Barrington council approves $4,745 in Spencer funds for Tap-In

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

The Barrington Town Council, sitting as trustees for the Spencer Trust, awarded $4,745 to Tap-In at the Dec. 2 council meeting, but not before putting a particular restriction on the money.

Councilor Bill DeWitt requested that the money be used specifically for Barrington residents, and not for the other people aided by the local nonprofit organization.

Tap-In, which stands for Touch A Person In Need, is based in Barrington (it is located inside the basement floor of the Peck Building), but offers all types of assistance to residents of East Providence, Bristol, Barrington and Warren. Tap-In officials said that approximately 6.5 percent of the people helped by the organization are Barrington residents.

The Spencer Trust account, which came under the council’s control about five years ago, was specifically created to help the “poor and unfortunate” of Barrington.

Some members of the council have recently come under fire for their decision to use Spencer Trust money for affordable housing-related causes; opposition to that move argues the affordable housing is not specifically earmarked for Barrington people, therefore Spencer Trust money should not be used for it.

At the Dec. 2 meeting, Mr. DeWitt told two representatives from Tap-In that he supported their work but needed to respect the rules of the Spencer Trust when awarding money from it.

“This isn’t my money,” he said. “It’s someone else’s money they left to the town.”

Tap-In officials approached the council at its November meeting and formally presented the request which they had actually submitted to the town months earlier. At the December meeting, Tap-In’s Debbie Thurston told members of the council that the nonprofit had helped 1,800 people in October alone and had recently finished distributing Thanksgiving baskets to those in need. The organization settled on the $4,745 request by taking 6.5 percent (the people served from Barrington) out of the overall budget.

Initially, that approach appeared sufficient for some members of the council, but Mr. DeWitt pressed Tap-In officials about how they would be able to ensure how the Spencer Trust money would be spent.

“Be it food or otherwise for the people of Barrington, I will support it,” he said. “I would probably support more than that.”

Ms. Thurston explained how it was somewhat difficult — especially with the nonprofit’s outdated computer system — to specifically track the money. She added that Tap-In volunteers would do their best to execute that exact charge with the Spencer Trust money.

Councilor Ann Strong made a motion to award the $4,745 of trust money to Tap-In for Barrington residents in need and to have Tap-In “to the best of their abilities” track that money and report back to the council.

The motion passed 5-0.

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