EG Love Stories: The Healing Power of Nature

Nature has always been magical for Wendy Fachon – sending messages just for her.

After her father died a few years ago, Fachon wrote a children’s book, “The Angel Heart,” about the flower more commonly known as bleeding heart. For Fachon, it’s an angel heart flower, not a bleeding heart. In the book, she strips the flower down to its basic heart shape, with petals that become fairy slippers. When all the petals are gone, what remains is a single “candle” that offers a redemptive holy light.

Nature is like that for Fachon.

“I feel closest to God – a higher power – when I am in nature,” she says. “That is my church in a way.” 

She sees things in nature that most of us walk right past. And she’s sure that if children’s eyes are open to the wonders of nature, they will be better off.

As she starts out in her tiny book called “The Resilient Butterfly,”

“Did you know that every creature
wants to be your favorite teacher?
They add drama and some mystery
to science and to natural history.”

Fachon started leading nature walks and teaching nature courses for children a few years back. When her son Neil was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor in 2016, she brought her holistic approach to his illness, bringing the outside in – including moving lots of plants indoors – when he became too ill to go out and looking for healthful, healing nutrition.

Dean, Evie, Neil and Wendy Fachon in 2016.

Neil died a year ago Monday, at age 20, after living months longer than doctors originally said he would.

Wendy Fachon has spent the last many months writing, including that book about the resilient butterfly. It’s not hard to see echoes of Neil’s resilience in that little book, or his family’s for that matter.

Turn the last page of the booklet and Fachon’s message is clear. It reads, “Not The End.” 

Wendy said some East Greenwich children and their parents helped her plant daffodil bulbs behind the high school tennis court memorial bench last fall. Neil was an avid tennis player and a beloved member of the EGHS tennis team during his years as a student there. The bench was put there in Neil’s honor last summer.

“I look forward to seeing the flowers pop up as the tennis season gets underway,” she said.

You can learn more about Wendy Fachon here.  You can find out where to get “The Angel Heart” here.  

This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email

Schools React to Florida Shooting, Offering Support, Urging Vigilance

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Editor’s Note: This story has been amended since it first posted.

Following the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday, Supt. Victor Mercurio and EGHS Principal Michael Podraza sent out emails to the school community outlining just what is being done in East Greenwich schools to protect against such an incident here.

… Our first priority is to create and maintain a safe and supportive environment at all of the East Greenwich Public Schools,” Mercurio wrote in his email, which went out to all families in the district. (Read the full letter here: Parent Support Letter.)

Principal Podraza’s letter (which was signed by other high school administrators) was more of a call to action.

“We ask that all members of the EGHS community take time to reflect and reaffirm our commitment to take all actions necessary to keep everyone at EGHS both safe and supported,” it read. (Read the full letter here: Letter to EGHS 2/15/2018.)

The email asks students if they are worried about any other students and tells them, for instance, to not let people into the high school without going through the main entrance. It tells parents who to contact if they are worried about their child’s wellbeing or that of another student.

“We know that taking some of the actions listed above might be uncomfortable. However, we believe that the feelings of being uncomfortable pale in comparison to the weight of emotion one would feel if tragedy strikes and one could have taken action, yet didn’t,” the email reads.

These emails come one week after rumors of potential violence at EGHS prompted a wave of anxiety to sweep through the Facebook page, East Greenwich Parents for Excellence.

Eventually, Principal Podraza issued an email to families to address the issue:

We have been made aware of rumors circulating around various social media platforms about the existence of a video alleging a threat to East Greenwich High School. Upon receiving word of the post, the East Greenwich Police Department was immediately notified. We take any and all information given to us by concerned members of our school community very seriously and turn any information over to the East Greenwich Police Department for investigation. While the East Greenwich Police Department’s initial review did not conclude any threat to the high school, the East Greenwich Police continue to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of this matter. Please know that the safety of our students and staff here at East Greenwich High School is our top priority, and all threats are taken seriously. If through the course of the investigation any information is brought to light were violations of the EGPS behavior code or RI State laws have occurred we will all appropriate and required actions.   

