Cleaning House: Maid in RI makes busy people less busy

The basic upkeep of a home can be daunting, leading people to put it off, which only makes for more work. While some people find it to be therapeutic (seems like people like to either cook or clean; rarely both), a good chunk will just shut a door or shove everything into a closet in hopes that it takes care of itself. 

There are many reasons for dodging housework. Health issues, new baby, extremely busy schedule, family commitments and general laziness are just a few. But there are local cleaning services that are more than willing to take that burden off a person’s plate.

Laura Grilli was working for another agency, but wasn’t happy with the quality of services they were providing for customers.

“The company would often cut corners and worked to get the job done instead of working to make the client happy,” Grilli said of her decision to leave and start her own company, Maid in RI, LLC in May 2019.

Grilli stocked up on proper cleaning equipment, obtained an LLC and started marketing her business to homes and commercial properties. Using word of mouth and a Facebook page that featured pictures of her work, Maid in RI started to grow, steadily gaining new customers who were satisfied with her performance. Grilli takes the time to find out what customers are looking for and discuss all expectations before starting a job. It is her goal to fully exceed all of these expectations, leaving customers thrilled with the completed job.

“The client feedback I’ve received thus far has been very positive,” Grilli says. “Some new clients requested professional references and later tell me the glowing reviews others have given.”

Maid in RI is available for a one-time service, whether it be for a basic or deep clean. They also offer weekly, bi-weekly or monthly rates, all depending on the needs of the customers. All potential services are discussed and agreed upon, and Grilli strives to keep the price fair and competitive.

When looking for a cleaning service, Grilli strongly suggests checking professional references, requesting proof of insurance and finding someone who will respect the space as their own. Grilli proudly boasts that “professional” and “dependable” are the two most popular words that references use to describe her and the business.

Grilli says that there are many advantages to hiring a cleaning service for your home. Opportunity cost is the biggest; as it gives people more time to spend with friends and family or to complete other needed errands. Some customers don’t end up realizing how bad they have left the mess of their house pile up until after they see how it looks when she is done.

Grilli’s biggest goal for the business is to continue to grow through great effort and word of mouth and make her customers happy. She prides herself on treating every job as if she is cleaning her own home.

Maid in RI provides both commercial and residential cleaning services. Check out their Facebook page: @MaidinRILLC. Call 401-440-8446 or email maidinrhodeisland@yahoo.com for more information.




Getting Creative: Outsider Collective showcases work of artists with differing abilities

Outsider Collective is a newly established non-profit art gallery storefront/studio space located at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. They currently have 35 artists with pieces showcased at the studio, including paintings on canvas, drawings, framed and slip-sleeved artwork, pillows, mugs, cartoons, poem books, calendars, stickers, t-shirts, buttons and music CDs (debut album of Angry Skull). The goal of Outsider Collective, which is the brainchild of Jessica Angelone and Carrie Hyde (both program managers at RHD-RI), is to sell art made by people of differing abilities.

“The idea of Outsider Collective was a mutual idea brewing in our brains right around the same time,” Angelone says of its origin. “We decided to create what was missing and truly needed in our community, which in an integrated, Outsider Artist community with a focus on adults living with differing abilities. We envisioned a creative space for people to belong to foster successful, self-employed artists.”

The team consists of Angelone, Hyde, Aaron Leidecker and Justin Riley. Their mission is to build community and belonging through art and unity for all abilities. Most have experience working with adults with disabilities, and they saw this as a great opportunity to combine their passions of art and helping people thrive and succeed. While they don’t have any official employees at this time, they are hoping to grow to the point where that can change.

“Our growing team is passionately involved with serving the I/DD (Intellectual/Developmental Disability) community and creating a space for them to be creative, meet new people, learn the ins and outs of being a working artist and have a community to really belong to,” Angelone says.

Outsider Collective is still growing, using grassroots marketing, social media and word-of-mouth to get their name out there. Outsider Collective is open every Saturday from 9 am – 2 pm during the Wintertime Farmers Market. They recently hosted their first event, RHD-RI’s 12th Annual Bizarre Bazaar, and plan to add more open studio hours as well as workshops, artist receptions and art shows.

