Tag Archives: inner city neighborhoods

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.

Questions or feedback? ronaldoclair@hotmail.com

A new day dawning for Worcester’s Union Hill neighborhood!

By Lorraine Michele Laurie
Photos: R.T.


Take a ride or walk up Harrison Street to where it intersects with Providence Street.  Look at the parking lot on the corner with the black cyclone fence.  On it is a large green sign with” City of Worcester” printed at the top in white letters.  Underneath it in larger letters are the words “Union Hill Revitalization Project.”  Below that it says “Housing Rehabilitation, Streetscape Improvements, Commercial Investment, Public Safety.”  Now, look around Providence and Harrison Streets and see what it says on the sign gradually becoming a reality in the surrounding neighborhood. 

The program was the focus of a press conference and brief tour held on the afternoon of August 17 in the Worcester Academy Alumni House parking lot at 51 Providence Street.   According to Mayor Joseph M. Petty “The Union Hill neighborhood of just two or three years ago is not the Union Hill of today.” The Mayor had made the neighborhood a priority of his administration because he saw “a neighborhood that had slid into disrepair.” What he was referring to was the local elementary school, Union Hill School on Chapin Street, being designated as a Level 4 school, neglected houses – some with numerous code violations and a growing crime problem.

What is responsible for this gradual change in Union Hill is a unique partnership with the City, HUD, Habitat for Humanity, Worcester Academy, Oak Hill Community Development Corporation and local residents, businesses and property owners.  


The most visible sign of improvement is the streetscape program taking place on Providence Street and Harrison Street.  With most of the money coming from Community Development Block Grant funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the program involves resurfacing the roads, replacing sidewalks with a combination of concrete and bricks and handicapped accessible corners and the planting of trees.  New features are the bump out curb extensions installed to make crossing easier.

Also very apparent is the decline of crime.  The Worcester Police Department and Chief Gary Gemme created a “Community Policing District” in 2013.  Police Officers patrol the area in cars and on foot.  Shot-spotter and Crime Watch members have greatly assisted in the crime prevention efforts.  Public health initiatives involve school health partnerships and healthy food education.

Housing stabilization and creation will get a big boost from this special forming of partnerships.

An extensive sweep of the housing stock in the neighborhood was done by members of the  Inspectional Services, Fire and Police Departments.  The City worked with landlords to bring the properties up to code.  Nine owner-occupied homes will be rehabilitated on Providence and Harrison Streets and five new units of housing will be created on Aetna and Arlington Streets. 

Nearby Worcester Academy, located at 81 Providence Street, recently donated 21 Aetna Street to Habitat for Humanity Metro-West/ Greater Worcester.  The existing house will be taken down and a duplex will be constructed in its place.  Tim Firment, Executive Director of  Habitat , announced that his organization will also sponsor “A Brush with Kindness Week “ and assist a property owner on Harrison Street with porch and landscape work. Also, in an ongoing effort to help homeowners, Worcester Academy has also made available $300,000, administered by the Worcester Community Housing Resources, for home improvements in the neighborhood. 

According to Ronald M. Cino, Head of School, “Worcester Academy is improving the quality of life for the Union Hill neighborhood by making significant contributions to education, recreation, housing, safety and economic development. Worcester Academy has completed the acquisition of the old St. Vincent’s property.  In addition to sharing use of Morse Field, an award- winning lighted synthetic field on the property with neighborhood residents, schools, and community groups, Worcester Academy is converting the hospital’s generator building into a first-rate performance center that will open late this fall.”

Oak Hill Community Development Corporation, located across the street from Worcester Academy at 74 Providence Street, has been involved in housing since 1972.  According to Mullen Sawyer, Chief Executive Officer, Oak Hill CDC ”worked closely with neighborhood stakeholders and funders to create a 21st century investment plan and funding mechanism to serve this neighborhood: Investing in Union Hill Plan.  This Plan outlines holistic strategies to preserve and develop housing, promote and sustain business and workforce development while improving neighborhood economics and quality of life.  The commonwealth has accepted our Plan and awarded Oak Hill CDC nearly a million dollars in new state rebates to spur public to private investment of this Plan.”

In addition to housing, streetscape, private investments and public safety and health, revitalization is taking place at Union Hill Elementary School.  The school which was designated a Level 4 school is now a Level 1 school.  It is undergoing renovations thanks to State funding. New windows have been installed and other exterior and interior improvements will take place.

As the press conference was taking place, neighborhood children were seen across Providence Street.  City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., who had referred to the broken window theory in his speech, said “This City has not forgotten this neighborhood.  There are a lot of kids who call this place home.  We need to make sure they know they’re important to us.”

