor Jeff Brooks, Realtor - Hogan Associates. Hamburgers & hotdogs will be served. Mark your calendar for the summer's other performances, too: Weds,July 14 & Weds, August 11. (More information to follow!)

Get tested for HIV & Hep C at the MLK by appointment on Thursday, June 3rd & Thursday, June 17th, 12 - 2 pm. This program is held in a confidential, private setting, separated from other Center programming. Participants are welcome to enter through the Center's Edward St entrance, where someone from APRI will meet you at your appointment time. To make an appointment: Call or email APRI: (401) 831-5522.

Attention: Community members can now register and manage their RSVPs for Zumba, "Toning in '21" fitness class, Yoga, and/or Sabores Latinos conveniently online! To register for any of these upcoming classes, visit the new registration webpage. We recommend you register for an account at the end of registration, for easy account management. Not able to register online? No problem. You're still able to RSVP with Mel via email or by calling (401) 846-4828.Note: starting June 7th, Zumba is moving to Mondays at 8:30 AM.

Join the Jamestown Arts Center next Saturday, June 5 at the MLK for a free family-friendly collage workshop, celebrating the work of Aboudia, whose work is featured in their Africa Avant Garde exhibition. All ages welcome with parental supervision, all materials supplied. Sat, June 5, 11am-1pm. RSVP here

This Tues, June 1st's Lunch & Learn activity is Bingo! Older adults are invited to stop by the MLK at 12 pm every first and third Tuesday of the month for a hearty meal + a fun activity or presentation on a topic of interest. RSVP with Mel via email or call (401) 846-4828.

Stop by the MLK every Tues. & Thurs. from 11:30 am to 1 pm for a delicious, free Grab & Go lunch! Starting Tues. June 1st, this soup is generously donated by our friends at Blount Fine Foods and served by MLK volunteers. Menu selection TBD.

CALEB & BROAD 'DO GOOD' COLLECTION: Get 'em before they're gone

Caleb & Broad's motto is "Good Food for Good People." In that spirit, the DO GOOD apparel collection was born, to do good in the community: When you purchase a piece from this collection, 100% of proceeds support the MLK. There's something for everyone: women's t-shirts, men's t-shirts, and baseball hats. Get 'em now, though: this promotion ends soon!


This coming Monday, May 31st, the Center will be closed in observation of Memorial Day. We're grateful to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We wish you a safe and peaceful long weekend with your loved ones (if you're fully vaccinated, that is!)

ATTENTION MLK PARENTS & MLK VOLUNTEERS: Connect with the Center, and each other, in our Facebook Groups

We've recently opened two private Facebook groups: one group for Parents & Families

of MLK Students, and one group for