Category Archives: InCity Voices

The Quality Inn in Worcester would make terrific permanent housing … and the Friendly House celebrates

Thanksgiving 2022 at the Friendly House

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim🌲🌲🌲

Grafton Hill’s Friendly House Community Center on Wall Street was the scene on the three days preceding Thanksgiving for their annual “Turkey Giveaway Program” that dates back to the 1960’s.

In an interview with Mike Moreshead, the Assistant Director, he said that the program initially serves about 500 families whom Friendly House serves on a regular basis, year – round.

On Monday, November 21st, the Turkey Giveaway had three members of the Worcester Railers Hockey Team on hand to pass out turkeys to the Friendly House families.

Moreshead said that the drive this year had been organized by Josephine Delef who oversaw approximately 60 volunteers who gave of their time to make it a successful event.

He said that the turkeys initially come frozen and by the time they are eventually handed over to the families which he estimated takes about four days, altogether, the turkeys are ready to be be cooked.

In addition to the turkeys, they also provide onions, squash, potatoes, stuffing along with cranberry sauce.

Moreshead said that in addition to the turkeys and “all the fixins,” Friendly House also handed out “a gift bag of non- perishable canned vegetables for the next day.”

He estimated that Friendly House recieved about $7,000 in financial donations this year for the Turkey Giveaway.

Moreshead said the first two days were reserved for the Friendly House families and Wednesday was reserved for others in the community whom he said, “may have fallen short in their Thanksgiving grocer⁷:: shopping,”

“There were 150 gift cards for local grocery stores, valued at $20 that were made possible by local businesses,” Moreshead said.

Among the many busisnesses contributing to the Turkey Giveaway were the Worcester County Food Bank, The Wagner Auto Group, TJK, the Willows Retirement Home, and others.

He described the Turkey Giveaway as ” a community effort, with lots of donors.”

“We also partner with churches,” he said.

He said that Friendly House recieved so many donations and he apologized to This Reporter “if he left any businesses out.”

In addition, Masterman’s Manufacturing Company in Auburn donated 50 pies.

” I am honored and humbled to do this job, year-round,” Moreshead said.

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🏘️🏘️🏘️🏘️🏘️

THE QUALITY INN ON ORIOL STREET – THE PERFECT PLACE!

By Rosalie Tirella

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The Quality Inn. photos: R.T.

It will be a shame if the NIMBY crowd – homeowners in the Burncoat/upper Lincoln Street area – apply pressure to our weak-kneed politicians and the pols cave and nix the apartments that COMMUNITY HOUSING RESOURCES plans to build for the homeless in the Quality Inn suites/hotel on Oriol Street. Worcester city councilors and planning board members need to drive to the hotel AND SEE THAT THE HOTEL IS AWAY FROM HOMES AND CONDOS – that it is at the top of a street with a methadone clinic and a medical building. IT IS NOT LOCATED IN A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD! What’s more, the Quality Inn is already operating as a huge, quasi-homeless shelter for Worcester. It’s staffed by the hotel’s terrific hospitality professionals who are ANGELS with the regular guests and homeless guests – the struggling kind. I spent, in total, a month+ at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. The young Jamaican guy at the front desk was wonderful with me and all the guests – home owners from out of town and homeless folks from Worcester and area towns. Assistant manager Dana is a wonderful person – she should be made director of the new housing complex! Community Housing Resources should hire these two smart, sensitive young people to run their new endeavor! And keep the housekeeping staff, too!

You wanna know a secret? Our Worcester city councilors already know the Quality Inn is a kind of homeless shelter. A few City workers have told me: Homeless folks sleep in the bushes outside the motel, Rose. Yes, they do! It’s safe and quiet. When I stayed at the Quality Inn and took my two dogs out to pee late at night before I went to bed, friends of friends who had rooms at the Inn would sneak in for shelter. A night out of the cold or the rain. Rooms were shared by fiancees and cousins twice removed! Everyone looked exhausted and grubby – it’s no fun being homeless – but I never had a problem with anyone there. Not once.

The revamped Quality Inn that will be converted to apartments and studios for the homeless will no longer be a quasi-Worcester homeless shelter – it will be HOME. Home to folks in need. One-bedrooms. Studios. Bathrooms. A community room. It will be an IMPROVEMENT, an ASSET to the city. Fewer people sleeping on the sidewalks of the Canal District!

According to CHR, the reimagined and renovated QI will be supportive housing, meaning there will be staff on the premises 24/7 … to support the residents – to help with job searches…to counsel…to refer folks to other social service agencies that can help. Residents must pay a portion of their rent. There will be security cameras galore, I bet, plus security folks.

RIGHT NOW THE QUALITY INN is excellent but a bit of a free for all. The Worcester Fire Department’s fire trucks are always there – for silly stuff – and for real stuff, including health emergencies.

