December 1, 2023

Further Changes in Operations at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island due to Covid-19

A community of support rises to help local mentoring program; MI-BOX Emerges a Hero


Rhode Island (Cranston) – After BBBSRI’s retail partner temporarily closed due to Covid-19 on March 20th, the nonprofit immediately faced an uphill battle. The organization laid off 65% of its employees on March 27th due to cash flow issues resulting in retail closures, but the BBBSRI Donation Center continued to operate its clothing and household item pickups in an effort to prepare for when the organization will be able to rebuild after the pandemic.

“Though we are not seeing revenue right now for these items, we will in the coming months and that revenue is crucial,” said Katje Afonseca, Executive Director of BBBSRI. “Continuing to collect clothing and household items helps to ensure that BBBSRI can recommence its full operations when this pandemic ends.”

For over 20 years BBBSRI has upheld its reputation of well-maintained clothing collection bins. Laying off two thirds of our workforce has caused a delay in our typical operations and maintenance of our bins, which are being overloaded as community members clear out their homes. The organization will remove 90% of the bins from the community this week. The bins, which have served as collection points for community donations of clothing, shoes, and other cloth items to benefit BBBSRI mentoring programs and partnering organizations, will be removed largely due to dumping issues over the last week as well as storage concerns. It is our goal to return all bins to their original locations by June 2020 or when the Covid-19 Pandemic allows us to return to normal business operations.

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, BBBSRI was embarking on a three-year strategic plan with significant growth projected. “We were hiring for various roles, we were in a position to grow our mentoring program by 52 percent, and we had contingency plans for multiple what-if scenarios. Along with the rest of the World, a pandemic was not on the top of our what-if list. By all accounts, BBBSRI was thriving before Covid-19,” said Paul Oberg, BBBSRI Board President, and Co-Founder and Principal of The Copley Consulting Group, Inc.

“Unfortunately, we cannot afford to rent storage space at this time or to continue to incur expenses related to dumping such as mattress disposal fees because we are not currently being paid by our partner and face significant cash flow issues,” said Afonseca. “Once business resumes, we hope to be fully funded and fully operational. The product we have on hand now is our safety net along with our endowment.”

On March 27th BBBSRI put out a request to Rhode Island businesses to donate dry, clean space for a short period of time to help with the storage concerns. “The response from local businesses, as well as from the media, was astounding!” said Afonseca. Businesses who immediately reached out include MI-BOX, Donnelly's of Rhode Island, Banneker Industries, the Greater Providence YMCA, EBO Hauling Inc.\O'Connor Recycling Co., and Butler Realty Group. The solutions that resulted are a donation from Warwick-based MI-BOX and donated space from Banneker Industries.

MI-BOX OF RHODE ISLAND donated portable moving containers to BBBSRI, which were delivered by a patented Level Lift System and will sit outside of BBBSRI’s headquarters for ground level, easy access.

“As a Rhode Island based and Rhode Island focused business, we often assist local charities and nonprofits in need. We saw Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island’s request for dry and clean storage and we knew we could help, given our expertise in providing secure mobile storage solutions. We are proud to partner with BBBSRI and do our small part to help their organization, and ultimately, the families of Rhode Island,” said a MI-BOX OF RHODE ISLAND representative.

MI-BOX OF RHODE ISLAND has agreed to help BBBSRI with their storage concerns for at least three months.

“Mobile containers are a perfect solution to our storage concerns,” said Afonseca. “The ability to have the product stored on site and then moved off site when it is time will save us thousands of dollars in operating expenses, and this is a time when savings are more critical than ever.” “We are infinitely grateful to MI-BOX OF RHODE ISLAND and we hope that Rhode Islanders choose to support this local business when they are looking for moving and storage solutions.”

Banneker Industries agreed to lend BBBSRI 2,500 square feet of warehouse space in North Smithfield. “Pat Butler from Banneker called us right away after hearing from the Northern Rhode Island Chamber that we needed space,” said Afonseca. “Banneker made a special effort to help by shifting around their own warehouse to make space for us. It’s amazing to experience such generosity during a time when everyone is being affected by this. Banneker is going out of their way to help us.”

Now that BBBSRI has product in storage, the nonprofit will remove 90% of its bins from the community in order to avoid expenses related to disposing of things like mattresses, damaged furniture, etc. that have been left at many of the charity’s bins. “It’s unfortunate that we need to move these bins, but we have always prided ourselves in the maintenance of our bins,” said Afonseca. “We plan to be here when this pandemic ends and we cannot afford the dumping fees or the possible damage to our brand, so the bins will have to be stored away until this is over.”

We implore the community to keep their clothing and household items stored away at home during the next few weeks, until BBBS can begin its collections again. “The items that Rhode Islanders have to donate are very valuable to BBBSRI,” said Afonseca. “We are concerned to lose the support of people in the state because of this pandemic, we know that there are other options where they can get rid of their items, we just hope that people can hold on to these things for a few weeks until we are back on our feet.” When the community donates their clothing and household items to BBBSRI they are supporting a local, 501(c)3 youth mentoring organization. Each and every donation to BBBSRI makes it possible for the nonprofit to provide mentors to hundreds of children in Rhode Island. The layoff of 65% of the employees due to the closure of BBBSRI’s retail partner is a testament to the importance of the Donation Center as part of BBBSRI’s fiscal security.

To learn more about MI-BOX visit or call 401-597-6400.
To learn more about Banneker Industries visit

To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island and how to get involved visit If the community sees one of our BIG GREEN BINS overflowing, call 401.743.2180 or email us at


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