“We have an amazing location right in the middle of all of the action during the farmers market every Saturday, so we get a lot of patrons coming in to see all of the bright artwork,” Angelone says while discussing the advantage of their location. “We plan to stay consistent with art shows and taking advantage of all of the fun things that go on within the Hope Artiste Village. We are lucky to be surrounded by so many talented, self-employed artists there. We met a lot of people who have never been exposed to our folks’ artwork who were in awe.”

The 35 so far featured artists create what Angelone calls outsider art.  Outsiders are the people who don’t quite fit the mold, which can sometimes lead to their gifts getting overlooked or misrepresented by society.

“Outsider Art is raw, unique, untraditional and imaginative,” Angelone proudly says while describing what she considers some of the most talented artists in RI. “Our artists work from the heart. You can see the pain, happiness, love, struggle and joys in each piece of art. That is what makes it so amazing.”

Outsider Collective always considers artist work, and is willing to view anything submitted to see if the art would be a good fit for their storefront. They are active online and on all social media outlets. Their next art show, “Animal Kingdom,” will take place from February 13 – 24.

Outsider Collective is located at Hope Artiste Village (1005 Main St in Pawtucket). The storefront is open on Saturdays from 9 am – 2 pm during the Wintertime Farmers Market. They are active on Facebook and Instagram (@outsidercollective401) and www.theoutsidercollective.org. Please email outsidercollective401@rhd.org for further information.   




Music to Kids’ Ears: Local musician helps lessen the stress of homelessness

Lucy’s Hearth opened as a small overnight shelter in Middletown in 1984. They grew with the needs of the community, expanding and becoming a 24-hour shelter, affiliated with Family Service of Rhode Island and accredited by the Council on Accreditation. They are now in a 9,300 square foot facility to better support families in need. 

Mark Gorman is a local musician who started holding Christmas concerts, called Singing for Shelter, 12 years ago to benefit Lucy’s Hearth and The McKinney Shelter. Singing for Shelter sells out each year and has raised $64,000. The always anticipated event also led Gorman to fall in love with everyone at Lucy’s Hearth. He was invited to join their board four years ago and became chairman of the board in June 2019. 

Gorman, interested in sharing his musical skills, decided to test the waters and see if any of the children living there wanted guitar lessons.

“I decided to see if there might be any interest in having me teach guitar to the kids, and the response has been very positive,” Gorman says. “Many of these kids have never owned an instrument and never taken music lessons.”

Gorman says that Lucy’s Hearth is one of only three shelters in Rhode Island that accept children, with usually about 35 of them living there at any given time. The agency helps stabilize families and find permanent housing for them, with a 92% success rate. There is a children’s activities director and a full-time therapist who help kids deal with the trauma and stress that comes with living in a shelter. Gorman felt that adding guitar lessons would benefit the children in countless ways.

“It brings me a lot of joy to give the gift of music to these kids,” Gorman says excitedly. “They really look forward to our Tuesday guitar class and they have a lot of pride in the instruments they receive. I think it brings a sense of normalcy to the kids.”

Gorman gives both group and one-to-one instruction. Children as young as 6 are able to participate. He stresses the importance of practicing at least 15 minutes a day and attending the weekly lesson, but understands that the children are not always able to find the time to practice in between lessons.

“Regardless of how hard the staff works to keep life as normal as possible, the realities of living in a homeless shelter sometimes means that the only time the kids are touching their guitar is when I am sitting beside them. I’m happy to be sharing some music and some smiles with them and give them something to look forward to.”

Rick Santos, owner of Rick’s Music World, initially donated five guitars for Gorman to use as teaching guitars and five student guitars kids can use during lessons and for practice.

The average length-of-stay at Lucy’s Hearth is 3 to 6 months. While thrilled that some of his students found permanent housing, this left Gorman with a dilemma of what to do with the guitars the students were using for lessons and practice. He felt awful asking the children to give their guitars back, but needed them for others moving in.

