RSSAll Entries in the "Featured Chamber" Category

Attorney General Kilmartin Retains National Law Firm in Prescription Opiate Investigation on behalf of Rhode Island

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today announced that the Office of Attorney General has retained the national law firm Motley Rice to work with the Office in its investigation involving prescription opiate manufacturers and distributors in anticipation of potential civil action on behalf of the State of Rhode Island.

“Opiate use – prescription and illegal – has created a public health crisis in Rhode Island that government and society will have to deal with for a very long time,” said Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. “Entities in the opiate chain – starting with manufacturers and distributors of prescription opiates – have played a role in the evolution of this crisis and should be held accountable. While taking on some of the country’s most wealthy and powerful companies is a massive undertaking, it is the right thing to do for the State and the citizens. The decision to go after Big Tobacco was once thought to be a fool’s errand, and we proved them wrong then, and I believe our decision this time to go after Big Pharma will prove to be the right decision.”

The role of Motley Rice is to assist Office of Attorney General as it looks to address the financial and societal consequences of the harms caused by the proliferation of prescription opioids in Rhode Island.

“The opioid epidemic continues to be our most urgent public health crisis. The proliferation of these powerful narcotics has had a devastating impact on our state. I applaud the attorney general for taking this step to hold drug manufacturers accountable,” said Governor Gina Raimondo.

Motley Rice, headquartered in South Carolina, is among the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ firms, securing settlements in significant health, environmental and consumer fraud litigation. During the last several decades, Motley Rice has led or participated in some of the most important consumer protection litigation, both for government and for private class actions, including representing Rhode Island in the successful litigation against tobacco companies.

The contract with Motley Rice provides that the law firm will receive a share of any verdict or settlement.

Today’s announcement is separate from the previously announced multi-state investigation by attorneys general into various opiate manufacturers and distributors. That investigation is ongoing.

[DATA SPOTLIGHT] Walmart and Dick’s Raise Minimum Age for Gun Buyers to 21

Two of the nation’s leading gun sellers, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, took steps on Wednesday to limit their sales of firearms, thrusting themselves into the middle of the polarizing national debate over gun control.

Walmart, the biggest gun seller, announced late in the afternoon that it would not sell any gun to anyone under 21 years of age. It also said it would no longer sell items resembling assault-style rifles, including toys and air guns.

Early in the day, Dick’s said it was immediately ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores. The retailer also said that it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines and would also require any gun buyer to be at least 21, regardless of local laws.

Under federal law, a person must be at least 21 to buy a handgun from a firearms dealer. But 18-year-olds can buy semiautomatic rifles and other firearms.

The dual announcements, made two weeks after 17 students and staff members were killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., were among the most significant actions taken on guns by corporate America. Both retailers said their decision were a response to the shooting.

Continue reading the main story

Earlier, President Trump met at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and called for a series of gun control measures, some of which the National Rifle Association has vigorously opposed.

Walmart and Dick’s acted after a number of major companies moved last week to dissociate themselves from the N.R.A. Hertz car rental, MetLife insurance and Delta Air Lines, among others, publicly ended their relationships with the organization.

In a news release late Wednesday, Walmart noted that in 2015 it discontinued the sale of high-powered rifles, including AR-15-style weapons, in its stores in the United States. But at the time, Walmart sidestepped any controversy involving gun politics, attributing its decision to lower customer demand for the military-style rifles.

This time, Walmart directly linked its action to the shooting in Florida, saying, “In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales.”

Top Walmart executives made the decision and then informed the board, a company spokesman said.

Walmart sells guns in roughly half of its nearly 4,000 supercenters, the company said, but the sheer scale of its customer base gives its decision significant heft. Every week, more than 150 million people around the country shop at Walmart.

Dick’s decision was announced by Edward Stack, the 63-year-old chief executive whose father founded the store in 1948. Mr. Stack made clear that he was deliberately steering his company directly into the storm over gun reform.

“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset,” Mr. Stack said in an interview. “We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘Enough is enough.’ It got to us.”

He added, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.”

The decision drew immediate — and passionate — reaction on social media. By midday, the number of Twitter messages containing Dick’s name had jumped 12,000 percent from the average over the previous 10 days, according to Sprout Social, a social media management, advocacy and analytics software platform.


With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops

When a gunman walked into a Florida school on Feb. 14, his rifle let him fire in much the same way that many American soldiers and Marines would fire M16 and M4 rifles in combat.


