Meet Maria DeCarvalho, Neighborhood Champion

Neighborhood Champion Maria DeCarvalho

Maria DeCarvalho shared three wonderful local family businesses.

La Arepa owner Nohemi Rodriguez and her son Bernardo Garcia
  • La Arepa, 582 Smithfield Avenue, Pawtucket 

Nohemi Rodriguez grew up in Valencia, Venezuela and she and her son Bernardo Garcia bring traditions of both beauty and deliciousness to their wonderful restaurant, La Arepa, located in the Fairlawn neighborhood of Pawtucket.  

Arepas are sweet corn cakes filled with meat, cheese, beans and vegetables that Nohemi and Bernardo began selling out of a food truck in 2000.  They are delicious, and their biggest seller is the Papellon Arepa, available with chicken or shredded beef. The restaurant now occupies a Pawtucket store front elegantly decorated to evoke Nohemi’s home town. You can’t help but notice how cheerful and well-kept it is — a perfect place for lunch or dinner, or to throw a party!

Bernardo says running your own business requires patience but he loves it — and he and his Mom appreciate how cozy Rhode Island is, and how many small business there are here.  His personal favorite: Cured Collection, located at Providence Place Mall, where he goes for streetwear.

Italian Corner owners Massimo and Paola Dellolio
  • Italian Corner, 10 Boyd Avenue, East Providence

Massimo and Paola Dellolio make legendary Italian sandwiches but it doesn’t stop there.  You can also visit the Italian Corner for homemade Italian soups, pastas and sauces, cured meats and cheeses and every ingredient an antipasto might require.  If you’re lucky, you can find yourself at Massimo’s table on a Saturday night, when their restaurant serves his cooking.  

When you visit the deli counter, Paola greets you with, “Senora?” and it’s just a little bit like being in Italy. She and Massimo dedicate themselves to preserving the best of the small Italian towns they came from, and they offer advice and encouragement as well as general yumminess.

You can also find everything you need for any pasta, polenta or risotto you want to cook up. 

What do Paola and Massimo love?  Being close to the water, as they were in their home towns.  They love helping their customers learn about and appreciate authentic Italian cooking and watching them bite into their famous sandwiches.  And when they hang up their aprons and go out to dinner themselves, they head towards Chomp in Warren and Nacho Mama in Bristol.

Reliable Gold owners Sarah Abeles and Rena
  • Reliable Gold, Wayland Square, Providence

At Reliable Gold jewelers in Wayland Square you can find both one-of-a-kind, heirloom-quality treasures from the past and fun, fresh new looks created by the young jewelers Sarah Abeles and her Mom Rena have discovered. Rena and Sarah work with their team to make sure their beautiful Wayland Square shop has something for every occasion.  Because they’ve carefully chosen each item in their store, and because they give each customer individual time and attention, they can help them find exactly the right piece for the person and the moment. 

Sarah and Rena treasure both the history of this family-owned business founded in 1934 and the opportunity it gives them to embody their family values of trust and respect in their relationships with vendors, customers and each other.  They love the sense of community and continuity that doing business here in Rhode Island for so long has given them — and Sarah says the breathtaking architecture, active arts community, wonderful restaurants and beaches don’t hurt either!

They love supporting other women-owned businesses, especially their neighbors on Wayland Square, like CORE Fitness and Bloom Back Flowers.

July is Independents Month!

Celebrate your independents! Image from AMIBA

From July 1 to July 31, Independents Month celebrates independent, locally-owned businesses and the community values they embody:

  • Their spirit of entrepreneurship, individuality, uniqueness, and character.
  • How they give back to our community with their time, talents, goods, and services.
  • How they fulfill community needs that make us healthier and wealthier.

Why independents?

Every $1 we spend has consequences. When we choose to buy from locally-owned businesses, our money does more good for our local community.

Independents Month is a good time to learn about what’s available locally, consider the consequences of your choices, and shift some of your spending.

