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The Gordon School

Look for the helpers

Gordon families across the region responds to the COVID-19 crisis by helping their communities.

above: a sixth grader is launching a business from his home wood shop that benefits the Rhode Island Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund. Details below under "May update"


The COVID-19 crisis has many dimensions. The strain on our health care system, and on the economy, is paralleled by a strain on our communities as social distancing makes it harder for people to connect.

Fred Rogers urged us to "look for the helpers" in times of crisis.

Since this crisis began, Gordon community members have found dozens of smart, brave, creative ways to connect with their communities - local and global - and serve as forces for positive change.

This blog post has grown since it was first published - it now reads in reverse chronological order.

May update

A sixth grader (above) is harnessing his creative energy for the public good by launching a business from his home wood shop that benefits the Rhode Island Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund. As he tells the story:

A couple days ago, I convinced my parents that my wood shop needed a band saw. With this new tool, my options have become endless. I can do so much more with it than with my jigsaw. The first thing I made was a cut out of my name. And I thought, "Wow. That is really cool. I wonder when this is all over if I could maybe sell carved names like this at a shop on Hope Street."

I went on a long walk with my Mom, and we started brainstorming. We thought maybe we could sell them online now because Hope Street shops aren't really open very much now. Then we thought we should set up a system where 50 percent of the money goes to helping people affected by COVID-19. I thought that was a great idea, and I started working.

I'm building a social enterprise, a kind of company that does good work for the community. We came up with a name -- Names19RI. I created an email: Then I created an Instagram account: @Names19RI. I decided I will donate half of what every name sells for to the Rhode Island COVID-19 Response Fund that the Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way created.

Everyone in my family is pitching in. My dad is the finance and information technology director. My mom is the bubble-letter illustrator and the writer. My sister is the social media director. I'm the founder and the carpenter.

Pricing and order details are at

Lower School parent Stephanie Ewens is following up her participation in the #thefrontstepproject with #SeeOurFRONTLINERS, an ambitious documentary portrait project highlighting those working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. Details at

Alumni parent and Music Together instructor Lori Istok is leading an effort to support the work of the neonatal intensive care unit at Women and Infants Hospital. As the parent of  premature baby, Istok told the Cranston Herald, "We always want to thank the doctors and nurses and staff … but then there was this other piece of, it’s hard to be a family in the NICU in normal times, and it must be especially hard now.” more at


Fifth grade parent Lauren Jordan shared that her colleagues at Genesis Center received a donation of masks arranged through Masks for RI, the group organized by fourth grade parent Mandy Syers. The masks were made by former Gordon music teacher Chrys Alam, who delivered them with her husband (he's in the penguin suit, above).

Kindergarten and third grade parent Manya Rubinstein and her team at the Industrious Spirit Company have run through several successful batches of antiseptic hand rub, based  on byproducts from the creation of their vodka and gin. The latest run, produced in partnership with Frog and Toad to benefit the RI Foundation's COVID-19 Response Fund, sold out within hours. More at

Alumni parent Sheri Griffin and her team at Farm Fresh RI is partnering with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to deliver food from local farms directly to Rhode Islanders in need, connecting producers and consumers in a food system disrupted by COVID-19. More at


April 27th
Nursery parent and emergency room physician Dr. Shideh Shafie has been creating and sharing short videos with practical reflections on managing emotions and cultivating virtues during this stressful time. They're online at


April 26th
Sophia Blythe '19 had a page from her quarantine diary published in today's New York Times (above), as part of a fullpage feature in the For Kids section. It was Sophia's second time being published in the Times in the past twelve months - flashback to last April, when the Times published an opinion piece she wrote after Gordon’s Civil Rights Trip.

April 25th
Yes, that was sixth grade and alumna parent Amanda McMullen on the Public's Radio this morning, talking about the New Bedford Whaling Museum. McMullen is the museum's executive director, and she was talking about the "Museum from Home" they opened online so they could continue serving their community during the COVID-19 crisis. link


April 21st
A Gordon third grader (above) discusses social distancing, Christian rock, pet cats and the Gordon Carnival in an episode of a podcast about children's experiences during this pandemic. link

April 20th
Coby Unger '05 has been the Hardware Design & Fabrication Lead on an MIT project designing a low-cost open source ventilator design that hospitals around the globe can build using materials they already have on hand. It's the MIT Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project, the latest success in a career that has seen the twenty-nine-year-old design everything from wood furniture to prosthetic arms. link


April 10th
Gordon families took to the streets outside Rhode Island Hospital and Women and Infants, cheering in support of healthcare workers during their shift change.


April 10th
This sixth grader participated in today's drive-by protest in Central Falls in support of ICE detainees at risk of contracting COVID-19. The coverage from the Public's Radio includes a photo of a fifth grade family, as well.


Week three

Myles Johnson '19 is part of a team (above) of high school programmers that built COVID Biz Link, a website that connects volunteers with small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The project grew out of their participation in a global contest in which developers built software that drives social change. Learn more 


A fourth grader (above) and his mother spent time Thursday helping Reach Out And Read Rhode Island deliver books to pickup sites in Bristol and Warren.


Lower School parent Mandy Syers (above) is leading volunteers who are sewing masks for local healthcare professionals. Her group is large but the demand is even larger - go to MasksForRI on Facebook and ask to join the group, or contact her directly (she’s in the directory under ‘Matheson’).


An emergency room doctor with a child in Gordon's seventh grade partnered with his hockey league teammates to create a new source for some much-needed personal protective equipment. The project brought him together with an alumni parent to produce intubation boxes for local hospitals. link


With major Christian and Jewish holidays approaching, an eighth grade parent collaborated on this engaging animation (above) that uses Old Testament scholarship to provide a message of liturgical unity. She writes, “This film transforms an ancient message of separation into one of inclusiveness. We released it yesterday, hoping to give folks who are celebrating Easter and Passover in isolation an uplifting message and something fresh besides food to share with distant friends and family!”