State Senator Michael Moore praised the City by saying “These ongoing and carefully executed investments will continue to help to bring vitality and desirability for current and future residents alike.  I want to commend Mayor Petty, City Manager Augustus and all the departments who have come together to breathe life back into this part of the City.”

City Councilor George Russell whose District 3 covers a good part of Union Hill said “we should not look at it as Mission Accomplished and instead look at it as the beginning of a long road to hopefully revitalize the entire area and most importantly make folks feel good about investing and living in the neighborhood.”


State Representative Daniel M. Donahue sums it up this way “ The community policing district has created a new feeling of safety, our local elementary school has gone from failing to a level 1 and we are making strategic investments in infrastructure and stabilizing our owner occupied housing stock.  This could only be accomplished by working together, from our local police to our teachers to community leaders and residents to the different levels of government, we have come together to make change.”

Community Development Block Grants – Worcester shows off its CDBG-funded neighborhood “stars” to mayors throughout Mass!

Text and photos by Ron O’Clair

Mayor Petty starts off the meeting

There was a meeting today at Clark University’s Lurie Conference Room in the Higgins Building on the Clark Campus about the Community Development Block Grants given by the government through H.U.D. (Housing and Urban Development) and the success that has been achieved through these grants in the Kilby/Gardner/Hammond section of Worcester.

This meeting was attended by several dignitaries, including:

Dan Donahue, State Representative 16th District

Bill Carpenter, Mayor of the City of Brockton

Setti Warren, Mayor of the City of Newton

Joseph Petty, Mayor of the City of Worcester

Daniel Rizzo, Mayor of the City of Revere

Mary Keefe, State Representative 15th District

Gordon Hargrove, Executive Director of the Friendly House

Robert Shumeyko, H.U.D. Regional Director

Tony Sousa, Director of Planning for the City of Everett

Jeremiah Thompson, from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office

Laurie Ross, Clark University

and many of the heads of the City of Worcester Community Development office

After opening remarks from Mayor Petty and Mayor Warren, there was a power-point presentation by Steven Teasdale, executive director of the Main South C.D.C., followed by a bus tour of the Worcester neighborhood that was the focus of the redevelopment that the CDBG money helped make a reality.

The WRTA bus getting ready to depart on the tour

The bus, a regular WRTA bus, toured the Kilby Street area, stopping at the new Boys and Girls Club and traveled over to Hollis Street to see the former factory at 93 Grand St. that has been renovated and is nearly ready for occupancy. It was once owned by the Main South C.D.C. but was bought and developed by a private entity.

The people riding the tour bus got to see first-hand the difference made in the area, as was obvious to all from having seen “before” photos of the neighborhood in the power-point presentation .

There was a discussion period after the tour back in the conference room.

We learned much of the progress made in Worcester’s Kilby-Gardner-Hammond area would have been impossible without funding from the CDBG program.

From The Boston Globe: farmers markets and SNAP cards …

I’ve been meaning to post this BOSTON GLOBE editorial for weeks…   –    R.T.


Food stamps for fresh food: More produce, more benefits

THE SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal food stamp program, has often struggled with the “nutrition” part of its mandate. The problem is that fresh fruits and vegetables are often too expensive for low-income families to afford, especially if they have to rely on benefits for most of their groceries.

The latest farm bill, signed into law earlier this year, offers a simple, innovative solution. The legislation doubles the value of SNAP benefits when they are used to purchase produce bought at local grocery stores or farmers markets who agree to participate.

The program, called the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive, provides $100 million over the next five years in grants to organizations that help make fruit and vegetables more affordable to SNAP recipients. The grant program is focused on encouraging people to buy more produce. …

CLICK HERE to read entire editorial!

The Austin Corridor II Project! The Worcester Common Ground CDC celebrates!


Worcester Common Ground CDC has some exciting news and an invite for you and everyone in the community:


Please join us for WCG’s ribbon cutting ceremony and cook out in celebration of our Austin Corridor II Project

Date: Tuesday, July 16

Time: 3 p.m.

Location: Worcester Common Ground Tot Lot on the corner of Austin and Newbury streets.

Food and drinks will be provided at our cook out, as well as walking tours. So please join WCG and the neighborhood in this special occasion!

