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Providence “Y Heroes” event honors staff for resilience among awardees – Ann Clanton

By Ann Clanton, “Speak-Up” contributing writer

Rhode Island leaders in government, law enforcement and the corporate community convened at the Rhode Island Convention Center for the YMCA of Greater Providence’s fifth annual “Y Heroes” awards on Tuesday.

Greater Providence YMCA Board Member and award-winning journalist Mike Montecalvo served as emcee. A common theme throughout the luncheon was the resilience of the YMCA as they continued to serve the community despite 70% of the staff having absences due to COVID-19.

YMCA CEO, Colonel Steve O’Donnell during his welcome remarks addressed the resilience and heroic efforts of the YMCA’s staff. The entire YMCA staff were honored for going above and beyond during the pandemic.

From serving after-school meals to over a thousand children and adults, to providing internet access to the Wiggins Village housing complex residents, to transporting Rhode Island youth to schools with the YMCA vans and to providing meals and toys during the Christmas holiday, it was an all hands on deck at the YMCA.

“We believe we are at the forefront in serving the community” said YMCA CEO, Colonel O’Donnell in closing his remarks.

Coming off a winning season and receiving the Coach of the Year Award, Providence College Men’s Basketball Coach, Ed Cooley, was among the 2022 “Y Heroes” recognized.

Other Honorees included: Congressman Jim Langevin ( D-RI-2); Barbara Papitto, Founder of The Papitto Opportunity Connection; Malcolm Chace, Managing Partner, Canton Hathaway, LLC; George Ortiz, Co-Founder, The Elisha Project; and the YMCA of Greater Providence Staff.

Coach Cooley made it clear he was an advocate for the community and mentor to the youth as he applauded the Providence College administration for naming the College’s first African-American head Basketball coach. An alumni of the YMCA Providence himself, Coach Cooley said he was “one of those kids on Prairie Avenue” who grew up at the Y.

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse provided welcome remarks in a virtual message, congratulating their colleague, Congressman Langevin. Mayor of North Providence, Charles Lombardi, former Speaker of the House Nicholas Matiello, and Gubernatorial Candidate Helena Fowlkes also participated.

“After a long two years, we are thrilled to be able to gather in-person to celebrate some of the most generous and philanthropic members of our Y community,” said O’Donnell. “Each of this year’s heroes has impacted the YMCA of Greater Providence in their own way, whether through time, talent, or treasure, and we are honored to have their support.”

According to organizers of the 150 year old organization, there were over 250 in attendance with an additional audience watching virtually. Y Heroes is the organization’s primary fundraiser with proceeds going towards camp scholarships for children and families in Rhode Island.

To read the program book and view all the sponsors, go to:


Ann-Allison Clanton was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. As principal of Ann Clanton Communications, Ann has more than two decades of experience as a communications and public affairs consultant. She has written features and profiles articles for the Providence American Newspaper and Ethnic Online Magazine.

Among the notable persons interviewed include former U. S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Cornell West, former Florida Congressman Allen West (R-FL) and Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus first African American Ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson.

Ann is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival and a founding member of the Southern New England Association of Black Journalists.

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