Tag Archives: poor

Green Island’s St. John’s Church opens its brand new food pantry, soup kitchen and food distribution center!

By Jeffrey Li

St. John’s Church, one of the oldest churches in Worcester,  has just opened its new addition, the Saint Francis Xavier Center, a food pantry, soup kitchen and food distribution center. The renovated, free-standing building is named after the devoted missionary and co-founder of the Society of Jesus.

Located on 20 Temple St., right next door to the church proper, this center was originally a vegetable and fruit store of Clem’s Italian Sausage. The church bought it one and half years ago and has just finished its total renovation. The newly renovated Saint Francis Xavier Center looks beautiful and spacious. The large glass windows and doors were shining under the bright sun of May and so was Father John Madden’s bright smile. Father Madden is the pastor of St John’s and the catalyst behind the church’s mission to feed the hungry – support poor people and working people in a tough economy.

Father Madden said the opening of new Saint Francis Xavier Center will provide a larger and more comfortable place for the church’s current food pantry and free meal service, where people in need can get free meals in the morning five days a week and can also take the free food, mostly canned and packaged foods, to home with them to prepare for themselves.

According to Father Madden, the church has served free meals every weekday morning in its kitchen at the lower level of the church ever since July 12, 2004, with the help of its family members, food donation from businesses like Wegmans Food Markets, and volunteers from other churches. Recently, some volunteers also come from Assumption College. At the very beginning, few people came for the food. However, as the word spread  and the economy took a great downturn, more and more people walked in for the service, and it soon became obvious that the kitchen was just not big enough for the crowd.

When Clem’s Italian Sausage put the building on sale, the church immediately jumped on the opportunity to buy it. The church families went all out to raise funds to buy the property, and they finally succeeded in getting enough funds to cover the total cost – about $1.5 million, including the renovation. The grateful Father Madden thanked lots of people for their help and donation. He also mentioned the highest donor, Frank Carroll, president of the Small Business Service Bureau Inc. and a native of the Vernon Hill section of Worcester, for his donation and his tremendous help as a fund raiser.

The church wasted no time to start renovation after it bought the property. People just couldn’t wait to move to the new building. Now when the work is pretty much completed, Father Madden is still busy talking and arranging things with the contractors. People were so excited! After all, they have waited too long for a decent place like this for them to serve more and more people with due dignity and respect. The staff has tried their best to keep up with serving more than 100 people on daily, but they just couldn’t keep themselves from bumping into each other. They would set up two tables full of sweets and breads and try to arrange as many dining tables and chairs as possible, usually helped by Mr. O’Connor of the Wegmans, and Ryan and his men from Assumption College. Mr. O’Connor also brings in the donated food from the Wegmans four days a week. As there are no open windows in the kitchen, they have big ventilation fans set at the narrow doorways ready to help keep air flowing and keep the temperature down. To accommodate the limited kitchen utilities, the church’s chef Bob Kwiatkowski and his assistants have to get up very early and work long hours to prepare the soup and other foods for the service starting at 8:00 am. Christine, a volunteer from another church, comes every Wednesday morning to chop lots of celery, carrots, potatoes and meat for Bob. She loves her job. “It makes you feel good because you are helping people that need you,” said Christine.

People here believe whenever they feed the hungry or give the thirsty something to drink, they are in essence also giving food or drink to Jesus Christ and this is why when asked for the motivation, Father Madden’s answered without hesitation: “The Gospel says feed the hungry.”

With its history going back to 1834, St. John’s Church is said to be the oldest established Catholic religious institution in the city of Worcester. However, don’t be fooled by its age. The church currently has about 1,000 family members and is full of life and activities. The church has made great contributions to  society and is looking forward to continuing its  great work. For a long time to come!

 

Worcesterites should read this urban renewal story: Nashville on the rise …

Nice piece in The New York Times. Revitalizing a city is tricky business. Interesting quotes re: TIFs. The journalist and his concerns remind me of me! He’s saying what I’m saying: Let’s really, REALLY take care of the people already here, via great inner-city schools, etc.

