By Ron O’Clair
On April 17 a longtime employee of the Honey Farm convenience stores chain was robbed at gunpoint – and after complying with the robber’s demands to hand over the money. He was shot in the eye.
Jim Altobelli, 66, was shot by one of the two suspects who robbed the store on Vernon Hill, here in our fair city of Worcester.
Jim, who has worked at various Honey Farms store locations throughout Worcester for the last 37 years, is one of the nicest guys you ever would want to meet. I first met Jim when I drove taxi-cab here in Worcester on the overnight shift starting back in 1987.
Jim, like me, likes to work the overnight shifts. I first met him at the Highland and North Ashland Streets location that was a Honey Farm store for many years, with a Friendly’s restaurant on the same parcel of land behind the convenience store.
They tore down the original Honey Farms, and the Friendly’s and put in one of the combination gasoline stations with little businesses inside of them. There is the Sunoco Gas, the Honey Farms, and a Honey Dew Donut shop, along with a Bank of America ATM attached.
I know Jim as far as any of his customers could know him: he is an exceptionally friendly and helpful clerk who would listen to you and try to get you what you were looking for. We have a mutual interest, we both like the “Tri-Sum” potato chip brand which is made in Leominster, Massachusetts and is carried in some of the Honey Farms stores. Jim and I both agree that it is simply the best tasting potato chip on the market today! I would go to the Honey Farms store at 64-66 Vernon Street on the way home from Twin Rivers with one of my tenants, big Mike, who would come along with me when I went for company, and to help me spend my bonus rewards points at the casino. The Vernon Street store always carried the large bag of “Tri-Sum” chips, and I would get one whenever I came back from the casino, even if I lost.
When I was doing my research in preparation of doing this story, I faced a wall of indifference to the right of the people to know the details of this incident. The Honey Farms Corporate Headquarters would not release any information for me to use in this story. The Human Resources Vice President, Ms. Shelia Smith was unavailable for comment.
There is a collection being made if you feel like donating to the James Altobelli rehabilitation fund, you may make checks or money orders out to James Altobelli and send them to the Honey Farms Corporate Headquarters, 505 Pleasant Street, Worcester, Massachusetts 01609 care of Shelia Smith and they will go to help Jim in his recovery, which will be long and painful, and most of all: expensive.
I was able to ascertain that Jim was released today from inpatient care and will have a period of convalescing at his own home. I am not sure if Jim will ever be behind the counter of another Honey Farms store – no one will release any information and I had to dig hard to get what I have reported here.
The Worcester Police, aside from refusing to release any information at all on this case, which they say is still under investigation, did manage to apprehend and charge one of the two suspects in the shooting/robbery. Jaiquan Harris was arraigned on charges resulting from the robbery on the 17th where Jim got shot, and also on charges related to a robbery from the day before at the 443 Park Avenue Honey Farms store where apparently no one was injured.
These boys could have killed Jim. As it is, they have made him sure to suffer from this for the rest of his life. And for what? A fist full of dollars?
Is any amount of money worth a person’s life, or their livelihood?
Our society puts too much value on material goods. It seems that everyone wants that almighty dollar and thinks that it will bring them happiness if they have some $$$ in their pocket. I am willing to bet that this kid wanted the stolen money to buy some drugs with it and get high.
And the price paid for him to get high? Jim Altobelli. Jim will never be the same, ever.
How many more Jim’s will have to suffer before we eradicate drug usage in our society and start teaching youths about civic duty, responsibility and the old standby – what comes around, goes around?
I wish James Altobelli the very best! I will be sending my check towards his recovery in the mail by the time this story gets posted. Please help Jim get the care and treatment he needs and donate to the fund!
Thank you, Ronald L. O’Clair.
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