RSVP to jluyando@wcg-cdc.com

Worcester Common Ground – 508.754-0908


Among the activities to fulfill our mission, Worcester Common Ground owns and manages 76 affordable rental units and has developed another 71 units of affordable housing that have been sold to first time homebuyers. We have recently completed construction of 12 units focused on individuals including persons with disabilities in an accessible, affordable new building at 1-7 Piedmont Street (now 5 Piedmont) (View Map). We have also completed another 46 units of affordable rental apartments through the restoration of an historic factory building at 9 May Street (View Map). To learn more about these most recent projects please go to our “In the Works” page. The following is information about all our completed housing projects:

Rental Units Listing – 69 Units, 5 Business, 1 Office Total
1992 – 6 Florence Street, 8 units, Details
1992 – 60 Providence Street, 6 units, Details
1994 – 7-11 Bellevue Street, 5 units, 4 business, Details
1999 – 90-94 Chatham Street, 6 units, Details
1999 – 108 Austin Street, 2 units, Details
1999 – 124-128 Canterbury Street, 10 units, Details
2002 – 17-23 Dewey Street, 12 units, Details
2003 – 98 Austin Street, 5 units, Details
2003 – 102 Austin Street, 4 units, Details
2003 – 133 Chandler Street, 5 units, 1 business, Details
2006 – 300 Pleasant Street, 6 units, 1 office, Details
2008 – 9 May Street, 46 units, Details
2010 – 5 Piedmont Street (formerly 1-7 Piedmont Street), 12 units, 1 office, Details

First-Time Home Buyer Listing – 68 Units Total
1996 – 25 King Street, 3 units, Details
1996 – 55 King Street, 3 units, Details
1997 – 97 Bellevue Street, 1 unit, Details
1997 – 99 Bellevue Street, 3 units, Details
1997 – 35 Cedar Street, 2 units, Details
1998 – 7 Newbury Street, 2 units, Details
1998 – 9 Quincy Street, 2 units, Details
1999 – 48 King Street, 3 units, Details
2000 – 139 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2001 – 21 Preston Street, 3 units, Details
2002 – 11 Jacques Avenue, 3 units, Details
2002 – 12 West Street, 3 units, Details
2002 – 19 Bancroft Street, 3 units, Details
2003 – 99 Chatham Street, 1 unit, Details
2003 – 30 Bancroft Street, 3 units, Details
2003 – 22 Bluff Street, 3 units, Details
2004 – 130 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2004 – 132 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2004 – 134 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2005 – 141 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2005 – 143 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2005 – 147 Austin Street, 3 units, Details
2005 – 26 Bancroft Street, 3 units, Details
2005 – 17 Preston Street, 3 units, Details
2012 – 161 Austin Street, 3 units



On the opening of the city’s new branch libraries: GRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!

By Rosalie Tirella

It makes no sense! Four new branch libraries to open in Worcester – in our public schools – and only one is in a true inner-city hood!!!! Neighborhoods where resources are most needed! Places where kids and families need educational tools and CDs and DVDs, etc. Places where our inner-city kids can expand their minds.

Instead we get … Tatnuck!! All the families there have cars and $$ and computers at home!! Why do they need a branch library?! They have the resources!!!


Yes, the Goddard School was a good choice: a branch library for students there and the community (after school hours) is what Main South needs. But what about Green Island? South Worcester? Quinsig Village? Union Hill? Piedmont? Vernon Hill? Where are OUR branch libraries? All of these city neighborhoods have city schools in them and they are home to so many low-income families whose kids may not have access to the Internet, Nooks and other tablets, etc. Parents may be too poor to rent DVDs, buy CDs. English may not be their primary language. It would be so cool for our inner-city kids to be able to go to their neighborhood library to check out important materials – to have staff help them with homework. These kids may not even have a quiet place at home to do their homework! A neighborhood library would have been grand.

Why must Worcester’s inner-city families keep taking it in the chin? Where is the justice?

City officials say their choices were based on parking spaces and reading results… meaning only kids who did well on reading tests get libraries in their hoods? What Worcester reading numbers, “facts,” etc were city officials studying? It’s like they have done the opposite of what they should have done!!! It would make sense that we as a city would want to SHORE UP our struggling readers/families, bring kids who struggle with reading and homework up to speed. A branch library would only HELP accomplish this goal.

Why can’t we whack City Manager Mike O’Brien in the puss with a frying pan?!

Ask him: who are the city movers and shakers who whined and said they wanted the libraries near their kids, their families???

Yes, a frying pan! Maybe that’ll knock some sense into O’Brien, who abruptly shut down all of our inner-city pools serveral years ago, after promising the community he would look at their pool-building suggestions (RIP Save Our Poolz). After promising me at the YMCA Greendale branch, where he was picking up HIS kids from their swimming/summer fun, that he would NOT close the city’s pools.

Who is this guy?

Why can’t we feed him to the yaks?

