Lenette Azzi-Lessing

Lenette Azzi-Lessing is currently Assistant Professor of Social Work in the graduate program at Wheelock College in Boston.  She co-chairs the National Advisory Committee on Prevention, Protection and Family Services of the Child Welfare League of America.  Dr. Azzi-Lessing is the founder of the Rhode Island Early Childhood Investment Council, a group of business and philanthropic leaders that advocates for wise investments to improve the life chances of disadvantaged young children and their families. She also serves on the board of the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College, having recently finished her term as the Poverty Institute’s first board chair.

Before resuming her academic career, Dr. Azzi-Lessing was executive director of Children’s Friend, Rhode Island’s premier child and family serving agency, for 12 years.  Under her leadership,  Children’s Friend significantly expanded the array of services available to vulnerable children and their families.  Dr. Azzi-Lessing initiated and developed Project Connect, the state’s first program for addressing the needs of families in the child welfare system who are affected by substance abuse, and the Project Connect Coordinating Committee which brings together providers of child protection, substance abuse treatment and pediatric care to address policy and service issues that affect these families. The agency opened the state’s first Family Support Centers and brought the Early Head Start program to the greater Providence area.

Prior to becoming executive director of Children’s Friend, Dr. Azzi-Lessing led The Rhode Island Center for Children At-Risk, which she founded to provide comprehensive services to vulnerable young children and their families.  The Center was merged into Children’s Friend when she took over leadership of that organization.  Earlier in her career, Dr. Azzi-Lessing worked in child welfare and mental health settings, and also taught at Rhode Island College School of Social Work.  She is a two-time recipient of the “Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Leadership in Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect” from the U.S. Department of Human Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, and a recipient of the Congressional “Angels in Adoption” award. Dr. Azzi-Lessing received her Masters in Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Connecticut.

Kate Brewster Kate Brewster

Kate Brewster became the Executive Director of the Poverty Institute in September 2004, having served as Assistant Director to Nancy Gewirtz from September 1999 through the spring of 2001. Kate also teaches social policy and case management at the Rhode Island College School of Social Work. She most recently was the manager of the Employer Contact Unit (ECU) at the Rhode Island Department of Human Services where she was responsible for managing the RIte Share Premium Assistance Program.  Kate received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Social Work degree from Rhode Island College.


Ana Cano-Morales Anna Cano-Morales

Anna Cano-Morales, a Central Falls native, joined The Rhode Island Foundation in 2000. She earned an undergraduate degree in Human Development, Counseling and Family Studies, with a minor in Latin American Literature, from the University of Rhode Island in 1991.  In 1998, she received a Master’s of Social Work from Rhode Island College.

Anna has worked as a social worker in the following agencies:  Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE), SStarbirth, Providence Community Health Centers, Women & Infants Hospital, and in Florida’s Broward County Community Health Centers.  Anna’s interest in children and families led her to volunteer in several community-based organizations for many years. She was a volunteer nursery assistant for over four years at Family Aids Center for Treatment and Services (F.A.C.T.S).  In addition, she spearheaded the development and implementation of a faith-based after-school program through Project Bridges (Proyecto Puentes) based at the Hispanic Evangelical Church for children with English as a Second Language needs in Central Falls and Pawtucket. Before joining The Rhode Island Foundation, she served on the board of directors of Gateway Healthcare and the Women’s Health and Education Fund of Rhode Island.

Currently, Anna is the Chairwoman of the Central Falls School Board of Trustees. In 2008, Governor Carcieri appointed her to the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.  She is also currently sitting on the Governor’s Urban Education Task Force. In July 2009, the University of Rhode Island Foundation elected Anna to the Executive Board.

Along with her duties as Associate Vice President for Grant Programs, Anna currently co-leads the grant making for the Foundation and serves on the board of the Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island. 

Anna lives in North Providence with her husband William and their two young sons, Cano and Moises.
Awards and Recognitions:

  • John Hope Settlement House Paris Vaughn Sterrett Award for Service
  • Rhode Island Latina Leadership Institute Award
  • University of Rhode Island Alumni Award
  • Providence Business News 40 Under 40 Award
  • Providence Monthly Magazine Top 10 People to Know in Providence Award

Kate Dunnigan Kate Dunnigan

Kate Dunnigan is professor of history and chair of social sciences at the Community College of Rhode Island. She holds degrees from the University of Rhode Island and Brown university.

Professor Dunnigan will be presenting on the topic of child labor from 1800 to 1938. Her talk, “Little Bits of Humanity,” is accompanied by a slide show of photographs taken by one of the most famous, and certainly one of the earliest, photo documentarians , Lewis Hine.

Kate has long had an interest in historical photography as a means of telling the story of everyday people in their work and home lives. In Working Women in Rhode Island, 1880-1925, images from the collections of the Rhode island Historical Society of women at work on farms, in factories, and at home for their families, or as domestics, documented the unique nature of women’s labor as paid workers outside the home and as members of private household economies.

In “Work and Community in Saylesville,” Dunnigan and Sociologist Richard Quinney exhibited photos from the Sayles Finishing Plants in Central Falls, which depicted bleachery workers between 1918 and 1928, through the Great Textile strike of 1934, which shut down the textile industry from Massachusetts to Georgia and which prompted the Governor of Rhode Island to call out the National Guard and the State Policy to battle crowds of up to 5,000 in the streets of Central Falls and Pawtucket.

In another project, “Faces of Rhode Island”, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dunnigan and fellow historian, Jon Lu, collected and exhibited photos provided by families across the State of their first-generation family members in formal portrait or amateur snapshot. Faces of Rhode Island adds to our knowledge and understanding of this State’s rich and diverse heritage.

Professor Dunnigan has been a frequent contributor to Rhode Island Council for the Humanities programs. She lectured in public venues throughout Rhode Island as part of an exhibit of Lewis Hine photographs taken when he visited Rhode Island in the early years of the last century, “Things to be corrected . . . . things to be appreciated.” Some of these photos you will see today were part of that series.


Sandra Enos Sandra Enos

Sandra Enos, PhD, serves as an Associate Professor of Sociology at Bryant University.  Prior to completing her doctorate, she enjoyed a long career in the public and nonprofit sectors, serving in positions in child welfare, corrections, the office of the Governor as a policy aide, and in the fields of  nonprofit development and higher education reform.   Dr. Enos research focus has been on the lives of marginalized children. Her book, Mothering on the inside: Parenting in a Women’s Prison, examined the lives of incarcerated mothers and their children and proposed social policies that would better serve not only these families but enhance public safety and child welfare outcomes as well. More recently, Dr. Enos has been tracing the history of child welfare in Rhode Island, an area that has received little attention in the research done about our state.  This project has involved work on the State Home and School Project which involved oral histories of former residents of the state’s orphanage, culminating in the production of the CD, featuring excerpts of those interviews and telling the story of the State Home to the general public.  Dr. Enos sees herself as a public scholar, an academic whose aim is not only to do the painstaking research that is required but to share her findings with a wider audience. She has served as an RICH Engagement Scholar and was invited to give the Newell Goff Annual Lecture in 2007, recognizing publication of her article tracing the founding and development of the State Home and School.

Her current work examines the role of the nonprofit sector in fashioning our state’s responses to caring for poor children, focusing in the first stage, on the founding and development of two key agencies, the Providence Children’s Friend Society and the Rhode Island Prevention of Cruelty to Children, both surviving over the course of three centuries, and forming Children’s Friend and Service.