About 79 percent of the tweets had a positive sentiment, Sprout Social said, including supportive messages from Hollywood actors and actresses.

But the company’s critics posted their plans to no longer shop at the retailer, some closing their tweets with “#boycott.”

Investors did not appear to worry about a backlash, as Dick’s stock spent much of Wednesday trading about 1.8 percent higher before finishing up 0.69 percent.

Mr. Stack said Dick’s hoped to move the conversation beyond social media and into the political realm. As part of its stance, the company is calling on elected officials to pass what it called “common sense gun reform”: raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21, banning assault-type weapons and so-called bump stocks, and conducting broader background checks that include mental-health information and previous interactions with law enforcement.

This is not the first time that Dick’s has made changes in response to a school massacre. In 2012, after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dick’s removed assault-style rifles from its main stores. But a few months later, the company began carrying the firearms at its outdoor and hunting retail chain, Field & Stream.

As of Wednesday morning, the company said, AR-15-style and other semiautomatic rifles will no longer be sold in its 35 Field & Stream stores or on its websites. And this time, Mr. Stack added, the changes will be permanent.

Mr. Stack said the retailer had begun scouring its purchase records shortly after the identity of the suspected Parkland killer, Nikolas Cruz, became known. The company soon discovered that it had legally sold a gun to Mr. Cruz in November, though it was not the type used in the school shooting.

“But it came to us that we could have been a part of this story,” Mr. Stack said. “We said, ‘We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.’”

That response raised rounds of discussions with the company’s top executives and its directors, all of whom backed the decision to take a stand, Mr. Stack said.

He said Dick’s remained a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and would continue to sell a variety of sport and hunting firearms. Although he has never been a member of the N.R.A., Mr. Stack said, he is a gun owner and enjoys trapshooting.

But when it comes to selling guns to individuals under 21 or stocking assault-style rifles, Mr. Stack said, his company is done. “We don’t want to be a part of a mass shooting,” he said.

The company said that it had not decided what to do with its inventory of assault-style rifles but that they would not be sold in the marketplace.

Legal experts said they saw no likely challenges to Dick’s decision to stop selling assault-style rifles. But the decision to stop selling weapons to anyone under 21, however, could be tested in court.

Adam Winkler, a professor of constitutional law at the School of Law of the University of California, Los Angeles, said Dick’s could be challenged in lawsuits claiming a violation of laws that bar age discrimination. Although federal civil rights laws do not apply, some states, including New York, prohibit businesses from denying goods and services on the basis of age.

“Don’t be surprised if an aggressive attorney general of a gun-friendly state brings an age-discrimination claim against Dick’s,” Professor Winkler wrote in an email response to questions.

The company said that it believed its decision was in accordance with the law and that it was instituting the policy immediately.

2015 Athena Award Nominees Named

Westerly, RI –  the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce has announced that 5 local women have been nominated for the annual prestigious Athena award.  A celebration of their accomplishments and community contributions will take place at Lake of Isles Golf Resort on October 22.  Each woman has been certified as an Athena nominee and has excelled in their career or vocation, demonstrated a commitment to the community through volunteerism, and has helped other women achieve goals and leadership roles. The nominees are:

Heather Bessette, Stonington CEO/Managing Partner at I Can Fitness

For over 20 years, Heather has owned and operated a small personal fitness studio in Stonington and has focused on helping others with their lives. She has worked with mostly women (some men) of all ages encouraging one on one to be their best, work a little harder and stay focused on their goals. She has demonstrated her leadership by encouraging those girls that have come to her for help, which at first was in the physical fitness sense, but with her leadership, the training was about being a stronger person and believing in themselves.  She has lead teams to the top of tall buildings, lead teams through 26 miles of a marathon. She has supported her friends who have been ill and rallied the troops to come to their aid.  She was the founder and the inspiration behind the annual Village Fun Runs, which have been so successful in bringing the community together and focusing on the development of a stronger, healthier community.  Heather won the 1996 Hartford Marathon, a qualifier for the 1998 US Olympic Marathon Trials. She was a nationally ranked runner and was on the New Balance National Running Team for 7 years.

Heather’s community service is measured by her daily acts of helping others. Be it from helping school running team to helping out a young girl looking to find their way. Heather actions every day are all part of her community service and always has the spirit of how can I help other live a better life. From driving a friend to the doctor, to dropping off items at the food bank, organizing a trunk show to support a friend with cancer.

