BY W. ZACHARY MALINOWSKI
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — Volunteers from Central Falls High School, which is closed due to the blizzard, were out in force on
Wednesday digging out driveways and sidewalks for elderly and disabled residents in the state’s most densely populated city.
Mayor James A. Diossa came up with the plan to have high school students on the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), hit the streets with snow shovels. Joshua Giraldo, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation, met 10 of the teenagers at the Central Falls Fire Department at 8 a.m. They started off with coffee and donuts before heading out to help those who need help.
“We have been hitting the ground running,” Giraldo said. “These kids are awesome.”
Three of the students were on Cross Street, paving a path and clearing the driveway for an elderly woman who was stuck in her house. Alex Dominguez, Lesley McBurney and Laura Cuevas, all 17-year-old seniors, took the volunteer work seriously. They wore day-glow vests with the CERT logo.
“I want to give back to my community,” Cuevas said. “I want to help people who don’t have the ability to go outside.”
Added McBurney, “We can help people who have health problems.”
Since Central Falls emerged from federal bankruptcy in the fall of 2012, there has been an outpouring of support for the residents in this city north of Providence with 19,400 residents. City officials raised $10,400 through a crowdsourcing platform to buy artsy steel trash cans and recycling bins in Jenks Park, next door to Central Falls City Hall.
The city’s population is more than 61 percent Latino, and the young Hispanic population has been eager to get more involved in turning the 1.3 square mile city around. Many of them volunteer their time to help improve the city.
Diossa, who was elected mayor in a special election in December 2012, is the state’s youngest chief executive. He’s just 29 years old.
The high school students broke off into three separate groups. Aside from shoveling sidewalks, they were also busy helping out the fire department and clearing areas around hydrants. Giraldo said that the teenagers helped dig out the sidewalk and driveway for a family that has a disabled child.
On Samoset Avenue, the students were clearing sidewalks when a neighbor with a snow blower offered to help them out. He quickly cleared a path for pedestrians.
Not everyone was working for free. Domenick Perry, 18, a junior at the high school, and his buddy, Austin Pollock, a 15-year-old freshman made a total of $180 shoveling on Tuesday. They were wrapping things up on Wednesday morning and collecting money for the sidewalks and driveways they had shoveled.
“To be honest, there is not that much to do in Central Falls,” Perry said. “I feel like I can make a couple of bucks.”
Blake Collins, Diossa’s spokesman, said that most city residents got their cars and trucks off the streets on Tuesday to make way for the Public Works Department’s seven snow plows and two private contractors that cleared side streets. He said that few vehicles were ticketed.
“I think we had less citations and tows than we did last Saturday,” he said.
Collins, who lives in Providence, said the public works’ crews did an outstanding job and he thought that the streets of Central Falls were in just as good of shape as the roads in neighboring Pawtucket and Providence. He said that city officials are moving the huge piles of snow to vacant parking lots were they will eventually melt.
Link to original article here.
Photo credit: Providence Journal