Category Archives: Fashion

Jim – always in style! 🌻 St. Vincent’s Hospital Nurses Strike Continues

March and rally in support of strike was held April 26 …

By Jim Coughlin

St. Vincent’s Hospital in downtown Worcester was the scene on Wednesday, April 20, of a rally in support of the over 850 registered nurses who have been on strike there since March 8 against the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare which operates the hospital.

According to David Schildmeier, the press secretary for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, MNA, the union to which the striking nurses belong, the march was billed as a “March to support St. Vincent Hospital nurses.”

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Downtown Worcester: March in support of St. V’s nurses’ strike. Photo submitted.

The rally was preceded by a march that began at City Hall and culminated at the north entrance to the hospital. The event was sponsored and organized by PUMA, The Parents Union of Massachusetts and Jobs with Justice, with participation by the Tenant and Housing Alliance, Latinas United and Rock of Salvation Church.

In a press release from PUMA, Nelly Medina, the group’s organizer, in announcing their support for the nurses, said, “We support the St. Vincent Nurse’s decision to strike because we have a stake in the outcome of this struggle as it will ensure the ultimate safety of our community.”

“Our children are the future and, as we support the Nurses at St. Vincent’s, with this event we model for them how to stand in solidarity with workers against unbridled capitalism and corporate greed,” Medina said.

In a wide-ranging, 40-minute telephone interview with Maria Ritacco, the vice president of the MNA who also serves as a member of the bargaining unit for St. Vincent’s nurses, she said the strike “is over improvements in patient safety.”

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Ritacco has worked at St. Vincent’s for nearly 30 years as a registered nurse, beginning in 1983. “I have worked my entire career at St. Vincent’s Hospital,” she said, that has for generations been known as “St. Vs.” She began working in the surgical unit, then five years in the Intensive Care Unit, (ICU) and currently works in the recovery room.

She said her union would like the ratio of nurses to patients in the various units of the hospital such as Medical Surgery, the Emergency Room, [ER] Intensive Care, [ICU] and In-Patient increased to all be reduced. “The hospital ignored all of our requests to even discuss this staffing issue because they thought that the nurses would not go on strike if they did not improve ratios,” Ritacco said.

She said she thought the strike authorization vote would be enough to get them to discuss staffing improvements. However, she added that “it [the strike vote] just didn’t happen in two months. We were considering a job action before the pandemic. When COVID hit a year ago, we decided to put off the job action until the COVID numbers came down. If there was no progress at the [bargaining] table, we would then consider job action in early February, [this year].

The union leader said Worcester’s two other hospitals: Memorial and UMass Memorial Medical Center have already established the nursing ratios that the union is currently seeking to establish at St. Vincent’s. “It’s not an unusual practice,” she said.

She took St. V’s to task for their unusually high profit margin of 14%, which contrasts with the much lower profit margins of the city’s other hospitals – which is around 3% – and the 3.5% average profit rate for hospitals nationally.

She mentioned the hospital’s actual amount of profit last year was recorded at $414 million. In a press release, the union said on the day of the nurse’s strike authorization vote, the hospital had announced their profit margin.

In the course of my interview with the union leader and member of the bargaining unit, she said the “strike was not about their pay grade” and only
spoke of “patient ratios and patient safety.” However, when asked about an increase in their pay grade, she would only say the union and the hospital “were close to an agreement” [on a salary increase] but declined to get specific.

“The hospital was happy to throw a little bit of money at nurses as opposed to meeting our demands for changes in staffing to improving staffing to enhance patient safety,” Ritacco said. She also said throughout the 45-day strike the hospital has been bringing replacement nurses to staff the hospital in their absence. Ritacco said those nurses are being flown in “from throughout the country” and are being paid double (between $95 and $100 hourly) than what the regular St. V’s nurses were being paid.

She said the hospital “has been spending approximately forty-five million dollars to beat back the demands of the nurses, in addition to paying for the daily Worcester police detail.

In a press release, the union said the police detail “costs more than $30,000 a day.”

