PAWTUCKET – For Paul and Susan Guevremont and their two children, Paul and Hannah, 2017 is in the rear view mirror. But even today - three years later - the Pawtucket family still gets emotional when they talk about that long year of hardship and uncertainty.
In July of 2017, Hannah was hospitalized after her pancreas stopped producing enough insulin to meet the body's needs, which left her a diabetic. Five months later in December, her father, Paul, suffered a debilitating stroke that left him hospitalized and unable to work for weeks.
“It was a tough time for our family,” her father says.
Fast forward to 2020 and everyone, thankfully, is healthy and happy.
But what the family has never forgotten is how the Pawtucket community helped them in their time of need when neighbors and friends delivered meals, shoveled the driveway and helped out with bills.
It was that outpouring of love and support that inspired Hannah, 14, and her brother, Paul, 7, both students at St. Raphael Academy, to return the favor and give back to a community that is now hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Realizing that the coronavius has left thousands of Rhode Islanders unemployed and suddenly food-insecure, Paul, a junior at St. Ray's, and Hannah, an incoming freshman, decided to hold a small food drive for the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, an idea that became the perfect service project for the school's Moore's Scholars program.
But what was supposed to be a small food drive ended up yielding some pretty big results.
Paul and Hannah called their food drive the "2020 Vision to End Hunger." They launched it three weeks ago and during a span of two weeks collected more than 26 40-pound boxes of food and nearly $1,700 in donations, which they used to purchase pallets of food from a food supply company.
Along with about 30 volunteers, Paul and Hannah delivered the food to the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen on Walcott Street on Saturday.
A non-profit organization serving the homeless and city's low-income population, the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen is housed in the basement of St. Joseph's Church. The Soup Kitchen serves breakfast and supper five days a week, as well as brunch on Saturday.
During the food drive, Paul and Hannah had two no-contact drop off sites – their front porch and local business Every Body's Nutrition on Armistice Boulevard. They also distributed fliers and advertised their cause on social media. As a result, received more than $1,700 in monetary donations, including $400 from the Delany St. Teresa Council #57 Knights of Columbus.
The siblings used that money to buy food as well as 96 cases of water, which BJ's Wholesale Club offered at a discounted rate. The food was purchased from a supplier used by family friend Ernie Legenere, owner of Flavors Restaurant on Armistice Boulevard.
All totaled, they delivered over 1,000 pounds of food and 96 cases of water weighing more than 4,000 pounds, and delivered it all to the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen via a trailer provided by Arlington Auto Body.
Helping Paul and Hannah deliver the goods were their parents, a group of fellow students from St. Raphael Academy, and members of the Knights of Columbus Council#57.
Adrienne Marchetti, executive director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, was waiting as as the heavy duty truck carrying the trailer arrived just before 1 p.m.
"Oh my God, what can I say!" exclaimed Marchetti. "I am amazed at what they were able to do. Those two kids are incredible and we are all so proud of them.”
Paul and Hannah said they just wanted to pay it forward and give back to the community that helped them in 2017.
“A lot of people are going through some tough times right now because of the coronavirus so we just want to give something back and now is the time to do it,” said Paul.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7