School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said Thursday said she wanted the community to know the district has been working hard to make EG schools safer.

“The work didn’t start in the last couple of weeks. it’s been going on for several years now,” she said. She acknowledged that the community deserved more information about what the district is doing and said some of that work can be seen in the changes to the fronts of schools across the district. Hanaford was the last school to get a renovated entrance with a buzzer system and visibility to see who is at the entrance – that work was finished just this past fall.

“There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes too,” said Mark, work that won’t be made public for safety reasons.

She said new safety measures (including new drills) should be in place by the end of the school year and that the district would be working harder to communicate with families.

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What About Those Fire District Impact Fees Corrigan Cites for Audit Delay?

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

On Tuesday, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan posted a letter to the town website explaining that the town was seeking an extension from the state on its annual audit to March 31, three months after the audit was due.

Municipalities are required by state law to submit completed audits to the state Auditor General within six months of the close of the fiscal year or seek an extension. The East Greenwich fiscal year ends June 30, so its audit is due by Dec. 31.

“It’s not unusual for communities to request an extension … for all kinds of reasons,” said state Auditor General Dennis Hoyle earlier this week. “A not-uncommon reason would be changes in personnel and new people are hired and they’re getting up to speed.”

As it happens, East Greenwich got a new town manager and a new finance director the last two weeks in June, with no overlap from the previous administration, although Corrigan did not cite that as a reason for the need for an extension.

“This year seems to be we have a few more in the late category,” noted Hoyle. “We’re very closely monitoring all communities, including East Greenwich. . . . Extensions beyond February are rare but do occur. As it stands now, one other community has an extension to March 15. Another municipality, which has a different fiscal year end, is substantially late – more than nine months. When they are substantially and chronically late, we work with the communities to address the underlying issues that cause the untimely financial reporting.”

In Corrigan’s letter, she spoke of a variety of problems that predated her hire, including liabilities stemming from the former Fire District’s commercial impact fee collection.

From Corrigan’s letter:

When the Town took over the former East Greenwich Fire District in 2013, it also took on potential liabilities for the district’s illegally-collected impact fees, which could ultimately cost the Town more than a million dollars. This information was not disclosed to the Town or its residents, as little due diligence was done at the time. There is no evidence that the Town conducted any fiscal analysis or risk assessment on the economic ramifications of taking over the former Fire District as a Town department.

Some background: Before becoming part of the town, the EG Fire District was its own taxing authority. For anyone living in town in before June 2013, they were paying two separate property taxes for the privilege: one to the Town of East Greenwich and one to the East Greenwich Fire District. In 2012, voters of East Greenwich approved a Town Council-supported non-binding referendum in support of consolidating the town and the fire district.

The Town Council then took the results of that referendum to the General Assembly for formal approval. The Fire District’s council equivalent, the Fire District Commissioners, were largely against the idea but the General Assembly sided with the Town Council and the merger was on. With that merger, the town got all the assets of the district, as well as all the liabilities.

One asset soon became a liability.

In 2002, the Fire District passed a resolution imposing commercial impact fees on all new development, with the idea that it would generate money for a fund to be used for large purchases, such as a new fire truck.

For the next 11 years, the district collected those fees, totalling nearly $1 million. When the town took over the district, however, the Town Council decided to discontinue that commercial impact fee. At the time and still today, the town charges impact fees on residential but not commercial development. According to former Town Council President Michael Isaacs, “We never did because we felt it was more important to encourage businesses to come to East Greenwich and have them pay property taxes forever.”

But several developers took exception to the Fire District’s impact fees and filed suit in 2013, just as the district became part of the town. The town won in Superior Court but then the plaintiffs appealed to the state Supreme Court and, in 2016, they won.

