EAST PROVIDENCE — In serving as the catalyst for the East Providence High Gymnasium Renovation Project, city native and young philanthropist John Carnevale saw not only an opportunity to neatly enhance a section of the school he once attended but also the chance to create a greater sense of community in his hometown.
Mr. Carnevale, 31 and an EPHS grad Class of 2000, was drawn to the project after hearing about the financial downturn the city faced over the last year plus. He also was inspired to take on the project after seeing how badly the school gym had fallen into disrepair.
“It seemed like East Providence had become very bleak with everything that happened, almost going into bankruptcy. There seemed to be a lack of motivation and energy in the city,” Mr. Carnevale explained during a phone interview earlier this week as he was traveling back to Rhode Island from his California home.
“I wanted to try to do something to change that and do something in the education arena,” he continued. “One of the last times I was home I saw how the gym looked and I wondered where is the ‘Townie Pride.'”
An engineer by trade, Mr. Carnevale has spent most of his adult life trying to make the world a better place, bringing pride to others. Through the non-profit organization “Sovhen Uganda,” he helped construct a hospital in the African country’s rural Kyssanko Village.
The EPHS Gym Project is just the latest example of his giving spirit, which he credits to his family and upbringing.
“I truly get it from my family, my mom and dad,” Mr. Carnevale said of his parents, Donna and John. “They made a point when I was growing up to give back. If others were in need, they would help out. If we needed to sacrifice to put a smile on other people’s faces, we would go do it.
“The two of them are the most unselfish people I know. They worked 40 hours a week, plus overtime and beyond to provide for me and my brother (Ray). They gave us everything they had. They truly are the reason I do what I do.”
Mr. Carnevale is returning to East Providence this week to help jump start fundraising for the EPHS Gym Project. Next weekend, May 24 and 25, Mr. Carnevale and other supporters will hold a pasta dinner (Friday) then conduct what has been coined “Townie Day” (Saturday) with events including a 5k run, a dodgeball tournament, live food, music and an auction of all the old EPHS championship banners currently hanging on the gym walls.
The renovation project actually began in late April when Pepsi Bottling Co. driver and Riverside resident Dennis Carrier led a group of his fellow employees and other volunteers in starting to dismantle the roughly 60-year-old bleacher seating.
The project also received a boost last year when Providence College donated sections of modern, safety-compliant bleachers from its Alumni Hall gym to East Providence. Mr. Carnevale has also penned a five-point plan, which he presents to potential donors and uses to procure grant monies.
With the bleachers gone, the next phase of the project will be to thoroughly clean and paint the gym. The third of four phases is to have the PC bleachers, currently being stored in a former school building in Riverside, installed. The final phase will see the gym floor completely stripped and restored.
“I knew we could do this project for less than $100,000. I knew it was something we could get done in a relatively short period of time. Use is as a springboard to other, bigger projects,” Mr. Carnevale added. “I’ve been out of town for a while and I could sense the lack of unity. I wanted to bring the elementary schools, the middle schools, the high school and the politicians together. And with this project, we’re going to make the East Providence High School gym one of the best health and education facilities in the state.”
More information on the “Townie Pride” weekend of fundraising events can be found at Mr. Carnevale’s website www.damoursstep.org.
In addition, another set of fundraisers are planned for Sunday, June 2, when a bowl-a-thon and carwash are scheduled for the East Providence Bowling Academy located on Taunton Avenue.
The “rock-n-bowl” event takes place from 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Tickets are $15. Teams of four to six bowlers will compete for prizes. Raffles will also be held. Bowlers are asked to solicit pledges in support of the East Providence Gym Restoration Project. Lane sponsorships are also available for purchase at $100, $250 and $500. All of the proceeds, 100 percent, benefit the project. The Bowling Academy will donate all revenue from the purchase of refreshments during the bowl-a-thon to the cause.
An open donation car wash will take place in the parking lot in conjunction with the bowling. For more information on the rock-n-bowl event call East Providence High School at 435-7806.