Empty nests

By Edith Morgan

As I look around my neighborhood, and as I think about friends in my age range, it seems that something important has changed: the old family homestead no longer is: immigrant families once came, bought a triple decker or duplex, raised a family there, maybe brought the grandparents over, and several generations lived in the same house. The tradition in many nations (most notably, among the Irish) was that at least one of the children would remain in the family home after the parents were gone. My friend Martha, recently deceased, went back to Wareham and bought her family home; Peggy around the corner bought HER parents’ home and lived there until her death. My neighbor Bill followed the old Irish tradition also, and is still in the family home.

But now I look around my neighborhood, and more and more I see the big old gracious houses where my neighbors raised six and seven children, standing empty, waiting to be sold to strangers. And it is saddening, because something is getting lost in the fabric of neighborliness that was the glue that held together the neighborhood, provided familiarity and the safety that comes from knowing the people around you, and the comforting feeling that help and caring is always near.

Perhaps it is because we all live longer and our young ones can not have the house for so many years, or perhaps it is that so often the newer generation want to be independent, want to have the newest fixtures, want to be nearer to their work, or want to follow their spouses. Whatever the reason, what I miss most is the commitment to the neighborhood, the neighborhood school, the support for neighborhood stores, and the “nosy neighbor” who was a tradition in many neighborhoods, and could be counted upon to know who came, who went, what everyone was doing, and who would report her (it was usually a “her”) findings . a number of us grew up staying on the “straight and narrow path” because we knew we were observed and reported upon. Annoying as we might have found that, it did prevent the need for extensive foot patrols!

And of course the younger generations travel much lighter than we did (I am in my eighties, and attached to thousands of books and memorabilia) and are more likely to throw things out. I can remember how many times my mother saved something, always sure that someday it would be of use – and surprisingly often, she was right.

And so, as I watch the huge dumpsters being filled with the accretions of nearly a century, I am saddened that it all has to be taken to be crushed and burned , unwanted, unused, and no longer loved….and the many things that are memory triggers for children and grandchildren are gone, though I hope that they had a chance to save a few things that will serve to remind them.

Many large, roomy, well-built houses throughout our city sit empty, waiting for someone with imagination and an appreciation of the finer aspects of living – the high ceilings, the finely-milled woodwork, the tall old trees, the obvious care that was taken by the builders who put up these homes with a view to the future. But I worry that in this age of digital clocks, where we see only the moment, of plastic, of constant change for the sake of change, that we may not have enough imagination to see the grace and beauty in these places, and let them deteriorate. And Preservation Worcester can not do it all!

Yesterday’s celebrations: Worcester’s CDCs shine at City Hall and Jimi would have turned 70

Well, our CDC’s shined last night at Worcester’s City Council meeting! Their representatives stood tall and told the city council – or anyone who doubts their great work:


Tour our units/buildings! Look at all the property taxes we pay to the city! In fact, we just paid $100,000 in fees. Best of all, our homes stay affordable for the next working family who wants to buy them (no building-flipping here, folks!). Neighborhoods stabilize – bloom.

Fantastic! Let’s all work together to make Worcester GREAT!

Another celebration – though it would be wonderful if he were still alive making music:

Jimi Hendrix’s 70th birthday: celebrate with this classic interview. Printed in The Guardian. (click on links below to hear/see J.H.) – R.Tirella



From The Guardian:

The guitarist and songwriter – born 27 November 1942 – found fame in the UK first. Here’s an interview from when he burst to the scene in the States, published in the Detroit Free Press on 28 August 1967 – courtesy of Rock’s Backpages, the world’s leading archive of vintage music journalism,

By Loraine Alterman

Guitar hero … Jimi Hendrix in 1967. The songwriter would have turned 70 today. Photograph: Herb Schmitz/Rex Features

No exaggeration: the Jimi Hendrix Experience is the most exciting act I have yet seen in pop music.

A small, musically hip group of kids turned out to see Jimi at the Fifth Dimension in Ann Arbor recently. Jimi, his bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell are creating a sensation in England and Europe – but the word hasn’t spread here yet.

On stage, Jimi, with hair a la Dylan, puts on a show with his brilliant guitar playing and electric stage presence. While performing, Jimi swings the guitar in back of him and plays it resting on his back. He also zings it with his teeth or falls to the floor to play it. Sometimes (but not at the Fifth Dimension), he burns it at the end of his set. In Ann Arbor, when his amplifier blew, he flung the amp to the floor at the end of his last set and jumped up and down on top of it.

Paradoxically, he never blows his cool. While he’s frantic, he’s casual. … .

To read more, click on the link below. R.T.: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/nov/27/jimi-hendrix-70th-birthday-interview