The state Supreme Court ruled the fire district had not provided plaintiffs with either notice or an opportunity to be heard prior to adopting the impact fees (find the ruling here: Supreme Court:Fire District Impact Fee ruling). Back in 2002, the Fire District had imposed the impact fees by resolution not ordinance and the Supreme Court ruled that failure denied developers due process. In other words, in 2002, the Fire District passed a resolution during one meeting instead of having the three readings an ordinance requires, including a public hearing at the second reading, giving anyone more of a chance to weigh in.

(The plaintiffs in the case paid from $3,432 to $75,017 in impact fees but those were not the largest impact fee bills. The largest fee – $400,000 – was paid by Brook’s Pharmacy, which built the Division Road headquarters later bought by New England Tech.)

Peter Clarkin, town solicitor when the town took over the fire district, said the Town Council assumed the fire district’s impact fee policy had been enacted properly.

“We had not reason to think otherwise,” he said Wednesday.

Former Town Council President Michael Isaacs defended the decision to bring the fire district into the town and he took issue with Corrigan’s characterization in her letter.

“Obviously, I disagree with those statements,” Isaacs said Wednesday. “We did conduct an economic analysis and we did consider the economic implications of taking over the fire district.”

He pointed out that what played out in court on the impact fees would affect East Greenwich taxpayers regardless of whether or not the town had taken on the fire district.

“The same taxpayers would be on the hook either way,” he said.

“[The consolidation] was the right thing to do, from an overarching public policy point of view. It made no sense to have a separate taxing authority for the fire district,” said Isaacs. “The fire commissioners were elected at a meeting where the quorum was 30 people and the town councilors were elected in a town-wide election. And two-thirds of voters agreed with consolidation.”

Jeff Cianciolo, who served on the Town Council at the time and was a vocal proponent for the merger, declined to comment.

“I don’t want to get involved,” he said.

With regard to Corrigan’s statement that there’s no evidence the town conducted any kind of fiscal analysis or risk assessment, former Town Manager Bill Sequino said the council was aware of the fire district’s pension and OPEB (other post-employment benefits) liabilities.

“It was in the audit report and the actuarial report,” Sequino said. 

With those expenses, too, the taxpayers are liable regardless of whether or not there is a separate fire district or a town fire department.

One unknown is exactly how much the town will have to pay in returned impact fees. The ruling made it possible for developers outside of the original lawsuit to be reimbursed. Corrigan said in her letter the cost could “more than a million dollars.”

Under former Town Manager Tom Coyle, the town had reserved $400,000 in impact fees in case litigation went against the town.

How the fire impact fee litigation factors into the need for an extension on last year’s audit is unclear, but Councilman Nino Granatiero said Wednesday that Corrigan’s letter was accurate. However, he said, he was unable to talk about it now.

“If it’s appropriate to come out, it will at the right time,” he said.

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Councilors Approve Policy Policing Their Access to Department Heads

Town Council mtg. 2/12/18

The Town Council Monday approved a policy 3-0 regulating their interactions with town department heads. President Sue Cienki and Councilmen Nino Granatiero and Andy Deutsch supported the policy. Councilmen Sean Todd (vice president) and Mark Schwager were absent.

The policy reads as follows:

Update and discussion of Town Council Rules and Guidelines to add back and edit the requirement that, “Members of the Council may contact Department Heads directly, but the Town Manager shall be informed of the contact. Contact will be for informational purposes only.”



EG Love Stories: Spreading Some Valentine Love

Every year for the past six years,  Hannah (16) and Callan (13) Harris have invited a bunch of friends over and together they make dozens of valentines. When they are finished, they pack up and head – this year anyway – to the Green House Homes at St. Elizabeth’s to spread a little Valentine’s love.

Where the Valentine’s magic happens.

This year, the girls made 170 valentines.

While the girls delivered them, one resident sang them a song and another regaled the girls with stories of his 8th grade dance where he met his sweetheart. A third promised to do something nice for the girls if they would please return next week.
George, the man to the left, told the girls, “Well, I don’t know any of your names, but I sure know you’re girls! Thank you for the sweet Valentine!”
“It brings so much joy to the older folks and to the kids,” said Kerry Sweeney, Hannah and Callan’s mom.