– R. Tirella

From The New York Times:

Nashville’s Latest Big Hit Could Be the City Itself

A statue of Elvis Presley between souvenir shops in downtown Nashville. The music industry is, in many ways, the bedrock of the city's economy.

By KIM SEVERSON
Published: January 09, 2013

 

NASHVILLE – Portland knows the feeling. Austin had it once, too. So did Dallas. Even Las Vegas enjoyed a brief moment as the nation’s “it” city.

Now, it’s Nashville’s turn.

Here in a city once embarrassed by its Grand Ole Opry roots, a place that sat on the sidelines while its Southern sisters boomed economically, it is hard to find a resident who does not break into the goofy grin of the newly popular when the subject of Nashville’s status comes up.

Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat in his second term, is the head cheerleader.

“It’s good to be Nashville right now,” he said during a recent tour of his favorite civic sites, the biggest of which is a publicly financed gamble: a new $623 million downtown convention center complex that is the one of the most expensive public projects in Tennessee history.

The city remains traditionally Southern in its sensibility, but it has taken on the luster of the current. On a Venn diagram, the place where conservative Christians and hipsters overlap would be today’s Nashville.

Flush with young new residents and alive with immigrants, tourists and music, the city made its way to the top of all kinds of lists in 2012.

A Gallup poll ranked it in the top five regions for job growth. A national entrepreneurs’ group called it one of the best places to begin a technology start-up. Critics admire its growing food scene. GQ magazine declared it simply “Nowville.”

And then there is the television show.”Nashville,”a song-filled ABC drama about two warring country divas, had its premiere in October with nine million viewers. It appears to be doing for the city of 610,000 people what the prime-time soap opera”Dallas”did for that Texas city in the ’80s.

“You can’t buy that,” Mr. Dean said. “The city looks great in it.”

Different regions capture the nation’s fancy for different reasons. Sometimes, as with Silicon Valley, innovation and economic engines drive it. Other times, it’s a bold civic event, like the Olympics, or a cultural wave, like the way grunge music elevated Seattle.

Here in a fast-growing metropolitan region with more than 1.6 million people, the ingredients for Nashville’s rise are as much economic as they are cultural and, critics worry, could be as fleeting as its fame.

“People are too smug about how fortunate we are now,” said the Southern journalist John Egerton, 77, who has lived in Nashville since the 1970s. …

To read more, click on the link below:  – R. T.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=1013968

 

Two songs for Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien

Sir,

As far as getting all the panhandlers off the streets of Worcester and into programs for substance abuse, etc, click on link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Wb8VSaeW7A&feature=youtube_gdata_player

*************

Regarding your cold, cold attitude about panhandlers;  inner-city families looking for safe, affordable housing; Worcester’s most vulnerable citizens;  poor people who want to skate on your Ice Oval, click on link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGxvhAiOt-A

Shame on you!

Rosalie Tirella, strong-mayor supporter

 

Worcester’s “better class of people” housing report

By Rosalie Tirella

We eagerly anticipate the housing study that the City of Worcester is about to share with the rest of us Woo-ites. As you may recall, 10 years ago a consulting group came in and studied Worcester (for a pretty penny) in all its gore/glory and made recommendations as to how we might improve our, um, image.

One of its conclusions: Worcester has enough low-income housing and needs more market-rate housing. Around town the idea was poo pooed and jokingly referred to as the “Worcester needs a better class of people” report. I was one of the many poo pooers. I felt the report was telling us to:

* eject poor Latinos, blacks, poor people in general, from our city to …

* lure more upper-middle class empty nesters with lots of time and money on their hands. (You know the type, BORING people in their early 60s/late 50s who have seen their kids graduate from college and leave home only to realize that living in their big (childless) house in the suburbs is a drag, besides being a tad lonely. So … to Worcester they must flock! To live and have fun (i. e. spend lots of their disposable income!). To eat and drink at our bistros! To watch plays in our playhouses! To do all the things that people with money want to do – but not at home in the suburbs.

