Captain Michael Newman, the man tasked with overseeing the newly-formed Neighborhood Response Unit (NRU) has worked tirelessly to forge alliances with some local businesses to provide opportunities for students in Pawtucket’s schools and that hard work has begun to pay off.
There are already several Pawtucket businesses that are already participating in this initiative. The idea began with Captain Newman and Officer Dan Ashworth looking to give kids from Pawtucket Learning Academy a small incentive for showing improvement. They spoke with Bob Plouffe, owner of Plouffe’s Cup N’ Saucer, located at 267 Main Street in Pawtucket, who offered a free meal to kids identified by Newman and Ashworth. Students now regularly accompany Captain Newman and Officer Ashworth for lunch or breakfast and get to eat for free thanks to Plouffe. “I think this is a good thing supporting the kids of our community and I like the idea of local law enforcement being involved in a program like this,” stated Plouffe when asked why he felt compelled to participate in the initiative.
The next local business to buy into the initiative was Latin Touch Barber Shop, located next door to Plouffe’s at 275 Main Street. Owner Bryant O’Neill welcomes a student from the Pawtucket Learning Academy each Wednesday for a free haircut and some mentoring. “Barber shops and salons are well-established in urban communities as much more than just a place to get a cut or a shave. They are social gathering places where people from different ages and backgrounds converge, talk and share stories,” said O’Neill who has been the owner of Latin Touch for over ten years. O’Neill says that barber shops even serve as a good example of what a structured society should look like. “I have signs all over my shop that say ‘pull your pants up’ and ‘no cursing allowed’ to emphasize that structure and civility.” O’Neill and his team also provide gift cards for free haircuts to Captain Newman to distribute to other Pawtucket kids that are deserving of recognition or just need a small lift in spirit. “This is really about giving back to the kids of this community who maybe just need a little guidance and a positive example to achieve their goals,” stated O’Neill.
John Jeha of Jeha’s Citgo located at 76 Newport Avenue in Pawtucket also has opened the doors of his business to support the efforts of the NRU by hiring a local teen to work at his shop for a few hours each week and learn the trade of a mechanic. “This city is a family and we need to be here to help each other,” said Jeha of his participation in this program. “I’m all for helping kids that need a little helping hand or some extra guidance to achieve a brighter future…anything to help educate young people and keep them out of trouble,” continued Jeha.
One of Pawtucket’s newest businesses is also on board. Stacy Riendeau, owner of Bake My Day on 23 Broad Street, just held a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Grebien last week and is anxious to take an active role in the local community. Riendeau will be bringing in a local teen with interest in learning how to bake and introduce them to trade. “I’m all about giving back and if I can be just a little helpful to a young person who years from now, is able to look back and say ‘when I was younger this person played a part in helping me realize my dreams’ then it is worth it,” said Riendeau.
“The whole goal of the NRU was to take a community-based approach to policing and I want to thank the Mayor, Director Pires and Chief King for empowering us to develop these types of initiatives in the community,” said Newman.
The NRU is already looking for more businesses to participate in this program. Any local businesses with interest in helping in any capacity, are encouraged to contact Captain Newman. Captain Newman can be reached by calling 401-729-5847. He can also be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mayor Donald R. Grebien