Michelle Gardner, Westerly Group Exercise Instructor, Ocean Community YMCA and Fitness Instructor for Stonington Human Services

In January, 2014, Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She returned to the Y in June, 2014 even though she continued to receive treatments through September, 2014.  She was an inspiration and showed grace, strength and determination.  She started teaching one spin class per week for a month then took on a second spin class and soon after returned to the SilverSneakers class as the spotter at the back of the class. A certified Instructor for SilverSneakers, Body Sculpt, and Spinning, Michele was the catalyst behind the expansion of the SilverSneakers program from 10 participants to over 150 participants in the first two years. These days, participation numbers are in the hundreds and the OCY programs have one of the highest participant enrollments in the country. Michele’s infectious energy and enthusiasm has been instrumental in the growing the program from a basic level to advance and cardio levels. She has caringly coached SilverSneakers members to stronger levels of fitness so they could participate in higher intensity classes. Her guidance has resulted in participants progressing from “frail to fit”. Michele enjoys inspiring others to commit to long-term health and fitness goals.

Michelle’s community service includes volunteering for the Ocean Community YMCA annual triathlons and Roger Schonning Race.  She was the Volunteer Coordinator of the Triathlon in 2011 & 2012.  She was active on numerous committees of Dunn’s Corners Elementary School from 1998-2005.  She supported the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center when she painted a wall mural for their preschool in 2003.

Some of her past awards include: 2012 Ocean Community YMCA President’s Award (all three branches); Outstanding Service Award; 2014 Westerly-Pawcatuck Breast Cancer Awareness Honoree – Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation.

Ms. Julie Holland, Pawcatuck Community Service Advocate

Julie Holland sees a need and goes about figuring out how to meet it. She has a gift for organizing people, especially women and children, toward common needs. The impact of her community service has spanned across Stonington schools as well as many local non-profit organizations. She uses social media to promote people, organizations and events.  For the past several years she has hosted monthly “benefit” parties at her home consisting of 30 to 40 women with a goal of identifying worthwhile projects and enlisting commitment from the group to move forward.  Groups benefiting from her initiatives include Westerly Library and Wilcox Park, Autism Speaks, Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation, to name a few. She supports other community groups by publicizing their events and fundraisers through social media.

Julie worked as Paraprofessional Teaching Assist at West Vine Street School (2007-2013).  She took her responsibilities to her students to a whole new level helping not only the children but getting involved with families with goal of identifying unmet needs. Through this work she went on to become one of the driving forces in bringing the Light It up Blue to Support Autism Awareness to the greater Westerly-Pawcatuck area. Her benefit parties resulted in a fundraiser at a local venue along with coordinating with businesses, banking institutions and local municipalities to light up their buildings in blue in support of Autism Speaks. Julie’s expansive community service includes serving on the Stonington K-12 Building Committee to gain support for improvements to the elementary schools Past awards include The Golden Apple Award in 2012, bestowed by Stonington Public School and the the Civic Recognition Award for being a positive role model to children helping to teach them to respond to situations in healthy ways that can contribute to individual and community wellbeing. Julie was instrumental in the founding of the West Vine Street School Sensory Garden and currently serves as its Chair. The garden has morphed into an outdoor classroom and provides learning opportunities for students year round.  It has resulted in food production and subsequent donations to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and local families. Julie also organized  a hat/mitten/scarf drive for the PNC. Julie Holland sees a need and goes about figuring out how to meet it. She has a gift for organizing people, especially women and children, toward common needs.

The impact of her community service has spanned across Stonington schools as well as many local non-profit organizations. She uses social media to promote people, organizations and events.  For the past several years she has hosted monthly “benefit” parties at her home consisting of 30 to 40 women with a goal of identifying worthwhile projects and enlisting commitment from the group to move forward.  Groups benefiting from her initiatives include Westerly Library and Wilcox Park, Autism Speaks, Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center and the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation, to name a few. She supports other community groups by publicizing their events and fundraisers through social media.

Christine Misto, Westerly Marketing & Communications Manager, Westerly Hospital Chairman, Westerly Republican Town Committee
Christine is responsible for helping project the image of Westerly Hospital in the community, and communicate news to the media and public.  Throughout her tenure which included the hospital’s transition to the L + M Hospital family, she has been creative, dedicated and energetic working on events and marketing of this important community asset.   She is a well respected leader who makes a very professional presentation on behalf of the region’s largest employer.