Many of our city poo baas, lead by City Manager Mike O’Brien, feel this was/ is the way to bring money into our cash-strapped city to pay for … all our $100,000+ year city cops and our $100,000 a year city high school principals and our other grossly over paid “public servants.” And our city pension plan which pays these folks 80% of their salaries for the REST OF THEIR LIVES after they retire from the city at a very spry 62.

One way to save money (instead of sticking it to the city’s working poor): Why doesn’t the City of Worcester keep more of its money by raising the age which city workers can receive a pension? Raise it to 66/65 years. This move would save us millions of dollars! Another solution: What about hiring flag men and women instead of city cops to hover over Worcester construction sites/road work? The Worcester policemen do next to nothing at these sites! Every time I see one, he or she is on his/her personal cell phone – it looks glued to the side of his/her face! Most of the policeman I’ve watched seem totally uninterested in DOING THEIR JOB. So why keep giving them the LUCRATIVE work? Massachusetts is one of the two states in the country that still hires its cops to direct traffic at road work sites. Why can’t we be like the 48 other states in the union and hire flag men and women?! This move would CREATE JOBS and save the city a ton of money.

But no. We must treat the new housing report as some kind of talisman … the answer to the city’s need for millions of tax dollars to keep our bloated ship of City Government afloat.

So out with the CDCs and their apartments that rent for $650. In with the real estate developers who will charge market rate – about $900 for a 3-bedroom apartment.

Where do our poorer folks go?

Weston? Nahant?! Poorer folks come to cities because of the more affordable housing and all the support services they find here, in Lowell, Lawrence and … Boston. This is what America is! A country of immigrants bringing new ideas, new passions, new traditions to a new land where everything gets all mixed together and WONDERFUL things happen! Like jazz or the blues or Tin Pan Alley or Frank Capra movies! Why do we want to take the America out of Worcester?

I am all for making our neighborhoods more attractive, rehabbing foreclosed homes, etc but we are going to lose good people – people who have family and friends in Worcester. People whose kids attend Worcester public schools. People who may not have the money to own a car and count on the city buses to get them to work or supermarket, etc. People who have ideas, knowledge, passion, art … .

Witness the Canal District.

The Canal District is the new name for a once great urban, ethnic working class neighborhood, Green Island. Look at it today! With all its bars that cater to college kids looking to get laid/drink a lot, you wouldn’t have guessed that the neighborhood is loaded with a proud history, fine memories – or poor people. That’s because these days all the poor folks live conveniently across Kelley Square – on/off Millbury Street. Away from the “Canal District” part.

Is this the “better class of people” we want to move to Worcester? Boozy woozy young males with boners? We have pretty much gentrified one side of Kelley Square.

Before it all happened, I was watching my old neighborhood (I grew up in Green Island) transition to something more interesting … a Vietnamese neighborhood. Maybe Worcester’s version of Boston’s Chinatown. My mom and sister still lived in the neighborhood. My sister did some of her grocery shopping at a Vietnamese grocery store on Millbury Street. Green Street had – still has – a Vietnamese soup/noodle shop. Other Vietnamese stores were popping up on Green Street. My mom, who attended St. John’s Church on nearby Temple Street (off Green Street), told me the church had “hired” a Vietnamese priest because there were so many Vietnamese folks who attended Mass at St. John’s. The priest said the Mass in Vietnamese.

Did the city take the lead on this interesting urban seed that was sprouting roots? Did anyone offer any Vietnamese family or business any grants, federal loans? Probably not. Because the money guys/gals and connected folks hustled in and … took over.

Let’s talk about another Canal District option.

Eleven years ago, when I first began InCity Times, there was a fledgling gay scene on Water Street. Vibes, Rage Club, the Gay Pride Celebration – all on Water Street. I thought: COOL! This is gonna be great! I put some of the leaders on the cover of ICT and ran a cover story. We attended the gay pride celebrations and took photos galore. But what happened? The Canal Fest folks didn’t want the gay folks to piggyback their event onto Canal Fest. Irish Catholics got a little homophobic and basically turned a cool shoulder to good folks who should have been their brothers in arms. So … there went the gay flavor. Yes, there are still a few spots on Water Street that are gay venues but they are overwhelmend by the Irish frat boy contingent.