This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email

Police Log: Wallet Wipeout, Shed Break In

By Bethany Hashway

Monday, Jan. 22

9:02 p.m. – A West Warwick woman told police cash and credit cards were stolen from her wallet sometime during a visit to Panera Restaurant at 1000 Division St. that afternoon. The woman said she’d left the purse hanging over the back of her chair and no one had left the table unattended while she and friends ate. She only discovered the theft when she went food shopping right after leaving Panera. She was missing $60 cash and two credit cards. When she called the bank for the cards, she learned the cards had already been used at the Target on Bald Hill Road, where someone had spent $899 on one card and about $1,200 on the other card.

Tuesday, Jan. 23

3:05 p.m. – A Fifth Street resident told police someone had broken into his shed overnight. This morning, he’d noticed an old suitcase on his driveway that was kept in the shed. The suitcase had been rifled through. The shed, which was unlocked, had been rifled through also. Nothing appeared to have been taken. The man told police he and his wife had heard what sounded like someone trying to get into their garage two different times the week before. Police advised the man to notify neighbors and to report any similar suspicious activity.

Wednesday, Jan. 24

4:17 p.m. – A Church Street resident told police someone had kicked in his basement door and turned on the water, which was supposed to be off because of a leak. He did not know who might have done this.

Friday, Jan. 26

6:54 p.m. – Police arrested a North Kingstown man, 37, on one charge of violating a no-contact order. East Greenwich police were notified by Warwick police to be on the lookout for a 2013 Hyundai Sonata, for a possible “rolling domestic” – a domestic incident in a motor vehicle. East Greenwich Police stopped the car on Main Street and found the NK man in the car with another person – the two had a no-contact order between them but said they “didn’t care.” The NK man was taken into custody.

Saturday, Jan. 27

1:40 a.m. – Police arrested a Cumberland man, 24, for driving on a suspended license after stopping him on Main Street at King Street because one of his taillights was out.  Routine checks were done and they revealed that his license was suspended. He told police that he knew his license was suspended because he had an unpaid ticket. He was issued a District Court summons for driving on a suspended license.

Monday, Jan. 29

12:10 a.m.  – Police arrested a Warwick man, 21, for driving while intoxicated after police saw his car cross the yellow center lines twice and veer over the white fog lines while traveling north on South County Trail. He was also driving at inconsistent speeds. Police could smell a strong odor of marijuana coming from the car so they asked the man to take field sobriety tests, which he failed. He was taken into custody and driven to EGPD for processing.

Donate to East Greenwich News during February and take part in a sustaining donor match! Show your love for local news – click here to learn more.

Why Donate to East Greenwich News?

A vision for the future, and how community support fits in.

We at East Greenwich News have been running a major fundraising campaign for the month of February; a generous matching donor has offered to match the first month of each sustaining donation we receive this month. So you may already know that we’re asking for your support. Today, we wanted to tell you why.

East Greenwich News really is a “we,” by the way, but it isn’t completely off-base to refer to it as “I” – Elizabeth McNamara. It’s true that I do much of the work of creating East Greenwich News, and it’s also true that I do it with help – some of it formal help (many readers learned recently that we have a board), some of it informal help from friends and neighbors, and some of it journalistic help – information provided by sources and suggestions provided by readers.

For some time, I’ve operated East Greenwich News as though it was a personal project, or perhaps a very serious hobby, acting as a quasi-volunteer. But it’s not what I’ve wanted. I’d like to contribute something to the community that doesn’t require my active participation. I want East Greenwich News to be able to stand alone, with or without me. 

Journalism is changing rapidly. The Providence Journal – for which I worked for many years – is much smaller than it once was. Television, radio, and print publications are seeing digital-only competitors rise to try to cut into their markets. It’s a complex picture, and no one knows what it will look like in the future.

