I caught up with Carl Sweeney Jr. on his way to pick up more jars of peanut butter for families in need. A lifelong resident of East Providence, Carl is the President and Co-Founder of the Hope & Faith Drive, a non-profit organization acting on the belief that no one should go hungry. The food drive was founded in 2011 by Carl and his granddaughter Hailee. At the age of 11, Hailee named the operation Hope & Faith. “Hope” that everyone would have food to eat, and “Faith” that it would happen. Five years later, The Hope and Faith Drive is now a registered 501(c)(3) Non Profit organization and regularly delivers food to 35-50 East Providence families in need.
The families the Hope and Faith Drive help vary in need. Some receive food once a month while others require less frequent assistance. A name and number is all Carl requires and he will reach out to the individual or family in need and offer the resources he has available.The Drive receives food and toiletries from donations through the multiple drives he hosts each year.
The Hope and Faith Drive is more than a food pantry. Mr. Sweeney is the connector between those with resources and those who need them in this city. On one end individuals with excess food -and even furniture- reach out to Carl knowing he will find a home for the donations. On the other, those who know a family who could benefit from the Hope and Faith Drive will refer their name and number to Carl.
The Drive also works with East Providence elementary schools where the students learn valuable life lessons in preparing bags of food for Carl to distribute to those in need. Carl drops off donations and bags at the schools. The children fill the bags, many of which are crafted at the Little Red School House in Riverside, with a variety of food and toiletry items.
I experienced the impact of the Food Drive first hand as an employee for the East Providence Recreation Department after school program. Kids at the Rec Center prepared bags of food for the food drive. When I told them the bags would be going to families in the City of East Providence they enthusiastically began choosing items they thought the children in those families would most enjoy. Macaroni and cheese and alphabet soup seemed to be the top picks. Because of Carl’s hard work and generous donations from the community, the Hope and Faith Drive delivered bags of food and two complete meals to 160 East Providence families at Thanksgiving.
Various fundraisers take place throughout the year including the “Hope and Faith Wagon Walk”, an annual walk to raise awareness of those in our community who go hungry. The July 2017 walk will be the third walk and will start in the track at Pierce Field. From the track, the walk continues south through East Providence and ends after a lap around the terrace at Rose Larisa Park. Carl truly appreciates the help of the kids in the community who bring excitement and energy to the effort of raising awareness and collecting food. Campers from the Recreation Department will walk for a mile or two until they are relieved by another group of campers.
How can you help? You can leave your food and toiletry donations in the drop off box in front of the main office at the East Providence Recreation Center, 100 Bullocks Point Ave. You can also drop donations into the Hope and Faith box on Carl’s deck at 18 Intervale Ave in East Providence. Checks can be made out to “Hope and Faith Drive” and mailed to Carl’s address. You can be assured 100% of the money will be spent on food for local families in need. Carl even refuses to use the money to pay for his gas as he hand delivers bags of food to families.
Items most in need this time of year are gift cards to grocery stores which allow families to purchase foods they enjoy the most. Toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and even laundry detergent are other items always in need of replenishment.
Carl Sweeney Jr. lives by the motto “No one can help everyone, but everyone can help someone”, and East Providence is a better place because of him.