Was this the best way to go about reviving a WONDERFUL old industrial neighborhood like Green Island?

No.

But hey, the area brings in money for the city.

Do we need to further gentrify Worcester’s inner city neighborhoods, using the soon to be released housing report as “proof” that this move is a great idea?

Let’s try this instead – a great way to bring in money to the city and lift up the folks alreay in our urban core: Let’s do what New Bedford is doing and LURE LIGHT INDUSTRY TO OUR INNERCITY Neighborhoods. $12 or $14 an hour (full-time) jobs are better than $8 an hour (part-time) jobs at WalMart, CVS the Canal District restaurants and wherever else our working poor are toiling these days.

I grew up working poor – my mom raised her family on a minimum wage paycheck – and it was brutal, even though, back then, the minimum wage was tied more closely to the cost of living. Now?! Forget about it! You cannot work full time at a minimum wage job and support a family. Desperation sets in … .

SO… let’s revitalize our inner-city neighborhoods and help poorer families by bringing in LIGHT INDUSTRY/factory jobs. Let’s give these companies whatever they want, tax credits, brown field clean up help! You name it! Anything to get the underskilled working for good wages again (the way our factories did years ago).

By increasing the wages of the working poor, you make them less a strain on the system and give them more buying power. Power to buy stuff and goods in their inner city neighborhoods. That was what Green Island, Quinsig Village, Vernon Hill were all about in the 1930s and 1940s. These neighborhoods sprung up around Worcester’s mills and factories. The neighborhood stores catered to the neighborhood people.

This is the “class” of people I want to see in my neighborhoods. These people need $12/hour jobs. These folks don’t need to be told they are not the right class of people. They do not need to be not so subtly removed by City Manager Mike O’Brien and his cheerleaders, housing developers with their eye on the buck/game. Let’s not build inner-city monuments to the gargantuan egos of a few men who do not even live in the city or live part time in the urban core! Let’s build neighborhoods where our families can flourish!

The last people we need to make our medium-sized city sizzle is a bunch of rich old fucks. We need youth! and conflict! and alliances! and posses (but without the knives/guns). All the great art that has come out of America was born from people who were most definitely not of a “better class,” whether that be blues, jazz, rock n roll, tin pan alley, THE GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK. The sons and daughters of immigrants – poor Jews, Italians, blacks, Latinos have given America her American-ness. They were part of the lower classes, even the under class … and yet, the music Irving Berlin, the movies of Frank Capra, the sound of Frank Sinatra will live on forever.

Does a really great meal at a bistro = Frank Sinatra or “You’re a Grand Old Flag”?

Hardly.

Let’s keep our city a real AMERICAN city. Full of sweat, labor, dreams, desires, ambitions, traditons from countries all over the planet! Worcester needs to support/respect the people who are here/who want to come here. The city’s CDC’s do just that – respect inner-city folks, create places and spaces that Worcesterites can enjoy… and thrive in.

We don’t need a better class of people, Worcester. We need a better class of city leaders.

Five things you won’t hear Scott Brown say (i.e. the truth) about his tax record

By Jason A. Stephany, MassUniting

At a noon press conference in Randolph on Tuesday, US Senator Scott Brown delivered what his office claimed would be a “major policy speech” on taxes. To the surprise of few in Massachusetts, Brown’s remarks turned out to be nothing more than the stereotypical, failed tax rhetoric of his Republican colleagues in Washington. More telling were the facts Brown failed to mention about his voting record on taxes. Here are five true statements we didn’t hear from the junior senator in Randolph:

1. “I voted to give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.”

