Members of the USS Mahan DDG 72 have come ashore to help out at , Aquidneck Island's shelter for women and children in Middletown.
Four to five different groups of sailors volunteer to paint at the women’s shelter each year, as part of Naval Station Newport's larger efforts to give back to the local community, according to Lucy's Hearth Program Director Jennifer Barrera. The group of sailors did their annual painting at Lucy's Hearth on Thursday.
Seaman Katherine Renard from the USS Mahan is from Orange County, California. She is a mother herself and personally understands what the shelter does.
“I’ve been through hard times with my newborn and when I did get the help, it did mean a lot. I had others helping me also. I’ve always liked volunteering and when I know I can help out people in need it makes me feel better. I know they are grateful for it,” she said.
Another young sailor helping out from the USS Mahan was Fire Apprentice Katie Kile of Austin, Texas. She too found it rewarding.
“It’s nice to see the smiles on everyone’s faces that now they have a nice clean room to come back to. I know it’s difficult for them to begin with so I know they can come back to a nice place they can call home it makes them feel good so it makes me feel good,” said Kile.
Lucy’s Hearth opened in 1984 as an overnight women’s shelter, eventually becoming a 24-hour long-term shelter offering various services and life-skill programs. According to Barrera, the shelter served the emergency needs of 44 mothers and 77 children from July 1, 2010 until June 30, 2011.
“With the amount of children we serve, you can imagine the crayon drawings on the walls and wear and tear we have. We seem to need to paint the rooms very often,” said Barrera.
Barrera said there are nine residence rooms where mothers and children stay for an average of three to six months.
Each residence room is small, about 200 square feet at most and host a mom and as many children as she arrives with in her crisis situation.
The Navy sailors' help with the painting is always highly appreciated.
“We employ three full time staff and seven part time residential councilors. Everyone is very busy helping our moms and kids so there is very little time. Add in the budgetary constraints of actually paying someone to do this, it becomes very tough,” Barrera said.
“Plus we’re not really good at painting,” she added with a smile.
Sometimes these families arrive in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs, noted Barrera.
Lucy’s Hearth supplies those in need with food, clothing, toys, personal care items, and anything else they need.