“I decided that the only way my guitar program will be meaningful for these kids would be if they left Lucy’s Hearth with a guitar of their own. So, I put the word out through Facebook that I needed good quality, playable acoustic guitars that I could give to these kids as they left the homeless shelter. It would be something they could keep forever. And the response was overwhelming.”

Many people have responded to Gorman’s request for acoustic guitars in decent working condition that don’t need any repair work. Both his musical friends and strangers that caught wind of this need have reached out to him, which has led to numerous guitars being donated. 

“When they receive their very own guitar, their eyes light up,” Gorman says of giving the children their guitar. “Being homeless is hard on adults, and it can be devastating for children. My hope is that this is something positive the kids can take away from what is, for many, a very low point in their lives.”

People interested in donating an acoustic guitar not in need of repairs can email Mark Gorman at mgorman20@cox.net or drop them off to Lucy’s Hearth (19 Valley Rd in Middletown). For more information about Lucy’s Hearth, go to lucyshearth.org  




Book Review: James Vickers’ In-Between People

The journey can be an incredible adventure, regardless of destination or means. Sometimes there’s an undocumented reason that subconsciously leads someone to embark on an odyssey with no actual plan. These themes are explored by James Vickers in his debut novel, with each chapter label given either “Signs,” Wanderlust” or “Monsters” before the chapter’s title.

Weaving fact and fiction into this tale, the main story features a first-person account of a nameless freelance writer who decides to leave Rhode Island to travel down the East Coast in an SUV. His plan was to see the beaches, parks and towns of neighboring states while ghostwriting articles during the day. An oncoming storm disrupts his route, which leads to him to take a different path in hopes of staying ahead of the weather. The character has a positive outlook on life and unexpected challenges, leading him to take everything thrown at him in stride.

In addition to writing and travelling, the unnamed character spends time getting to know fellow travellers and the local townspeople. While there are some who look at him with an untrusting eye, most accept his presence and take the time to enjoy his company. He seemingly takes the time to get to know those who take interest in him, giving them his full attention and healthy conversation.

God is a recurring theme during this story. The character doesn’t seem to have much of a spiritual side, but fate seems to lead him to people of faith. Some try to push this on him while others just want him to discuss what God means to them. The character takes everything in with an open mind, yearning to learn from other people’s thoughts and feelings. There are also subtle signs of God that he sees while on his travels. These bring him back to try to connect conversations to the signs.

“The boy” is an adolescent growing up with abusive parents and younger siblings who protect each other while leaving him out to dry anytime trouble arises. “The boy” is a troublemaker at school, though not all that much more than the typical mischievous child. He is a misunderstood youth who always seems to get caught with his hand in the hypothetical cookie jar. Having an alcoholic father only led to his further demise of dilemma, while also giving him the feeling of needing to help those not able to help themselves. Often, he would stick up for those knowing that this would only lead to a beating with a leather strap.

While never stated, the reader is led to believe that the unnamed character and “the boy” are the same person. They both have a flair for adventure and a yearning for understanding. It seems that the wanderlust of the character is caused by the monsters who were “the boy’s” parents, especially his father. Growing up was difficult, leaving “the boy” to escape his family without any real plan of action. It seems that the character also wants to escape his life in South County, Rhode Island, though he doesn’t have much of a plan. This is wanderlust at its finest, showcasing those who have the ability and wherewithal to take a risk in hopes of growth.

Vickers weaves everything together nicely, though it took a few chapters to realize his storytelling endeavor. Each chapter is interesting, and more importantly, real. Nothing is sugar coated, as he tells a straight story of a journey. He holds interest while exhuming emotion and provoking thought. He packs a lot into a short, quick read of a novel.

James Vickers will be reading at Askew on Tue, Dec 3 for their Wordsmiths & Storytellers event, which runs from 6:30-8:30pm.