Ritacco said her membership “is not going in the building until the staffing problems are resolved.” When asked if she sees an eventual resolution of the strike, she said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the hospital will come back to the bargaining table. … Their goal is to make as much money as possible, and nurses are interfering with that by withholding their labor.”

Meanwhile, the union has established a strike fund which she said nurses have access to “on a weekly basis.” There is also a “Diaper and Baby Formula Bank” which has been set up to aid nurses and their children that was initiated by a nurse at UMass/ Memorial Medical Center.

They have also garnered the political support of Massachusetts’s two United States Senators: Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, along with Worcester’s Congressman Jim McGovern and the entire Worcester City Council and Mayor Joseph Petty.

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On April 26, it was announced that the two sides in the dispute had returned to negotiations but, after briefly meeting with hospital representatives, the union issued a statement calling the hospital’s offer “insulting.”

Joe Joe – always in style!🍇🌹🌱🌊☀

Zucchini Flowers!

By Chef Joey

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Joey!!

It is Zucchini flower season here in Europe! This also leads to quick, easy side dishes. What quicker way that to pan sear this delicious and uncomplicated veggie?

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Fresh from France! pic: Chef Joey

Cut the zucchini in half and half again.

Cube.

In a large sautee pan spread the zucchini out so it can brown.

Add 1 tablespoon diced fresh garlic and a tablespoon of sunflower oil (or butter) to your pan.

Spread the zucchini out and let it brown.

Do not salt while cooking and keep the skin on.

When it starts to brown, turn it over and cook through.

What’s great about this side dish is that it takes 10 minutes start to finish, and you can add tomatoes, almond slices, mushroom or even spring onions to the mix!

By adding a protein, you can make it a meal!

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Eat less meat – and more veggies!

When it’s done add the spice – go with salt. Or how about a curry dusting?! Lebanese or even Cajun seasoning – there are no rules! Chickpeas also go great with this easy Mediterranean side!

Enjoy!

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Sautee your zukes in olive oil for heart health! pic: Chef Joey

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All organic in France!

🌍New Earth Day column – by Edith!🌍🌎🌏🌱

Mother Earth – Her Own Day!

By Edith Morgan

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🌱Edith gardening🍃…

April has just started and already the City of Worcester’s DPW and P crews have been out in my neighborhood sweeping away the debris left by winter: mainly salt and sand, with surprisingly little litter. And now our area is pristine, for how long no one knows.

This year, Worcester’s city-wide Earth Day Clean–up is scheduled for THIS Saturday Morning, April 10, from 8 a.m. to noon. Usually the DPW trucks come by each site just before noon and pick up what has been collected by us volunteers at the 50 sites around the city. My ED co-coordinator and I had been doing the cleanup yearly for some time, and we had a regular crew of helpers, which included Kristen’s two sons and my grandson and some of his high school friends, in addition to neighbors who cleaned their streets.

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You want to save our Earth? Keep it clean, reduce greenhouse gases? EAT LESS MEAT!

This will be the first time after the year of COVID cancellations that I will not be out there early on Saturday, in the St. Bernard Church parking lot, signing in our helpers. I am 90 years old now, and since Kristen moved away I could not round up a new co-coordinator in time to sign up for this year. But there are 50 sites, so the city will get a thorough cleaning anyway!

Earth Day is actually much later in April – on the 22nd – when we really celebrate our environment. But actually, every day should be Earth Day: we should not be befouling our nest with trash, chemicals, plastics and all sorts of unsightly refuse.

I have always felt that it is the job of our public schools to train our young right from the very beginning to be aware of their surroundings, to pick up after themselves, and to feel responsible for being respectful of Mother Earth. It s never too soon to have children pick up their play area when they come in from recess (I used to make a game of it: everyone needed a “ticket” to get back in – a piece of litter from the playground.) and of course at the end; of the day, to pick up the area around each one’s own desk.

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Love your Mother!

