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A Hummel Report Investigation

Tapping into the Community

For the past three decades Tap In has been a mainstay for thousands of people in need of food, clothing, household items - and transportation to medical appointments. The all-volunteer organization is located in what some see as an unlikely place: the town of Barrington. But this week Jim Hummel finds there is a growing need throughout the East Bay communities it serves.


Every Thursday they converge - seemingly out of nowhere. A core of volunteers that will unload two pallets of food in about 20 minutes. It is an efficient operation and this group has it down to a science.
They are some of the nearly 100 volunteers at Tap In, an all-volunteer outreach organization that provides resources - and services to residents of Rhode Island’s East Bay.
Headquartered in the basement of the old Peck School in the heart of Barrington - Tap In is synonymous with meeting a need for what has become dozens of families from Bristol, Warren, East Providence and Barrington, who come through the doors for help every week.
Faulkner: ``We did our homework, we kind of knew what wasn’t out there and we started small but we’re big now.’’
Pam Faulkner is one of five founding members who started Tap in 30 years ago just down the road. It moved to its current location within a year or two of opening. The original mission in 1983 was informational - to help match people with other service agencies.
Faulkner: ``There seemed to be so many needy people in town that needed information on where to go for healthcare, Meals on Wheels, hospice, those organizations were all just starting about that time about the same time we did..’’
So the goal was to Tap In to those services, hence the name. Someone later expanded the acronym to Touch a Person In Need.
Faulkner: ``Then a whole lot of other things came up and out and like flowers shooting out, all of a sudden we could see there were many other needs.’’
First the so-called food closet, which helps stretch working families’ budgets or those on food stamps by allowing them to get a generous bag full of supplemental food items once a month. There are children’s clothes, household goods, beds, the occasional bike, and children’s books and toys.
Hummel: ``So the supply followed the need.’’
Faulkner: ``The supply followed the need and it was interesting that we were asked several times, why we were locating in Barrington. People assumed Barrington doesn’t have needy people. Well, wrong. There are many needy people in Barrington who need transportation to medical appointments, who don’t know where to turn, who don’t have many family.’’
The town provides the space rent-free, but Tap In has to cover the cost of utilities, computers and phones, so Faulkner says the organization appreciates monetary donations to help with the overhead.
Tap In is open 9 a.m to noon Monday through Friday and a different group of about 10 volunteers comes each day. The organization relies on donations of all sorts of items and many in the area think of Tap In first when they’re clearing out a house.
The organization’s major obstacle is space - and the state’s fire code does not allow stuff couches or stuffed furniture to be stored. So Tap In has found a way to match need with supply.
Wood: You get to feel some accomplishment.’’

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