As the Vice Chairman of the Republican Town Committee in Westerly, she is organized, passionate and dedicated in her work to help fellow republicans achieve their goals of getting elected and serving the community.  Christine offers sage advice, savvy marketing tips and strategic vision that has enabled several candidates to excel in their path to public service.  She is role model to other women who may be considering getting involved locally.  She is a long time advocate for quality education and accountability in the school and town budget.  For many years she eloquently and respectfully speaks at town council meetings and school committee meetings, challenging the process of back-door contract negotiations and other issues of concern.  In 2009 she served as a member of the “Westerly High School Renovation Subcommittee”.  Christine was a volunteer dancer for Dancing with the Stars to Benefit the Bradford Schools.  She has been a donor and supporter of the Westerly Education Endowment Fund. She volunteered with a team of 5 others to create 2 unique outfits for the chamber’s Fashion Trashion event.  She serves on the Marketing and Newsletter committees of the St Pius School where her son Louis attends.  She provides invaluable marketing tips, develops advertising materials and is an asset to the school’s community outreach efforts.

Linda Wilkinson, North Stonington Founder, Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project

Linda has lived all over the world and has made a difference teaching and volunteering. In Mali she taught literacy to women at 25 different training centers. As a volunteer she helped local residents sell earthen ware and beads from Timbuktu to help support their families during the drought and famine. In Senegal she taught a 5th grade class at the International/ American school. In Maryland she taught a technology class to at risk youths.

In 2004 Linda moved to Africa and established the Chikumbuso Women and Orphans Project.  A bar and brothel was for sale in the compound so she bought it and converted into a community room and school.  Today, the group has grown to 45 widows and 25 at risk youth making beautiful handcrafted items. Their skills as artists and entrepreneurs have grown through various classes ranging from learning about color and design to financial training for both their personal and professional lives. English training has helped the women continue learning even though they dropped out of formal education many, many years ago. Their confidence has increased tremendously; they regularly attend local fashion shows and often find themselves speaking to organizations about the project and how they can help.  Chikimbusu also educates and helps feed a total of 450 students, some in its K-6 operation and some through sponsorships to attend middle school and high school.  Linda secures locations to display and sell the Chikumbuso women’s art work in area restaurants and businesses. From New London to Westerly, churches, schools, rotary clubs, businesses and individuals have embraced the group and its work, hosting fundraisers, buying handbags and sponsoring Chikumbuso children.

She is an active member of the Stonington Rotary Club and contributes time and talents to support their many programs.

All 5 of these amazing ladies will have their stories shared with the community during a very special celebration that will be inspiring for all who attend.  Tickets are $50 each, payable to Greater Westerly Chamber Foundation.  For more information, contact Lisa Konicki at 401-596-7761.

North Central Chamber Names New Executive Director

JOHNSTON, RI – Jaime Dufresne, of Scituate, director of marketing for The Children’s Workshop, has been named executive director of the North Central Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Johnston and serves the communities of Johnston, North Providence, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster and Glocester.

Dufresne succeeds Deborah J. Ramos, who has served as executive director since 2009 and has resigned to take a position as administrative assistant to Michael G. Leonardo, CFS, and certified funds spet with Ameriprise Financial in Warwick.

Dufresne will begin her job at the Chamber on June 1.

She grew up in Warwick and is a graduate of LaSalle Academy, in Providence, and Emerson College, in Boston, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in integrated marketing. She has been director of marketing for The Children’s Workshop since 2012.

The Children’s Workshop, founded in Lincoln, offers learning programs and day care at 19 locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

“My vision for my first year as executive director of the Chamber is to grow our membership and help our members earn a return on the investment they make in the Chamber,” Dufresne says.

“I want the Chamber to be more visible in the community in dynamic and engaging ways. I hope to use fresh content and events to attract young entrepreneurs and professionals.”

Looking back on her six years as executive director, Ramos said, “I hope I can be remembered for bringing business people together, building relationships, building their businesses and perhaps helping to build friendships.

“I feel my greatest accomplishment may have been keeping the Chamber alive, the membership connected and the value of the Chamber growing during a time that has been very difficult for small businesses.”

The North Central Chamber was formed in 1982. Its annual events include a golf tournament in July, the Apple Festival at Johnston War Memorial Park in September, which attracts thousands of families and community residents, and a scholarship program that has given thousands of dollars to students graduating from high schools in the communities served by the Chamber.

For more information about the Chamber, call (401) 349-4674 or visit

previous arrow
next arrow