My parents always taught us that public property should be treated especially well, out of respect for our fellow-citizens. ( Some of us were somewhat more cavalier about our own rooms, and I know that especially with adolescents , their own rooms tend to be somewhat more messy…)

Our major corporations have begun to run ads bragging about what they are doing for the environment, it has become fashionable at last to conserve, recycle, re-use and think about how we use things.

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What do you want to leave behind for your grandchildren?

I hope it is not too late to reverse the effects of our wastefulness and lack of respect for our planet.

🌱But we have taken the first step: awareness. 🌍🌏🌎🌱🌱🌱🌱

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Hundreds of birds and insect species have gone extinct during the past century …

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Butterflies are free!

Edith – always in style! New spring column!💐🌼🌱🌿🌷🌸🌺🌹🍃

Meet the Hellesbores

By Edith Morgan

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Edith and Guy

Spring seems early this year: warm days, interspersed among the colder ones we expect, have led the the early birds of the plant world to come up. In my yard, the crocuses have bloomed, and the hyacinths are two inches above the ground. The tulips too are showing buds, and the forsythia buds are ready to open. Strawberry leaves are coming to life, and the trees have a slight yellow halo where leaves will soon appear. And, of course, the yearly City of Worcester spring street sweeping signs have appeared in our neighborhood, and we are all keeping our cars off the street in hopes that soon the sweepers will come and remove all the sand and salt that has accumulated along our curbs from winter time.

So, truly, all the signs of spring are all about us. One of my spring rituals, before the novel corona virus hit us, was to learn some new way of displaying plants every year or using natural materials to create something natural and beautiful.

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Edith loves flowers and has them in her kitchen, dining room and living room.

This year, after having kept to myself for the whole previous year, my best friend and I ventured out to Spencer, to Bemis Nursery, for one of their wonderful workshops. I had really missed them, and since I got my COVID vaccine and still wear my facial mask, I decided it was safe to attend the workshop to learn to plant and care for a plant I really did not know anything about: the hellesbore.

There were about 15 of us in the workshop, standing out doors and listening to the instructions – and then moving into the clear plastic green house where all our materials had been set out so we each could create our own arrangement.

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Edith, working in her garden.

There is something very satisfying about getting your hands dirty – and learning to avoid at all costs calling the planting medium “dirt” – it is SOIL!!!

Working in the green house, surrounded by hundreds of very colorful and artistic arrangements ready to go out to be sold for Easter, was greatly tempting. After we completed our own arrangement and cleaned up after ourselves, we wandered through the aisles of plant arrangements, each different from its neighbor, each tempting, colorful, beautiful. Dozens of pansy flats of all colors, with their little faces looking up at us, sat in rows just waiting to be bought … And so many different arrangements, each with numerous spring plants, growing in happy companionship in a variety of planters, decorated with sprigs rising above them, adorned with butterflies or small birds.

And the country air was pure and clean.

We took home several, to keep indoors until danger of frost is past – or to give away. It was a great way to spend a half-day accomplishing so many goals at once.

Many thanks to the Bemis family for this memorable experience, which I had missed so much!
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Happy Easter, from Edith!

💙New from Edith🌹🌹! Passover … + a recipe🌼

By Edith Morgan

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Edith and Guy

For me, of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is associated with the greatest variety of great foods. Some of them have actually made it into American mainstream cuisine. Passover is a time for all the family, and particularly the children, to participate in the festivities, history and food and drink.

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The Seder Platter – Special Passover plates. photos by Edith Morgan

During the ceremony four glasses of wine are consumed – I usually have a red concord grape wine. At this time the liquor stores feature many wines marked Kosher for Passover. And most Americans are familiar with the square matzah – a basic food made of flour and water and baked at very high temperatures. More than likely, the round version is closer to being historically correct. I suspect that the many kinds of crackers took their idea from the matzah but embellished their versions. More about that when I discuss the Seder, the Haggadah and all the religious practices associated with this festival of spring and freedom!

