Near the end of a month marred by gun violence, the Providence-area nonprofit at the heart of anti-violence efforts is set to expand its operations and its reach in Rhode Island. 

The Nonviolence Institute will add one new employee dedicated to mediating violence in the city of Central Falls, and may add a number of new positions across the organization with the help of a major gift announced Thursday. 

Brown University, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Partnership for Rhode Island, a group of local business leaders from some of the state’s largest companies, on Thursday announced they had donated $500,000 to the organization 

The gift came as a surprise to the Institute, Executive Director Cedric Huntley said in an interview Thursday afternoon, and the organization has not made a breakdown of where the new money will go. 

“But it will be well spent,” Huntley said, “and it’s needed.”

In a statement, Huntley said the donation would be used to “support local communities, strengthen program capacity, support staff resilience and wellness, and develop management capacity.”

Separately, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera on Thursday announced the city would be contracting the Nonviolence Institute to hire a full-time outreach worker. 

“This important work will be led by an individual who has an intimate knowledge of street conflicts,” said Rivera. The employee will “work closely on intervention strategies, strategies that can save lives,” she added.

The city of Pawtucket already has a contract for similar work with the organization. 

Huntley previously said the number of outreach workers the Institute employed has dwindled in recent years from more than 15 to about four, with only a part-time employee working in Central Falls. In addition to outreach work in the neighborhoods, the organization also conducts nonviolence trainings, victim services, and a youth employment program.

The Nonviolence Institute, which has done violence mitigation work in Rhode Island for more than two decades, has gained new recognition in the wake of gun violence this month. 

On May 13th, nine people were injured in a gunfight that erupted in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood. Over the course of the next three days, more gun violence in Providence and Pawtucket resulted in the death of three individuals, including 19-year old Tatyana Francois.  

Staff from the organization spent days following the shootings working to temper possible retaliation, and helping victims get services like funeral arrangements and compensation from the Rhode Island Treasurer’s office, according to an employee. 

The Institute hosted Gov. Dan McKee and the state’s entire Congressional delegation, during an event calling for gun reform legislation, as well as a vigil for Francois, whose death is still under investigation according to Pawtucket police. 

“The $500,000 contribution to the Institute will help make our communities and our State safer,” said McKee in a statement released Thursday. 

State lawmakers are also looking to increase funding for the Nonviolence Institute. Since 2017, the General Assembly has appropriated $200,000 to the organization each year. A letter written by Rep. Jose Batista (D-Providence) to increase the amount to $1 million has received support from more than 30 other lawmakers. 

In 2019, the Nonviolence Institute received a more than $300,000 one-time grant from the Department of Justice to support victims of gang violence, through the Institute's Three Cities program. On Thursday afternoon, the Three-Cities program held a youth job fair at Central Falls High School.