Locale Profiles: Santa’s Elves

Local farmers pose for Santa’s Elves to help feed the hungry in RI

When you think of your average calendar girl or guy, the first image to come to mind is most likely not that of a farmer. And chances are, said calendar isn’t being sold with 100 percent of the proceeds going to feed RI’s homeless. A dozen of Rhody’s squash growing, livestock raising, cattle herding finest got in front of the camera, not to show off their sexy sides, but to remind us that what they say is true, “No farmers, no food.”

The calendar is the brainchild of the nonprofit, Santa’s Elves, on their quest to raise funds to feed those who don’t have “Farm to Table” access, let alone a table. “We picked farmers because we receive a lot of support from the vendors at the farmers market. And what a wonderful way for everyone to know who their farmers are and where their food comes from,” explained ‘Elves founder, Ann Tortolando. Together with co-founder, Rae Ellen St. Onge, over 13 years the two have orchestrated what has become a 100 percent volunteer-run mobile food delivery service for the homeless.

What began as way to give back to the community for Christmas has become a year-round service to feed those in need (don’t let the name fool you). Think soup kitchen meets food truck. Once or twice a month an army of volunteers’ cars and vans are loaded up and travel from Cathedral Square in Providence to the Warwick Family Shelter, hitting several spots along the way.

Each month the ‘Elves compile meal items from donations from RI vegetable and meat farmers, Macera’s Italian Restaurant in Cranston and the Celestial Cafe in Exeter to serve to their clientele. With funds earned from calendar sales and donations, Santa’s Elves purchase sandwich fixings (and proceed to build hundreds of sandwiches) and toiletries to distribute at the food sites. For their January 24 run, the army of Elves are serving up sandwiches and hot chicken soup from Macera’s. They will also be joined by The Coffee Guy all winter.

So far the group has raised about $4,500 in calendar sales. They will continue to sell them at the Coastal Grower’s Farmers Market, Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm at Lafayette Mill in North Kingstown, until they run out. “Our wish is to eventually purchase a delivery vehicle so that we can all travel together,” explained Tortolando. “Currently we take three to four vehicles, one for food, one for tables and serving containers, one for clothes and toiletries, and one for additional volunteers.”

To help the cause or become an Elf yourself, email “Elf Annie” Tortolando at ATortolano@kenney.com. Any donations may be made out to Santa’s Helpers and sent to PO box 298, Saunderstown, RI 02874.

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