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The seder platter features samples of various edibles, which are NOT consumed but have symbolic meaning: the roasted boiled egg, the horse radish, the spring greens (could also be parsley or other spring green), the mix of finely chopped apple, nuts and spices, the lamb shank bone. Each has a special meaning.

The meal often begins with a boiled egg dipped in salt water. Then usually follows a dish very familiar to Americans: the matzoh ball soup, clear chicken broth, with matzoh balls floating in it. The matzoh balls are the Jewish version of dumplings – and everyone knows about chicken soup, the Jewish penicillin. The entire mix is readily available at most supermarkets but are quite easy to make from scratch.

The main part of the meal consists of a great variety of foods – a real feast where everyone is allowed to relax (reminiscent of the Roman feasts, where guests reclined while eating). Space does not permit me to go into details about so many of the foods, but I can not resist sharing the recipe for a favorite of mine: Chopped Chicken Liver. This food has even made it into our language (After being ignored or put down, one often hears the offended person asking: “So, what am I? Chopped liver?!) It is a simple dish to make:

Wash a pound of chicken livers, pat dry.

Add a teaspoon of Kosher salt

Fry them in 2 tbsps of olive oil and fry one side for about 5 minutes or until that side is done.

Flip and cook the other side.

Test by making a slit in one piece: if it is no longer pink inside, remover from pan. If it is still read, cook a bit longer.

Set livers aside, and use the same pan: add two more tablespoons of the fat, heat and cook for 30 to 35 minutes till caramelized the rest of the finely chopped ingredients: 3 medium onions, half a teaspoon of ground pepper.

Pulse in a food processor 4 or 5 times so the livers are chopped into pieces.

Add the chopped up pieces of 4 large boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley and gently pulse together until you have a fairly smooth mixture. But do not OVER-pulse! So you can have some texture (unless you prefer it very smooth).

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Edith’s Kitty enjoys the bits of chicken liver!

I have had variations on this basic theme: some people add more spices and herbs to make the flavor more piquant. It can be served in various ways: set on lettuce leaves, or spread on bread or matzah, or even Challah bread (but not for Passover, as leavened bread is forbidden for this holiday).

Dessert can be all kinds of Mediterranean fruit or honey cake. Or compote and nuts or whatever suits your taste or whatever tradition was followed in the region from which you came.

And you can wash it all down with a lovely glass of wine. Enjoy!

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🌼🌼Edie – in Style! On Biden’s Speech🇺🇸 last night …

This Time It’s About US

By Edith Morgan

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Edith and Guy

In just over 30 minutes, in quiet and even tones, President Joe Biden spoke to us on Thursday evening.

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President Biden🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

He began by reminding us of all that we had lost in the year since the beginning of the global pandemic. He pulled out a slip of paper from his side pocket and read the latest figures of the Coronavirus Death Toll: by now, well over 500,000 deaths due to COVID 19. More dead Americans in one year than we had lost in World Wars I and II and 9/11 …

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WE MUST ALL USE COMMON SENSE – AND KEEP WEARING OUR MASKS when necessary. Social distancing, too!

And then President Biden gave us hope that there was something we could all do to help end the covid nightmare – get the virus under control. We have already gone from being the nation with the greatest percentage of victims daily to the one country vaccinating the greatest number of its population per day! This is American greatness! President Biden got into the details of plans for increasing the number of vaccinations per day – all adult Americans eligible May 1!

And he gave us examples of all the different vaccination venues that would be made available to all our adult population – no matter how remote or unreachable people might be. The goal is to have us all vaccinated by May 1 so we can all celebrate the Fourth of July in small groups with family and friends. His appeal was directly to ALL of us, bypassing all the state and local political structures.

Biden kept asking each of us to do our part so that all of us will be safe and healthy, no matter how remote or unreachable we might be. Extending unemployment benefits, expanding the SNAP food program, monetary help for small businesses, local aid money to our towns and cities, the $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of Americans … the goal is to HEAL. Heal the economy, our schools, our families.

