We’re so lucky at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley to have a Board of Directors comprised of hardworking, committed team-players who work tirelessly at our mission of building affordable housing and enriching community life.
In this series, you’ll get to know the people behind the NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley Board.
Let’s get to know current board member, Nancy Benoit .
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Nancy Benoit. I’m a retired High School Spanish teacher and taught at St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket for 27 years. I also was a Representative in the Rhode Island Legislature from 1985-2000, where I successfully sponsored legislation to improve our Child Welfare and Child Care systems, and legislation that extended health coverage for children and families, among many other bills. I have been a volunteer in the Woonsocket Community since I moved here in 1969.
I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut and after college taught high school in Detroit for four years before moving to RI. I am a board member of Community Care Alliance, Woonsocket Head Start and Child Care, and NeighborWorks. I have served on these boards for many years because they are all invested in improving the lives of children and families, as well as improving our community.
I have been married for 53 years to my husband, Ray. We have two sons, who are both Woonsocket High School grads, two daughter in laws and four amazing grandchildren, who are eight, nine, 10 and 13.
Since I retired, I spend a lot of time doing volunteer work, especially at my parish, Holy Trinity on Park Ave. I work at our Food Pantry every Tuesday and co-chair our annual parish bazaar, among other activities. We also like to travel, especially to Oregon and Colorado to visit our grandchildren, as well as to other countries.
How long have you served on the board?
I was an original incorporator of NeighborWorks, first called Woonsocket Neighborhood Development Corporation, (WNDC), over 30 years ago. In 1986 Mayor Charles Baldelli appointed a Task Force to study housing needs in Woonsocket. I was a member of the Task Force. We recommended that the City needed a homeless shelter, a shelter for women living with abusive partners and more housing that would be available for low-income residents. Family Resources (now Community Care Alliance) opened the Sayles St Family Shelter, while Sojourner House opened a Shelter for Women in Woonsocket. A board was established to create a housing corporation to create affordable housing, (WNDC). At first it was all volunteers with assistance from the Woonsocket Planning Department. Later, Joe Garlick, who was a planner in the Woonsocket Planning Department, was hired as Executive Director. I was on that first board and never left!
What inspired you to serve on the NWBRV board?
I was inspired to do something about housing in Woonsocket when I was on that first Task Force. I learned that we needed more housing to meet the needs of our City. The City had a lot of substandard housing. I didn’t think that people should have to live in unsafe and dilapidated apartments. I believe that everyone has a right to live in nice housing that they can afford, in a safe neighborhood. This was always the mission of NeighborWorks. Today the need for good, affordable housing is even greater than it was in the 1980’s. NeighborWorks still works hard with the same mission. This is why I like being a Board Member.
What would you like your friends and family to know about NWBRV?
I want my friends and family to understand that affordable housing is really workforce housing because you need income to rent an affordable apartment. I want them to understand that NeighborWorks works on lots of different types of housing: apartments for families, apartments for single people, elderly housing, homes for first time homebuyers, etc. I also want them to understand that NeighborWorks also builds neighborhoods with other types of programs that enhance the community, such as child care programs, after school and summer opportunities for kids and teens, the Levitt music concerts, etc.
Can you share something that NWBRV has accomplished during your time on the board that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m particularly proud that our Board hired Joe Garlick all those many years ago and has managed to keep him as Executive Director. He has a deep commitment to Woonsocket and the mission of NeighborWorks. He has a great reputation not only in the state of Rhode Island, but also nationally as a housing expert and someone who knows how to get things done. As a Board member, I have learned a great deal from him– the most important being that “it’s not just about building housing, it’s about building community.”