Kate Brewster knows there is a need in her community. As Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale’s new executive director, she plans to help fill that need.
“There are so many people working at jobs that increasingly pay low wages, or are part-time, and it is expensive to live in our state,” Brewster said. “When we are able to provide things like free food and clothing to help people get by, it’s very gratifying.”
Brewster took over at Jonnycake Center last week, replacing Susan Gustaitis, who left in June to take a position at Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Brewster will lead a center that has grown dramatically over the past 10 years – and serves more than 1,700 people annually. In 2005 it served just 250.
“The world of food assistance has changed dramatically,” Brewster said. “Free food donations have dropped, so we have to buy a lot of the food we hand out. We have been finding ways to turn donations of furniture and clothing into revenue, which we then use to buy healthy food. I think everyone here is continuing to look for opportunities to raise the resources we need to provide our services.”
Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale primarily serves residents of South Kingstown and Narragansett. Its main office and retail thrift store are located at 1231 Kingstown Road and the food pantry is at 1183B Kingstown Road. It opened Furniture that Feeds, a homegoods store, at 1207 Kingstown Road earlier this year. The agency also offers a summer meal program for children who receive free or reduced lunch during the school year.
“In Kate we have found someone who is committed to helping our neighbors who are struggling and who has a proven track record of running a small non-profit organization. We are so happy she will be joining our team,” said Katherine Horoshack, board president, in a press release.
Brewster, a Wakefield resident, said she’s excited to help her community.
“I hope to continue to ensure that everyone who comes here is able to get help and to continue our community partnerships with other organizations,” she said. “We have all our holiday programs coming up. I came in at an increasingly busy time, so it’s exciting to see all of that unfold. Everyone here is very committed and devoted to make sure people not only have a meal at the holidays, but meals throughout the year.”
For the last 11 years, Brewster was executive director of Economic Progress Institute, where she was responsible for managing the organization, including board relations, fundraising, fiduciary oversight, public education and legislative advocacy.
Brewster also helped launch the state RIte Share Premium Assistance Program at the state Department of Human Services. RIte Share is a health care assistance program for Medicaid-eligible individuals who have access to employer-sponsored insurance. Under the program, the state pays all or a part of a family’s monthly health care premium.
Brewster serves on the board of directors at Welcome House of South County and the policy council of South County Community Action Head Start. Last fall, she was named one of the state’s 30 most powerful women by Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.