We need to help each other! That means continuing to wear our facial masks, washing our hands and social distancing until the virus is no longer a GLOBAL problem. It is not enough that we wipe it out here, in America. We also have to help get it under control in those places around the world that can not do that on their own – poor countries, especially. The various mutations of this virus will reach us quickly enough, and we can not be sure that our vaccines will be able to fight off all those mutations. So while we will soon be relatively safe here at home, it is too soon to open up everything fully.

I was greatly heartened by the fact that with Biden this was not about him, not an ego trip, and a promise that if there were to be changes or perhaps delays, we would be told right away. THE TRUTH. SCIENCE. How refreshing and reassuring that we now have a President who tells us the truth, lets the doctors and epidemiologists lead, enlists the cooperation of us all – and expects us to take responsibility.

President Biden came to us after he had signed the greatest help bill in our American history. For that, millions of Americans are grateful.

💐Edith – always in style! Her new 🍀🍀🍀 column!

🍀Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with some Corned Beef and Cabbage🍀🇺🇸🍀

By Edith🍀 Morgan

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Edith🌿🍀🌿🍀

It’s March, and we are all preparing to be Irish on the 17th. Rose has already posted Chef Joey’s Irish Soda Bread recipe. But, for me, St. Patrick’s Day always brings forth the special foods that begin to appear at the grocery stores and at the restaurants.

This is the time of year when the price of cabbage goes way down, and you see, at the meat counters, display packets of corned beef in various forms. And while I have not one single Irish ancestor on either side of my family, I nevertheless remember my mother and I, after her, prepare corned beef every spring. We like the lean, bright red cuts of corned beef, prepackaged with the small packets of flavorings, spices and herbs.

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Cute “life-sized” leprechaun hangs out at Edith’s! photo: E.M.

It takes many hours of boiling to bring the corned beef to just the right state of doneness (is that a word?) and to create a tasty soup to use afterward. I cook my corned beef in a big pot, in lots of water, with caraway seeds and some onion. Since the corned beef is usually very salty, I rinse it off several times before cooking.

After anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of steady boiling, I take it out of the water, slice off as much of the fat as I can, let it cool down a bit to solidify – then slice it. I like mine lean and in thick slices. After the soup has cooled off enough, I skim off the fat that has begun to solidify at the top, and then I prepare the vegetables.

I don’t really know if a “New England boiled Dinner” is the same thing as the traditional corned beef and cabbage we associate with the Irish, but I have my own favorite version: I peel large white potatoes, and large carrots …

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photo: Chef Joey

… and boil them in the soup left over from the corned beef.

Well before the global pandemic caused me to stay at home for months, I used to go to the Pickle Barrel Restaurant in our city’s Piedmont neighborhood and have Gus’s corned beef dinner – generous slabs of very lean, thick corned beef, boiled potato and carrots. Delicious.

And, of course, for days, we would eat the boiled dinner meals at home – making sandwiches and salads with left-over bits of corned beef. My neighbors across the street (they are now gone) always baked Irish Soda Bread and shared a loaf with me.

So, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to all! Enjoy the foods of the season!

Chef Joey – always in style! 💚For St. Paddy’s Day: Roasted Cabbage💚🌿

Text, photos and recipe by Chef Joey

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💚💚💚💚

A nice boiled dinner sounds like a great plan. It’s not Irish! Traditionally, it was bacon and cabbage, as bacon was readily available. So “bacon” in England and Ireland is much leaner and more ham-like than what we have here for breakfast. It’s the same back flesh, just cut differently. The meat was readily available, as many people had farms and raised livestock. The vegetables were usually grown as well.

It was and still is a tasty meal, originally made with onions, turnips, carrots …

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💚

… and occasionally they would use smoked bacon.

What is completely different, is they would make a roux, or a white sauce made with the broth, flour, butter, milk and usually parsley.

So let’s get back to the Immigration part of my story: The mid- to late-19th century is the traceable origins of using corned beef to bacon and the addition of cabbage.