Measure of a Man: A is for Awesome supports those with disabilities and celebrates a life

A person’s legacy is often defined after a life lived — recognized by others in hindsight after that life is over, making defining a legacy somewhat bittersweet. Such is the case with John White.

John White organized multiple fundraisers. Dubbed “A is for Awesome,” they often took place through multiple days in April (Autism Awareness Month), featuring local bands and artists and donating proceeds to various agencies supporting individuals with disabilities, including The Autism Project, RHD and the Trudeau Center.

Joann Quinn, executive director of The Autism Project said, “His energy and commitment to us was a bright spot in our work, our outreach and our connections with so many families.”

“He was always a friend of RHD and our participants,” RHD director Mark Stone said. “He didn’t have to donate money to us, but he did.”

After taking a year off, he got the itch to put another show together to raise money for The Autism Project and RHD. He assembled a lineup of bands, scheduled a performance by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble and created a special art fair. He was fine-tuning the details when he suddenly passed away, and White’s sister, Deb, took over. She recruited dedicated volunteers to assist her, turning the show into a memorial for her beloved brother.

“I knew that I needed to keep his dreams and passions alive,” Deb said. “No one can change what happened, but we all can continue to make changes in the world around us for the better.”

White was candid about the support he provided for individuals with disabilities. Many of his Facebook posts kept his followers updated while giving great insight into a group of people whose voices aren’t always heard. Not only did he raise money for many fantastic organizations that provide support for vulnerable individuals, but he raised awareness. He helped minimize the stigma of a misunderstood population, showing that everybody has the same needs and wants, regardless of their cognitive abilities. The title of the event itself, “A is for Awesome,” serves as a reminder of the goodness that all possess within.

White was well known for his soft spoken, friendly nature and his unique way of bringing people together. “John White represented everything that is great about the Providence area,” Eric Baylies, one of the A is for Awesome performers, said of his friend. “He was all about rock and roll and going way out of his way to help others.”

“His uniqueness came out in the way he seamlessly integrated these events in the arts to the point that they became something people looked forward to,” Terry Linehan of the Scurvy Dog said. “Usually benefits have a sad connotation. Not on John’s watch!”

“John’s love for music
and generous, open heart led us to become good friends over the years,” event
performer Malyssa BellaRosa said. “He was such a gentle spirit who went out of
his way to help others regardless of any challenges in his life.”

White already had a good portion of the show arranged before he passed, including the date, which happens to be his birthday. Throwing a birthday party like no other, he wanted to give a gift to the community instead of receiving one.

A is for Awesome has
become more than a fundraiser. It has become more than a concert and art fair.
It has become more than an event that promotes awareness and understanding. It
has now become a way to bring people together to celebrate John’s life and the
positive legacy that he leaves behind.

A is for Awesome takes place Sun, Oct 6 at Pub on Park, 665 Park Ave, Cranston, RI 02910) from 3 – 10 pm. Bands/artists performing include The McGunks, Sonic Grifters, The Nebulas, Soapbox Saints, Love Power, My Mother, Eric Baylies, Jenn Lombardi, Malyssa BellaRosa and Jess Moroney. There will also be a performance by Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, an arts fair, vendors and raffles. Proceeds will benefit The Autism Project and RHD.




Book Review: Alexander Smith’s The Perfect Man and Other Stories of the Supernatural

For his second published work, Alexander Smith packs a plethora of thought-provoking circumstances into seven stories that take up 60 total pages. While each story is short, Smith manages to spin a complete tale, proving that less can be more. He created intriguing story ideas that all encompass other realms of reality, though most of the occurrences don’t stray too far from the current world in which we live. 

Despite his stories’ brevity, Smith doesn’t leave many unanswered questions. There were times when I was wondering how everything would be able to be wrapped up when there were only a few paragraphs left, but each found their way to a logical conclusion. There were parts that I wish were elaborated, but then I realized that each story dealt with either a few brief moments or one person’s supernatural point of view. 