For local journalism, the picture is even murkier. The decline in advertising revenues from classified ads (long since departed to places like Craigslist) has gutted local papers. No one quite knows what will replace the parts of their work they can no longer afford to do. East Greenwich News belongs to LION, a group of local online news websites around the country that exchanges ideas and experiences in an effort to solve this problem. Lots of people are trying things; no one knows what’s going to work.

But I want to try to make it work, here, in East Greenwich. And I don’t want to just try by myself – I want to invite the East Greenwich community to try with me. This is a new information era, in which rumors fly at lightspeed across social media, organizations are creating fake news to drive clicks and make money, and the lines between journalist, commentator, and entertainer have been blurred. In this new world, I feel like the work to which I’ve dedicated much of my life – fundamentally good journalism, backed by investigation and objective fact – is more important than ever.

I know many of my readers agree. I know this because I’m fortunate enough in this job to know many of my readers personally. I love that about serving this community. And I’m hopeful that we can build something together – that I can lend my experience doing this work to help lead the creation of a sustainable news source, and that you, my friends, neighbors, readers, and even critics – can jump in and help us figure out how to do it.

That’s why I wanted to ask for one other thing. You may know that East Greenwich News recently lost a board member. If you are interested in taking an even larger role, beyond helping to fund East Greenwich News, please contact me. I am trying to build the kind of team, and the kind of board, that will be able to take East Greenwich News forward years, even decades, into the future. Let’s talk it over and see whether we might find a way to work together.

I want to thank my readers and my neighbors in East Greenwich for all the support you’ve shown this effort over the years, and especially in the last few weeks (if you’ve been reading, you know what I mean).

That kind of support is something money can’t buy. But there are some things only money can buy. East Greenwich News needs your help with those, too! So if you feel the way I do about the importance of quality local news coverage, please consider becoming a sustaining donor – there’s no better time than right now, while you’re thinking about it. 

Donate to East Greenwich News during February and take part in a sustaining donor match! Show your love for local news – click here to learn more.

Cienki Admits Brochure Error on Tax Rate Increase

A brochure mailed out last May said taxes increased 51 percent between 2011 and 2016; the actual percentage increase was less than 15 percent.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Council President Sue Cienki, center, during a Town Council meeting in June. Town Manager Gayle Corrigan is to her left and Councilman Sean Todd is to her right.

Town Council President Sue Cienki posted a notice on the town website’s homepage late Friday and included it in the weekly email to residents Saturday that admits a brochure mailed out by the Town Council in May had a significant error. The brochure stated that the median tax bill in East Greenwich increased 51 percent between 2011 and 2016. Cienki said the actual increase was 15 percent. (Find the brochure here: Town of EG May 2017 Brochure.)

Cienki blamed “former Town administrators” for the error and credited an unnamed resident for bringing it to the attention of town officials.

That resident is Eugene Quinn, a Stonehill College assistant math professor who thought the percentage increase looked way too high when he received the brochure in the mail.  His own tax bill hadn’t increased anything near 51 percent.

He first brought up the discrepancy at a Town Council meeting in June. Quinn kept at it over the next several months until he and another resident, Anne Musella, sat down with Cienki, Vice President Sean Todd and resident and informal council advisor Stuart Peterson in December to discuss that 51 percent figure as well as a couple other disputed statistics released by the town.

By the end of that meeting, Cienki acknowledged the 51 percent figure was wrong. But then at a Town Council meeting Jan. 22, Cienki reiterated that the figure had to be higher based on her examination of property taxes for about a dozen houses in town

On Friday, however, Cienki admitted the error.

Here is Cienki’s letter:

In May, 2017, a mailing distributed by the Town Council contained some data points provided to us by the previous Town administration that we have learned are factually inaccurate.

The Town’s current administration has reviewed the data and determined that the correct figures for the median tax bills in fiscal years 2011 and 2016 were $8,186.59 and $9,408.06, respectively, which equate to a median tax bill increase of 14.92% over that time period.

On behalf of my Council colleagues, I’d like to thank the resident who brought this matter to our attention, and Town Manager Gayle Corrigan and Tax Assessor Anthony Davey for providing us with the accuracy and precision we need from our Town administrators.

