By Rosalie Tirella
While we rejoice over the fact that Ed Augustus – a man who cares about the health and welfare of our inner-city families and is working to create and/or improve city programs and departments so that the regular folks of Worcester can be LIFTED OUT OF POVERTY OR ILL HEALTH OR CRUMBY HOUSING – is our city manager, it’s disconcerting to see people who work for him/The City of Worcester treat the very folks Augustus cares about like crap. Do the opposite of what City Manager Ed Augustus would do. Fail to carry out his vision on the front lines of Woo city life.
A few weeks ago I was at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center to talk with Ron Charette, the center’s long-time executive director. Ron also runs the Green Island Neighborhood Center in Crompton Park and had his hand in the Quinsig Village Neighborhood Center and even the long-gone Main South Community Center. In other words, he’s been helping inner-city folks for decades. He does his job with compassion, understanding, intelligence and a cute sense of humor. Ronny knows everyone in South Worcester and Green Island and basically District 4, and we D 4 folks know and love Ronny.
But what a disheartening 15 minutes at Camp Street, site of Ron’ s beloved South Worcester Neighborhood Center! It happened two weeks ago. I was waiting in the center’s reception area to chat with Ron. But he was busy – busy being dressed down by Steve Hill, City of Worcester neighborhood guy. Hill works at City Hall, for our city manager, checking out the needs of inner city hoods and making sure city agencies and neighborhood centers are doing what they are supposed to do with the funds, state, local and fed, they get.
Well, I have never seen a bigger asshole doing his job with such malevolent zest! A nastiness that made you think of the horrible beadles and factory owners that are characters in Charles Dickens novels, say David Copperfield before he was saved or Oliver Twist when he was living with the London sewer rats.
NO BREAD FOR YOU! Steve Hill was pretty much saying to the people who come into get food at Ronny’s food pantry. NO FOOD FOR YOU!!!
Steve Hill, from the City of Worcester Neighborhood Services, was chewing out Ronny, a staffer – a Latina woman who gives out the food to the poor people who come into the center asking for food – and another staff member who works in the center office. This very public brow beating was witnessed by me and other folks in the neighborhood center.
Steve Hill was saying to Ronny: WHY ARE YOU GIVING FOOD TO THESE PEOPLE? THE DOCUMENTATION DOESN’T LIST CORRECT INFO. WE NEED CORECT THIS AND CORRECT THAT! WHY WAS A MAIN SOUTH FAMILY GIVEN FOOD?!!! THEY SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN FOOD AT CENTRO LAS AMERICAS IN MAIN SOUTH!!!!! Not here! !!
Ronny said the family had been to Centro but their food pantry was closed. They were hungry. So he gave them food.
The Latina lady looked as if she were ready to cry. She tried to explain how she did the paperwork.
Steve Hill, asshole extraordinaire, was having none of it. He cut her off. YOU NEED TO SHOW THIS AND THE NUMBERS NEED TO SHOW THAT …
All over a box of bread, eggs, milk, canned beans, bags of rice. You don’t get filet of sole when you get food at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, or any neighborhood center. You get staples, some that are precariously close to their expiration dates. You get jars of peanut butter and cans of tomato sauce. But, with Steve Hill running the show, it was as if folks were stealing trays of sushi! He was arrogant. He was disdainful. He was more than “strictly business.” He was mean-spirited.
When Steve Hill left, Ron and his great staff looked stunned. Then Ron got mad! He said: We get food donations from places in Main South! If a Main South family is hungry we give them food. What about community? Doesn’t that count?!! He was upset but inspiring! Ron was doing what Jesus would have done. “When I was hungry you gave me bread./ Now enter into the home of my Father!”
The people who run and work at Worcester’s neighborhood centers are doing Jesus’ work. They clothe the poor. They feed the hungry. They nurture families. They protect children. They have done all this without very little, or any dough, from former City Manager Mike O’Brien. They have been made to feel unappreciated – like second class citizens in our community. They have asked for stalled funds, for meetings, for their phone calls to be returned. But O’Brien was passive aggressive and let them dangle in the wind. Developers like Paul Collyer and Artie Marroodian and Bill Randell, warped his perspective. Good guys but out to get Ronny and Steve Teasdale and anyone else who worked in CDCs or centers. It made no sense whatsoever to many folks because these city agencies are Woo’s unsung, unheralded beacons of hope. FOR SO MANY FAMILIES.
Up until he was 30, Worcester real estate developer Paul Collyer sold cocaine. He told me he was arrrsted 22 times for selling drugs. He also told me moving to Worcester stopped all that behavior, turned his life around. He became a responsible citizen.
People fuck up. People have bad luck. People get hurt. Usually that entails losing your way…and losing housing, money, sometimes even family.
Ron Chatette and his staff help Worcester people rebuild their lives. EVERY DAY.
They don’t need Steve Hill working against them, against Woo kids or families.
CM Ed Augustus should tell Steve Hill he needs to do his job the right way – WITH COMPASSION/common decency – or he might just find himself at Ron’s neighborhood center … asking for food.