Let’s stop the suffering. This holiday season let’s get the homeless out of the woods and provide them with home …real homes for the working poor and very poor with little kids. Families. To see little girls and boys homeless, crying outside the Quality Inn as a dad or mom tries to comfort them is soul crushing. I often went to the Dollar Store when I stayed at the Quality Inn to buy the little kids coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, etc … and I got other toys and books donated. Remember Edith Morgan’s big blessing bag last winter? Pens, pencils, notebooks for school – I tried to help. A heartbreaking sight: a Worcester Public Schools yellow school bus pulling into the Quality Inn … seeing the three our four little children clambering aboard the school bus, with parents looking tentative and hopeful. Doing the right thing for their children, under duress. This is America?! … I’d leave all donations/ school supplies with Dana or another front desk staffer and knew they’d distribute the stuff wisely. And my “pup” Lilac was always so happy to see the kiddos, giving them sloppy kisses whenever their paths crossed! One mom said, You made my daughter’s day! She loves dogs! This was after her daughter patted Jett and Lilac’s old heads and gave Lilac a hug as we walked about outdoors, outside the Quality Inn, our temporary home – we hoped.

Why must innocent children suffer?

Why traumatize little ones in a city whose coffers are full?

Worcester is undergoing gentrification – city-wide! Not just in the Canal District! So many of us have had to find our new homes in the towns outside of Worcester because our city is so expensive to live in. For young families with children in the Worcester Public Schools or the working poor who have jobs in Worcester but no car … they need to live in Worcester! Remain in their hometown! The new Quality Inn could be an answer to their prayers …

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Former WSC member and retired WPS principal and teacher John Monfredo makes a donation to the kids of QI …

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Mr. Monfredo donated a box filled with books and magic markers to the children staying at the Quality Inn.

Retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo made a blessings box for the little kids at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. I delivered the box a few days ago to a gracious Javan – the Jamaican front desk manager I told you about. Javan was being Javan – impeccably dressed, professional, polite … coming out of the kitchen area with a huge covered tray. . For the community room. A homemade frosted Bundt cake was already on the buffet table. It was around 3 p.m. I bet Javan and the hotel’s staff created a wonderful Thanksgiving feast for all the Quality Inn guests: out of towners visiting family, those displaced by fire or some other domestic catastrophe … and the homeless! The place settings were beautiful, so festive looking! Javan looked like a prince walking out with the platter … When I gave him the big box containing new/just like new children’s books, crayons and magic markers and told him I was no longer homeless – that I had a beautiful apartment – he smiled. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! we said to each other! The Quality people at the Quality Inn – a hotel that people love to malign because they don’t know any better …

– Rosalie

🍁LET’S LOOK AT THE TRUE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING🍂🍁

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member

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Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” – Catherine Pulsifer

The above quote is a reminder to all of us about the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day. This day is more than a special dinner, watching parades and traditional football games. It’s a day to call for action! Thanksgiving is composed of two words … Thanks and Giving!

Let’s face it, we all live in a negative society! All you have to do is listen to the news or just tune into a political campaign or watch a meeting. As an educator I would encourage schools to step up and address the problem.

Many teachers in the past have changed the world every day in their teachings, by the actions they take and by establishing projects within their communities. Let’s do it again, if we are to show our students the meaning of compassion, empathy, understanding and respect. Let’s tie it into the true meaning of Thanksgiving!

Since coming back from the pandemic many schools have seen a rise in bullying and a general lack of respect for others. What if during this holiday season the true meaning of Thanksgiving takes place? What if kindness and compassion are taught in our schools? Could this be a step in the right direction? Remember: adult modeling is essential! We would do well to remember this little poem:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence,

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world!

In the past, many schools stepped up and had, as part of their school philosophies and goals, volunteerism … having students “doing acts of kindness.” Many schools still enact this policy, giving students credit for good manners or doing a simple act of goodness, like holding the door for someone or just thoughtfully giving your seat on the bus to a senior citizen. Look at Andy’s Attic at South High, established years ago by former WPS School Superintendent Maureen Binienda when she was principal at South. The program still exists, and clothing and goods are given not only to the students but to local organizations in need. Also, many Worcester schools have opened food pantry kitchens for students in need of food for themselves – and their families. Let’s also bring back this year, through the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the policy that each WPS secondary school select a service project for the year and work on making a difference in our community.

Wouldn’t it be great if the “act of giving” could take place at Thanksgiving time and be part of the overall philosophy of all American schools?

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Every year Mr. Monfredo and his wife, Annemarie, collect thousands of books for the kids of Worcester County – a volunteer project they began about 20 years ago! Photo submitted

Several years ago, I remember reading a quote from Maurice Elias, a professor at the Rutgers University Psychology Department, when he was addressing the topic of teaching kindness in our schools:

“As a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place … Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood and society.”

As Thanksgiving approaches let’s think about actions you can take and schools can take to bring to the classroom something that fully expresses the giving and kindness of the upcoming holiday.

Here are some actions for the student and the adult to consider:

* Donating food and clothing to non-profit organizations …

* With a smile, hold a door open for someone …

* Read a story with a child …

* Give a sincere compliment …

* Tell someone they mean a lot to you …

* Make someone laugh …

* Treat a loved one to breakfast in bed …

* Give a friend a hug …

* Say you’re sorry (you know to whom) …

* Take time to really listen to someone …

* Visit a sick friend, relative or neighbor …

* Make someone new feel welcome …

* Do a chore that you don’t normally do …

* Call up a talk show with good news!

* Assist an older adult with a yard project …

* Assist a friend with a school project …

* Pay for someone’s coffee that is in line with you …

* Donate clothes to the needy

* Make someone a home-cooked meal …

* Send a TEXT message to someone on their Birthday …

As you sit down for dinner or discuss Thanksgiving with others, spend a few moments giving thanks and share with others what good, kind actions you will take in the next year.

Love to hear what your thoughts are or what you have done to make our community a better place! Write to me, monfredoj@gmail.com

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂🍂

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Congressman Jim McGovern’s efforts to make sure our hungry have enough food entail volunteerism, too! Watch for Jim’s walk for the hungry this Thanksgiving!

Luis Sanchez movie review🎬🍿🎟️📽️

Andor Premiere Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis!

The Star Wars franchise seeks to redeem itself after its most recent installment of The Book of Boba Fett. After a disappointing show, Star Wars has taken the decision to raise the stakes and become a more mature universe for its audience. Andor is exactly what a new Star Wars universe envisions. Andor is a science-fiction series made for Disney+ created by Tony Gilroy. Diego Luna reprises his role from Star Wars: Rogue One as Cassian Andor. It is a prequel to Star Wars: Rogue One, and the entire series plans to lead up to that movie’s events. There are many new characters portrayed by Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Joplin Sibtain and others. What captured a lot of people’s attention was how the first three episodes were released on the same day. As I mentioned previously, Star Wars wants to renew itself. I think this is a great way to do so.

Watching all three episodes at once had its positives and negatives. The negative part was how I can’t exactly recall what happened in each episode besides the important points, of course. The positive was that it felt almost like a movie: a beginning, middle and end. If one episode was released weekly, then Andor would have released a different message to its fans. All three episodes worked harmoniously as it ignited my enthusiasm for the show. What I found most intriguing, is how I am not eager to want more – I am already satisfied. Although it may sound ridiculous, it has its reasoning. Take The Mandalorian, for example. Following the ending of an episode I would be ecstatic to find out what happens next, and I would want more, perhaps to even have the episode released the next day. In Andor, the three-part premiere provided a conclusive idea not to the show, but to its beginning. Now we know the exposition, we know the characters, and we are ready to follow Cassian in his adventure.

The episodes also provided an emphasis on maturity and what Star Wars aims to do next. I can recall at least one part in each episode that made me forget we were in the Star Wars universe. It would leave the room still. What I appreciate even more is how fleshed out the characters are now. We are no longer in the “Anakin Skywalker: farmer boy is the chosen one and becomes the big bad” era. We have characters that are three dimensional, that have complex feelings, that we see are having battles within themselves and battling the exterior war. There is nothing better than a character whom the audience can believe is real. Perhaps we could even say this premiere was solely for the purpose of providing context towards what will happen next. Either way, it worked great.

There is a lot to look forward to in this series. Soon enough we might see the rebirth of Star Wars. Will all of the fans agree? Perhaps not, but I can say that I’m excited for what’s in store. Star Wars seems to be taking a leap, and I am nothing short of proud of what they are doing for their fans.

Worcester’s Central Mass Housing Alliance just got funds$$$ to house Worcester’s homeless youth … a suggestion🏘️

By Rosalie Tirella

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St. Paul’s rectory. photos: R.T.

Worcester’s Central Mass Housing Alliance just got a huge HUD GRANT to house Worcester’s homeless youth. Kids on the street – in wintertime, maybe abused by family members, thrown out of the home because they’re gay, bi or trans. Suffering. Exploited.

My question: Central Mass Housing Alliance has gotten the $$bucks, but will they follow through? Will they be able to provide the actual physical room or apartment for the homeless young person? This past year there were 30 Central Mass Housing Alliance clients walking around town with HUD housing vouchers – and STILL HOMELESS! Worcester agencies were pointless, useless. A tragedy unfolded, quietly in the streets.

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St. Paul’s School on Chatham Street – a big beautiful building – underutilized by the Catholic Church – and perfect for studio apartments or SROs for Worcester’s homeless youth. Here’s the entrance to their food pantry – open only for 6 or so hours a week.

A suggestion, echoing Father Reidy’s idea that he shared with me a year back. He’s a big important person at the Diocese of Worcester Chancery on Elm Street, but he is also a compassionate, down-to-earth guy. He was at one time a parish priest in Oxford and visited the elderly in nursing homes – my late mom included. He delivered her eulogy. The good padre suggested that the old but beautiful St. Paul’s School on Chatham Street be used as a shelter for the homeless, to help the hopeless, to care for our neediest. I thought it was a great idea, but in light of the CMHA grant$$$, suggest renovating St. Paul’s School and converting the huge building into studios or small apartments for homeless young people. The old St. Paul’s school and rectory, across from St. Paul’s Cathedral on Chatham Street in downtown Worcester, is probably the most underutilized beautiful, functional building in Worcester. The Catholic school was once home to AN ENTIRE SCHOOL. TEACHERS (nuns), A COUPLE OF HUNDRED STUDENTS, OFFICE STAFF (nuns and priest). Now you’ve got Vo Robert’s Elder Outreach office, a City of Worcester agency, sucking up space there. Her office suites take up half a floor – and it’s just Vo and two part timers – 9 to noon for two young people on alternating days. Ridiculous. Vo has three big rooms to herself – and she’s out half the time. Once I suggested to her that her space would make for two lovely studio apartments – and bring money into St. Paul’s. She poo pooed the idea. At the other end of the long corridor where Vo works sits one secretary. Alone. Behind a huge desk. THAT’S IT.

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About five people work out of the school today! UNDERUTILIZED!

Theres a food pantry in the basement that the church opens for six hours a week…and a janitor named Gary who had the whole basement area smelling like piss the whole winter. (Two women finally did his work and cleaned properly.) BUT THAT’S IT!! The little Catholic radio station moved out a year ago – now it’s just basically Vo Robert – and a little fiefdom that the Catholic Church would sell IMMEDIATELY IF A BIG TIME DEVELOPER CALLED THE BISHOP AND OFFERED HIM MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR IT. Just like what happened with Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Worcester’s East Side.

But right now it’s all a secret – as is the St. Paul’s rectory. A HUGE building with basically the pastor, Father Hugo, and a young priest living there. Rooms and space galore – all underutilized.

The St Paul’s school is pristine. Shiny hardwood floors, maple – or mahogany – door jambs and window frames. The Catholic nuns years ago kept the building sparkling – free labor that priests and Bishop exploited years ago. But now the free teachers – the nuns – are gone. And the free janitorial help, too. The school, like many Catholic schools, closed because paying decent salaries to lay teachers and principals and office staff was all too expensive.

So now Vo Robert and Gary the janitor rule the roost.

Why not take the rectory, the school and create an apartment complex – or an SRO – for our homeless kids? HOME. They deserve it. Winter is closing in …

Ma’s Medals❤️❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

A few days ago, while unpacking my books in my new digs, a little grey envelope fell from between book covers and landed on the floor. I picked it up, curious: I had scrawled “Ma’s Medals” on it in blue pen years ago. I smiled and spilled the contents onto my open palm, knowing exactly what they were! No, they weren’t medals my late mom won in some war – though much of her life seemed like a battle, the protracted, losing battle of the poor. And, no, they weren’t medals for cooking the tastiest apple pie or yummiest cranberry bread. Ma was a lousy cook, and her 1940s General Foods Cookbook and good wife/hostess guidebook languished in the back of her closet, unopened, for decades. No, these medals, old, dirty and worn smooth and thin with age (Ma wore her medals 24/7 on a gold chain around her neck year in and year out), were Ma’s “holy medals” – medals with little imprints of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and a passel of saints stamped onto them. Saints whom my mom prayed to every day.

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Ma’s medals. photos: R.T.

Ma had collected these little trinkets – some blessed by the poor – as a maid for the Bishop of Springfield during World War II; she added more medals to her collection during Downtown Worcester shopping trips with us kids in the 1960s – to O’Brien’s Religious Store (behind where the Midtown Mall is today). And, later, they were sent to her, cheaply made, often plastic, from Indian missionary schools in some no man’s land in South Dakota, as a gift for her anticipated donation of $5. Or they came to her taped to little booklets from the street priest in New York City who ran a shelter for homeless boys. Years later he was convicted of child molestation and removed from his position. Ma kept sending her money to the organization and getting her holy medals – from the new director, a good nun.

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Pray for us!

O’Brien’s was a Catholic’s one stop shop for all things prayerful. They sold books on Jesus, laminated little prayer cards with all the saints printed on them (and a prayer to them on the back), bookmarks with Celtic crosses embroidered on them, his and her Bibles, in black and white, respectively … plus white tapers, pretty votives, rosaries, rings, framed paintings of Jesus on the cross. And they had those fun 25 cents plastic holy medals for us kiddos and sterling silver and gold-plated medals for the adults. They also sold very expensive but very beautiful statues of the Infant of Prague or Saint Joseph or the Blessed Mother. Jesus always wore a red robe, Mary’s was sky blue … They cost serious bucks!! Every statue was lilly white – all the pictures of the Virgin Mary looked like Maureen O’Hara, the movie star. Jesus was always a white man – and, truth be told, he always looked a little wimpy. Now historians recognize Jesus to be a dark, Middle Eastern guy with thick features and a gorgeous head of curly hair – and he was tough and a man who loved a good party. Ma skipped all that and made a bee line to the sterling silver medals. She’d buy just one, all she could afford, usually representing the saint who was missing from her collection on the gold chain with its big tarnished links, the one she wore around her neck. A saint who had a special power for her – a power Ma needed right at that time to get through whatever challenges she and her little family – me, my two kid sisters and Polish grandmother, Bapy – faced. Maybe Ma felt hopeless about money – that no matter how long and hard she worked at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street, she could barely pay the bills to keep our Lafayette Street tenement warm in the winter or stay on top of rent payments. That problem called for a St. Jude medal – he was the patron saint of Hopeless Cases. He would turn things around for us, if Ma prayed to him every day, kissed his medal at night before she went to bed. Our case would not be so hopeless then!

Or maybe Ma had lost her wrist watch, the one from Springfield that the Bishop had given her for Christmas. He gave a wristwatch to each of her sisters, too – they were housekeepers at the Bishop’s with Ma. Well, if she prayed to Saint Christopher, patron saint of Lost Objects – and Safe Journeys – maybe that precious wrist watch would be found, come back to Ma.

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Saint Theresa – the Little Flower.

Ma was also big on St. Anne. She was the mother of the Virgin Mary – Jesus’ mother. I think my mother felt St. Anne was a good role model, that she did a terrific job of raising her daughter if she grew up to be Jesus’ mom! I remember our St. Anne statue on the shelf in our kitchen – standing next to a young Virgin Mary. Anne’s holding an open book, the Bible. Both mother and daughter’s heads are bowed – they’re reading the Bible together. I never really prayed with my mother after fifth grade. I was into my own stuff now: reading all the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Black Beauty, buying pet hamsters at Woolworth’s, finding a kitten, school projects like building soap flake volcanoes for Mr. Monfredo’s science hour at Lamartine Street School. Ma never judged me, scolded me or made me feel I was wayward. She let me go my own quirky way. She wanted me to be number 1 in my class and was proud of my straight A’s. I did have a weekly “holy” chore – to dust Saint Anne and all the the other saint statues lined up along a thin shelf above our kitchen sink. I loved this chore – the plaster saints were about 10 inches high, dressed beautifully in their flowing robes, holding Bibles or flowers or rosaries. My Bapy loved flowers and “decorating,” so often she would join in, hobble over in her cute knit slippers, dumpling shaped, four feet, 10 inches tall, and tell me to place some red or blue or yellow plastic flowers at this saint’s feet or by that saint’s hair. Sometimes we placed the flowers in small glass vases next to our favorite saints, flowers and vases courtesy of White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street. I remember Bapy added her little weather vane from Poland to the mix – incongruous and ugly, but she was Bapy and always prevailed! It was a small dark plastic house with a witch inside and when it was windy a little boy or a little girl came out the door, running away from the witch. The girl stood on one side of a thin strip of plastic, the boy stood on the other. The plastic was attached in the middle to a screw and swiveled at the slightest breeze. The witch had a long nose with a pimple on the end and always lurked inside and less you took her out of her grim abode. The little girl clutched a small basket of poseys to her flat chest. The boy just stood there. Once a week my chore would be to take all the saints statues off the shelf, witch’s house included, dust them off with a damp rag, rinse off the plastic flowers – and rearrange as I saw fit. Maybe the witch house would lead the parade this week, followed by St. Joseph holding Jesus, then the tiny creche I got at catechism class from the nun. Maybe St. Anne and daughter Mary would be in the middle of the shelf all nice and clean and get the plastic pink rose, in the pretty vase. The frilly White’s Five and Ten plastic shelf paper, thumbtacked into the old wood by Ma, added that special touch!

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A holy medal for sailors?

But I digress! At home, back from O’Brien’s with her new medal, Ma would take her gift and hook it to a tiny safety pin and then pin it to her gold chain where it would clink and clank with the other medals between Ma’s two heavy breasts. She never took that chain off in all the decades I knew her – she wore it around her hunched neck (hunched from serious manual labor, starting when she was 12) to bed, she took it off only for a few minutes, in the morning when she was just starting her day, kneeling on a wooden chair from our old kitchen, the pale morning sunlight making our old cafe curtains look pretty … Ma would bless herself, kiss each medal individually and murmur a little prayer to it. She believed these saints had a direct line to God, were able to advocate for her and help her. Because God loved them so much, he’d listen to them – and help Ma and the humans who were struggling here on earth. The saints were like celestial case managers, without the MSWs – these humans who walked the earth and died but, through their devotion to God, their piety, their good deeds when alive, were able to perform miracles from the grave. People never forgot them – prayed to them, in fact! So they weren’t really dead. They were and are as eternal as love. Through beatification by the Catholic Church, they moved up the holiness ladder – not quite angels, but definitely in heaven sitting on their clouds right next to Jesus. They have his ear! They’re trying to help people in trouble, people like Ma trying to make it to the next paycheck, the homeless kid trying to make it to the next bus stop, the best up wife trying to make it to the kinder husband, the refugee crossing that wild river to get to that safer country, the riper fruit, the more fertile land, the water, HOME…LOVE…GOD. Unfortunately, so we were taught in CCD class by the St Mary’s nuns, most of humanity, except for people like MLK or Ann Frank and such, never become saints – we’re usually stuck in Purgatory for a few centuries after we die. Not engulfed in flames in Hell but bored as hell in Purgatory, just waiting around to get into Heaven. Purgatory, for you non-Catholics, is like a spiritual Greyhound bus station: crappy coffee and those hard plastic seats.

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❤️

I touch my mother’s holy medals now. So small, so dirty … so worthless. I see the medal with the anchor… interesting. Ma’s brother was in the US Navy during World War II. He must have given her this medal – and she prayed to it, to Saint Elizabeth (patron saint of calm seas?) for his safety. … Ma loved St. Theresa, the Little Flower, who wrote her own book about her relationship with God. Ma read it and for years I had the copy. Lost or stolen during my move to the country. Then there’s the big plastic medal from the Indian missionary school in South Dakota…”PRAY FOR US” engraved on the back of Ma’s Saint Joseph medal.

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The plastic medal from the missionary school in South Dakota

And pray Ma did. My father, Daddy, whenever he sauntered into our apartment, after being gone for a night or a week or two months …or three years would say to his wife, kneeling on that rickety kitchen chair, praying to her little chips of metal, so intently, so intensely: “DONKEY!! KEEP PRAYING!! YOU’RE AS SIMPLE AS THE DAY AS LONG! YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN A NUN!! FUCK NUT!!” And then my father’s face would turn red and he’d pivot to leave what he saw as an absurd scene – but not before yelling to my praying mother that my twin sisters were too skinny!! or why did she encourage me to write poetry when I should be typing, studying to become a secretary?!

But Ma just kept on praying. She knew God was the answer.

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Ma, left, as a young lady, with her mom, Rose’s grandmother from Poland – Bapy!