Quinn said he was glad to see the number corrected but he still had reservations.

So on reflection I’d say that while I don’t entirely agree with the new numbers because I don’t think they include [properties with tax] exemptions and because the percent increase in the median is not the same as the median percent increase, I appreciate the time and expense the administration went to to produce them. . . .  And I think their willingness to do so is a step in the right direction, towards an honest, civil public debate on the town’s financial status,” he wrote in an email.

“I’m very pleased to see the correction,” said Anne Musella via email. “Ms. Cienki has repeatedly expressed a goal of transparency with the public. I hope this will be just one of many steps in that direction, as many residents’ questions to the Town Council remain unanswered.

While Cienki’s letter blames the erroneous number on former town administrators, multiple sources have told EG News that work on the brochure was rushed and Town Council members, including Cienki and Vice President Sean Todd, were closely involved in the numbers that appeared in the brochure. Additionally, informal council advisor Stuart Peterson was also involved, including attending an April meeting with town employees about the brochure as a surrogate for Cienki. Yet, in an audio recording from the Dec. 20 meeting, Peterson distanced himself from the brochure.

Quinn: But when you finished the flyer and you look at that first page and it says the median tax bill went up 51 percent and the line below that says the tax levy went up 15 percent . . . anybody with any numbers sense should have been able to look at that and said, wait a minute, something’s off there.

Peterson: I would have if I’d been a part of it. A red flag would have gone off with me.

Requests to Cienki for additional comment were not answered.

Donate to East Greenwich News during February and take part in a sustaining donor match! Show your love for local news – click here to learn more.

This Week in EG: Council, School Committee Pre-Budget Meeting

Councilman Mark Schwager with members of the East Greenwich Academy’s Class of 1942 (from left) Charlotte Dumas, Everett Lundberg, and Marian Helwig. They all attended the opening of the EG Historic Preservation Society exhibit of photos from EG Academy at the EG Free Library. Catch it while you can!

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to

Monday, Feb. 12

Joint Town Council–School Committee meeting … and a Town Council meeting – Both panels meet in executive session at 6 p.m. – the Town Council in the back room at Swift with the town manager search advisory committee and the School Committee in the superintendent’s conference room. Then, at 7 p.m., they will meet together at Swift Community Center in a “pre-budget meeting” where the council will present revenue projections and the School Committee will present its estimates of expenditures, enrollment and staff and program requirements. They will also discuss the status of the School Department’s sewer bill and what’s to happen to joint school-town finance operations.

Tuesday, Feb. 13

EG Tree Council meeting – This volunteer-run group will be discussing spring planting plans as well as tree maintenance. All are welcome. If you can’t make it but would like to learn more or want a street tree in front of your house, contact

Wednesday, Feb. 14

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Historic District Commission meeting – Six projects are on the agenda, including addition and modifications for Blu on the Water and an application to demolish the former Sunoco station at First and Main streets.


Recycling is OFF this week.

Town Boards Need You! – Here’s the list of town boards with vacancies.

  • Affordable Housing Commission
  • Board of Assessment Review
  • Cove Management Commission
  • Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission
  • Historic District Commission
  • Housing Authority
  • Juvenile Hearing Board
  • Municipal Land Trust
  • Planning Board
  • Senior and Community Center Advisory Council

In you are interested, go to for more information and an application or come to the Town Clerk’s Office at 125 Main Street. Submit applications and resumes to the same address or via email to

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.


Saturday, April 7

EG Track Club’s 7th Annual Bunny Hop 5K & 1 Mile Fun Run – The East Greenwich Track Club’s 7th Annual Bunny Hop 5k and 1 Mile Fun Run is coming up on Saturday, April 7, starting at 9 a.m. at Goddard Park. Proceeds go towards fully funding the popular Summer Track Series for ages 4-14 (do not have to be an EG resident to participate) on Wednesday nights in July at the EGHS track. We’ve been able to provide the series for free for 6 years. Last summer, 300 children came out during the first week! Find out more and register here.

