Tag Archives: Happy 21st Anniversary InCity Times/CECELIA/INCITYTIMESWORCESTER.ORG!

Day Trip

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose, this spring.

So, I was 19, back home from college for summer time and, for some strange reason, I wanted a father. My father. To finally get to know the hard, distant man who, for my whole young life, shrewdly skirted around our poor little family – avoiding my mother, my two sisters and me like the plague. All those years! “Daddy” absent without a note from home. AWOL in the war on poverty – our minimum-wage poverty in Green Island. Missing the fun, too. And the responsibilities. The great stuff and the mundane crap. Everything intimate and real that was happening in our Lafayette Street tenement. Everything that mattered, everything that was shaping my life and my sisters’ lives, our world views. … Like Daddy never bought my mom, his wife, a birthday present or a Christmas gift or took her out to dinner at a restaurant on a Saturday night – not once in all the years I knew him! My mother shouldered the burden – worked 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners to support us and pretty much raised me and my kid sisters singlehandedly. She would have loved to feel special – loved the night out! But Daddy never gave Ma a date night, never showed his appreciation for being tremendous in the face of adversity. He treated my mother, sweet, hardworking, smart, GOOD “Ma” like trash. My sisters and I ran under his radar – lucky for us because Daddy could be an emotionally abusive a-hole. His meanness was saved all for my mother.

So why, at 19, did I want to get to know the asshole? A man I actually called “asshole” to his face once or twice? … There are scientific studies that tell of the psychological need – the absolute longing of young women 19, 20, 21 – to bond with their fathers – no matter what kind of father the guy happens to be. It is true for all girls – even the ones who never liked their fathers. Daughters like me.

“Daddy” never took out the garbage, bought furniture for our Green Island flat, taught us girls – his three daughters – how to drive a car or care for dogs (he was expert at both) … and yet here I was, 19, and colt-like in my skinniness and sensitiveness and intuitiveness, wanting to do something cool with my mean ol’ Daddy. He never even sat down and read my college essays – the ones I got A’s for – the ones in which he was the main topic! Yet here I was standing in the middle of our huge three decker kitchen, fascinated by his handsome face, mesmerized by his gnarly junkman hands, taken with his Italian nose … and his truck. Here I was, back from UMass Amherst for the summer, begging my mom: Can I do something with Daddy, Ma? MAKE HIM DO SOMETHING WITH ME, Ma!

My mother, like most people who became parents in the 1950s and early 1960s, didn’t share her feelings with her kids. She was an old-school mom: strict, with high expectations for her offspring, loving but not a big kisser or hugger. We kids were not showered with compliments or given choices …we weren’t part of her adult world, a world which was serious and maybe even dangerous. Our mother had to be thinking all the time: paying the rent, electricity bill, gas bill, working at the dry cleaners, surviving a tough neighborhood, grocery shopping with that rickety wagon in winter time, walking home in the snow, in the dark with just the street lights to light her and her daughters’ way home. … We girls had to be focused, too: do our chores, homework, attend weekly catechism class at St. Mary’s school on Richland Street, go to confession and weekly mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa church on Ward with Ma. Plus Girls Club all week during summertime, sometimes the school year. Violin and accordion lessons for me. We had schedules. Big-time . That was our closeness. Ma’s close talk was reserved for her two sisters, one of whom she’d call up every night to confide about … everything. She’d never tell me, even when I was an older teen: I’m afraid, Rosalie. I’m worried, Rose. I’m tired. … Or, now: “Why do you want to get to know your father, Rosalie?”… “This is weird.”

Instead, one day, my mother said: Daddy will spend the day with you, Rose. What do you want to do with him?


So, that next week, my father, in his blue factory shirt and pants, and me, in my tight blue jeans and big man’s dress shirt – pretty much my college uniform for 4 years – walked to Kelley Square and up Madison Street to the then Greyhound Bus Station and took the bus to Boston. Daddy sat in the window seat and looked out the window and didn’t say much. I stared at him, fascinated! …We got off in Boston at the bus station there and, because I had friends at Northeastern whom I visited during the school year, I knew my way around the city a bit and walked us straight to the chi chi Newbury Street. Back then Newbury Street was tony and for rich people but also student friendly: there was a movie house, cool clothing boutiques, hair salons …and that famous toy store…with the fiberglass toy bear, a story high, that sat outside the building around Christmas time. Something told me my father would like all the cool mechanical toys inside, just like me.

Wow. So many rich kids and their rich parents in that toy store. (What was it called now? AO Schwarz, I think?) … Wow. So many stylish students and young people in the Schwarz toy building! I was right! My father made a bee line to all the beautiful, some very large, puppets with painted faces and intricate costumes and myriad strings and the tin soldiers in brightly painted uniforms who marched stiffly when you cranked them up. My father tilted his head, his pompodor still fabulous after all the years but now auburn colored, no longer bright red like when he was a young man. He saw the slim, Chinese-American sales clerk, a young guy, and smiled a goofy smile at me and said, nodding at the guy: “Rosalie, that Chink looks like a doll!” … My father meant that as a compliment. That the young guy was so perfectly coiffed and dressed and had such fine, chiseled features that he could be a doll in this beautiful gigantic toy store. That the sales clerk was as perfect as the puppets we were playing with.

I don’t think the sales clerk heard my father. But we looked so poor and rough compared to the other customers! He began following us as we made our way through the iconic toy store. Daddy and I walked to the stuffed animals, and there was the sales clerk staring at us, furtively, from behind the board game display. Daddy and I walked over to the plastic dinosaurs, and there was the same store clerk, peeking out at us from behind a life-sized polar bear. I got the hint: we weren’t good enough, we were potential thieves. I said to my father who was unaware we were being treated like criminals: Let’s go home, Daddy. And my father obediently followed me out the front door of this fancy Newbury Street shop where we were not wanted.

