NARRAGANSETT — Scarlett sells seashells by the seashore — and anywhere else her little red wagon will take her. It isn’t just shells, either: she also has a plethora of pebbles and painted rocks, along with various other treasures which the ocean has washed up. And, truthfully, it isn’t just Scarlett Raucci — although the seven-year-old may be at the helm of this new non-profit, she has a wide network of supporters. Several other members of the Raucci family have contributed to her new charity, with Scarlett’s grandmother Marian Mattison being foremost among them.
It was Mattison who helped develop her granddaughter’s entrepreneurial spirit into a charity which would bring together two parishes on opposite sides of the diocese. As a parishioner of St. Thomas More Church in Narragansett and a regular volunteer at St. Patrick Church in Providence, Mattison had the connections needed to make sure that Scarlett’s project would be able to help as many people as possible.
“It’s creative charity, and that’s what the world needs a lot of these days,” says Father Marcel Taillon, the pastor of St. Thomas More. “That is the Christian life.”
Working together, Mattison and Scarlett have raised enough money through their non-profit’s sales to purchase 450 pairs of socks and underwear for the homeless ministry at St. Patrick Church, Providence.
Father James Ruggieri, pastor of St. Patrick, congratulated Scarlett for her success in gathering the goods. He expressed his gratitude at a small, socially distanced gathering outside of the church on a recent Friday morning.
“It’s the work of such an amazing community,” Father Ruggieri said. “From Scarlett being the driving force behind all of this, to Marian and everyone at St. Thomas More contributing their talents in so many different ways.”
For Mattison, it’s almost like she never retired. For 25 years, she worked as a social worker in various capacities throughout the diocese, including a 25-year career of teaching the subject as a professor at Providence College. She has volunteered with St. Patrick for nearly as long a period, working at the parish’s St. Patrick Academy and other affiliated organizations.
The origins of this particular project were entirely with Scarlett, however. Strolling along the beach with her grandmother in 2019, the youngster had noticed a series of attractive shells and smooth stones which the waves had deposited on the sand.
“She came running over to me with all of these shells she had collected saying ‘Nana, we could sell these!’,” Mattison recalls.
And so began a remarkable summer pastime: every morning Scarlett would go out to the shore with her wagon and load it up with whatever natural treasures she could find. Once they had amassed an appreciable horde, she and her grandmother used a bit of paint and a lot of creativity to turn them into a collection of unique objets d’art.
This wasn’t a simple money-making endeavor, however — Scarlett was adamant that the proceeds of the sales go to benefit those less fortunate than herself. As improbable as the scheme may have sounded, that’s exactly what Scarlett did, with her shell sales raising enough money to purchase 200 pairs of socks for the homeless.
Despite this remarkable success last year, a global pandemic and the ensuing quarantine seemed likely to make it impossible to repeat the project in 2020. With the wisdom of youth, however, Scarlett steadfastly refused to acknowledge the “impossibility” of helping out again this year, especially when there were more people in need than ever before.
Although painting shells was certainly a lockdown-friendly activity, selling them initially seemed likely to be a much greater challenge. Scarlett, however, refused to give up.
Working with her grandmother, she managed to set up a table on the Fourth of July at Jerry Brown Farm in Wakefield.
The ambitious youngster even had a ready solution for the problem of social distancing: “She didn’t even hesitate,” Mattison recalls. “Immediately, she said ‘They don’t have to worry about change. Just let them take more shells instead of change.”
It was a lucrative model: the project raised $1,150 — enough to purchase 450 pairs of badly needed basics for a clothing drive being organized at St. Patrick.
Mattison and the Rauccis gathered a short distance away from Father Ruggieri to formally exchange the goods the day after Thanksgiving.
“We have so much to be thankful for this year,” Father Ruggieri said at the gathering.
“So many members of our parish and our community will benefit from these clothes. And it took so many people — from those of us gathered here, to friends and relatives,” he added.
Indeed, as Mattison recounts, the project has not only extended beyond the Raucci family, it has even crossed state lines.
“Once word started spreading, a friend of a friend in Connecticut wanted to help out as well,” she explains. “Although we still haven’t met her, she personally knit a collection of hats and scarves for us to include in the donation.”
As for Scarlett, she plans to keep doing what she does best — finding unexpected ways to help those in need.
Anyone interested in joining Scarlett by making a donation to the ongoing clothing drive at St. Patrick is encouraged to visit https://maryhouseri.org/donate/, or to call 401-274-6286 for additional information.