PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Chamber of Commerce in one of the areas of Rhode Island hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy has raised $150,000 so far to help affected businesses, and a hotel that was wiped out has announced plans to rebuild.
Lisa Konicki, executive director of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, said Friday its foundation gave out the first round of checks to 25 businesses in Westerly’s Misquamicut Beach area last week. The next round will go out by the end of January.
Donations have arrived in large and small amounts from individuals and businesses in Rhode Island and elsewhere. More than $20,000 was raised from the sale of “Bring Back the Beach” T-shirts and sweatshirts; $3,200 was brought in just from spare change donation jars. A hairdresser held a “cut-a-thon” and donated the proceeds. Several families that live in the same cul-de-sac banded together for a yard sale, and the kids presented a check for $550.
The fundraising goal by Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season, is $400,000, Konicki said.
Sandy devastated several coastal beachfront communities in Rhode Island, including in Westerly. It flooded many businesses and homes and swept away much of the sand from its beaches, which are a major summertime draw and the community’s economic lifeblood. But the town has vowed to bounce back.
“We have to get them up and running,” Konicki said of the businesses in Misquamicut. “Misquamicut is more than the sum of all of its parts. It’s about all of our community.”
She added: “This community will still be a huge draw because of our beautiful beaches. There’s so much love and concern and support and outpouring of community spirit right now. I think we’re going to have one of best summers ever in 2013.”
Owners of the Andrea Hotel in Misquamicut this week announced plans to rebuild in two phases. Michelle Pinto, a member of the Colucci family, which has owned the 24-room hotel since 1946, said Friday the plan is to demolish part of the main building and rebuild outdoor decks and a restaurant that will be open by Memorial Day.
The second phase will be the building of a whole new hotel. Construction on that is expected to begin next fall.
“We’re hoping to keep it similar in look and feel to the original hotel,” Pinto said.