For the first time in my life I felt sorry for Daddy. Saw him as weak and puny in a world of money and educated folks. Maybe that’s why he was always pissed off. And maybe that’s why he said, proudly, whenever he saw me: She’s the smart one. She gets it from me!

So there I was on Newbury Street, right there with Daddy. My father’s daughter. Not having any fun. We hopped on the next bus and, during the ride back to Worcester, I said: “Now let’s do something you want to do, Daddy.”

And two hours later, we were back in Worcester County at my father’s friend’s farm. We were at the pig pen, and my father was cooing softly to a big ol’ black and white hog sleeping in the nice cool mud. With the tip of his workboots my father gave the pig a little nudge thru the fence’s white slats. The pig grunted drowsily but didn’t get up to greet us. My father smiled his toothless smile and went to chat with his pal, and then we took another bus home, to Lafayette Street, where I told my smiling mother all about our big adventure! The beautiful toys on Newbury Street! The beautiful black and white pig in West Boylston! She kept smiling as she listened …

Daddy had walked into the bedroom and, reclining on their old bed, called out to my mother for a tuna fish sandwich and two plums. He was in his 50s now and lately had been acting more subdued, spending these past few years living with us on Lafayette Street. Being with his family. I never saw my father eat a cupcake or slice of cake or even a bit of pie for dessert at the end of his meals during those years – just a few pieces of fruit, like a real Italian. My mother offered to heat up a can of Del Monte spinach for him – she said she’d mix in some olive oil and a few shakes of garlic salt.

My father said: Sure, hon.

🌺On Seeing My Father

Reposting this 15+-year-old Green Island Grrrl column for Father’s Day:

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose’s dad as a kid – always with a dog!

Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our fine brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother – she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would be a great Easter picture!

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, Devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy!

🐈‍⬛Leaving Homeless Kittens on the Streets is Cruel – Not Kind!

By Teresa Chagrin

Don’t dump kittens and cats! They cannot survive outdoor life – city or country! Photo: PETA

“Just leave the baby on the street, where you found her.” … What if you found a crying human infant alone on the sidewalk and this was what a 911 operator told you to do? It would be unthinkable, right? Yet this is what some animal shelters are instructing people to do if they find kittens outdoors — to leave them there. Some groups are even pushing this dangerous advice in newspaper opinion pieces. But leaving kittens on the streets is the opposite of what a shelter should be doing (sheltering!). It’s a death sentence for these vulnerable animals.

Cats are domesticated animals —bnot wildlife — and they are not equipped to survive outdoors. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 75% of kittens born outdoors died or “disappeared” before they were 6 months old. Their leading cause of death? Trauma. Predators, traffic, cruel people and other dangers kill kittens and cats every day. Most of these casualties are not seen, reported or tracked. Here are just a few of those that have made headlines in recent months:

A homeless kitten in Washington state was found with his abdomen sliced open, exposing his internal organs. Both of his hips were fractured, and he was weak and sick with a severe infection. In Maryland, a kitten was discovered with a fractured leg, which had to be amputated. Six homeless kittens in Utah were found dead on the side of a road after they had apparently been tortured.

Rose’s Cece was a rescue. She’s spayed, vaccinated – and definitely an indoor cat. photo: R.T.

The elements are another deadly threat. In Wyoming, a kitten endured frostbite so severe that her bottom lip was detached from her jaw and all of her toes, both ears and most of her tail were dead. Four homeless kittens in Tennessee were found in a freezing-cold garage; one had already died, and two were “blue in the face and barely breathing.” A kitten in Wyoming froze to the bottom of a kiddie pool, was suffering from hypothermia and an upper respiratory infection and had lost both ears and a toe to frostbite.

Contagious diseases also kill countless kittens and cats. Upper respiratory infections tore through a feline colony in Colorado, killing many cats and leaving three kittens with ruptured eyes that had to be surgically removed. In Georgia, a homeless kitten with an injured leg was euthanized and tested positive for rabies after he began “aggressively attacking any objects presented to him,” “displaying signs of paralysis, vocalizing loudly, [and] had dilated pupils and hydrophobia.”

Kittens simply don’t stand a chance against the countless dangers they face outdoors. As a good Samaritan in Ohio who tried to help an abandoned kitten wrote, “This kitten was so badly bruised, she couldn’t hold her head up. I held her in my hands and felt her bones. I couldn’t watch her die. I took her to an emergency veterinary center … They couldn’t save her, but she knew love before she closed her eyes.”

That kitten was more fortunate than many. Most animals who die on the streets never experience even a moment of comfort or kindness from humans.

If they manage to survive long enough, cats who haven’t been sterilized will reproduce, adding to the companion animal overpopulation crisis and the number of animals suffering on the streets. And all cats, including those fed by humans, instinctively attack, maim and kill birds, small mammals and other vulnerable wildlife who are already struggling to survive.

Given these horrific outcomes, why would any “shelter” or “rescue organization” discourage people from getting felines off the streets? For many of these groups, it’s a shameless attempt to boost “live-release” rates by keeping animals out at all costs, thereby dodging the responsibility of caring for and potentially having to euthanize them for humane reasons or in order to accommodate other homeless animals. This deceptive strategy allows shelters to report high “live-release” rates and low rates of euthanasia. But is leaving kittens to die outdoors, terrified and in pain, really a better option? Of course not.

