Volunteer Spotlight: Community Partners

Fires in Waterplace Basin. Photo by Erin Cuddigan.

WaterFire takes hundreds of volunteers and a dedicated staff to make its events a reality. Though many already know this, fewer know how deep into the community WaterFire’s roots really go. WaterFire wouldn’t happen without a great many organizations and businesses from around the city donating, supporting, and otherwise helping us do what we do. Three of them took the time to express how grateful they are to be part of the magic.

Dunkin’ Donuts, The Fogarty Center, and La Gondola Providence each support WaterFire’s volunteers and operations in their own way. On the morning of an event day, often before the sun has even risen, Dunkin’ Donuts generously provides a delicious breakfast for our volunteers and staff and helps load it into a staff member’s truck. “Donating our Dunkin’ Donuts products to those who work hard on these events helps to put our name out there in a positive manner,” says Shannon Withey of Dunkin’ Donuts. “It shows we are compassionate and appreciative of those who work so hard to put together fun and family-friendly events for our community.”

Prepping for our volunteer breakfast on an event day. Photo by John A. Simonetti.

Prepping for our volunteer breakfast on an event day. Photo by John A. Simonetti.

By noon, the WaterFire team has already built braziers, set up stages, and is just as hungry as they were during breakfast. The Fogarty Center, a non-profit organization providing services to adults with disabilities, arrives along the river and cooks incredible lunches for everyone. “Often people with disabilities are seen as non-contributing, and the same people feel as if they do not have purpose,” says Service Coordinator Melanie Simmonds. “WaterFire gives them a chance to be seen giving back to their community and pride in doing so.”

La Gondola Providence has truly become engrained into the WaterFire scene everyone knows and loves, but they also give back to our amazing team of volunteers. “In terms of specifically giving to WaterFire, I am happy to donate gift certificates for any of their fundraisers, but particularly for the volunteer appreciation event,” says Marcello, the owner. “They are the unsung heroes of WaterFire, always trying to keep the lowest profile possible, and I am happy to help in honoring them once a year.”

Fogarty Center residents and staff prepare a delicious lunch for WaterFire's staff and volunteers.

Fogarty Center residents and staff prepare a delicious lunch for WaterFire’s staff and volunteers.

All three of these organizations, like all of WaterFire’s partners, are passionate about what WaterFire is and does. They know the magic the events bring to Providence and strive to keep it going by way of support. Shannon of Dunkin’ Donuts says that “WaterFire is something our employees talk about every year. They all love going with their friends and families too.”

Personally, she believes “the fires were stunning… the reflection along the water and watching the gondolas pass by was so beautiful. The stars of blue that could be purchased for a loved one in heaven truly touched my heart.”

Indeed, La Gondola’s presence on the river is iconic, and WaterFire wouldn’t be the same without them. For Marcello, “there is a subtle and happy memory of campfires from my childhood, as well as ancient festival celebrations from a culture long gone, and maybe a touch of the chaos that will accompany the end of the world, however that comes.”

Photo by David Dobrzynski.

A gondola glides by the RISD campus on the Providence River. Photo by David Dobrzynski.

The Fogarty Center appreciates that “WaterFire brings people of all walks of life together, sharing the warmth of the fire, volunteering and being part of something bigger than yourself, and appreciation for the arts. This is a recipe for a strong community who can bring joy and friendship to Providence.”

Being part of Providence and its incredible culture is something WaterFire and our community partners are extremely proud of. It’s what drives all of this effort and this giving. Marcello sums it up best:

The long and short of the display is that whatever one may think of it personally, the effect that it has had putting Providence on the map, so to speak, is undeniable, and another thing that I greatly appreciate myself is the resistance by WaterFire to make the display a permanent part of any other city’s waterfront. It is something that makes Providence even more unique and special than it already was, and as a result I consider myself extremely proud to be a part of it every few weeks all season long, year after year. I know that Providence and my operation would not be the same without WaterFire’s presence.”

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