COVENTRY –– Coventry resident and West Warwick native Erica Hart Bryson has been promoted to Chief Philanthropy Officer at Saint Elizabeth Community, a local nonprofit organization based in Warwick focusing on senior care. Bryson will replace former Chief Philanthropy Officer Sharon Garland, who recently retire after 24 years with the organization.

Bryson began working with Saint Elizabeth Community back in 2012 as a Senior Philanthropy Officer. The West Warwick High School graduate comes with nearly 20 years of professional experience in healthcare philanthropy, having earned a BA from Stonehill College and a Master’s Degree in Communication Studies from the University of Rhode Island.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” she said Monday afternoon.

As Chief Philanthropy Officer, Bryson will be overseeing the organization’s entire fundraising program, including special events, annual giving drives and other festivities.

Prior to 2012 she had been working for Saint Anne’s Hospital in Fall River, Mass., and also at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence. Bryson is also a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the New England Association for Health Care Philanthropy.

Bryson considers herself a hometown Kent County girl, having grown up in West Warwick and now living in nearby Coventry. Her mother was a teacher at West Warwick High School, and her father a local firefighter.

Bryson began her work in event planning at the Warwick Musical Theatre formerly located on Route 2. She worked for the company until it closed in 1999, and applied for and received a philanthropy position at St. Anne’s.

“I didn’t have a philanthropy background, but the director there took a chance on me,” said Bryson.

She was hired as a Senior Philanthropy Officer six years ago at Saint Elizabeth Community.

“I was hired to get the organization ready for and to manage a capital campaign, which we just ended. We were able to achieve $5 million when we finished up in May.”

She says she looks forward to building on the foundation the organization has established in the community. Her predecessor held the post for 24 years and recently retired, so you might say she has some big shoes to fill.

“There’s such a great foundation here for giving,” said Bryson. “The support this place has had from the very beginning — its roots are in philanthropy. It was founded because generous people wanted to help others, and that spirit of giving has been in the organization’s entire history. It’s just a very strong culture of people wanting to help one another and give back and recognize the care they’ve received. It’s a very mission-driven organization and the supports are just wonderful.”

“I personally look forward to being a chapter in its long history, and seeing where we can bring the organization going forward.”

Every organization can benefit from change, she explained, but she hopes to build on Saint Elizabeth Community’s many years of success in Rhode Island.

“I have a profound respect for what has been done here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can build upon those foundations and strengths and make it an even stronger program.”

Saint Elizabeth Community was founded in 1882 as a not-for-profit provider of care and services to seniors and adults with disabilities in Rhode Island. The organization originally opened as a home for elderly women in Providence, but now provides a wide variety of elderly care services, such as nursing home care, independent living, home care, adult day centers, assisted living, rehab and memory care.

Most recently the organization completed construction of four new homes in East Greenwich as part of its Green House homes program. Each building is a nursing home for 12 individuals, including private bedrooms and bathrooms, to help residents to feel more at home.

Saint Elizabeth Community has grown to 11 Rhode Island locations. They serve nearly 3,000 Rhode Island seniors annually. More information is available at stelizabethcommunity.org.

Follow Kendra Port on Twitter @kendrarport

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