Scott Brown voted to filibuster the Creating American Jobs & Ending Offshoring Act, a bill would have ended tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs or build plants and offices offshore to replace American facilities. The vote came as thousands of American workers face impending layoffs while training their replacements from China, India, and elsewhere. (US Senate roll call vote #242, 9/28/10)

 

2. “I gave $24 billion of your tax dollars to Big Oil.”

In the face of drastic budget cuts, Scott Brown voted three times to give more than $24 billion in taxpayer funds to the oil industry over the next decade. The top five Big Oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell – are amongst the most profitable corporations in the world, posting $137 billion in profits in 2011 alone. (US Senate roll call votes #187 6/15/10; #72, 5/17/11; #63, 3/29/12)

 

3. “I’d really like to take more money out of your paycheck.”

Scott Brown voted to filibuster legislation to extend the payroll tax cut for working families – holding low and middle income workers hostage to shield the wealthiest Americans from a small surtax on income over $1 million. In effect, Brown cast a deciding vote to raise taxes on 113 million working families. In Massachusetts, the surtax would have affected just 0.6% of taxpayers with an average income of more than $2 million. (US Senate roll call vote #219, 12/1/11)

4. “I support tax breaks for millionaires…just not middle class or low-income families.”

Three times in 2010 and again in 2012, Scott Brown voted to kill measures that would extend tax cuts for the middle class. Like his vote for payroll tax hikes, Brown used the same rationale to justify his votes to raise taxes on middle and low-income families: those making $250,000 to $1 million or more each year shouldn’t have to pay their fair share like the rest of his Massachusetts constituents. (US Senate roll call votes #258 & #259, 12/4/10; #275, 12/15/10; #184, 7/25/12)

 

5. “I filibustered tax credits and loans that help small businesses grow and create jobs.”

Despite his claims of supporting job creators, Scott Brown repeatedly filibustered and opposed major legislation that helps small businesses grown and create jobs. Brown twice voted to filibuster the Small Business Jobs & Credit Act – a bill that connected growing small businesses to credit through community banks and offered significant tax credits to small firms that create American jobs. When his filibuster failed, Brown voted again to kill the legislation. The Massachusetts Bankers Association stated that failure to act on the bill “would be a missed opportunity that our struggling economy cannot afford.” (US Senate roll call votes #218 & #221, 7/29/10; #237, 9/14/10)

 

Per usual, Senator Brown took no questions from constituents or reporters, ducking out a back door immediately following his speech. But anyone who takes issue with Brown’s out-of-step voting record on taxes – or any other issue, for that matter – may contact his office at (617) 565-3170.

News from our favorite Congressman …

Congressman Jim McGovern rules! From his stance on Cuba to his committment to the poor and his fight against hunger in Worcester – and throughout the world! – McGovern has always stood for the right thing (even if it meant taking some heat at home). He’ll always be our congressman! Why? Because besides having a great heart, Jim also brings home a ton of $$ for all Worcester’s pet projects and has lots of clout in Congress. I can’t imagine anyone else representing us. Here’s what he’s up to these days:

R. Tirella

                                        News from Congressman Jim McGovern

The People’s Rights Amendment

By Congressman Jim McGovern

Late last year, I introduced a Constitutional Amendment in the House of Represenatives to repeal the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, and restore the Founding Fathers’ intent to grant rights to people, not corporations.

As any high school civics student knows, the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution are ‘We the People.’  Corporations are not people. They do not breathe.  They do not have children.  They do not die in war.  They are artificial entities which we the people create and, as such, we govern them, not the other way around.

The legislation, H.J. Res 88, is intended to “clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.”

The Citizens United case effectively reversed decades of precedent recognizing the authority of the people to regulate corporate spending in our elections.  But the consequences of the case are not just limited to campaign finance issues.  The newfound “Corporate Rights” movement that seeks to give corporations the same rights as people in any situation has been making troubling gains.

Recently, a federal judge blocked the Food and Drug Administration from requiring tobacco companies to place graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, arguing that cigarette makers had the right to free speech.

My amendment also clearly protects the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion and freedom of association.

