• Ocean Community Chamber Foundation

  • Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, Inc.


    The Ocean Community Chamber Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. Articles of incorporation were filed with the RI Secretary of State on August 12, 1997. On March 20, 1998 the IRS granted status as a 501c3. Town Manager Steve Hartford was among the original Board Members at the time the OCCF was established. Local accountant Michael Benevides, and Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Konicki were also among the original Board Members, and they continue to serve today.


    Mission Statement: The Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, Inc. exists for charitable and educational purposes, and specifically for the purpose of assisting in the economic development and arts/tourism promotion of the community and the revitalization of historic downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck.


    Execution of Our Mission: The Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, Inc. is active with historic, civic, cultural, public safety and economic development projects, and any other endeavors as may be approved from time to time by the Board of Directors. The Foundation is designed to develop and sponsor community improvement projects, educational programs regarding the history, strengths, weaknesses, problems, and potential and current issues pertaining to the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck region, and particularly the historic downtown. We collaborate with other organizations, public and private, to produce and promote projects and special events that enhance tourism and contribute to the economic vitality of the community.


    Fund Administration: The Foundation considers itself as a servant of the community. In that capacity it may from time to time be asked to act as a charitable fund administrator for a newly formed community initiative or another charitable organization whose mission is consistent with that of the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, Inc. A formal application and review process exists for this purpose. The OCCF is a greatly respected foundation that people turn to with confidence when they want to support community initiatives or leave a lasting legacy through a scholarship program.  


    Leadership: the Board of Directors of the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, Inc. consists of not less than 4, nor more than 10 directors.  Presently, the Executive Board of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce (6 people) and the President of the Chamber of Commerce (1) serve as Board Members.

    The OCCF does not have any employees as the work is conducted largely by donated time of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce employees and community volunteers.  One PT event manager is contracted for 5 months to produce the duck race, a fundraiser for area schools and nonprofits. The duck race event manager is compensated out of the event profits.


    Ongoing Foundation Programs & Events

    Dedicated to supporting a wide range of educational programs and revitalization of historic downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck. 

    Pawcatuck River Duck Race – This event is a rubber duck race of 20,000 ducks that serves as a joint fundraiser for 45 area schools and non-profit organizations and OCCF. The educational partners are able to raise funds for their various institutions by selling duck sponsorships. More than $60,000 is generated for our charitable and educational partners each year.  Approximately $40,000 is raised for the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation annually as well.  The duck race infuses thousands of dollars into the downtown business district as more than 8,000 attendees congregate for a half day of activities.  The DBA coordinates sidewalk sales and coordinated store front decorations to support this event and draw customers to their businesses.


    River Glow- This community celebration features 37 floating bonfires on the Pawcatuck river, food, and live entertainment.  The purpose is to help increase awareness of, and patronage of, downtown businesses and our historic two state riverfront community.  It is one of the rare nights that downtown businesses and artist studios stay open late, and they report tremendous sales as a result of the crowd of 10,000 plus.  This event is not a fundraiser, and despite generous sponsor support, operates with a negative budget of over $2,500 annually.  The OCCF is committed to funding this event because of the significant infusion of commerce that results from Riverglow.


    Downtown is Blooming- A downtown beautification project where the Chamber Foundation purchase large flower pots and places them throughout downtown Pawcatuck matching pots are placed in by Westerly by the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce. We collaborate with the Stonington Beautification Committee on flower boxes for gateway bridge.


    Donahue Park/Veterans Park Holiday Light Displays - giant illuminated sculptures are placed outdoors for several weeks during the holiday season. Crafted by artists, they enhance the holiday spirit and add to a sense of community. Access to the display is free and ADA compliant.   


    ATHENA Award- Co-Presented by First Financial Advisory Services, Inc. / Geraldine B. Cunningham Associates. Each October, during National Business Women's Week, outstanding individuals are recognized for their contributions to the community and their efforts to help women achieve leadership roles.