Meet our Neighborhood Champions

Local people know their communities the best, and they know who and what make it special. For Independents Month, Neighborhood Champions (list updated throughout the month) are spotlighting local businesses they love in their places.

Are you a Neighborhood Champion?

It’s super easy to participate. Just tell us about a few businesses that make your community great. Get your suggestions in ASAP.

Meet Sandra Enos, Neighborhood Champion

Neighborhood Champion Sandra Enos: "Wakefield is really blessed to have so many exceptional businesses in such a small space."

Sandra Enos, a recently retired sociology professor, has her own small business. Giving Beyond The Box curates gift boxes that feature local enterprises, BIPOC- and woman-owned businesses, Providence-based artists, and local farmers.

Sandra’s local champions are located in downtown Wakefield, Rhode Island. They are all within about 500 feet of each other. Sandra said, “Wakefield is really blessed to have so many exceptional businesses in such a small space.” Each of these businesses brings energy, vitality and community to the downtown area.

  • Brickley’s has been voted one of the best places for ice cream in the state. Sandra knows someone who has licked his way through all of their flavors over the course of one summer. (This is the kind of goal we can get behind. 🍦)
  • South County Bread Company is the newest arrival with a collection of wonderful breads, baguettes, croissants and sweets along with new inventions all the time.
  • The Contemporary Theater features theatrical productions, as well as a a vibrant improv community. They recently hosted the Ocean State Improv Festival which brought performers from New York, California, Minnesota, and elsewhere. They also offer classes for children and adults.
  • Duck Press features an eclectic menu and a small cafe atmosphere. It is a great place for a special dinner. Sandra says she has never ordered the same thing twice because their new dishes are always so tempting.

Thank you, Sandra, for being a Neighborhood Champion! Rhode Island, get out there and explore Wakefield.

Local Social!

Local Social graphic -- June 30, 5:30 p.m. at The Guild Beer Garden

Interested in local economies and investing? Join us for an informal happy hour on Thursday, June 30, 5:30 p.m. at The Guild Beer Garden by the Michael Van Leesten Pedestrian Bridge in Providence. You’ll meet like-minded people, drink local beer, enjoy the Providence riverfront, AND support a locally-owned business.

Email for more information.

Are you a Neighborhood Champion?

"Yes, we are open {heart} local" sign

Every $1 we spend has consequences. When we choose to buy from locally-owned businesses, our money does more good for our local community. Here’s six good reasons to buy local.

From July 1 to July 31, Independents Month celebrates independent, locally-owned businesses and entrepreneurship. For Independents Month, Local Return is recruiting Neighborhood Champions to help us spotlight local businesses. Why? Because you know your community the best, and you know who and what make it special.  

Our goal is to inform and inspire members of the public to learn about what’s available locally, consider the consequences of their choices, and shift some of their spending. We want to include a mix of business-to-consumer goods and business-to-business innovations.  

The Assignment

  1. Pick a community that you love. Hint: It could be a place (like Peace Dale, Riverside, or Pascoag) or a group of people (Black-owned businesses). 
  1. Tell us about 3-5 businesses that make your community great. Which businesses do you LOVE? Which businesses make your place vibrant and whole? The criteria: They must be independent (no franchises, please) and locally-owned (by someone who lives in or very close to Rhode Island). Photos are great!
  1. Bonus points: Record a short video (0:30 to 2 minutes) with one or more of the business owners. Be as creative as you’d like, but here are a few suggested questions to ask: 
  • Introduce us to (BUSINESS). 
  • What’s your favorite part of being an entrepreneur? 
  • What do you love about (PLACE)?
  • What’s your favorite local business? 

How to Participate 

Send your responses to

During July, we hope you’ll share your contributions directly on social media tagging @LocalReturnRI on Twitter or Instagram. 

The fine print: By submitting, you acknowledge that you give Local Return permission to share your contributions publicly.