We need to have a serious, thoughtful debate in this country about this important issue and I hope that my amendment will begin to spur that debate.

To stay up to date on the amendment, follow me on Facebook. The full text of the amendment is available here.

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A message from Stand for Children

Below is a statement from Jason Williams, Executive Director of Stand for Children in Massachusetts, following the recent announcement from the Massachusetts  Secretary of State that 81,117 certified signatures of registered voters to quality An Act to Promote Excellence in Public Schools´were allowed, and that the initiative will be submitted on January 4, 2012, to the state legislature for consideration:

“We are pleased that, with today’s announcement, lawmakers will now have a chance to weigh in on An Act to Promote Excellence in Public Schools when they return in January. The proposed changes to state law in the Act will bring Massachusetts one step closer to creating great schools statewide, where all students, regardless of their background or zip code have a chance to do well. As a former classroom teacher in one of our nation’s toughest school districts, I’ve seen firsthand the impact the achievement gap is having on so many of our children. Having been born and raised in Fall River, I find it alarming that the achievement gap remains wide in Massachusetts. One of the best things we can do to make sure no child is short-changed is to ensure there is a teacher who gets results in every classroom. This initiative does this by putting performance first when deciding which teachers to retain, which, according to a UMASS Amherst poll released last week, 85% of registered Massachusetts voters support.  Massachusetts is a state that values education and together we can live up to that value for all of our students.  I invite teachers, parents, school leaders and community members to get involved in the Great Teachers Great Schools campaign at www.greatteachersgreatschools.org so no child spends another minute in a classroom where they are not learning. “

Sam Castañeda Holdren, MSW

Stand for Children

The case against summer vacation! Why? Because it means a “slide” for our students!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

Only kidding! But now that I have your attention, let’s look at why we should be concerned about students losing academic growth in the summer because literacy activities are not taking place. Yes, this is referred to by many as the “SUMMER SLIDE.” Deprived of healthy learning, millions of low-income students lose a considerable amount of what they learned during the school year.

A study by Johns Hopkins University adds to the mounting evidence of the “Summer Slide.” Inner-city or low-income students start out behind their more middle-class students and fall behind each year with most of that loss occurring when school is out. By the end of the elementary school years, Hopkins researchers found low-income children trail middle-income classmates, in some cases, by three grade levels.

“Children whose parents are college-educated continue to build their reading skills during the summer months,” said Karl Alexander, a Hopkins sociology professor involved in the research. “You go to a museum or you to a library or you go to the science center, and through osmosis you make some headway there.”

Professor Alexander, in his 2007 study at Johns Hopkins University, stated that two thirds of the reading achievement gap between 9th graders of low-and high-socioeconomic standing in Baltimore public schools can be traced to what they learned or failed to learn over their childhood summers. The study, which tracked data from about 325 Baltimore students from 1’st grade to age 22, points out that various characteristics that depend heavily on reading ability, such as students’ curriculum tract in high school, their risk of dropping out, and their probability of pursing higher education and landing higher paying jobs, all diverge widely according to socioeconomic levels. Does this happen in other advanced industrial countries? According to Mr. Alexander, the answer is NO, for those countries go to school 230 to 240 days a year as compared to 180 in the United States.

Low-income children actually keep pace with more affluent students during the academic year but slip behind during the summer. Researchers feel that during the school year, children in both affluent and lower–income communities benefit from the “faucet theory.” Learning resources are “turned on” for ALL CHILDREN during the school year, but in the summertime the faucet is turned off. Middle-class parents can make up the loss with their own resources, but working class and poor parents have a difficult time creating enriched learning experiences for their children over the summer months. All parents want the same things for their children, but low-income parents do not have the same access to opportunities for their children.

Summer deserves attention because when it starts, learning STOPS for many children. Children without resources spend their summer months playing on street corners or in front of the television. By the time the bell rings on a new school year, the low-income students have fallen months behind.