Smith’s strength lies in his inventive story ideas. It seems as if he made a list of “what if” questions and used that as the baseline for the stories in this collection (a look at the back of the book alludes to this). This idea in itself is incredibly innovative to anyone who has ever attempted the difficult task of creating with the written word. Smith uses this exercise and enthralls the reader with each story. 

The story that sticks with me the most is “The Test.” While there’s no time setting, it takes place in what could be the not-too-distant future as the government attempts to come up with a way to proactively stop mass shooters. A first person narrative that is terrifying and somewhat plausible, this really struck a chord with me. I’ve spent a good amount time during my zoned out daydreams dissecting the thoughts and feelings that plot line left me with. It’s his most powerful tale in a book full of strong stories.

Smith manages to make the supernatural feel like it could be a seeming any day situation. He has a gifted way to show the strange and how it lurks out there in plain sight. These seven stories are enticing and authentic, and made this reader eager for his next work.




Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith founded Help the Homeless RI in 2015, and it became a 501(c)3 in 2016. Smith runs the all-volunteer agency that feeds people in three different communities and works diligently with a local case manager and outreach workers to secure housing, funds and items for those in need. Through donations and fundraisers, they continue to grow each year, which has become a major relief to those struggling the most.

Smith is the president and executive director of the organization. She takes part in home cooking and hand delivering meals and items and setting up a “wish list” of needed items for the people she helps. She even once alerted a family to a nearby and potentially dangerous fire that she saw while delivering goods for them.

“Andrea has a positive effect on the people she helps,” says Scott DeLomba, who nominated her for recognition in this issue. “And despite the never-ending needs and challenges, she remains positive and driven to make a difference.”

Help the Homeless RI provides community meals in Pawtucket, Woonsocket and West Warwick, and works with people in need throughout the state. Smith has helped grow an inclusive community, giving strength and hope to people as well as forming a variety of positive friendships.

“Andrea is able to get people from all different backgrounds to work toward one goal,” DeLomba says. “She is humble. She is brave. She is kind and she is steadfast in her mission to address the needs of the homeless. She also works a full-time job.”

DeLomba admires Smith’s positivity and drive. He feels that she would rather that people focus on the cause of Help the Homeless RI instead of her or the other volunteers helping to run the organization.

“I don’t know the story behind her passion for the homeless,” DeLomba says. “But I know that Rhode Island is a better place because of her.”

For more information, to volunteer or make a financial, food or product donation, visit helpthehomelessri.org or fb.com/pg/helpthehomelessri




Camilo Vivieros

The George Wiley Center was founded in 1981 by anti-poverty activist Henry Shelton. It opened as a grassroots organization with the mission of being actively committed to local community organizing for the purpose of creating social and economic justice through changes in public policy. Shelton ran the organization until his retirement in 2016, when he handed the reins over to his lead organizer, Camilo Vivieros. Vivieros has more than 25 years of experience as a community organizer and has been a part of many of the Center’s successes and a main voice for the causes that they continue to fight for.

“He does this for love of the community and certainly not
for money or recognition,” says a friend of Vivieros who wished to remain
anonymous. “He works nonstop. He’s out there working and getting little or no
credit. He just wants to see the community succeeding. It’s a labor of love.”

The George Wiley Center is currently working on numerous campaigns, with the biggest being a battle with National Grid over turning customers’ power back on. The Henry Shelton Act, which made it so customers’ power could be turned on if they paid 10% of their bill, was signed into Rhode Island law in 2011. National Grid found loopholes and has continued to keep the power off for those who are the worst off in the state. Vivieros has brought attention to this issue, organizing and helping community members find ways to get their power back on.

“He’s one of the three people I admire most in the world,” she said of Vivieros in the midst of trying to put into words the impact he has had on the community as a whole as well as individuals lucky enough to meet and know him. “Everyone who knows him would say that everyone should know him. He makes the world a better place just being in it.”

The George Wiley Center is located at 32 East Ave in Pawtucket. Call 401-728-5555 for more information or check them out at georgewileycenter.org or their Facebook page.