The streets are no place for kittens, cats or any other domesticated animals. Please, if you see kittens or any other companion animals outdoors, do everything you can to get them and their mothers off the streets and into a safe place.

Confessions of a Reformed Wildlife “Rescuer”

By Michelle Reynolds

Baby wildlife may be cute but they’re a part of the outdoor world – not potential pets. art: PETA

Our household has baby fever. The songbirds who reside in our oak tree are expecting. We threw a shower of sorts by putting out a bowl of water in the Florida heat, and we are watching the nest eggscitedly. Then there’s the other new arrival, affectionately (if uncreatively) dubbed “Baby Bun.” The newest member of the neighboring rabbit family is now joining his parents for dinner at the Reynolds’, meaning extra cuteness for us and extra frustration for our dog, who doesn’t like waiting to go out while we check the yard to make sure Baby Bun isn’t around.

Leave the babies to their mommies!

During spring in particular, I have to fight the urge to do more to “help” wildlife … since human interference usually doesn’t. I was the girl who wanted to feed wild animals and bring every “abandoned” baby home. But I’ve since learned that the best way to help baby animals is usually to leave them alone.

Animals in their natural environment know their needs better than we do. Wildlife rehabilitators advise against taking animals from their homes unless they’re obviously injured (as a result of an attack by a predator or otherwise), trembling, lethargic or dependent on a parent who was killed nearby. If they can fly or run away, they’re usually fine. The most they’ll need is to be watched from a safe distance for a few hours or days.

And contrary to what I once believed, adult birds won’t reject a baby who has been touched by humans. If you see a fallen baby bird with few or no feathers, put them back in the nest. If you can’t find or reach it, make one out of a basket or strawberry container (both have small holes in the bottom so rainwater can drain), hang it in a sheltered spot close by and watch for the parents to return. Fledglings — young, mostly feathered birds — may flap on the ground as they learn to fly. It’s OK. Their parents are usually watching. If they’re in immediate danger, move them to a tree or shrub, and if they’re hurt or sick or the parents don’t return, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. A nationwide list is available at PETA.org/WildlifeRehab.


If you spot a turtle about to cross a road, then it’s time to act. Pick up small turtles, and use a sturdy stick to nudge large or snapping turtles gently onto a flat surface. Carry them in the direction that they were heading. They know where they’re going and will turn around if they’re rerouted. Similarly, it’s critical to act if you see a seemingly dead turtle. Because of their slow metabolism, injured turtles can suffer for weeks before dying. Pinch a toe or touch the corner of an eye. If you see any signs of life, rush the victim to a veterinarian or an animal shelter.

Fawns spend most of their time alone, nearly motionless. They’re often mistaken for orphans because mother deer only nurse them a few times a day. Babies don’t need assistance unless they’re visibly injured, wandering alone, calling out or lying flat on one side. In those cases, contact a rehabilitator.

Spencer, yesterday, late afternoon. Leave nature to nature … photo: R.T.

When cottontail rabbits are about 5 inches long, they’re self-sufficient. If a nest of newborns has been disturbed, place the babies back in it and leave them there unless they’re injured or you’re certain that their mother has been killed. Cottontails usually feed their young only twice a day — at dawn and dusk — to avoid tipping off predators to the nest’s location. If you’re not sure whether the mother has come back, place a piece of string over the nest and check later to see if it has been moved.

More than a rat with a cuter outfit!

Young squirrels are often found after their nest has been blown down from a tree. The mother will be looking for her young. To reunite them, place the babies in a box at the base of the tree. If she feels safe, the mother will usually retrieve her young and carry them to a secure location. If a baby squirrel is hurt, weak or shaking, use gloves to place them inside a warm, safe, newspaper-lined box before calling a rehabilitator.

Although it may be hard for those of us whose heart is in the right place, it’s usually best to leave animals in their right place as well.


Try a vegan burger this summer! Explore vegan or vegetarian cookbooks at your neighborhood library and cook up some new, tasty treats this grilling season!

🏘️Why People are Homeless🏘️

By Nahani Meuse

Nahani Meuse

People are homeless because they can’t afford the ever-rising, sky-high rents. That is it. It isn’t because they “choose” to be homeless. It isn’t because they’re criminals. It isn’t because they’re addicted to a substance. It isn’t because they’re “lazy” or won’t work. People are homeless because they can not afford rent. Period.

I’ve lived in Worcester for well over a decade. I’ve personally been homeless and slept in my vehicle in Worcester. I’ve been homeless despite being college-educated, working two full-time jobs, making a six-figure income. After that experience, I shifted my professional plans and chose to work in this city to assist those like me. People who have no place to call “home” despite their best efforts. People who are looked down upon by the bulk of our society and overlooked by the rest. People who truly just need a helping hand to reclaim their lives. I couldn’t do nothing. I’m not the kind of person who can complain about a problem and not work to solve it.

Watching Worcester, the city that I call home, standing eyes wide shut in the middle of this housing crisis is sickening to me. We admittedly have less than 25% of the shelter beds in this city that we need based on our unsheltered population; yet Worcester City Manager Eric Batista says the city can’t put resources into shelters!

No one believes a shelter is a substitute to housing, but a well-modeled, service-rich, client-centered shelter that provides safety from the elements while connecting individuals to the various resources needed to
exit homelessness is sorely needed in Worcester on a year-round basis.

Affordable housing and inclusionary zoning laws are great, but don’t go far enough and literally do nothing for those folks who don’t or can’t make 60% AMI. We need no- to low-income, no-barrier housing options. We have one option coming on board this calendar year that will provide a few of those units, but that housing development was planned in 2018 … that is five full years between planning and executing.

