By Edith Morgan
For the first time in five years, the weather did not cooperate, and the picnic had to be shifted to its announced rain date, Sunday, August 6th, 2017. But then the skies smiled upon us, temperatures stayed reasonable, and the wind kept the air mild and clean. And so, at 1:00 p.m, in Grant Square Park, the picnic got under way. Neighbors and friends, families and children came, got their raffle ticket (free) and stopped to chat , greet others, and of course eventually lined up for the food and drinks.
The grillmaster, Alva Gilkes, fired up the gas grill, and stayed with it till the end, cooking a huge assortment of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage, and Kielbasa. He sautéed a big aluminum pan of chopped onions and green peppers – a proper accompaniment for the sausages… Plates were filled with salads of several kinds, chips, watermelon slices, and a selection of breads and rolls, both sweet and plain. And all this was FREE, donated by many more businesses than I have time or space to enumerate. This event has been very fortunate in experiencing the generosity of so many!
Once the food and sodas and water were well distributed, we could see what else was available; Musical sounds reached the participant from a grassy area just above the food tables: the D.J Joe Cora ( Joe Corrazzini) set up under a canopy loaned by Park Spirit; across the basketball court, against the fence, , Ann klump, our clown and face-painter, set up her canopy and materials to entertain the younger visitors. Scattered around the outer fence, various agencies, and of course our police safety officer Annie Pickett, set up their displays.
Despite the changed date, some of Worcester’s elected representatives did come, as well as our police chief and several of his men. But of course in a park, it would not have been complete without the appearance of two of our new “mounted police” who spent a good bit of time wandering about on the grassy slopes of the park, to the great admiration and enjoyment of all.
All in all a good time was had by all – and with the help of many hands, the park was left clean and picked up.
It was not always this way: I remember that less than ten years ago, athis spot was a weed-infested, unloved and uncared for piece of city property, home to trash and drug transactions. How did athis miraculous transformation take place?
Like so many changes, the story begins with Winifred Octave, whose home overlooks the park. As so often happens, she was appalled by the neglect of this park, and chatted about it – to one other person in particular: Debra Bolz, who lives nearby. To make a long story short, these two then formed the Greenhill Neighborhood Association, and began monthly meetings moving eventually to one of the classrooms at St. Bernard’s church , where the group had bas been meeting with the support of Father Jonathan. So we have gotten to know Michael Duggan from Code, Officer Higgins from the police department, and of course our District Councilor, Candy Carlson, who helped do the ppaperwork, getting permits, etc.
So far, this is a pretty standard story of the beginnings of a neighborhood group. But there is an unusual twist to this particular story: While many neighborhood practice NIMBY (not in my backyard), this group has from the beginning opened its arms to members of the social service agencies residents around the area. Having noted that our area is second only to Main South in the number of such facilities, This group has worked hard to integrate the residents of these houses – and they have responded by attending, helping, and sharing ideas. ( I have always believed that we should extend the hand of welcome, as “..there but the grace of God go I” should be foremost in our hearts) AS Deb said” We embraced them instead of fighting them”, and it has worked.
And so, the group has continued to thrive, with representatives from the police, code, Parks, and other city departments in attendance, listening to residents’ problems, and offering solutions where possible, and informing us of what to do also.
The idea of the yearly picnic was really the “brainchild” of Representative Mary Keefe, who first suggested we should have a picnic. And from there it grew. This year, the group gave an award to the members of the Linda Fay Griffin House, in recognition of their help and faithful attendance.
WE also recognize the ;hard work of Danielle Brewster and Jonathan Horatio Rosa – there are probably many others who deserve mention, but since I am not a professional reporter, I am certain I massed some helpers and supporters.
The park is now well used year around: REC has helped to build and maintain community garden plots ( I was impressed by the size and vigor of the vegetables and flowers growing there –and by the great playground equipment available there). The basketball court is much used, but so far still in mint condition. And most of the area is fully handicapped accessible, even though it is on hilly terrain. And gradually a rather neglected section of our city is coming into its own, and receiving amenities for its children and residents. The picnic gives residents a chance to meet informally with not only the police, fire, and other departments, but also with elected officials, and this year, with some who are running. Mayor Petty always comes, and past and present city councilors as well as one or two school committee members and one candidate also greet the crowd.
This year there were 300 hundred expected – and despite the changed date, the crowd was large. Next year, who knows. It is a success story , which will continue to grow.