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💚

Like the original, it does include veggies, especially potatoes and carrots. It somehow also became known as the “New England Boiled Dinner.” Substitute a ham for corned beef and you’ve got yourself a Jigs dinner, a traditional Sunday feast in Newfoundland, Labrador and Canada.

So here is the real kicker: during Lent many people became vegetarians, as tradition required. Realistically because it was a growing season for seedlings and animals and was basically to make the ignorant let everything grow, and since you could get drunk on March 17th, who wants to take a spring lamb to slaughter?

ROASTED CABBAGE!

Roasted cabbage side dish – the $1 veggie that goes a long way!

Ingredients:

1 Cabbage

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 cloves chopped garlic

Directions:

Take one cabbage and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick.

Place on cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drizzle olive oil. Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic.

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes and serve!

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ST. PADDY’S DAY KELLEY GREEN!

Always in Style! Worcester’s Women Firefighters!!🌷🌹🌿🌺20 Years: a Historical Perspective

MARCH IS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH!

By James P. Coughlin

December of last year marked the 20th anniversary of women successfully being integrated into the ranks of the Worcester Fire Department. Angela Roy of Webster, the first woman firefighter to serve in the Worcester Fire Department who received her badge on December 16, 2000 said on June 17, 2018 during a radio interview on Radio Station, “940 in Webster,” When I go to work for a 24-hour period, I go to my family.”

Coming onto the department when she did “was an adventure.” Roy said.

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Worcester’s best and bravest! Photo: R.T.

According to Michael Papagni, the president of the Worcester Firefighters Union, there are now 11 women firefighters out of the total of 394, “and within the last year, one woman firefighter has retired,” he said.

According to the website for the National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA) there are 370,000 career firefighters in the United States and in 2018, 15,200 or 4% were women.

As of March, 2019, there were approximately 12,500 firefighters in Massachusetts, of which 443 were women. The efforts at integrating the Worcester Fire Department from an all-male white bastion actually had its beginnings in the 1970’s.

Before that, there were no minority firefighters. As a matter of tradition, these jobs were usually passed onto the sons of firefighters. In the 70’s, no women applied. Increasing the diversity of the Fire Department did not begin to affect staffing levels until 1971 when the department hired its first African American firefighters, among them Theodore “Buzzy” Salmon.

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Women of the AUBURN Fire Dept. photo submitted

Carmen Figueroa was the first woman to apply in the summer of 1994. She took the Civil Service exam, had a physical strength test and an interview but was never selected. Later, two other Worcester women, Amy Kelly, who took the exam in April, 2000, and Joan Cannon, who took the exam in 1999, also applied, but neither was appointed.

It was not until 2000 that the battle cry for hiring women city firefighters was picked up by Edwin Cancel, chief Executive Officer of the Business Inclusion Council, a minority business group.

In 2000, the department remained predominantly white. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics for the City of Worcester. Out of 444 firefighters, there were 21 black firefighters (4.7%), 16 Latino firefighters (3.6%) and 2 American Indian firefighters (0.5%).

Cancel and others at the time, believed that the Worcester Fire Department lacked diversity.

In a May 15, 2000, Worcester Telegram article, “Wanted: minorities, women: Firefighters should reflect ethnic diversity,” Cancel was quoted as saying, “I think it is important that it (the incoming class of firefighters) has some numbers of minorities and women in it, because this may be an opportunity we don’t have for several years.”

The following week, on May 23, 2000, former City Manager Thomas R. Hoover announced a plan to not only hire more minority firefighters, but also to appoint the city’s first women firefighters. According to Hoover, this was made possible because the city used three separate Civil Service lists to select five minorities, six women and five white males to comprise its recruitment class for 2000.

A last minute move by former Worcester Mayor Raymond V. Marianno calling for the City Manager “to exhaust veteran’s preference on all Civil Service hires before offering city jobs to non-veterans” almost derailed the plan.

If adopted, this order would have severely blocked women from being appointed.

