Pawtucket’s Tides Family Services treated to a makeover

PAWTUCKET — Brother Michael Reis, the founder and chief executive officer of Tides Family Services, likes to say that the organization is an agency without walls, that their families and students are who they are, not the buildings they call home.

That said, the walls inside the Pawtucket-based headquarters were in dire need of a remodeling. And that’s where a team of nearly 150 volunteers came together, working around the clock from Thursday through Sunday, to clean and beautify the space on Dexter Street.

Tides Family Services serves the neediest areas of Rhode Island, providing at-home services to more than 500 families. Additionally, they also operate two special education day school programs in Pawtucket and West Warwick that specialize in working with students from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds who need a particular educational setting to reach their goals.

The inside of the Tides building on Dexter Street, near the city line with Central Falls, was “dingy” and “a little bit sad,” according to assistant clinical director Sarah Owens, who has worked at Tides since 2011.

“Before all this started, it was a dingy yellow,” Owens said to describe the color of the walls. “The atmosphere wasn’t inviting, it was not a nurturing component, but we wanted to give that environment. This project was about creating an environment where when they’re back in school and seeing the walls and how clean they are … it’ll look so nice.”

Owens admitted that she got goosebumps when she first walked into Tides as the walls were being painted, converting the drab eggshell white or stained yellow into brightly-colored hues of orange, red, or blue with multiple murals throughout the space.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “It’s nice to see people in the community coming together.”

Tom Boucher, a senior manager of communications and public affairs with Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, explained that the organization asked how they could help in any way to spruce up the Tides Pawtucket location. He said they heard the building could use some paint, and given NHP’s dedication to the children at Tides, Boucher said they reached out to partners.

Among them were Sherwin-Williams for paint donations, more than 100 NHP volunteers to help paint the walls, and 30 students from Providence’s La Salle Academy to assist in the endeavor.

Beth Lemme-Bixby, Tides Family Services’ chief operating officer, explained that the project to makeover the building’s interior began on Thursday and continued around the clock into Saturday. The goal was to have the work completed by Sunday for classes on Monday.

“The work has been amazing,” Lemme-Bixby said. “There’s fabulous work (inside) but the building didn’t communicate that, we wanted to make sure we send a message that we care.”

“I think the kids will be shocked,” when they return on Monday, she added. “One staffer said she got goosebumps. Another former staff member said she couldn’t believe it.”

In addition to providing specialized courses for youths who may have come from challenging neighborhoods or failed out of public schools – 11 students graduated from Tides last year – the agency provides community-based behavioral services, assistance for families struggling to pay for food or rent, and after-school groups for children who may not be able to enroll in any programs.

“What’s inspiring for me is they never give up on a kid,” Boucher said. “They make sure no one is disposable. Some kids with significant behavioral health issues may have punched a wall, but the impetus here was for it to be a jolt in the arm, to see the walls but have a new fresh energy.”

Tides’ programs service 500 children across the state and the Pawtucket office aids close to 200 families from Pawtucket, Central Falls, East Providence, Woonsocket, North Providence, Providence, West Warwick, and Middletown.