April 30 is Independent Bookstore Day

Independent Bookstore Day logo, Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturday, April 30 is Independent Bookstore Day! Celebrate at any one of Rhode Island’s delightful independently-only bookshops, from Westerly to Pawtucket to Warren. According to, there are nine Rhode Island stores participating:

We all must be stewards of the things we value. Local bookstores — owned by our neighbors — are centers for community, they support learning and independent thought, and they’re contributors to our local economy. When you support a local bookshop, your money stays in the local economy longer and does more good. So you can feel good about your Independent Bookstore Day celebrations!

Move Your Money

Move Your Money graphic

Our economic choices matter. Even if we don’t have the outsized wealth of Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates, there are consequences to how we spend and invest our money. 

Choosing a local bank is one of the easiest ways to support our local economy. Thinking locally is about more than spending your dollars locally. It’s about investing in your community as a whole, and that starts with where your dollars are deposited. 

Because April is Move Your Money: Bank Local, Invest Local Month, we’ve got a Make the Move Toolkit for you: 

  • Step one: Know why local financial institutions matter.
  • Step two: Consider your options. By our count, there are local bank and credit union branches in 35 of Rhode Island’s communities.
  • Step three: Be specific about your needs. Be clear about what kind of product(s) you’re looking for. And remember: there’s no reason you can’t have relationships with more than one financial institution.
  • Step four: Make the move. And celebrate it! Tell your friends and family why you are banking local, and share your move news with us on Twitter or Instagram using #moveyourmoney, #banklocal, or one of the graphics below.

#MoveYourMoney Graphics

Local Banking Options 

If you want to find a bank that keeps your money close to home and puts it to work for your community (here are four good reasons why you should!), we’ve got a list of community banks and credit unions in Rhode Island. 

By our count, there are branches in 35 of our 39 municipalities. You can bank locally in villages from Pascoag to Riverside, and Manville to Chepachet. 

Don’t forget to do your research first: 

  • provides a rating of how well banks contribute to the health of local economies. For example, Peoples Credit Union merits ⭐️⭐️⭐️(out of three stars) for Strong Impact, compared to Santander’s ⭐️ Weak Impact rating. 
  • shows you what banks invest in. For example, for every $100 you deposit at Bank Newport, the bank makes $74 of community investments. Compare that to $26 for Bank of America. 
  • Community credit unions and banks formed to respond to the needs of local people, so learn the history of your bank. For example, Navigant Credit Union launched in 1915 in the basement of Notre Dame Parish in Central Falls to serve Blackstone Valley textile workers. 

Bank Newport 
Ownership: Stock 
Headquartered in: Newport 
Branches in: Barrington, Bristol, Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Jamestown, Johnston, Middletown, Narragansett, Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Providence, Tiverton, Warren, Warwick

Bank Rhode Island 
Ownership: Stock 
Headquartered in: Providence 
Branches in: Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, East Providence, Johnston, Lincoln, Middletown, North Kingstown, Pawtucket, Providence, Smithfield, Wakefield, Warwick, Woonsocket

Centreville Savings Bank 
Ownership: Mutual 
Headquartered in: West Warwick 
Branches in: Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Narragansett, North Kingstown, Providence, Warwick, West Greenwich, West Warwick 

Community & Teachers Federal Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: East Providence  

Coventry Teachers FCU 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Coventry

Cranston Municipal Employees Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Cranston 

Greenwood Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Warwick 

Home Loan Investment Bank
Headquartered in: Warwick
Branches in: Cumberland, Newport, Providence, Warwick

Independence Bank
Headquartered in: East Greenwich 

Navigant Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative
Headquartered in: Smithfield 
Branches in: Central Falls, Chepachet, Coventry, Cranston, Cumberland, East Greenwich, Greenville, Lincoln, Manville, North Providence, Pawtucket, Riverside, Rumford, Scituate, Slatersville, Smithfield, Wakefield, Warren, Warwick, Woonsocket 