    Nominees for the ATHENA Award meet the following criteria to be considered for the Award:

    1. Nominee assists women in realizing their full leadership potential.  This can be done in the form of mentoring, providing employment opportunities, or any other demonstration of investment in the welfare, professional or otherwise, of women.
    2. Nominee demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession.
    3. Nominee provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community.
    4. Nominee must live and/or work in the greater Westerly-Pawcatuck-Richmond/Hopkinton/Wood River Junction/Wyoming community.

    One honoree will receive a 14 inch sculpture. 

    ATHENA Scholarship awards are also presented that evening thanks to First Physical Therapy who sponsor this portion of the event each year.  $1,000 minimum will be awarded to local youths who have exemplary scholastic achievements and meet the requirements of community service and demonstration of ATHENA principles.

    Other Youth Scholarships: More than $6,000 is awarded annually by the OCCF which is the Fund Administrator for the following scholarships:

    • Falguni Hauser Memorial Scholarship
    • Mary Lou Serra Memorial Scholarship
    • Konicki Family Scholarship
    • Maddie Potts Memorial Leadership Scholarship
    • Joan Rushlow Memorial Scholarship


    Additional Foundation Programs & Events

    Downtown Wayfinding Signage- In 2011 and 2012 the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation coordinated a program to design, fund and place 6 historic looking wayfinding signs in downtown Westerly - Pawcatuck. The signs help people find their way around and highlight the business district and art galleries. From 2015 - 2017 three additional signs were added to the program.  In 2016 we repaired a wayfinding sign in downtown Mystic that had gone unaddressed for over a year.  


    Downtown Bicycle Racks- The OCCF has secured quotes for the purchase of 2 bicycle racks for downtown.  Presently, bikes are chained to the historic lampposts which causes scratches and chipped paint and looks untidy.  In fall of 2011, 2 new bike racks were placed downtown as a way to encourage patronage of cyclists to downtown, and preserve the condition of the lampposts.


    Jump Start Small Business Recovery Program- The OCCF launched an extensive campaign to aid businesses that were devastated by the Flood of 2011.  In 4 weeks, over $64,000 was raised through fundraising. Funds from the OCCF, the Town of Westerly, Town of Stonington, private businesses, and residents were contributed.  OCCF Board members acted as celebrity bartenders donating their tips, held yard sales, and conducted other activities to raise funds.  100% of all proceeds were donated as grants, not loans, to the flood victim businesses.  A member of the Westerly Town Council and a member of SCORE served on the Administration Oversight Team to review grant applications and make determination of grant awards. This significant and effective community response was featured as an “Exemplary Model” in the fall of 2010 at the New England Area Chamber of Commerce Executives annual conference, alongside with a Chamber from NYC that dealt with the aftermath of 9/11.


    The Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program was a systematic approach to assist property owners and businesses with upgrading building exteriors to create a positive visual impact, stimulate private investments and complement other community revitalization efforts. It was part of a broader downtown revitalization strategy by the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, as improvements to commercial buildings can directly benefit the business district, both visually and economically.  Through the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, funding was available, and through the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, technical and design expertise was available. With this coordinated support, the Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program leveraged private improvements while making revitalization efforts affordable, creative and community-based. 

    The goals of the program were as follows:

    1. Enhance the overall look of the historic downtown district, and improve areas that are visible from the public way.
    2. Support a coordinated approach to have the two-state downtown appear as one charming, well-maintained, vibrant and unified business district.
    3. Support the existing business base and attract new business interests by providing financial incentives that help them stay/locate in historic downtown.
    4. Support the local economy by creating projects that engage local contractors, with preference given to members of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce.

    Any building owner or store proprietor/tenant with lease authority or authorization from the owner could apply for funding. The project site had to have been located in the historic downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck business district. (See map of downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck.) Tenants must have a minimum of two years remaining on their lease or an option to renew.

    What types of improvements were eligible for funding?

    • Paint – exterior of building only
    • Signs - new, repairs, replacements, removal
    • Awnings -new, repairs, replacements
    • Door/window replacement or repair

    At present, all funds for this program have been expended and grants are sought for new funding.



    Fund Administration

    Town of Westerly Blues on the Beach- This program is run by the Town of Westerly.  The Chamber Foundation is the financial administrator of this program.  The OCCF takes all deposits all receipts/donations and issues payment for the bands, t-shirts and any other expenses.  We have been the fund administrator for over 15 years.