Given this powerful evidence, what can we do to turn on the LEARNING FAUCET during the summer? Experts believe that what is needed is a lengthening of the school year if we are to make a difference in the education of our low-income students. Due to the cost, however, it is just not going to happen. So what can we do about this intenable situation?
This year, the Worcester public schools system has expanded its summer program having it start July 5th and ends on July 29th. Academic program hours will be 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. In addition, five schools, Canterbury Street, Clark Street, Norrback, Elm Park and Quinsigamond, will offer programs from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Recreational activities will take place during those hours. The academic sites are as follows: Belmont, Burncoat, Canterbury, Chandler Elementary, Jacob Hiatt, Chandler, City View, Clark Street, Norrback, Columbus Park, Goddard, UPCS, Elm Park, Grafton Street, Heard Street, Lake View, Lincoln Street, May Street, McGrath, Quinsigamond, Rice Square, Roosevelt, Tatnuck Magnet, Thorndyke, Union Hill, Vernon Hill, Wawecus, Woodland and Worcester Arts Magnet.

I would urge parents to sign up now to attend one of those school sites!

As a former school principal I am convinced that the research on the “summer slide” is real and we need, as a school system and as a community, to do something about it. At the Worcester School Committee level, I have advocated for more reading for our children during the summer time and have asked that some school libraries give our parents and children an opportunity to take out books for summer reading. Many parents, due to transportation or work, cannot get their children to the Worcester Public Library. Allowing our children to take out books at their neighborhood schools will put books into their hands. I have also asked that through Connect Ed, (a way of calling all parents in Worcester), we call during the summer to remind our parents and students about their summer reading assignments. I have also asked that math ideas be given to our parents for summer practice. I would advocate that our students practice and master their math facts through math games and flash cards.

I have also advocated that we remind our parents about the importance of reading to their child EACH and EVERY night. With that in mind, I filed an order to have our schools talk about this issue with our parents. If we could get our parents to read just 25 minutes a night, we could revolutionize public education. Finally, I have asked that every school have a “Summer Reading Kick-off” during the week of June 12 and invite our parents to attend. Parents need to know the facts about the summer slide and what they can do to assist their child during vacation time. At the “kick-off” the schools will give students books from the “Worcester: The City that Reads Committee” as mentioned in our last issue and alert parents about our mandatory summer reading program. Children from grades K to grade 8 will read at least FIVE books during the summer. Parents will get instructions on how to choose a book and about writing a summary paragraph about the books. In grades 9-12, the students will read three books and write a multi-paragraph response for each book read.

Other ideas for parents to consider:

• Visit your Public Library and participate in Public Library summer programs; make sure that your child is reading a book each and every day. Use opportunities like the new Harry Potter release to get your child to read or take out a book based on a movie that he may want to see.

• There are many summer camps in almost every price range. Check with your school, the YMCA, YWCA, Boys and Girls Club, Friendly House, Rainbow Child Development, for these organizations offer programs that can assist your child in learning while they have fun, too.

• Take educational trips, which can be low-cost visits to parks and museums in Worcester. If you have a car, visit educational sites such as Old Sturbridge Village. Check with the Worcester Public Library, for they have free passes to local museums.

• Work with your child on a hobby. If they are interested in comics or technology, you may want to expose them to as many opportunities as possible.

• Practice math skills every day. Think about opportunities through cooking to learn fractions or trips to the grocery store as a way of learning math skills. Also, every time you’re going for a walk or for a ride in the car ask them some math facts or make it into a game. Just playing cards on the grass could turn into a math game. Example: you turn over a card- 9- and your child turns over a card – 6- you could multiple, add or subtract. As you travel or walk in the city, do you think you’ll be stopped by more red lights or be able to go with more green lights? Keep a tally to check your guess. Pizzas offer a chance to talk about shapes and fractions. As you cut a pizza into equal pieces, count the pieces and describe the pieces with their fraction names. For example, if you cut it into 4 pieces, then each piece is 1/4th of the whole pizza.

• Limit time with the TV and video games. Just like during the school year, there should be a similar strategy over the summer months. It always makes sense to provide structure and limits. The key is providing a balance and keeping your child engaged.