Pawtucket Credit Union  
Headquartered in: Pawtucket
Branches in: Bristol, Cranston, Cumberland, East Greenwich, East Providence, North Kingstown, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Smithfield, Wakefield, Warwick 

Peoples Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Middletown
Branches in: Bristol, Middletown, Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Wakefield 

Ocean State Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Coventry
Branches in: Coventry, North Kingstown, West Warwick

Rhode Island Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Providence
Branches in: Bristol, Cranston, Kingston, Pascoag, Pawtucket, Providence

Washington Trust
Ownership: Stock
Headquartered in: Westerly
Branches in: Block Island, Charlestown, Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, East Providence, Johnston, Narragansett, North Kingstown, North Providence, Providence, Richmond, Rumford, Wakefield, Warwick, Westerly 

Wave Federal Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Warwick 

Westerly Community Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Westerly
Branches in: Coventry, Richmond, Wakefield, Westerly

Woodlawn Federal Credit Union 
Ownership: Cooperative 
Headquartered in: Pawtucket

If we’ve missed any community banks or credit unions, please email us.

Why bank local? 

Community banks and credit unions are embedded in local communities, rely on strong customer relationships, and understand the needs of local people, businesses, and markets. Here are four great reasons to bank local (adapted with gratitude from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance). 

1. You’ll get the same great services for lower costs. 

Most locally owned banks and credit unions offer the same services at lower costs than big banks. According to national data, smaller banks offer lower average fees, better interest rates, and better terms on credit cards and other loans. They opened to serve local residents and businesses, providing services that people otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access. And they’re staffed by people from the community, which results in personalized attention.

2. Your money will be put to work supporting the local economy.  

Small businesses depend on local banks for financing, especially in moments of crisis. Consider this: 

  • In 2018, community-based financial institutions made 52% of all small business loans nationwide, even though they controlled only 16% of total banking assets. Giant banks, which controlled 59% of bank assets, made up just 27% of small business lending. (Source: ISLR)
  • During the pandemic, local banks distributed PPP funds to small businesses more quickly and more equitably. Community banks made 60% of all Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans—including 72% of PPP loans to minority-owned businesses. (Source: ICBA)

3. Like you, local banks are invested in the prosperity of the local economy and community.

Big banks are not connected to the places where they operate, and they often use a community’s deposits to make investments in other places. Local banks prosper when local communities prosper. 

Small, local banks and credit unions want to turn deposits into loans and other productive investments. Big banks devote a sizeable share of their resources to Wall Street bets that may generate big profits for the bank but offer little economic or social value for the rest of us. And as we’ve seen, if they go bad they put the entire financial system at risk.

4. Decisions will be made locally. 

At local banks and credit unions, loan approvals and other key decisions are made by people who live in the community, have relationships with their customers, and understand the local needs. Because of this, they often approve small business loans that big banks would reject. Even better: at credit unions, control rests with the customers, who are also the owners.

A conversation with Michelle Hoexum of Revalue

Michelle Hoexum

Are you looking for a path forward for investing your money locally? Feel like you need more tools for due diligence and research? 

Join us for a practical workshop with Michelle Hoexum of Revalue, a leading firm for building Wall Street and Main Street portfolios and learn some of the tools and approaches that Revalue uses to evaluate local investment opportunities.

March 15, 2022
6:30-7:30 p.m.
Register here

Michelle Hoexum is Managing Partner with Revalue. She is a capital connector and impact advisor with specialties in SRI strategies and regenerative finance. Michelle is here to help you on your financial journey, especially as it relates to combining a philanthropic and capital resource plan to impact your wellbeing and that of the community. When she is not advising she is out walking with Albert, her chocolate lab puppy, practicing yoga/meditation, enjoying nature with friends or enjoying a good historical fiction novel or investment book in her historical home, complete with all the projects.

Revalue is a home for people passionate about cultivating an abundance mindset in service of community resilience and future generations. They are financial navigators, connecting people to their purpose by crafting values-aligned financial plans and creative educational programming in partnership with those we serve.