The rejection of this measure by a 9-2 vote on May 30, 2000, paved the way for the city to welcome its first women firefighters. In August 2000, the city had announced that it was going to renovate each of the city’s fire stations to meet the needs of women firefighters.

On August 16, 2000, the Worcester Telegram announced that “three women will be part of the 23-member recruit class” scheduled to start training on September 11th.”

In announcing the hiring of the women firefighters, Hoover said, “You are talking about a couple hundred years of culture.”

In a Worcester Telegram article on October 24, 2000, “Trial by Fire,” the city released the names of the three women fire cadets who were still undergoing their Fire Academy training: Angela Roy, Robin Mitchell and Ann Pickett.

At the time, Worcester firefighter Frank Raffa hailed the City Manager’s decision saying, “We’re happy with that decision and we are looking forward to the recruit class. We need them,” Raffa said, adding that many departments have employed women firefighters for years.

“To say that they [women] can’t do the job is not true and they’re qualified. All they have to do is get through the recruit training,” he said.

Auburn began appointing women firefighters in 2006 and currently has four women firefighters in their 40 member department: Tess Didonato, Kim O’Brien, Maria Soja and Melissa Tyler.

They all agreed that working as firefighters is what they call, “their ideal job.”

In summing up the group’s view of firefighting, Soja said,” There is no downside and it is not a desk job.”

Of the trio, Didonato has been working as a Firefighter/ EMT since 1993 and has 14 years with the Auburn Fire Department. Not very far behind her in seniority is O’Brien, a 13-year veteran, while Soja was hired in 2019.

Tyler was hired in January of last year according to Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Johnson. Didonato, O’Brien and Soja all said that they were not treated any differently because of their gender. Didonato said,” We, as women are like one of the guys (male firefighters)” and O’Brien, echoing her colleague, said, “I don’t want to be treated differently as a woman.”

“The guys do not speak or act any differently around me than they would any other member of the department,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said her father was a member of the Worcester Fire Department “who always supported my pursuit of becoming a firefighter.”

“I come from four generations of firefighters in my family,” O’Brien said. Her great grandfather, grandfather, father, two uncles and her husband have all have served as firefighters.

She met her husband, Donnie when they were both in a training in 2007 and he currently works as a member of the Worcester Fire Department.

On December 16, 2000, the trio of Worcester women who began their training earlier that year made history in the Worcester Fire Department and were sworn in and given their badges by Worcester Fire Chief Gerard A. Dio. At the graduating class ceremony, Dio announced, “Today, we have the first women in the Worcester Fire Department. It’s a change and we welcome change.”

Former Worcester City Manager Tom Hoover also welcomed the city’s first women firefighters. “Today, for the first time as city manager, I get to welcome men and women of the Worcester Fire Department, and that is something that hasn’t happened in a couple of hundred years.”

When Roy was first appointed, she originally worked at the Franklin Street Station, the site of the December 2,1999 Cold Storage Warehouse Fire that claimed the lives of six city firefighters. Roy has since been transferred to the Tatnuck Fire Station. This Correspondent caught up with one of Roy’s former colleagues, Edward Pietrewicz who is now retired from the department said he “brought Roy to her first fire on Morningside road.”

Pietrewicz recalls that she “both drove the fire truck at the time and used the water pump.” Pietrewicz lauded Roy as “being quite capable” and added that “having women join the department overall has been an asset for the city.”

Roy has become a local celebrity. In August, 2014, in an “Advertorial,” The Worcester Airport and Massport featured a picture of Roy and her son, Brady in promoting Jet Blue’s Inaugural flights from Worcester to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando Florida.

“All Worcester Firefighters work at the highest level of our profession,” Papagni said in an interview at the annual Central Massachusetts Labor Day breakfast that was held in West Boylston on September 2, 2019.

“Our job does not discriminate on the basis of gender. We work together as a Brotherhood and Sisterhood. We are family that is an integral part of the Worcester community. We embrace diversity,” he said.

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty also praised the city’s integration of women.