    Bricks + Murals - We managed the finances for this grass roots mural project for 1 year, 2017.  When BAM formed its own 501c3, the fund balance of over $43,000 was turned over to BAM. 


    Westerly 350th Anniversary Committee - We managed the finances for this celebratory committee for 2 years, to plan a year-long program of events in 2019 for the Town's 350th Anniversary year. The OCCF managed the funds from January 2018 - January 2020.  The OCCF has also been appointed the stewards of the $40,000 gift that the Westerly 350th Anniversary Committee has left for the Westerly 400th Anniversary Committee.  These funds will be restricted and shall only be used by the 400th Committee for an anniversary celebration.  


    Donations We Make:  

    We favor one time gifts for physical projects and capital improvements, especially those that improve ADA accessibility and/or support education and the arts in the region we serve.  Non-profit 501c3 organizations that enhance the quality of life for all residents in the region we serve can apply by invitation of the OCCF Board.  Applications are reviewed at least bi-monthly and applying does not guarantee funds.


  • Examples of recent Gifts:

  • Town of Stonington


  • Chariho Robotics


  • Old Stonington Lighthouse


  • Stonington Drug Free Grad. Party


  • Westminster String Youth Ensemble 


  • Colonial Theatre Shakespeare in the park 


  • Miracle League of Southeastern CT 


  • Chorus of Westerly


  • United Theatre


  • Harmony Trail 


  • Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center                                 .


  • Westerly Education Center


  • Stanton David Homestead Museum


  • Shoreline Robotics


  • Bricks and Murals                                       . 

  • Veteran's Memorial


  • Education Scholarship


  • Education renovation & ADA project


  • Education


  • Educational scholarship program


  • Free arts/cultural event in downtown westerly


  • ADA Field Construction


  • Arts & Education Bldg. renovation


  • Arts & Education Renovation Project


  • Arts - we co-sponsored one instrument


  • Basic Needs,We supported Boy Scout Troop 9's Food Drive for PNC.


  • Education, Science Lab build-out


  • Education


  • Education Scholarship


  • Arts, we sponsored 1 mural in the North End of Westerly

  • 2023


  • 2020


  • 2020


  • 2020


  • 2020 


  • 2017 - 2020                              .

  • 2019                                           . 


  • 2019


  • 2019


  • 2019   


  • 2019                                                     .


  • 2019


  • 2019


  • 2019


  • 2017                                               .



  • Financial Support

    Ocean Community Chamber Foundation Has Received Financial support from many sources including the Following:

    Ashaway Line & Twine (annual donation)

    Horace Kimball Foundation


    Monsanto Fund

    Mystic Marinelife Aquarium

    Olde Mistick Village

    Opening Doors for Westerly Children

    Pfizer Foundation Volunteer Program

    Alfred Roberts Jr.  Foundation

    Royce Family Fund

    State of RI – EDC

    Town of Stonington CT

    Town of Westerly RI

    Valenti Family of Auto Dealers

    Valenti Subaru

    Chelsea Groton Foundation

    Jewett City Savings Bank

    Washington Trust Company Charitable Foundation


    History of the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation’s Other Public Safety Initiatives

    Safety of our residents is a part of quality of life in our community. The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, through our Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, has undertaken many initiatives to address public safety.

    In 2012 the OCCF partnered with the town of Westerly to acquire two E.M.I.L.Y Life Guard Robots to enhance public safety at the two town beaches. OCCF raised more than 15,000 towards the town initiative.

    In the 1990s, we raised funds to purchase a mule life guard patrol vehicle that operated pre-season and post-season.

    In the early 2000’s we raised thousands of dollars and distributed over 70 free AEDS throughout the community. As a result, Westerly was the FIRST town in RI to get designated as a “heart safe community” by the RI State Department of Health, thanks to the GWCF and its efforts to distribute defibrillators

    Westerly was the FIRST community to provide free bike helmets to our children through a program called HABS (Helmets and Bicycle Safety) that we partnered with local resident, and cycling accident survivor, Nancy McBride to launch.

  • Chamber Champions 2024

  • Diamond Sponsor:

  • Platinum Sponsors: