My afternoon at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center

By Ron O’Clair

I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time the other day with one of Worcester’s unsung heroes – Ronald “Ron” Charette of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center at 47 Camp St., Worcester.

While I was there the “Ronald McDonald House” mobile community healthcare support vehicle was there, and I took the opportunity to learn more about it. As you may or may not know, Ron also administers a food pantry out of the center, and I went through the process while there to receive a Price Rite Super Market heavy duty white plastic bag filled to the top with a variety of foodstuffs along with milk and cheese. Ron is trying to make a difference in the lives of those members of the South Worcester community who might otherwise have nothing of nutritional value to eat.

I saw many people come to the center to take advantage of the food pantry – including a mother and her two teenage children. They hailed from Thailand! Her son is enrolled as a senior at South High School and acted as an interpreter during the time we were speaking.

There were a few others who came by to get staples at the food pantry, including a gentleman, his wife and daughter. They were displaced from their home at 27 Sigel St., which burned on that brutally cold night just a couple of days earlier. There were three house fires that night, and I am sure that if they are reading this, Ron will allow you to access the food bank, as well as the stored supplies they may have, including clothing items and personal care supplies.

Ron makes sure to do whatever he can to help those families in need, and he does not limit his clients to the one time a month rule that many pantries enforce, he says if they are in need, they are hungry, he is going to help them make it through another month if he has any say about it.

Ron Charette has a new plan of action to address what he sees as a crisis affecting the children of the area and the dangerous habit they have of gaining access to the railroad tracks in the area, which has led to calamity after calamity since I was a boy growing up in that area.

We were constantly reminded of the dangers by the example of Charlie Pardee who lost a leg due to having been struck by a train when I was still in grade school and we would see him hobbling on crutches until he got his artificial leg years later.

There have been many incidents lately including a person that thought he would race the train of a motorbike who lost the race, and his life in January. Ron wants to take the message of Railroad track safety to the schools with a presentation which will include a safety talk, along with a video disk showing the dangers up close and personal to prevent more children from having to go through life as Charlie Pardee had to.

It generally is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. All of us that grew up near the tracks would at one time or another venture onto the Railroad property, and even create mischief, like breaking into the box cars to steal beer – a favorite pastime of the Princeton & Lewis Street gang back in my day living there, as well as perhaps to spray paint graffiti on the sides of the box cars. Kids do the darnedest things, and I was no exception.

Then there is the danger of simply falling off the wall at the end of Lewis, Princeton, & Grand Streets, like I did when I was just a preschool toddler and my family lived at 30 Lewis St., one of the Wolfe family, who lived on Lewis Street saved me from being run over by the train by pulling me out of the way of the oncoming train at the last second. I want to say his name was Billy Wolfe, but time has blurred the memory, I do know that he was an older brother of the John Wolfe that I went to school with years later as I grew up there at 28 Princeton Street after my parents divorce.

Railroad safety is no laughing matter, and Ron Charette has plans to raise the awareness of the issue by bringing a presentation with graphic video before as many groups of young people as he can to prevent those type of tragedies that occurred to Charlie Pardee, the boy on the motorbike just recently, and myself when I was just a little boy who knew no better.

Ron attended the Main South Alliance for Public Safety Crime Watch meeting held on the third Wednesdays of the month this month along with myself, Councilor Lukes & Bergman, and the usual mix of representatives from the various agencies in the City of Worcester like Sgt. Maddox and Officer Salmon of the Worcester Police Department, as well as a representative of the Railroad to discuss what is new in Railroad safety concerning the issue that Ron Charette is presently championing.

Ron also provides some daycare for the South Worcester Neighborhood Center clients so that working mothers can have a safe and secure place to know their children are in good hands while they work or attend classes. There are so many things that he is responsible for bringing to the South Worcester Area that you the reader should check out.

I believe that there should be more of a focus on helping people help themselves as a community united, instead of a community divided.

Come down to the South Worcester Neighborhood Center for a tour and see what you can do to make your own community a better place to live for all.

The South Worcester Neighborhood Center is located at 47 Camp St. It was originally built through the Works Project Administration created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s to put the unemployed to work. It underwent a major renovation and expansion to become the South Worcester Neighborhood Center.

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