So even if the City of Worcester plans and commits to a couple hundred units of supportive housing today, we won’t have access to those units for another half-decade.

Where are folks supposed to sleep in the interim?

The City of Worcester won’t enact a campsite sweep moratorium, so if we don’t have housing and we don’t have shelter beds and people aren’t allowed to sleep in a tent … then where should these hundreds of
individuals go?

We have no public restrooms in the city. We have no daily warming or cooling centers.

Though in the last several years we have had shower and hygiene options for the unsheltered in Worcester, we now no longer have those available either. We’ve lost treatment beds for those struggling with addiction; our substance use treatment beds in the state are already only half of what is needed for the population.

Our city manager says he will work with healthcare facilities to address the mental health of our unhoused population; but explain to me how that will work when our healthcare facilities are already overwhelmed and boarding mental health patients for 5+ days in the ER while conducting statewide bed searches.

News articles coming out each week about backlash and neighborhood complaints when a shelter or housing option is proposed. The NIMBY-ism is truly sickening. Seeing our city accepting that hatred and caving to that vitriol is absolutely disgusting.

Our people are our biggest asset and we are failing one another.

Anyone could end up homeless; an
accident, injury, loss of a job/income, loss of a spouse, mental health crisis, fire, etc is all it takes. Our housed neighbors are burdened paying 50% – 70% of their income on housing alone! Prices continue to rise. Subsidies and public housing have a 6 to 10 year wait list. Property management agencies demand 3 times the rent in income, credit scores above 680, perfect rental history, etc.

We provided shelter and services to more than 250 people this past winter. Men, women, veterans, elderly, high school students all stayed with us to seek assistance. An educator working each day to
teach our city’s youth only to return to a shelter each night. A first responder, hairstylists, construction workers, social workers, auto mechanics, estheticians, vet techs, admin assistants, landscapers, welders, wait staff, retail managers, recovery coaches – ALL homeless! All desperate to find a home of their own, all working and paying taxes yet unable to have a safe place to sleep each night. All struggling to hide the fact that they are homeless from their employers, friends, coworkers because they hear the rhetoric and they see how others feel about and act toward the unsheltered individuals in our city.

We are better than this! It isn’t going to be easy to remedy the mess we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into, but it is possible. This is a very complex issue that requires a strategic, comprehensive and
multifaceted approach to solve; but I assure you it is possible. Experts, data and research do not lie.

We know how to address this crisis, and we can do so if the city manager will listen to the experts in this field and follow the evidence-based practices we continue to insist upon.

⛪Spencer’s Church Fire …the Tee Shirt👕🌈

By Rosalie Tirella

First responders worked all afternoon and evening. photos: R.T.

I took Jett and Lilac out after supper yesterday and saw Spencer’s first responders unhooking the thick fire hoses that ran about a quarter of a mile from the town library, up Main Street and to the old Spencer church, now in ruins. It was a long afternoon for the guys I saw. The First Congregational Church on Main – built in the 1860s – one of the architectural jewels of our downtown – was engulfed in flames during this afternoon’s wild thunderstorm. The charred steeple crashed to the ground, the church organ’s tall pipes melted in the heat, the food in the food pantry was lost. The church’s demise is temporary – a resurrection is certain.

At the top of the hill – a historic church engulfed in flames.

It was a grand old church! At the end of my day, driving home from running CECELIA in Worcester, it always caught my eye. I looked out my car window and stared – upwards. The big, white church – even whiter when the sun shone on it – claimed the highest parcel of Spencer land – it was elevated! Because it was the house of God, built in the days when the house of God was the most important house in town. This was true for all America – from New York City to Spencer. The church was built to always be “taller” than the bank building. Taller than town hall or city hall.

The First Congregational Church – the tallest edifice in Spencer – built on the crest of Main Street. Built on the top of the hill in the center of town because cross and cupola were once more important than cash and campaign slogans.

Ending their shift …

The Spencer firefighters, police officers and other town workers were calling it a day now. Everyone looked tired and a little disoriented. The air was still heavy with smoke, and when we got back home my clothes stank of smoke.

Water flowed to the fire before hoses were unhooked.

The smoke hung heavily over the center of town.


June 3

The tee …

During our a.m. walk today I noticed that someone left/displayed this Gay Pride tee on a pallet by a store in our “plaza.” For the taking…or just a reminder? So Spencer!🌈 …I wonder how the Town of Spencer is marking the month, June, Gay Pride Month. I wonder how State Senator Gobi – now Governor Healey’s Rural Expert and a Spencer resident – WILL HELP/SUPPORT GAY FOLKS IN RURAL MASSACHUSETTS.

June is Gay Pride Month

Our walking path …

🏘️Homeless in Worcester – and our Success at Blessed Sacrament Church this past winter!💒

By Nahani Meuse

Nahani. photo submitted.

My heart hurts. We, as a community, as a city, as a people, must do better. If I were to find a homeless puppy on the side of the road, I could make one phone call and that living soul wouldbe safe. In under an hour, I could secure shelter, food, medical care and advocacy for that dog. However, if that puppy were not a puppy, and was instead a human being, I couldn’t guarantee assistance. It would be a hit or miss,uphill battle to secure safety for that person.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am grateful that homeless animals have safe options. I am a huge animal advocate, and actually run a dog rescue in my “free time.” My heartbreak is from knowing that even in the 2 nd largest city in
all of New England, I can not always provide a safe option for a homeless human being. I’ve worked in this city in homeless services for well over a decade, I’ve operated shelters, I’ve developed outreach programs to reach those on the street. We have countless service providers, beating the pavement each day to offer advocacy to the people who’ve long ago given up on receiving any true help, and resigned themselves to a life on the street, on the fringes. Marginalized, stigmatized and victimized again and again.