This school year: Ideas for the Worcester Public Schools and our students and families

By John Monfredo, retired principal of Belmont Community School and former grade 5 teacher at the ol’ Lamartine Street School – and former Worcester School Committee member!

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Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“To reach a child’s mind a teacher must capture his heart. Only if a child feels right can he think right.” – Dr. Haima Ginott

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Mr. and Mrs. Monfredo’s annual book drive puts books into the hands of hundreds of Worcester County kids! photo submitted.

School is back in session and, after being affected by COVID-19 for the past two years, our schools need to come back even better! Most important, parents are a child’s first and most influential teacher: they must be part of the learning process! Together with our educators, parents must be an important part of the solution in moving forward after the global pandemic.

According to researchers, learning loss due to the COVID pandemic is much greater than most educators and parents realized; assistance from the Federal Government and the State of Massachusetts needs to continue. There are funds out there to help, but the funding needs to be used in the most comprehensive way. Moving forward this school year will require that our educators look at the data, present funding parameters and meet the new needs of our students. Hopefully, the administration and Worcester School Committee members will assess the needs and use the money in the best way possible to help our students learn and grow.

Based on the research, school districts will need to expand their after-school activities and tutoring opportunities for students. They will need to make more of an effort to encourage parents to enroll their children in a variety of activities, ranging from after-school homework assistance to mental health counseling. Enrichment might also include learning to play a musical instrument, getting involved in art classes or projects or trying new phys-ed programs/sports. Students can also start a variety of clubs, such as pen pals, a school newspaper, a school video movie etc. Let’s hope that all school districts come out soon with their plans after meeting with parents and talking about how they intend to move forward this school year.

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Worcester, Highland Street: a dad walking his son to school, first week of school.

As for our teachers, it is so critical that from day one they begin to build a strong relationship with their students. As a former Worcester Public Schools elementary school teacher and principal, I know firsthand how important it is to reach out to all of your students and to find the opportunity to help each and every one of them – and their families. Make sure that each student feels important and knows that you care! I would recommend that teachers make the effort to contact parents early in the school year and establish a rapport with them – let them know you want them to be part of the learning process. Give them ideas as how they can assist their child at home. Again, that will vary from parent to parent.

Having been an educator in inner-city schools for decades, schools with a high level of poverty, I support what researchers have continued to state:

* That no matter what the parents income or background, students with involved parents earned higher grades and test scores, enrolled in higher level academic programs, attended school regularly, had better social skills, showed improved behavior, adapted well to school and graduated and went on to post-secondary education.

Even with very busy schedules, parents can make a real difference in their child’s education by encouraging them to talk about their school day and by listening to them explain the events, classes and people at their schools. Talking to your child about school sends a message that you value their education. Plus, the discussions provide an opportunity for children to use the language they are learning in school. It all starts with teachers making that important move in reaching out to parents and to continue doing so throughout the school year.

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Keep your kids reading!

So, parents, let’s look at your commitment this school year!

At home, parents need to set priorities at bedtime because a good night’s sleep is at the center of a healthy lifestyle and in your child getting off to a good start each school day. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Another suggestion: an hour before bedtime, put away all electronic devices to help kids wind down – and use that time for reading before bed.

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The Worcester Public Library is a great place to check out children’s and teen books.

Parents need to develop good management practices for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them outside their bedroom doors. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home to get all those school papers out so you can sign permission slips and add appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be an important force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider making a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast!

Now for homework. Here are just a few strategies to consider:

* Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do her homework.

* Try to avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

* Help your child with time management. Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime.

* Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

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The Worcester Historical Museum – another great learning resource for students – fun and interactive! Cool old Worcester photos! Great staff! And located in downtown Worcester at 30 Elm St.

* Be positive about homework. Tell your child how important school is. The attitude you express about homework will be the attitude your child acquires. When the teacher asks that you play a role in homework, do it. Cooperate with the teacher. It shows your child that school and home are a team. Follow the directions given by the teacher.

* Watch your child for signs of failure and frustration. Let your child take a short break if he/she is having trouble keeping his/her mind on an assignment.

* Reward progress in homework.
If your child has been successful in homework completion and is working hard, celebrate that success with a special event (e.g., a fun walk, a trip to the park or nature sanctuary) to reinforce the positive effort.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year. Teachers are always excited about meeting their new students and their parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know that you are here to support your child’s learning.

Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help.

Communicating with the school early on is a good idea, especially if your child has special needs or if your family may be going through difficult times such as divorce, an illness or death of a family member – or a recent or pending move. Keep that communication line open!

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Blackstone River Road: mom and daughter bundled up this winter day. CECELIA file photo.

Other ideas:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the district’s web site

Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

· Worth mentioning … participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s parent organization!

Also, remember the importance of reading, for reading is a key to a successful school year. Here are some other tips to consider…

– Read to and with your child every day (including weekends).

– Make sure your child sees you reading regularly.

– Talk to your child about what you are each reading. In addition to keeping your child on track, regular reading activities with your child will help you spot any possible problems in plenty of time to work with teachers and prevent them from becoming serious. So practice day to day reading and include writing by having your child write in a journal about the day’s events. Be consistent and have this done perhaps before bedtime.

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Stay abreast of all that is WPS! Attend the weekly Worcester School Committee meetings at Worcester City Hall, or watch the policy-setting sessions and more on-line! Photo: R.T.