The parent of an eighth grader and an alumnus continues to work with the team at Avenue Concept to find creative ways to help people engage with public art during this crisis. First they created tools for help put public art in front of people who are walking through Providence; last week, they uploaded custom Zoom backgrounds to allow Zoom users to share their favorite public art in online meetings.


A Middle School family spent Saturday making face shields for doctors at Rhode Island Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, as part of an effort organized by a local trauma doctor.


Week two

Barrington got loud Wednesday night in support of health care workers, thanks to one Gordon family. This family, with a Gordon seventh grader and an alumnus, is behind the effort to get everyone in Barrington to step outside and make noise at 8pm tonight, "so that," explains the mother, "our neighbors on the frontline can hear our appreciation. link


Molly Pieri ‘01 (above) is making masks for vulnerable populations at local health care facilities. She’ll gladly accept donated cotton material; email her at


Last Friday, a fifth grade family found a way to make their voices heard while maintaining appropriate social distancing at car-based picket. The action was organized in support of ICE detainees who are unable to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 health crisis.

This same fifth grader and her parent both have pieces in this online theater event that has performers from around the world reflecting on the subject of isolation.

The family behind Blount Fine Foods includes a number of Gordon alumnae; their Facebook page details their numerous acts of generosity since the COVID-19 crisis began. 



The parent of a fourth grade and an alumnus is running the Facebook group MasksForRI as a way to organize the local community of crafty sewers. That's her timelapse embedded above.

The parent of an eighth grader and an alumnus continues to work with the team at Avenue Concept to find creative ways to help people engage with public art during this crisis. See below for last week's initiatives; this week, they've uploaded custom Zoom backgrounds to allow teleconferencers to share their favorite public art during meetings and classes



The family of an eighth grader (above) and an alumna have been shopping and delivering groceries to at-risk members of their community.

A Lower School parent (and member of the class of 1990) is leading online mindfulness meditations for a growing circle of friends. Damian Ewens is extending the invitation to the larger Gordon family:

Join us each Sunday, Monday, & Wednesday morning for a free, twenty-minute mindfulness meditation with calming breath work. 
Supportive guidance for people beginning a mindfulness practice. 
8:30am EST 
No commitment or experience required. Meeting id: 219-937-877


This seventh grader delivered a load of supplies to the RI Department of Health drop off center in West Greenwich this week. The N95 masks, Tyvek suits and protective goggles were collected from job sites run by Shawmut Design and Construction, where one of his parents works.


This former Gordon music teacher and her daughter, a Gordon alumna, have been sewing surgical masks for medical professionals. Ms. Alam writes: "My personal stash of 100% cotton quilting fabric is going to good use and keeping me creative."


A Lower School parent is photographing area families as part of #thefrontstepproject. In return, she's asking for donations to, a movement by people in medicine on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, who are in desperate need for personal protective equipment. ⁣⁣⁣Details, and more Gordon family portraits, at Stephanie Ewens Photography


When word got out that Mr. Burnstein’s new baby had finally arrived, colleagues found a creative - and appropriately socially distanced - way to welcome him to the family. His front porch is now decorated with cards and signs from well-wishers on the faculty and staff.


Matouk's Fall River factory usually produces bed and bath linens for a global market, but in the past ten days, they've redirected their production lines to help address the COVID-19 crisis. The company, run by the family of a seventh grader and two alumni, shipped their first two thousand sanitary masks to Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC on Wednesday.


Week one



The father of a fourth grader and his team at India Restaurant began donating free meals for  nurses, doctors, firefighters, and police officers. link

A Kindergarten and third grade parent and her team at Industrious Spirit Company are creating small batches of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which they are giving away at their distillery as supplies last. link


These two Gordon sisters found a way to connect with their neighborhood with a message of support.

A Gordon auntie is going online with her puppet, Audrey Duck, to chat with young people via Skype. Audrey, known to many from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, specializes in connecting with very young children about difficult situations. link

When restaurant and university kitchens shut down earlier this week, an alumni parent and her team at Farm Fresh Rhode Island opened up their Market Mobile wholesale delivery system to consumers. The resulting orders are keeping local farms in business, and providing families with direct access to fresh local food. link


Former Gordon nurse Ife Rollins was on the cover of the Boston Globe last week. She’s part of a team in Somerville that has rolled out the area’s first drive-through COVID-19 testing facility.

A Preschool parent has moved her nutritional counseling service online, and is suggesting that, in lieu of payments, clients donate to, a nonprofit that is increasing food access during this crisis. link

An alumni parent, and faculty spouse, is redirecting the supply chain at Go East Promotions to bring crucial medical equipment into Rhode Island. To learn more about what they can offer healthcare providers, pharmacies, or government agencies, reach out at


With the public libraries closed and farmers market performances on hold, a second grade parent has moved her Me & U-kulele children's music sessions online, where they are reaching a grateful new audience. link


An eighth grade - and alumni - parent is working with her team at The Avenue Concept to fill people's lives with visual art during these museum-free days. Their self-guided tours of Providence's public art get artlovers out the fresh air, and their #makeyourartpublic initiative turns every window into a gallery window.

As thousands of people reported to their online offices for their first full week of telecommuting, an alumni parent - and business coach - shared his expertise in a free livestream. He's got eleven years experience working in and managing remote teams and distributed companies. link

Got a story of a Gordon family member responding to the COVID-19 crisis by helping their community? Email it!

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