Media release

Rhode Island Foundation honors three nonprofits with Best Practice Awards

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island sponsors the awards, which highlight innovative work that can be models for other nonprofits to follow

The Rhode Island Foundation is honoring three nonprofit organizations with its annual Best Practice Awards. The work that is being honored includes an initiative to distribute toiletries to households with low-incomes and a program that makes it easier for high school students to receive Certified Nursing Assistant licenses after graduation.

“These organizations emerged from a highly competitive process and an impressive group of nominees. There is something valuable in each of their remarkable examples that can help every nonprofit achieve more,” said David N. Cicilline, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Sponsored by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island since inception, the award program recognizes outstanding practices by Rhode Island nonprofit organizations in the areas of Collaboration; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices; and Innovative Programming and Service Delivery.

“Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is proud that this program, which we helped co-create with the Foundation in 2012, is still going strong,” said BCBSRI Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Carolyn Belisle. “The Best Practice Award winning organizations exemplify everything we value in our state’s nonprofit sector, as they continue to create opportunities for a healthy, vibrant, equitable RI for all. Recognizing these organizations and highlighting their outstanding practices is a meaningful way we can express our ongoing commitment to support and honor the critical role they play in our state."

The three recipients will each receive $5,000 grants in recognition of their achievements.

Amenity Aid based in Warwick received the Innovative Programming and Service Delivery Award, recognizing a nonprofit organization that has planned, developed, and implemented an innovative program for its community. The organization is the first of its kind in Rhode Island to distribute hygiene products like soap, period products, deodorant, toothpaste and other essentials to its statewide network of direct service agencies.

“Our ambitious goal for 2024 is to help 110,000 Rhode Islanders by increasing full-size product distribution by 42% and travel hygiene kits distribution by 117% compared to last year. We are committed to serving the community and its diverse needs. Our services assist all vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless, low-income, veterans, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQIA+ youth, and violence or abuse victims, and more” said Liz Duggan, founder and executive director.

The organization has encouraged the agencies it supplies to become more transparent about their product needs. In addition, Amenity Aid finetuned its ordering system, including implementing online orders, packing slips and formal agreements with its partner agencies, which include Amos House, Sojourner House, Lucy’s Hearth, House of Hope, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, Operation Stand Down R.I., Project Weber/RENEW, Federal Hill House and the Boys & Girls Club of Newport.

“The need for hygiene essentials in Rhode Island is skyrocketing with food insecurity three times the rate since the onset of the pandemic. If you are food insecure, you face the same challenges accessing basic hygiene products. While this need is great, hygiene products are not covered by SNAP or WIC benefits. Our unique program fills this wide gap in social services, providing shelters, food pantries and community organizations with the toiletries they are often lacking due to funding constraints,” said Duggan.

The organization recently created a new 3-year strategic plan, which will help it diversify the products it distributes so that its partner agencies can fully meet their clients’ cultural needs and preferences.

“Amenity Aid is a small but growing nonprofit with four employees, a newly expanded board, and recently moved into a 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse and office facility. Our hygiene hub provides necessities that support the wellness and inclusion of low-income and marginalized communities throughout Rhode Island. Since our founding in 2013, we have distributed 442,103 hygiene supplies and kits and provided national leadership on the issue of hygiene poverty,” said Duggan.

Community MusicWorks received the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to establishing and maintaining diversity and equity while continuing to foster an inclusive culture.

MusicWorks is implementing a strategy to become a fully inclusive, actively antiracist organization. The work includes weekly one-hour meetings for all staff, bi-monthly two-hour seminars for staff and board members and creating a staff-board racial equity task force, tasked with identifying policy changes.

“The initiative supported deep, internal shifts among staff and board to understand the role they might play in racial injustice and prioritize work to dismantle racist structures. We learned that deep change takes time and is more sustainable than quick fixes. The impact over time has been significant and, because of strong board-staff buy-in, will be lasting. Asking questions about how to be more equitable and inclusive and having challenging conversations about it is now part of our DNA,” said Sebastian Ruth, MusicWorks’ executive director.

The Rhode Island Nursing Education Center received the Collaboration Award, which recognizes a collaborative effort by two or more nonprofit organizations that partnered to address a compelling problem affecting an underserved community or population.

In the summer of 2023, the Nursing Education Center, Providence Public Schools and the Community College of Rhode Island came together in collaboration to launch its first high school cohort CNA course.

The Nursing Education Center set up a lab specifically for CNA training, Providence Public Schools recruited students to participate and CCRI provided the instruction. The course enables students to finish both their CNA classes and clinicals in a shortened period of time. The students can then register with the support of CCRI for the credentialing exam at the end of the course.

“Equitable access to education at all levels is critically important to support the state’s attainment goals,” said Rhode Island Postsecondary Commissioner Shannon Gilkey, whose office manages the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center. “We support, encourage and will continue to develop educational programming that promotes higher education learning and credentialling, especially for students from diverse backgrounds.”

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through civic leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is improving the lives of all Rhode Islanders. For more information, visit