Two of the community’s bedrock institutions were recognized by Gov. Gina Raimondo during a visit Friday.
Raimondo stopped in to Westerly Library to acknowledge the facility’s 125th anniversary, which is being celebrated this year. She also took a tour of the Westerly Ambulance Corps headquarters on Chestnut Street and met with some of the corps’ members, including veterans of the organization with long service tenures. The ambulance corps is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Raimondo called the library “a treasure” and described the town as “an amazing and special place, the way the community comes together. I’m inspired.”
The governor presented Brigitte Hopkins, Westerly Library and Wilcox Park executive director, with a certificate marking the library’s anniversary while library board and staff members, and town and state officials, looked on.
Hopkins led a tour of the library and gave a brief rundown of its history as well as its current service offerings. State Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, who made welcoming remarks, noted that libraries “are much more than books.” Raimondo agreed, saying libraries play a critical role in making computers and the internet available to students and job seekers.
Algiere is chairman of the Westerly Memorial and Library Association and Wilcox Park’s 125th Anniversary Committee.
Michael Brancato, assistant chief of the Westerly Ambulance Corps, walked the governor through his organization’s facilities, including the 911 dispatch center where emergency calls are fielded for 14 different emergency response agencies in the region. Algiere, a volunteer with the Westerly Fire Department, called the dispatch center a “gold model of how a regional dispatch center should work.” Raimondo echoed Algiere’s comments saying the ambulance corps performs its work “the way it should be done.”
Some of the ambulance corps’ long-serving members were on hand, including Kenneth Parrilla, who joined the corps in 1958 when he was 20 years old and stayed on as an active volunteer for 32 years, and William Gibney, who joined in 1965. Raimondo praised all of the corps’ volunteers, past and present. “I am filled with admiration, respect and gratitude for what you do. We need more people who are willing to step and serve by protecting their neighbors for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do,” Raimondo said.
The governor gave Brancato a certificate of special recognition and in turn was given a duffel bag emblazoned with the corps’ logo. Brancato thanked the governor for her visit and the certificate and invited her to the corps’ open house scheduled for Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Brancato said he was thrilled to meet the governor for the first time. “I’m ecstatic that she was here and wanted to visit us. For our members to be recognized by the governor after having helped so many people in this community is special,” he said.