PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —For 125 years, Family Service of Rhode Island (FSRI) and Brown University have shared a deeply intertwined history. Founded in 1892 as the Providence Society for Organizing Charity, FSRI’s first president was Elisha Benjamin Andrews — also Brown’s eighth president. In the years since, generations of Brown students, faculty and staff have joined FSRI in serving Rhode Island families in need.
To kick off a year of celebration marking FSRI’s 125th anniversary, Brown President Christina Paxson hosted an event at the University on Wednesday, Feb. 15, with members of both organizations coming together in honor of the major milestone.
“Family Service of Rhode Island and Brown have long stood as two pillars of this community and we’re deeply woven into the fabric of Providence and Rhode Island,” Paxson said during her welcoming remarks. “Geographically we’re neighbors, historically we are distant cousins, and ethically we’re partners in the shared role of serving our community.”
During the event, FSRI CEO Margaret Holland McDuff announced that the agency will award Paxson and the University with the annual Brighter Futures award. Presented annually by FSRI to an individual or organization that makes an outstanding contribution to the well-being of children, the award will recognize Brown’s historical connections to the agency and Paxson’s own research on the relationship of economic factors to health and welfare, particularly for children.
“As a social worker, you learn quickly that there are no simple solutions — no magic cures for illness, poverty or trauma…” Holland McDuff said. “To make a real impact, we must all work together. We must have partners. FSRI was started by a partnership with Brown University. Tonight, 125 years later, President Paxson has reaffirmed her commitment to that partnership.”
Those themes — partnership and collaboration — emerged throughout remarks at Wednesday’s event as critically important in solving problems that affect communities, a goal of both institutions.
FSRI Board of Directors President John Simmons noted that collaboration will be particularly key in the current political climate, which is likely to present unique challenges for organizations like Family Service of Rhode Island.
“The new reality at the federal level will likely bring great disruption to the system we are familiar with,” Simmons said. “FSRI has weathered changes in the past and has emerged stronger. We can do this again with the University’s help,” noting Brown’s expertise in education, economic development, policy and more.
The ceremony marked the beginning of a yearlong FSRI celebration with additional events at Brown planned for later in the year. In conjunction with the anniversary, FSRI plans to convene educational forums, share new research on HIV/AIDS and launch a 125 Acts of Kindness campaign, among many other activities.
Paxson praised several programs spearheaded by FSRI including the Walking School Bus and AIDS Project of Rhode Island. Collectively, through 39 programs and 20 partnerships, the agency provided assistance to more than 8,000 people within the state in 2016, Holland McDuff said.
FSRI will formally present the Brighter Futures award to Paxson during an October luncheon.