A homeless person suffering in the dead of winter in Downtown Worcester. CECELIA file photos.

Worcester is the second largest city in the entire region, not just the state, but in all of New England. Homelessness is at epidemic levels and has been for years, with no hint of declining. Although people become homeless in any number of cities and towns, many flock to city centers due to the resources available (public transportation, detoxfacilities, shelters, etc). In Worcester, we have one year round shelter built for less that 60 people and a handful of population specific shelters that hold far less, for veterans, or women fleeing exploitation andabuse. Routinely every one of these shelters is at capacity; despite the literally hundreds of people sleeping unsheltered on the streets.
Often times people would rather take their chances sleeping on
the streets than to enter the one year round shelter option in the city.

More must be done to help Worcester’s homeless!

The horrific reports of abuse, theft, violence, exploitation, etc have been public knowledge for years, yet no other option is put forth. Every social worker in the city has heard stomach turning details of people’s experiences in that shelter; many have witnessed it first hand and most have reported these incidents, yet no change occurs. The lack of transparency and accountability in shelter services in Worcester has only fueled the abuses that have existed since the PIP.

This past winter Worcester’s Blessed Sacrament Church on Pleasant Street provided a safe, clean space for homeless folks to eat, sleep and receive services. photo submitted.

Staff at these facilities were given the green light to tell any guest to leave for nearly any reason, and I’ve seen them do it hundreds of times. If an individual overdosed and wouldn’t go to detox,
they were thrown on the street. If an elderly individual had incontinence issues, rather than get them medical hygiene products, they were told to pack their things and leave the shelter and it was justified because “they need a higher level of care.” If an individual suffering from mental illness talks to themselves,
they were told to leave shelter for “bothering others.”

If a staff member didn’t like the individual, or was having a bad
day they would tell people to leave the shelter. If two individuals
hugged or exchanged a handshake, they were immediately accused of “selling drugs” and kicked out of shelter. At one point, the banned list for the city shelter was over 100 individuals! In 2016, with another brutal New England winter fast approaching, our city worked hand in hand with non-profit organizations and the faith-based community to create an emergency winter overflow shelter. The idea was that when the year-round shelter was full, there would be a safe place for people to seek refuge from the storms, the cold, the streets. Yet every spring the people who had accessed the winter shelter were again put on the streetsuntil the following winter. The all-volunteer shelter became
known as “Hotel Grace” and year after year would open the doors to provide safety for 60 people from the frigid winter. It operated on Temple Street each winter for several years prior to relocating to Vernon Street during COVID.

Hotel Grace operated out of the old Ascension Church on Vernon Hill winter before last. Folks could shower in the mobile shower unit.

Unfortunately, what had began as a beautiful, humane option for winter
shelter turned into yet another organization that was exploiting
and abusing the very vulnerable population it was supposed to
serve.The folks surviving and sleeping unsheltered have a host of concerns as well. The unkind elements are certainly not
the only fear these people face. There is risk of assault, overdose, being robbed of what little they have, being raped, infections, exacerbated wounds due to lack of hygiene, no place to toilet or bathe, etc. Some say homelessness has been criminalized and I understand that argument. People are routinely encountered by police who tell them they must move from where they are sitting or sleeping, or risk arrest because they are “loitering” or “trespassing.” We’ve seen the state come through encampments with bulldozers destroying everything in their path. Others have had their tents literally sliced with knives by the police.

Downtown Worcester: sleeping on a vent to stay warm. So many homeless people die in the winter!

A handful of us working in the field have become discouraged that every year at winter shelter we would see the exact same faces again and again, year after year. While they had a safe place to escape the cold, they received no real resources to exit homelessness.

We began to dream of a better
option. We spoke of operating a shelter without barriers. We
envisioned a shelter that didn’t simply provide a bed for the
night and food. We wanted to bring social workers, case managers, recovery coaches, religious supports, housing navigators, crisis interventionists, clinicians, physicians and treatment providers in to the shelter. We wanted to remove the barriers of appointments, transportation, stigma, etc and bring the help to the people who needed it in the moment. We wanted to dismantle the status quo, punitive system that exists in shelters … We all continued to work within the parameters that the current system had set for us, while dreaming of something so much better and doing everything we could in ourspare time to see that dream come to fruition.

Since 2016, the City of Worcester has taken a reactive approach to emergency shelter. Each year come mid-autumn, we panic and worry about where winter shelter will be this year, when it can open, where people should seek safety once the overflow is full, etc. In these same 7 years, Worcester has seen tremendous growth and improvement. There are numerous brand new housing developments but very few of them are affordable. Thereis a huge ball park down in Kelley Square. There are new shops, restaurants, businesses of all sorts. Yet in our thriving city, our most vulnerable still have no home. The closing of winter shelter is an entirely different nightmare. Stress, anxiety, emotion, hopelessness, defeat etched into the faces of the men and women as they pack their few belongings into their bags with nowhere to go, and uncertainty of what the future holds. It is truly inhumane to offer people the safety of shelter and then to throw them back to the streets when spring arrives. Homelessness is not a winter only issue.

Each spring, following the closure of the winter shelter, we see an uptick in untimely deaths of those who’d stayed the previous winter at
shelter. It is incredibly heartbreaking to think that people are literally dying on the street – alone – because they have no safe, humane, year-round option for shelter, services and care.

