Media release

2022 Murray Family Prize honors Kate Brewster for community leadership

As executive director of the Jonnycake Center for Hope, Brewster leads a team of dedicated people who provide food, housing and other services to South County residents in need

The 2022 Murray Family Prize for Community Enrichment at the Rhode Island Foundation has been awarded to Kate Brewster, executive director of the Jonnycake Center for Hope in South Kingstown.

With the honor, Brewster received $50,000 in recognition of her long commitment to helping Rhode Islanders in need. There are no restrictions on the use of the money.

“Kate’s remarkable commitment to serving disadvantaged communities is an inspiring standard for others to follow. We take great pride in honoring her for her dedication and achievements,” said Paula McNamara, daughter of Terrence and Suzanne Murray, who along with her family established the Murray Family Prize for Community Enrichment at the Foundation.

Brewster has worked at the Jonnycake Center since 2015. Under her leadership, the organization has expanded its services, renovated a 120-year old school house and community landmark into its new headquarters, is preparing to update four multi-unit properties to provide service-enriched housing to local families, and recently announced the impending launch of a youth center.

“What started as a food pantry and thrift store close to 50 years ago has grown into a robust neighborhood organization. Today, our services are centered around the social determinants of health including housing, education, economic security, health and wellness, and community,” said Brewster.

In 2021, the organization helped low-income Rhode Islanders obtain $290,000 in income tax refunds, provided $87,000 in emergency financial assistance for food, utilities and housing; had 6,200 visits to its food pantry and helped 30 households find permanent housing.

“The needs of our community are constantly changing. Most recently the fallout from the pandemic, including a severe housing shortage and impact on children’s learning and mental health, caused us to further expand our services to include the creation of new, affordable housing for local families and a youth center to give young people an opportunity to learn new skills, access academic support and have a safe space to go if they are simply having a bad day,” said Brewster.

Previously, Brewster was executive director of the Economic Progress Institute and adjunct faculty at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work. She received a BA in sociology at the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in social welfare policy at Rhode Island College.

“It is vital to celebrate the positive contributions of Rhode Islanders like Kate who are striving diligently and humbly to serve others,” said Neil D. Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are grateful to the Murray family for honoring the extraordinary leaders whose dedication provides hope and improves the lives of those around them.”

The Murray Family Prize was launched in 2017. The previous recipients are the late Rob DeBlois, founder of the UCAP School; Joe Garlick, executive director of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley; Eileen Hayes, executive director of Amos House; Marie Ghazal, executive director of the Rhode Island Free Clinic; and Mario Bueno, executive director of Progreso Latino.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $98 million and awarded $76 million in grants last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.