Main South: the block party at Stone Soup!

Text and photos by Ron O’Clair

I was pleased to have been able to attend on September 16 the block party at Stone Soup at 4 King St., in the rear parking area of the renovated and fully functional building that had nearly burned to the ground some time ago. It was a long process of renewal that saved that building from the wrecking ball. It took a lot of time and a lot of effort to secure the funds needed to make this happen. It was a Herculean effort that has paid big dividends for the neighborhood …

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… with its programs being housed there.

Stone Soup is the headquarters for Earn-A-Bike, which is a really cool program that teaches children how to repair/build bikes, and the kids who volunteer end up with a free bike. It teaches kids the importance of hard work and saving for what you want in the world. There are many life lessons taught here, as they instruct the lucky recipient children in the art of making something whole again from a bucket of parts scavenged from other bikes that have been donated in various states of disrepair. They learn how to fix their own bicycles, too, and that can have an advantageous effect on their future development because they get to see what makes things work and understand a bit about how to make them work with a little effort. Plus they learn skills that can be applied at work or future jobs. It really is a unique program, one that should be emulated across the country, if you ask this author. It is a great program that, unfortunately, is being underutilized.

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Woo Rides at the block party!

There is also the EPOCA organization, which advocates for removing roadblocks put in place that prevent ex-felons from gaining employment and housing in their attempts to re-integrate back into the community after their release form prison. I support this organization fully due to my own oldest brother John Jr. having been killed in August of 1973 when I was 12 because he COULD NOT get a job in an economy where they were so plentiful you could quit a job in the morning and have another by that afternoon, starting the very next day.

That was 1973 Worcester, with factories running three shifts around the clock, such as Robinson Thread, Worcester Knitting and many more in the Industrial Parks that dotted the Worcester Landscape.

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Folks learning at the Stone Soup gathering

My brother faced the challenges the EPOCA folks face today, where after release from prison, and having paid for their crime with their time, they find they face a monumental obstacle that prevents them from obtaining employment and housing based upon their criminal convictions with a bad CORI report.

EPOCA works to address these issues so that the recidivism rate will drop. It is a truly worthwhile effort, as I believe in rehabilitation for all!

In the accompanying photographs, you will see the crowd that showed up for the burgers, hot dogs, Table Talk pies, Polar Soda’s, and other goodies – all free to the neighborhood …

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It was a good time to be had by all. You had a chance to mingle with your neighbors!

Parlee Jones, our own CECELIA/InCity Times writer had a spot at the table with her goods for sale which appealed to the women present (there was nothing there that interested me as a man). It was good to see my friend and colleague Parlee Jones …

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Parlee at the podium! ICT file photo

… whom I have a great respect for – and also a Bob Marley oversized cigarette lighter (she doesn’t smoke – it is for her candles). I wish I had known Parler was going to be at the event so I could have given it to her. When I got it, I said, Oh, Parlee would love this, she LOVES Bob Marley (and puts on the city-wide celebration every year at the WP library) … so I picked it up at the yard sale I was at for her. (This was like 2 years ago, I really need to get my gift to her pronto!)

There is a gentleman who is the owner of the “Woo Rides” who came by on his Pedi-cab to offer free rides as an inducement to generate some business for his fledgling enterprise of carting people around Worcester.

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There was a sound truck in the next driveway over that was used to carry the message of various speakers to the crowd. It was provided by an on call 1 hour notice D. J. service that I failed to get the name of, but if you need that type of service I am sure the good people of Stone Soup can tell you how to get in touch with the D.J.

It was a great time at Stone Soup! More than 200 people celebrated! I support all they do in our community, and I know there are other groups that I have not listed here that work out of that building as well.

I hope you found this article interesting and that you support Earn-A-Bike with donations of bicycles in any state or condition. Don’t throw your used bike out! Please donate it for the children of Worcester at Earn-A-Bike.

I also hope you support the EPOCA 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that supports ex-offenders who are trying to reintegrate into society and face challenges that, if not removed, lead to higher rates of recidivism. It is in the best interest of all to get people the help they need to STAY out of prison and become productive tax payers once again!

Please email Ron O’Clair – Ronaldoclair@hotmail.com – with any comments.