This winter, we were able to do something different. We were again constrained by the winter only timeline, however, we were allowed to bring all of the resources to the guests at the shelter to make true, lasting progressfor and with them. We obtained ID’s, birth certificates and social security cards. We helped numerous folks file employment applications and obtain jobs. We applied for Mass Health, SNAP and GA benefits. We connected veterans to the VA and to Veteran’s Inc. We helped young adults enroll in college courses.
We assisted refugees in navigating the tumultuous immigration process. We had physicians and nurse practitioners providing healthcare weekly. We has substance use providers providing medicated assisted treatment at the shelter every day. We had staff dedicated to conducting housing search and identifying units available for guests who couldn’t find a rental unit.

Because the City of Worcester has “dropped the ball,” Worcester’s first responders must often be nurse, doctor, social worker, even priest, to the city’s homeless.

Staff were dedicated to providing our guests the services they needed to successfully exit homelessness and itpaid off!Slowly but surely, as the winter progressed, we were seeing phenomenal results. Each week we would be saying“So long and good luck” to a handful of guests as they packed their belongings to move into their own homes. Each week we would escort a guest to pick out furnishings for a home they never dreamed would be a reality. And each week as we sent one guest to a home of their own, there was another individual waiting at the door for a chance to enter our shelter and work with the resources available to find their way to exit homelessness.

The work was exhausting, the
hours were long and the stories were truly heart shattering. Yet day after day, ourdedicated team of staff showed up to offer assistance to our neighbors who needed us the most. It wasn’t easy, but nothing worth attaining ever is. Even
on our worst days, I can confidently say that regardless of the guest, theirbarriers or their disposition, our guests were treated with the dignity, compassion, respect and decency they deserved. Confrontation occurred, untreated or
under treated mental health issues
flared, personalities clashed, and yet we remained the calm in the middle of that storm. We showed our guests, many of whom were anxious due to past abuses by other service providers, that they were safe here. We offered any resource our guests were willing to accept. Most did take advantage of several resources we made available, but some did not and chose to only sleep here and that is ok too. Hopefully, by making the offer of assistance but allowing the
individual to choose and respecting that choice, we built trust.Perhaps a guest wasn’t ready for housing this winter, but they know when
they are that they have advocates here that will work to assist them.

Many guests struggling with substance use disorder weren’t ready for treatment, but they knew we offered resources free of judgement, so they were able to be brutally honest without fear of reprisal. Feedback from our guests was taken very seriously and mattered to us, because we wanted to build and improve in any way that positively impacted our guests.

I am so incredibly proud of what we
accomplished this winter at Sowing Seeds of Hope at Bethlehem Hall.

I am amazed at the dedication I saw day in and day out from our staff, our volunteers and this amazing organization we partnered with. I am honored to have led this team and I look forward to working together with each one of you in the future, as we all continue to work to serve the homeless population.

If we all continue to be the change
we want to see in this world, progress will be made. Continue to advocate for a safe, humane, resource-rich, year-round shelter option in Worcester. Continue to advocate for affordable housing, housing subsidies that don’t take 10 years to acquire, permanent supportive housing projects, support services for formerly chronically homeless individuals and families.

Call your Worcester city councilor, call Worcester’s city manager, call your congressman. Continue to be anbadvocate and an ally for those who still don’t have a place to call “home.”

The City was poised to convert the old St. Vincent’s Hospital nursing school on Vernon Hill into affordable housing for seniors. Our senior citizens are still waiting! There are so many projects for the homeless that the City of Worcester delays, staves off … until people forget. Please, STAY ON YOUR CITY COUNCILORS! MAKE SURE THEY DELIVER FOR OUR MOST VULNERABLE NEIGHBORS!

Together, we can move mountains.
Together, we made a huge difference this winter! Together, we will be the solution moving forward!


🏘️This article, written by Nahani Meuse, represents her opinions – not the agency she works for, Open Sky.🏘️


By Rosalie Tirella

Downtown Spencer this morning: Lilac at the parade. photos: R.T.

You know me and Spencer parades. So there I was, today, at 9 a.m, with Jett and Lilac, on our little stretch of Main Street, outside our apartment building, waiting for the Spencer Memorial Day parade to roll by. I stood with about 75 other folks – kids, seniors, couples, young families with a baby or two and single men and women waiting for that Annual Spencer Memorial Day Parade to crest the hill by Town Hall and to make its way past us and our tiny clutch of businesses and WHITCO WHITCO and more WHITCO.

Waiting for the parade.

I stood outside our building feeling the sun on my face, watching my dogs nose their way into the families seated by us – on their shameless quest for doggy biscuit handouts – and thought: It’s all here, the homemade pageantry of rural America. Town life before cell phones, Facebook and Instagram and even the Internet. A workaday Main Street with townsfolk in sweatshirts and light jackets making their own fun – not paying for “entertainment,” most of which is borderline pornographic these days.

Part of the parade route.

There we were, Jett, Lilac and I on our Main Street, Rose chatting with folks as we watched the decked-out Jeeps and cars drive by with big American flags attached to front and back, crisp American flags whipping in the wind. …

Beep beep!

There were the young girls passing out small, cloth American flags to everyone as they walked the miles to the town cemetery with that spring in their step that only the young know. …

Handing out American flags.

There were the really little kids grabbing their flags and immediately waving them at everything. The older vets rode in cars down the parade route …

He served his country.

… the Boys Scouts troop and Cub Scouts were in uniform as they held their banners and flags, the Spencer firetrucks sparkled and the Spencer firemen wore their dress uniforms as they marched ahead of their just hosed-down trucks. …

Proud first responders – Spencer firefighters.

Waving to the crowd.

There was the usual gaggle of local pols …

… the representatives of all our US military branches – Navy really stood out – and, of course, the excellent David Prouty High School Marching Band playing the theme music of the US Navy, US Marines, US Army … rousing, soul-stirring music that we don’t hear often enough. Maybe hearing the music would bring us all back together again …

The David Prouty High School Marching Band

Budding musicians!