Chrissy Stewart, PVD Live

Chrissy Stewart has her finger on the pulse of the PVD art scene. She is a booking agent that is also involved with the new Goodwill Engine Co. venue (formerly Firehouse 13). She is an acoustic performer and entrepreneur and founder of PVDLive, which showcases aspects of Providence’s inspiring arts and entertainment scene.

“Chrissy is special because she is in tune and supportive of the local scene,” musician Bob Giusti says of Stewart.

PVD Live was founded in 2016 and has become an online go-to for Rhode Islanders to see what is happening in the city as they make their plans for the night, day, weekend, etc. The tagline, “Where you should be in Providence,” is fitting, as they give a rundown of what the latest city trends are in the music, art, food and shopping scenes. PVDLive also books and promotes their own events.

“She is very involved with the Columbus Theatre community as well,” Giusti adds, and she’s the co-founder of the Divine Providence Festival, which brings PVD entertainers out to share their talents with other RI communities each year.

Goodwill Engine Co had a successful soft opening this past May, leaving many patrons impressed with what they saw and excited for the venue to be fully operational. Plans are in place to include a café and hostel in addition to concert space.

“Chrissy is pretty laid back,” Giusti says of her attitude and approach to illuminating the many fantastic activities PVD has to offer, including her own endeavors. “She would welcome attention like this because it helps her promotion, not because of ego.”

You can find PVD Live online at pvdlive.com and on social media. Goodwill Engine CO is located at 41 Central St. Like them on Facebook to keep track of progress and announcements, and read our feature on them in our next issue.




Unclogging the Drain: New project encourages local citizens to help keep trash out of the oceans

Some of the best benevolent ideas can come from unlikely and unexpected places. A few years ago, Bonnie Combs, marketing director for Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, was crossing a city intersection that was covered with litter. She took note of the quote stenciled on it: “Keep it Clean, Protect Your Water” and took a picture she used as a conversation starter to address issues with littered waterways and the Plastic Ocean. This chance encounter with a littered storm drain led to the Adopt a Storm Drain project, in which local citizens can take responsibility for keeping a storm drain in their neighborhood clean of debris.

Yoda_2“Pollutants — including litter — are carried by storm water in the drains and are then deposited directly into nearby wetlands, streams, lakes, ponds, estuaries and bays, which then enter our oceans,” Combs says while discussing the importance of keeping storm drains clean. “I felt there needed to be an awareness campaign to make a better connection between where litter goes when it makes its way into a storm drain.”

This awareness campaign has been recognized by both Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with both states issuing Gubernatorial Proclamations that declared May Storm Drain Awareness Month.

Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council has been combining arts and the environment with their project.

“We have created seven murals along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway, and are painting three additional murals at Riverside Park,” education director Sara Canuel says. “As well as adding art to the area, the murals depict important environmental themes such as creatures that live in the river, or impacts of trash.” The completed murals sit at the corner of Promenade and Rathbone St and on Delaine St in ProvidenceDon't_litter_I'll_be_bitter

Every citizen can adopt a storm drain of their own, even without the assistance of outside organizations. Combs is bringing awareness to the issue with the hopes that the community steps up to keep storm drains clear of debris, which will in turn prevent further pollution to our water.

“Simply monitor it on a regular basis, whether you take a regular walk there or drive by,” Combs suggests. “Keep some gloves and trash bags with you and collect anything you find and dispose of it properly.”

Safety is an important part of keeping storm drains clean. “Always be mindful of your surroundings,” Combs warns. “Watch for traffic, stay on the sidewalk or roadside. Wear gloves if you’re not using a litter picker and avoid needles. When removing debris, work slowly and carefully so that nothing falls in.”

Though Adopt a Drain is starting small, Combs is proud of the individuals doing their part to make this world a better place.

“We all play a part in the health of our planet and it’s small actions like this, when multiplied by many, that create change. And that’s what I’m all about: creating change.”

For more information about the Adopt a Drain project, contact Bonnie Combs, Marketing Director of Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Cooridor.