The Friendly Home nursing home has made the return of the city's ice skating rink at River Island Park a reality for Woonsocket skaters with a $5,000 donation.
Although the rink is generally opened by this time each December, the cash- strapped city has recently cut back on everything from street lights to the number of employees, and the ice rink has survived local cuts the last two years only through the generosity of local donors and union cooperation.
At Monday's City Council meeting, Council Vice President Dan Gendron told Mayor Leo Fontaine he'd heard from someone who wanted to help bring the rink back, but didn't say who. By Thursday, the reference had come to fruition.
"I as a local business person want to support local causes that benefit the people of Woonsocket," said Kate Epp , CEO of the Friendly Home on Rhodes Avenue, “That charity begins at home, and our home is Woonsocket.”
The donation, together with previous donations and cost-saving efforts, will allow the city to run the rink again this year.
Last year, Fontaine saved money through an agreement with the union to shuffle the schedule of regular employees rather than hiring temporary, seasonal staff - an agreement that carried over this time.
The city has received supporting sponsorship in the amount of $2,500 from CDM Smith, a firm which has done a great amount of engineering work for the city, Fontaine said. The Mayor's office has also received the commitment of $1,000.00 from, "A local businessperson and tremendous member of our community who wishes to remain anonymous in his donation," Fontaine said.
"With the cooperation of the union to allow staff to work the rink without the need for overtime costs, no additional taxpayer dollars will be needed to bring this wonderful opportunity to the people of the city," Fontaine said.
Fontaine took the opportunity to point out the importance of the rink to Woonsocket. "Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 individuals (mostly children learning to skate) have utilized our rink," Fontaine said Thursday afternoon, "This blue collar community has shown a return to a storied hockey tradition that existed only in the history of our City. Also, we have seen a resurgence of community affection; a change that is as encouraging as it is gratifying."
The DPW will start putting up the rink, which may take a while, Fontaine said, but he hopes to have the rink up and running by the holidays. The skating season normally lasts until the early spring.
"I would like to thank The Friendly Home and the other sponsors who have come forward to make this tradition a reality yet again this year. Without community partners such as this, we would be unable to offer this opportunity to the children of our city. This is another example of our city pulling together during difficult times.”
The city is also in need of donated skates that are lent to those people needing skates free of charge. Anyone that has some gently used skates that you would like to donate, please contact the public works department at (401) 767-3287.
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