Tap-In continues to help those in need

Barrington-based nonprofit offers food, toiletries, appliances and more

By Josh Bickford
Posted 2/14/24

Last year, more than 5,500 people arrived at the big brown doors in front of the Peck Center building looking for help.  

And each time, Tap-In answered the call.  

Tap-In (Touch …

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Tap-In continues to help those in need

Barrington-based nonprofit offers food, toiletries, appliances and more


Last year, more than 5,500 people arrived at the big brown doors in front of the Peck Center building looking for help. 

And each time, Tap-In answered the call. 

Tap-In (Touch A Person In Need), the nonprofit agency that services East Providence, Barrington, Warren and Bristol, experienced one of its busiest years yet in 2023. 

Families and individuals looking for a little help to get them through a tough time stopped by the Barrington-based agency.

Sometimes the people — Tap-In refers to them as clients — were looking for food. Other times, it was toiletries or bed sheets or a toaster oven, or maybe a toy. 

Tap-In President Shauna Hyde said the people who volunteer see many of the same clients every other week, without fail.

“They are always so appreciative of the food and other services we provide,” Hyde wrote in an email to the Barrington Times. “The Rhode Island Community Food Bank estimates that 1 in 3 Rhode Island families are food insecure.

“Using data from the Census Bureau, we estimate we reached 37 percent of the population in poverty in the towns of East Providence, Barrington, Warren, and Bristol.”

It is a team effort providing the help. There is a network of volunteers who fill a variety of roles at Tap-In. Some work in the front and some are behind the scenes. There are volunteers who fill the food pantry shelves each week when the delivery arrives from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. There are volunteers who shop for food and linens, cleaning supplies and toiletries. There is a technology team of volunteers, a volunteer who helps organize food drives, volunteers who drive people to medical appointments, and a volunteer to coordinate the shifts of the other volunteers. 

Hyde said the effort started years ago when Tap-In first opened its doors. 

“We have been able to reach so many individuals thanks to our founders who started Tap-In over 40 years ago, with a dedicated volunteers, and a very generous community!” Hyde wrote.

Tap-In has been helping out for four decades, but officials with the agency say that local donors — families, businesses, churches and more — play a crucial role in the effort. And more help is always needed. People can drop off items at the lower level of the Peck Center (281 County Road in Barrington) Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon. 

Food assistance

Hyde said clients can visit Tap-In twice a month for food donations and once a month for cleaning supplies and toiletries. 

“Each time they visit they are welcome to inquire about other household items they may need,” Hyde wrote. “We receive a lot of donated small appliances, dishes, linens, children’s clothing, books and toys (and more!) We do not have a lot of room for storage, so we encourage our clients to take anything they need.”

Tap-In was founded in 1983, and right from the start, volunteers recognized the need for food assistance. The nonprofit asked residents to donate food vouchers for local markets, and the public responded. But the program was not consistent enough to match the need. So Tap-In volunteers started bringing in canned goods from their own homes — by 1988 all the churches in town were asking their parishioners to make regular donations. 

“Soon the few food shelves in Tap-In’s office were overflowing, and new shelves were set up in the hallway, but the demand kept growing,” Hyde wrote. “To meet the need, Tap-In had to evolve.”

Tap-In experienced two big breaks in 1995. First, Tap-In was selected as the beneficiary for Barrington’s annual Letter Carriers “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive, which brings in thousands of pounds of food each year. And second, Tap-In was selected as a member agency of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. 

“This gave the organization direct access to commodity USDA donated food and to discounted food purchased in bulk,” Hyde wrote. “These resources allowed the pantry to consistently stock a full complement of food items.  

More recently, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank selected Tap-In as a “Network Champion Agency.” That opened the door for even more reduced rate food purchases and access to the USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program for no-cost food.

“In 2022, Tap-In expanded its food aid program to allow clients two visits per month, and converted the food pantry to ‘shopper’s choice,’ allowing the clients to select their own products, instead of volunteers pre-bagging,” Hyde wrote. “This has been a huge success, and our clients appreciate being able to choose their food.”

Tap-In also recently purchased — through a Champlin Foundation grant — large freezers and refrigerators. That allows the nonprofit to stock frozen items, as well as eggs and cheese. Meanwhile, the Barrington Shaw’s donates more than 1,000 pounds of food to Tap-In each month, and much of that food needs to be refrigerated. 

Tap-In also receives fresh produce from McCoy Farm in Warren and the Barrington Farm School, whenever crops are in season. 

Tap-In is open Mondays through Friday, from 9 a.m. to noon, and on Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

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