Parents can also sneak some academics into summer for their child from pre-school to middle school with the activities below:

• Family Night each week. Bring out the popcorn and read a book. Try once in a while to get a book based on a movie. Then, show the movie and see if the book followed the movie script. Many movies can be obtained at the Worcester Public Library.

• Let the Games Begin – Janet Braverman, math specialist from Reston, Virginia, recommends playing board games and cards with children. Anything with numbers or counting helps. She plays Monopoly Junior and feels that it’s a fun way to learn addition, subtraction and counting money.

• If you are able to go to the beach, try collecting seashells and count them. Try drawing circles in the sand, size of a dinner plate, and have children place the shells in the circles by fives, and then have them work on counting by five or whatever number you come up with.

• Build your child’s comprehension listening skills by having an adult read and then discuss the story with them.

• Be sure that your child has a diary in the summer time, and have your child write the highlights of his day each evening before going to bed. Other writing activities could be writing a letter to a friend, relative or even to a member of the School Committee, – me! It’s important that your child writes, for the more that he writes, just like reading, the better he will become with this skill. In addition, be sure to have your child write about their favorite book that they read this summer and send their essay to me – John Monfredo, 8 Cherokee Road Worcester, Ma., 01606. I will select the winning essays from grades K to three, grades 4 to six, and from seven up. The winners will be awarded new books.

• Listen to your child read. Use strategies to help your child with tricky words. For example, when your child comes to an unfamiliar word, you might say, “Skip it and read to the end of the sentence. Now try again. What makes sense and looks like the word that you see?”
I sincerely hope that I have raised parents’ awareness of the importance of supporting their children’s learning in the summer time in reading and math and by providing ideas that can be done at home. Parents, you are the child’s first and most important teacher. It is up to you to provide the needed guidance during summer time. You can prevent the “summer slide” – I have the confidence that you will do it.

Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982

By Jean McMurray, executive director, Worcester County Food Bank, with Liz Sheehan Castro, project manager, Hunger-Free & Healthy

As the door opened into the third floor apartment, the woman’s smile along with the warmth of her kitchen greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her a carefully covered meal while wishing her a Happy Thanksgiving. Before I turned to go back down the three flights of stairs I had just climbed, she offered me a Kennedy half-dollar as a tip in gratitude for the Thanksgiving dinner I had brought her. I declined the tip and thanked her explaining that I was a volunteer delivering meals for Catholic Charities. As I started down the back stairs, I felt relief knowing that this elder woman had a warm home, food, and people that cared about her.

She was one of the dozen or so people I would meet throughout the morning as I traveled city streets and neighborhoods delivering meals. Hours later as I sat down to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day dinner with my own family, the experience came with heightened awareness and appreciation for what I had as well as for the people I met who were enjoying their dinners and for those who cooked the wonderful meals and organized the volunteers. Continue reading Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982

Family Health Center shit-storm

By Rosalie Tirella

Last week I wrote the piece about FHC’s inability to process SNAP (Food Stamp) applications.

First, I got a call from the wonderful Dennis Irish who, in his typical even-handed, thoughtful way, told me yes, the SNAP program had been stopped at FHC. He also told me FHC reapplied for grant $ and got it – so now FHC will once again be able to take Food Stamp applications! This is great!

Dennis also said he would get an email out to me, with more info., which he did:

Here it is:

Hello Rosalie,

Dennis Irish has asked me to follow up with you regarding SNAP outreach happening around the city. In addition to being able to apply at DTA as well as at St. Vincents Hospital and at UMass Memorial Hospital, SNAP application assistance is available at a variety of locations in the city. With the help of Project Bread funding, Family Health now has SNAP application assistance and information available daily from 9:30-2:30. Also, through continued funding from the Health Foundation of Central MA, Hunger-Free & Healthy is able to fund a mobile SNAP Outreach worker that travels to a variety of sites including Jeremiah’s Inn, Friendly House, Continue reading Family Health Center shit-storm