I think I drove by David Prouty High when the school had an outdoor fundraiser for new uniforms for their marching band. They must have raised the money because these marching band uniforms that the kids wore today were beautiful – school colors vibrant and those toppers with the orange plumes (or were they pom poms?) curling in the breeze! I wish they had stopped before our crowd to play a song for a bit longer, but they matched on, as all marching bands must!

Making the town proud🥁

There sat the older woman and her husband with their red sports car in the Price Chopper Plaza parking lot – she in one of those foldable canvas chairs you see at all the outdoor concerts and he in their cherry red sports car, reclining in his driver’s seat (leather, I’m guessing) and enjoying “the good life.” …

… They were among the first people to claim a spot this morning. “My son’s a fireman,” the woman said proudly. He was going to be in the parade.

The young couple with two babies pointed to me, taking pictures. They were stationed across the street and had taped an American flag to a pole. Another young couple with a two-year-old boy in a baseball cap talked dogs with me, and their little boy ran to the still cute Jett to pat his face. Jett gets all the attention because he’s still really good looking, but these days he’s … tentative. So he backed away from the little boy. I explained to the mother that Jett was 17 years old and maybe struggling a bit. I offered up the loveable Lilac who immediately shoved her bum under the mother’s hand for a butt massage. “It’s hard to let go,” the young mother said, watching my geriatric Jett. I agreed and immediately felt sad: Would this be Jett’s last parade????

Then there was the older couple who talked newspapering with me, the three of us growing nostalgic for the true small-town, local paper. The wife had worked for circulation at the Telegram and Gazette decades ago, when it had a real circulation, and you could tell she and her husband missed the local touch. …
I thought to myself: Forty years ago Spencer and every one of these towns in Central Mass would have had their own town newspaper, and you just bet the editor would have assigned a reporter to cover the town’s annual Memorial Day Parade. Now, in 2023, a poll shows about half the country doesn’t even know what Memorial Day commemorates. Today, it was just me, doing it like I did in the old days when I was a cub reporter starting out at the Spencer New Leader, circa 1986. “Covering” the Memorial Day Parade, taking pictures of a town event important to its people, a community tradition, an avenue for its young people to learn some history and to come to understand what it means to be a part of a community. I got to hear some music with some real flair this morning, too! Hopefully, some of the young musicians at David Prouty will go on to be in jazz bands or teach music or play funky porch concerts in years to come. For today, they’ll experience how a town comes together to remember, to honor, its fallen soldiers – many of whom died horrific deaths when they were just a few years older than the musicians in the Prouty marching band. They died for America before they got to make their own life music.
The scouts

The little guys held their banner up ok!

Go, Spencer youth!🇺🇸👏

💕 Common Sense🐾🐾

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose and her Jett in Spencer

Could it be possible, at 61, to fall in love with … a town common? To feel about the space the way you do about a new romance? Excited to see your love each and every day … alive with anticipation! And can you fall in love with your town common even though it’s not, strictly speaking, a real town common?… Not at all a grassy space with manicured flower gardens, benches, a pond with ducks and swans … maybe even a gazebo where brass bands play on summer nights. Possibly the site of political protests now and then. In other words: Picturesque. Even elegant. Sometimes radical.

No, here in Spencer, you’ve got no real town common. It’s wild and rural, but it’s also rough bluecollar, as the town’s roots are French sheetrock workers … factories. Every where you see the pretty girls who look the same: fair skinned with long dark hair, often pulled back into a no-nonsense pony tail. Their faces look the same, too: pretty and delicate and French. You see the new diversity, too, but the townie girls, distantly related from generations past, all look like princesses from my old childhood fairy tale books. You see a few ancient factories standing … you see the famous SADD name chiseled into an abandoned factory and wonder if it’s at all related to the Mr. Sadd, a town selectman, you “covered” as a cub reporter when working for the Spencer New Leader almost four decades ago. He was a town leader written up in The New Leader often. I think his son also served on the Spencer Board of Selectmen.

So there is no picturesque town common here in Spencer, a green space in the center of town to traipse around in like there is in West Brookfield or even Millbury. It’s a bit too working class for that. So we’ve had to create opportunity, especially after my wrist surgery, unable to drive my car. A town common is really just a place where the common folk meet and greet each other! So we’ve got the Spencer Price Chopper Plaza on Main Street, across the street from the Spencer Town Hall and a few yards away from the town library. And you’ve got the opportunity to meet EVERYBODY. The PRICE CHOPPER plaza – a huge parking lot with all the basics – seemed like a stretch at first but it’s a genuine town common, a central hub. Past the dumpster, along the concrete, across the parking lot itself Jett and Lilac and I walk every day. The Plaza is the shopping mecca for everyone in town, and everyone, even the poorest of the poor, or folks in motorized wheelchairs, seem to be in good spirits. You’ve got everything you need to live a pretty good life in Spencer at the Price Chopper Plaza: the supermarket, a CVS, a package store, a Rob Roy hair salon and a laundromat. Across Main Street you’ve got Whitco’s and a few other shops. When you think about it, outside of nature and Whitco’s, everything else can be considered superfluous.

Jett and Lilac with Rose.