Best wishes for a great school year and should you need any advice – teachers or parents – please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

MOVIE REVIEW BY LUIS!🎬📽️🍿🎞️🎟️

Minions: The Rise of Gru

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis loves the movies and plans on writing a book!

In this film, an 11-year-old Gru dreams of becoming a supervillain with the help of everyone’s favorite yellow bean-shaped characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru was produced by Illumination and distributed by Universal Pictures. It is a sequel to the Minions movie released in 2015 and a prequel to Despicable Me released in 2010. It was directed by Kyle Balda, produced by Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy and Chris Renaud, and written by Matthew Fogel with Steve Carell reprising his role as Gru.

The minions have made such a name for themselves that this animated film has brought families and friends together. I found it quite interesting how there were essentially two storylines within this movie: one featured Gru and his childhood supervillain idol, and the other featured the minions on a quest. Surprisingly, the movie did well on balancing screen time and dividing the workload of entertainment to the audience between the two storylines. What I enjoyed a lot about the Gru storyline was the “supervillain becomes parent” plot which keeps warming all of our hearts.

The minions storyline was hilarious as ever, and that brought good balance to the film between comedic gold and a story. What many movies fail to achieve these days is exactly that: balance between comedy and story. Sometimes comedy distorts the story because the directors are trying harder to get the punch line right rather than developing characters. Minions: The Rise of Gru thought outside of the box and separated both so the comedy would not interfere with the story, and it worked out excellently. This balance also provides a great medium for a family film, one which gives the parents a narrative to follow and provides the children with shrieks of laughter (not to mention the parents laughing as well!). If you have children, definitely try and watch this film with them. Those family-go-to-the-movies moments are the ones that last a lifetime.

I had a lot of fun with this movie. Obviously, like all movies, it was not perfect. Sometimes the division between the stories left a lot to wish for, or perhaps the characters were not fleshed out enough. Either way, the main objective of this movie was to entertain and it achieved it. Being able to hear laughter in a location that is meant to be completely silent says a lot about a film. With its distribution, characters and unique production, Minions: The Rise of Gru was a solid 7/10. I would not be upset if I was offered to watch it again.

Adjustments …🏠🚙🦅☀️🐾💕🐶

By Rosalie Tirella

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Coffee and Jett 💕 in the new apartment. photos: R.T.

Today: breakfast at HOME!! God, it feels … almost surreal! I’m still not used to the domesticity! I’m used to waking up at 5:30 a, watch the sunrise (always magnificent), throwing off the blankets, getting out of my car, slipping on my shoes, stretching, taking the dogs to pee and poop, running them in the dog park…staying in park for an hour so Lilac and Jett can have some real fun. I’m drinking my morning coffee that I bought at McDonald’s (they open at 6 a) and enjoy an egg biscuit sandwich they make special for me because they know I don’t eat meat…or sometimes I slurp yesterday’s yogurt, all the while listening to nature greet the day. And what a show! All the birds are chirping like crazy, they’re almost too noisy, too ecstatic about the new day! The grass in the field and dog park is sopping wet – my shoes are soaked. Lucky I’m not wearing socks! The sunlight is not very warm but looks so pretty on the trees and leaves. Jett and Lilac are so happy, they’re sniffing the ground by the rocks, on the hunt for still drowsy snakes and chipmunks … They’re like the singing birds – excited for the new day!

Home life is a bit … less dramatic. This past year+ I learned nature is amazingly dramatic, noisy, ecstatic … intense! Something is always buzzing, swooping, chirping, being born or dying … It takes such energy! I once watched a hawk take wing – not at all a pretty sight like I’d imagined it would be. Nothing graceful about this hawk. Athletic is the better adjective. You could see his gargantuan effort to become skyborne: the hawk crouching low on his big powerful claws, then as he pushes up with those thick feathery “legs” like two tree trunks, he starts moving his wings…once, twice, they gather the air, the hawk leaps off the ground … and I think is he gonna do it? Whup, whup go the big wings… he’s young so there’s not the huge wing span. I once heard a reddish HUGE hawk fly off a tree branch directly above me as I walked the dogs at Holy Cross college. Frightened at the tremendous noise I looked up to see the hawk push it’s way skyward. His wing span was easily as broad as I was tall…at least 5’6″. I read a few years later that a red tailed hawk had been killed in Auburn, a town right by the college. I wondered if it was my hawk who had been killed; I never saw him in flight, over the Cross, ever again …

Why kill something so majestic????

Another gal pal gave me a new French press; so I made my morning coffee here for the first time☕. … And look who’s peeking ’round the corner!💕🐾My best ramblin’ boy, Jett! … I think he misses our outdoor adventures …

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Jett at the dog park.

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Lilac romping …

John Lennon …

By Rosalie Tirella

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There’s John! photo: R.T.