“The city has done well to recruit women and people of color, and it has made the city stronger as a community.”

Councilor at Large Kate Twoomey, chair of the city council’s Committee on Public Safety echoed the mayor.“Public Safety is better because of the men and women of the Worcester Fire Department being held to a higher standard, and as a woman, I’m grateful for those brave enough to put their lives in the line of fire.”

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A tiny fire fighter😊! Photo: Worcester Historical Museum

🌺New from Edith🌺: Worcester Public School Students – Back to School!🇺🇸When, How, Who …

By Edith Morgan

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Edith🌼🌼🌼

We’re a year into the Covid 19 Pandemic, and we think we see the light at the end of the tunnell. Though it is still far off, we are making progress toward asome semblance of normalcy. Three versions of the vaccine are being produced in the hundreds of millions, and Johnson and Johnson just received approval to market their one-shot vaccine.

But despite these hopeful signs, it is too soon to let down our guard entirely, and so the Worcester Public Schools are proceeding with utmost caution. Administrators have detailed their back to the classroom plans and meticulous precautions in a 30-page report, available from WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda’s office on Irving Street.

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It is going to be a complicated school year … photos: E.M.

The report includes data on all our 59 WPS buildings, their normal enrollment, and detailed figures about precautions that have been taken and will continue to be enforced.

Many efforts are being made to reach all parents of Worcester Public Schools students. Since applications for the half-day pre-school program are now being accepted, parents with eligible children are being called by the staff at the “Parent Information Center” – which is a great place to call if you have questions. I spoke to Sue Obiero, at 508-799-34350, who answered all my questions. (After fighting with the robotic answerers all week trying to line up vaccine appointments, etc., it was a pleasure to speak to a real human being!!)

If you are comfortable with your computer, there are mountains of data and information available at WPS.org and, of course, the regular listing of City of Worcester Contact numbers are published monthly right here in CECELIA.

Our students fall into three basic groups, for purposes of prioritizing who goes first in re-opening plans:

Students in general educational classrooms with no specially designed instruction needed.

Students in general education classrooms who receiove specially designed instruction and/or support, and

Students who require the most in-person instructional support to learn – these students will be prioritized and need to come back first.

On February 4 the Worcester School Committee voted to reopen the WPSchools for hybrid learning for students in group C and B on March 15th, with group A who have chosen hybrid learning to come back on March 29th.

At any one time there will be no more than one-fourth of the students in the building so that social distancing can be maintained in all areas.

Parents were polled as to their preferences, and at that time 44% (10,609) parents still preferred remote learning, and 53% (12,667) preferred the hybrid model. There are 24,043 students enrolled in our city’s public schools. A small percentage did not respond.

The superintendent’s report goes into great detail about the precautions taken before students re-enter, as well as presenting pages of instructions for proper hand washing, wearing of masks and distancing everywhere – in class, in the bathroom, on the playground and getting to and onto the buses.

And although many of our school buildings are old, careful attention has been paid to be sure that the airflow into the classrooms is also clean and germ free. Training programs for staff are in place so that anyone coming into contact with our children knows what is expected.

There are also provisions in case an outbreak occurs in one of our buildings – there are plans for shutting down one area, one building, or whatever is needed to isolate the outbreak.

Students are expected to bring two masks of their own, although a good supply of all the PPE supplies will be on hand for all schools.

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PPE – a must!

Since bubblers are shut down,there will be water bottles available.

All the above, of course, is contingent on things continuing to improve and on decisions at the State level. Everything depends on all the public practicing the cautions and making sure that their children also do so. The system is making every effort to keep all parents fully informed – and many of its contacts are being communicated in various languages.

Because we can not accommodate all students at once, they will be divided into 2 “cohorts” and will attend school at first for two days a week: the first cohort will attend Mondays and Tuesdays, the second on Wednesday and Thursday.

A detailed schedule is included in the Superintendent’s report … Meanwhile, let us all do our part so we can beat this vicious virus and gradually establish a “New (and better) Normal”!