But my Price Chopper Plaza on Main Street – my “town common” – sets my heart aflutter every day! It’s Jett and Lilac’s happy place. The site of our daily jaunts, the place we walk around and around in, waving to this person, chatting with that lady, smiling at this old guy, graciously accepting compliments about Jett from the woman in a wheelchair or talking with the kid who just took our photos or the young guy who works at Rob Roy and says my haircut – given by his coworker, a Bay Path High graduate and very creative gal – is “fun.” Or the CVS staffer who says to me, “We love seeing you!” Or the woman in the motorized wheelchair who used to have wolf hybrids at her house as pets but is now too old to keep dogs. “YOU’RE SO LUCKY TO HAVE THEM!” she says of my Jett and Lilac, as her scrawny hand gives Lilac’s bum a good scratching. No wonder Lilac is ecstatic to take our morning strolls – our jaunt consists of nothing but kind words about her and Jett and lots of rub downs. She even seems to have her favorites – rushes up to familiar faces for some lovin’. I have real conversations with the people here about dogs loved and lost, chickens who come when you call their names, golden retriever pups heading for the family boat. The old people tug at my heart. The Spencer kids are open and high spirited. You soak up the sun – or the rain drops – as you walk the plaza sidewalk and connect with half of Spencer. Folks buying their groceries, doing their laundry, picking up their prescriptions, but never too busy to stop and … see you. Everything seems so personal, slowed down … relaxed.

Which is why I decided to now label myself “semi-retired.” So I can stick around Spencer – the Price Chopper Plaza and the town Library and my apartment – which I love. Why subject myself to hassles at my age? Why not just bake a veggie lasagna and another apple tart and read a short story? I am rounding that final bend. Why make it a demolition derby? Why race at all? l could drive into Worcester five days a week to run CECELIA, but I’ll be coming in three days a week and working out of my home the other two. I can still write my columns, shepherd my story-seeking scribes and sell ads. I’ll be 62 in October. I want to see more nature … and write different stories.

🍐🍅🥦Food Fight! It’s Fruits vs. Vegetables!🍎🌽

By Scott Miller

🥦🥬🥒🫑❤️ art: PETA

Yesterday was “National Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Day,” which sounds like an order. People don’t like to be told what to do. However, the sentiment is well intentioned.

We’re told to eat fruits and vegetables rather than vegetables and fruits. Fruit is always in front — at the supermarket, on our refrigerator shelves, even alphabetically. Most people prefer fruits to vegetables, and not just because fruit tastes better. Fruit is fun and wacky. Vegetables are serious and sensible. Grapes are the life of the party. Lettuce sits in the corner, complaining about the loud music. Candy is fruit flavored. Mixed drinks are fruit flavored. Tasty treats aren’t vegetable flavored. “Have a Popsicle — it’s cabbage.”

But both fruits and vegetables are ideal foods for compassionate people concerned about the well-being of all sentient beings, as animals don’t suffer for your pomegranates and carrots. In that sense, we could call it National Eat More Fruits and Vegetables and Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Cereal Day. (Mini-Wheats are vegan!) And there are bonus health benefits. Produce is good for you. Most other things are not. Aside from the pork industry and heart attack fetishists, nobody is encouraging you to eat more pigs.

Both fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and are rich in fiber and antioxidants. Because fruit is higher in sugar and calories than vegetables, nutritionists say that vegetables are better. On the other hand, a tricycle is more fuel efficient than a Porsche. That doesn’t make it the superior vehicle. It’s unlikely that America’s obesity problem is due to fruit consumption. Doctors never tell their patients, “You’re eating too many apples.” Want to get in shape? Less butter, more bananas.

Of course, diet is not just about health. Vegans eat all kinds of food, as long as it doesn’t involve the exploitation of animals. One could also refer to me as a “Pop-Tartan” (but not the frosted kind, made with animal byproducts). The misconception that vegans eat only vegetables has to do with these two words’ sharing the same first three letters: V-E-G. And although we encourage cashiers to try cashews, we also suggest that they eat strawberries and broccoli — and say “have a nice day” less often if they don’t really mean it.

Yeah, vegetables are the poor cousins of fruits. Passion fruit sounds sexy. Dragon fruit sounds mystical. Peas and leeks sound like bodily functions. “Life is not a bowl of cherries” implies that cherries are sweet and enjoyable. Life is not a cluster of artichokes, and thank God for that. Yet vegetables have a fresh, natural flavor. Celery and bell peppers are crisp and pure and unprocessed and feel like they belong in your mouth. Nobody regrets having eaten a side salad.

The same can’t be said for a chili dog. Plus, as a meatless option, vegetables are also entrées: mushroom burgers, cauliflower wings, eggplant meatballs. So give vegetables their due.

But while the battle between fruits and vegetables rages on, we are lacking in both. Only one in 10 adults eats enough greens. Consumption is especially low among younger Americans — not surprising since TikTok isn’t classified as a vegetable. Strategies for increasing our fruit and vegetable intake include expanding local agriculture programs and promoting community gardens.

From a purely scientific standpoint, animals have nervous systems and brains, allowing them to feel pleasure and joy. This same biology explains the fear, frustration, and physical pain they experience when people use them for food. Fruits and vegetables don’t feel pain. When you punch the air, it’s possible that you’re hurting ghosts. Rational thought tells us otherwise. Use your brain. If zucchini welfare is still a concern, however, know that eating produce directly — rather than feeding it to animals killed for their flesh — requires fewer plants and doesn’t hurt animals, who we know feel pain.

Meat, eggs and dairy are environmentally unsustainable, bad for our health, and deadly for animals. We shouldn’t need a special day to remind us what to put in our bodies. Visit a peach orchard. Then go to a slaughterhouse. Stroll through a cornfield on a sunny day. Then walk the dark corridors of a factory farm, rows and rows of hens kept in tiny metal battery cages used as egg-laying machines. It’s enough to make you want to eat more fruits and vegetables.