October 9 – John Lennon’s birthday. Here’s one of my favorite Lennon songs❤️🎶. Hearing this tune for the first time, when I was 15, sent me summersaulting into the stratosphere! The song, the entire album … the Beatles outfits, their long hair, the color of their clothes. The trippy lyrics, that nasally Lennon voice. Everything changed for me after hearing “Sergeant Pepper” – young guys singing the truth about being young to another young person – for a whole album! The tunes got to me: SHE’S LEAVING HOME. LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS. LOVELY RITA METER MAID. A world that was kaleidoscopic in its beauty. Sad, too. Wistful … Just turn the tube to the left or to the right, and the colors of the flowers changed or now you were in love with the kid in chemistry class and he loved you back and that beautiful maxi dress with the paisley print at the Walrus shop in the mall would be yours … and you would dance in it with your sweetheart. Imagine …

Lennon and co. got me feeling cool, introspective, sexy, curious … HAPPY. No small feat for a band from Liverpool! I was a kid growing up in Worcester! I grew up poor in a crumby three decker in rough and tumble Green Island. No money. No father. No car. No nothing … just my imagination and my mom, kid sisters and Bapy. … Daddy could be an absentee as*hole. Bapy could be a nag: GET ME MY SANKA, ROSALIE. BRING ME MY LIVER PILLS, ROSALIE! Ma could be quiet and steady and strong and good but too often the fight had depleted her. But THE BEATLES NEVER DISAPPOINTED. THEY SWADDLED ME IN INTENSE FEELINGS. About LIFE. THROUGH THEIR MUSIC.

Wow.

The Beatles weren’t like Sinatra who could be too cool and worldly, though the kids (my mom) loved him in the 1940s and ’50s. The Beatles were not like Elvis – whom they idolized. For me, Elvis was too sexual, too dangerous, too hicky. The Beatles were sexy but cerebral … in a very funky way. … They were not like the Stones, who are, in my 61-year-old mind, the greater of the two bands (check out the lyrics of SATISFACTION, and the music is AMAZING!). No. Lennon, McCartney, Starkey and Harrison were the artsy boys who sang of and from a different world. Possibilities. Alienation. Neighborhood. Friendship. Complexities. Love. Love. Love. That’s one of their gifts to humankind: The Beatles were never ashamed to sing about love. They may have been idealistic about it, but they were never gullible. Maybe they sang cryptically of love and sex like John did in his NORWEGIAN WOOD. Maybe they sang openly about a universal coming together as in ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. Best of all, they told this Green Island girl that being different was ok. Even good. Being yourself, in your tree, with no one else in it … that was ok. You were gonna be just fine. That nasally Lennon … so young, so wise!

I had bought my Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the tiny record section of Jordan Marsh in the old Worcester Center Galleria and, when I returned home, closed my bedroom door, plopped it on my old Emerson portable stereo my mom had bought for me at Radio Shack, sprawled out on my bed and closed my eyes … and listened. And dreamed …

Happy Birthday, John!

Little black dress

By Rosalie Tirella

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Ma’s dress. photos: R.T.

Yesterday I found my late mom’s black dress and hung it up in my closet to get the wrinkles out. Ma wore this dress in one one of my favorite photographs of her – Ma sharing a laugh with her big sister Sue. It was in the early 1960s: Ma was about 34 years old and had just given birth to my sisters – identical twins who were born premature – “they were as big as the chickens at Supreme Market!” Ma used to like to say – and she needed help. The twins were just home from their extra long stay in the hospital, where they could grow bigger, stronger. Ma was worried. She was stressed: caring for newborn “preemies” and me, just around 2 years old…plus our demanding Polish grandmother Bapy, plus her useless, peripatetic husband – “Daddy” – who was hot tempered and angry at being made a father once again – he refused to support us financially. “GO TO WELFARE!” he’d scream at my mother, who never did because she had so much pride. The twins’ birth made Daddy mad enough to slap my mother’s pretty face after she had just gotten home with two tiny adorable babies! When my sisters and I were little kids Daddy would storm out of our tenement and not return for weeks. It was all just too much for him.

So big sis Sue came down to Lafayette Street in Green Island to lend Ma a hand and teach her how to care for three teeny ones with very little support from anybody. Ma did it all – and loved it. Babies and little kids were her metier… teaching them, dressing them, putting pink ribbons in our hair, letting us play with her costume jewelry and putting on her old Al Jolson records on Bapy’s Victrola – HALLELUJAH, I’M A BUM AGAIN! we’d sing along with Al, Ma smiling as she cooked her beef and potatoes over the stove.

Ma’s favorite mommy chore? Buying those sturdy little kids tie-up shoes at Lisbon’s Shoe Store on Millbury Street – with us kiddos there, standing on that special kiddie foot ruler that Mr. Lisbon used to measure our feet, looking up at Ma to explain what shoe size was best for us and explaining foot growth in children. Ma would listen intently, keenly interested, and then she’d buy those no-nonsense brown little shoes for the three of us. Three pairs of the the leather beauties. Expensive for Ma who worked at the dry cleaners down the street, but the shoes were excellent: had great support for growing feet, growing kids, who needed to walk straight and tall. Ma didn’t want us to have “fallen arches.” She wanted us to grow up with “good posture.”

Ma was fascinated with little kids on so many levels… how we learned to read and write and draw and paint. Often she’d jump in with her own drawings of little girls she’d just sketched on some drawing paper. She’d give them to us to color with our Crayolas – lying on the kitchen floor in the middle of all the domestic hub bub. Ma’s girls were always wearing dresses from the 1940s, with aprons, and they had round, apple cheeks. I’d color Ma’s drawings for her, which made her smile. Our very own little art project!

Ma was made for little children…but we were so much work! That’s why she swam in this black dress…and it’s a pretty small dress to begin with! The shoulders, look at them!

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❤️

My mother had such small shoulders! Yet for years she carried the weight of the world on them!

My sweet mother …

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Little Rose and her mom at Crompton Park, circa 1963