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 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.
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.
BIZ CAMP: BIZ CAMP can best be described as Hard Core Soft Skills. The program will be fun, fast faced, diverse and highly interactive. Students will gain confidence and be better prepared for the workplace. The curriculum includes professional instructors in the fields of customer service/soft skills and digital literacy. It also includes daily participation from area business leaders and employers. Real workplace scenarios will be explored and students will develop skills to address challenges, varying personalities and communication styles, and develop good decision making practices. Special focus will be placed on developing an excellent work ethic and understanding of employer expectations. Students will have the opportunity to receive a Completion Certificate based on attendance, participation, homework, test scores, and their overall development of a positive work ethic and attitude. Successful completion of this program will put students in a strong position to meet the needs of local employers, many of whom have employment opportunities and helped design the curriculum. This program is sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training and generously funded through the Real Jobs RI Program.
Foundation Programs & Events
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 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. 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.
Downtown is Blooming- A downtown beautification project where the Chamber Foundation purchased 20 large flower pots and placed throughout Westerly and Pawcatuck downtown. The GWCF secured donations from local businesses and non-profits to sponsor additional flower pots to enhance the beauty downtown. We enlisted the aid of The YMCA Garden Club to provide a weekly surveillance of each pots.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Nominee demonstrates excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession.
- Nominee provides valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community.
- 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 and the opportunity to join the hundreds of ATHENA winners worldwide at the national conference in Chicago.
ATHENA Scholarship awards are also presented that evening thanks to Zoe & Co. who sponsor this portion of the event each year. $1,500 will be awarded to local youths who have exemplary scholastic achievements and meet the requirements of community service and demonstration of ATHENA principles.
The Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program is 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 is 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 is available, and through the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, technical and design expertise is available. With this coordinated support, the Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck Facade Improvement Program leverages private improvements while making revitalization efforts affordable, creative and community-based.
The goals of the program are as follows:
- Enhance the overall look of the historic downtown district, and improve areas that are visible from the public way.
- Support a coordinated approach to have the two-state downtown appear as one charming, well-maintained, vibrant and unified business district.
- Support the existing business base and attract new business interests by providing financial incentives that help them stay/locate in historic downtown.
- 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 can apply for funding. The project site must be 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 are 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.
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 about 12 years.
Bricks + Murals
We managed the finances for this grass root event for 1 year, 2017.
Ocean Community Chamber Foundation Has Received Financial support from many sources including the Following:
Ashaway Line & Twine (annual donation)
Horace Kimball Foundation
Olde Mistick Village
Pfizer Foundation Volunteer Program
Alfred Roberts Jr. Foundation
Royce Family Fund
State of RI – EDC
Town of Stonington CT
Town of Westerly RI
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.