Donate to East Greenwich News during February and take part in a sustaining donor match! Show your love for local news – click here to learn more. And, thanks!

EG Love Stories: A Mission of Love

Heather, Luca and Carlos Polo in December.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Heather Polo’s dad, Ken MacDonald, met her husband years before she did. Ken had been leading youth groups from St. Luke’s Church* down to the small village of El Pedregal in the Dominican Republic and he’d become friends with a sunny teenager named Carlos.

Heather had been on the mission trip when she was in high school but that was before Carlos started interacting with the Episcopal camp where the youth group stayed so she didn’t meet Carlos until after she’d finished college and decided to spend three months working at the camp and learning Spanish.

Heather had a teaching degree from URI but hadn’t been able to find a job.

“I was subbing and it was discouraging,” Heather said.

During her three-month stay in El Pedregal, Heather learned about a school in a nearby town, Jarabacoa, that hired American teachers. After some thought, she decided to go for it.

It was a big move. By her own admission, Heather is “not so adventurous.”

But she flourished teaching in Jarabacoa and on weekends she would see Carlos in El Pedregal. Love blossomed.

Heather’s parents knew the two were close but they realized things were serious when they got a call from Carlos after Heather had been teaching in Jarabacoa for more than a year.

With the help of English-speaking friends, Carlos told Ken and Susan how much he liked Heather and that he wanted to get more serious.

A year later, Heather and Carlos got engaged. Their wedding dovetailed with a St. Luke’s mission trip; while most of the missioners travelled back to the U.S., a few – including St. Luke’s rector Fr. Tim Rich, stayed behind for the festivities. Rich officiated at the wedding, which was followed by a grand Dominican party with lots of dancing.

Moving back to the states with Carlos was not easy but that was when the magic of their relationship kicked in.

“Carlos makes everything a little lighter. I tend to think of the next problem or the next thing I have to do. He’s more easygoing and brings me back to earth,” said Heather.

“And we needed that getting through everything to get here. He was always the positive one,” she said. “It’s a lot of stuff. You have to be really committed to your relationship in order to come here.”

When Heather flew to Rhode Island to interview for teaching jobs – she was now a veteran teacher with three years under her belt – she had a job within a couple of days. She is an ESL teacher for sixth graders at Nathaniel Greene Middle School in Providence.

“I called Carlos and told him, ‘I can’t believe they offered me a job!’”

“I know, you’re a good teacher,” Carlos told her.

Carlos and Heather moved in with Ken and Sue at their house on Post Road. It was tough for Carlos at first and he still misses his family, friends and, this time of year, the weather of the DR. But his English is improving and he works two jobs – at a manufacturing plant in Quonset during the week and at Olive Garden on the weekends.

Winter may not be Carlos’s favorite but come spring and summer, you’ll find him two to three nights a week playing slow-pitch softball at Eldredge. Baseball is part of the fabric of life in the Dominican Republic so playing here in East Greenwich suits Carlos very well. 

A little over a year ago, Heather and Carlos welcomed Luca into the world.

Carlos said he’s very happy being a dad.

“Luca’s the best!” said Heather of their easygoing, sweet-tempered son.

Heather’s mom, Susan, helps out with childcare but Luca also spends two days a week at a Spanish speaking daycare right across the street from Heather’s school. 

It’s working, this bridging of cultures. The long thread of connection has helped. 

“I already felt like Ken and Susan were my parents before we got married,” said Carlos.

This is one in a series of East Greenwich love stories we will be featuring during February in conjunction with our February matching donation drive. Find out more about the drive here. And, if you have a love story you’d like to share – anything from a story about best friends or a child and their pet to love of a special place or business in East Greenwich – email

* Full disclosure: I am a member of St. Luke’s Church and have gone on two mission trips to El Pedregal.

You can read previous love stories here:

EG Love Stories: A Mother, A Daughter and a Cactus

EG Love Stories: A Match Made at the Grange Hall