South Worcester Neighborhood Center Executive Director Ron Charette has his Camp Street community garden up and blooming this summer! Just visited! Lovely! Food justice here!
Thanks, Ronny, and his best ever volunteers!
– pics: Rosalie Tirella
By Ron O’Clair
I had the distinct pleasure of visiting recently with one of Worcester’s unsung heroes – Mr. Ronald “Ron” Charette, executive director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center at 47 Camp St., here in Worcester.
While I was there the “Ronald McDonald House”/UMass mobile community healthcare support vehicle was there.
Ron outside the neighborhood center – standing before the Ronald McDonald House/UMass community healthcare vehicle – a doctor’s office on wheels!
I want our readers to know just what kind of concerned and caring individual Ron Charette is and the many ways he helps the less fortunate in our community. As you may or may not know, Ron administers a food pantry out of the neighborhood 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 neighborhood who might otherwise have nothing of nutritional value to eat.
I saw many people come to the food pantry, including a mother and her two teenage children who hailed from Thailand. Her son is enrolled as a senior at South High School and acted as interpreter during the time we were speaking.
There were a few others that came to the food pantry, including a gentleman, his wife and daughter. They were displaced from their home at 27 Sigel St., which burned on a brutally cold night this past winter. There were three house fires that night, and I am sure that if the displaced families are reading this, Ron will allow you to access the food bank, as well as any stored supplies they may have, including clothing and personal hygiene supplies.
Ron makes sure to do whatever he can to help families in need, and he does not limit his clients to the one time a month rule that many pantries enforce. He believes if people 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: 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. When I was a kid 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. We would see him hobbling on crutches until he got his artificial leg years later.
There have been many incidents lately, including a person who thought he would race the train on a motorbike and lost the race – and his life this past January. Ron wants to take the message of railroad track safety to our schools with a presentation that 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 who 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 and 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 and 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 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 St., after my parents divorced.
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 tragedies. He attended the Main South Alliance for Public Safety Crime Watch meeting held on the third Wednesdays of the month a few months ago, along with myself, councilors Konnie Lukes and Moe Bergman, along with 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, and a representative of the railroad to discuss what is new in railroad safety.
Rear entrance to the neighborhood center, which looks out on Maloney Field.
Ron also provides some daycare for the South Worcester Neighborhood Center clients so that working mothers know their children are in good hands while they work or attend classes. There are so many things that Ron is responsible for bringing to the South Worcester neighborhood. You should check out the Center and volunteer or donate gently used clothing or housewares to help Ron make the lives of the area residents better. I believe there should be more of a focus on helping people help themselves as a community united, instead of a community divided.
The South Worcester Neighborhood Center was originally built through the Works Progress Administration, created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression in the 1930s to put the unemployed to work. The building underwent a major renovation and expansion to become the South Worcester Neighborhood Center.
Come on down to the South Worcester Neighborhood Center for a tour and see what you can do as an individual to make your own community a better place in which to live!
Questions or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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? email@example.com
A big THANK YOU to Bill Randell, owner of Randell’s package store on Canterbury Street! Billy is helping collect donated kids clothing and shoes, all going to/for the little guys who are on baseball teams in South Worcester and play their games at Maloney Field, on the corner of Cambridge and Camp streets.
Lots of kids who play on the teams have families who are very poor and can’t afford team uniforms – or even the more mundane stuff like new back to school shoes, etc.
If you’re in the ‘hood, drive up and drop in some tee shirts, new socks, jackets, etc!
To Billy and all the other adults who support SOUTH WORCESTER BASEBALL and the inner-city kids who are on the teams: PLAY BALL!
Photos + text – Rosalie Tirella
Executive Director Ron Charette at the neighborhood garden beds. 50 Worcester inner-city families have their own big box gardens or beds like this one! Go, South Worcester, go!!!!!
By Ron O’Clair
I had an opportunity to visit recently with Ron Charette of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center at 47 Camp Street to see what they have been doing with the families in the area in regards to providing a place for them to grow their own food.
There are 50 Box Gardens and 10 Garden Beds set out in the far right corner of the property. which once was devoted to a City of Worcester Swimming Pool that was a memory of my own youth growing up around the Four Corners when I lived on Princeton Street and would go to what we referred to as: Maloney’s Field to swim, play in the grass, and just have a good time. Back then, the City of Worcester maintained a number of pools throughout the city for the residents to enjoy on the hot summer days of my youth. Now, there does not seem to be enough money in the budget to provide pools for the neighborhoods like back then.
Big, healthy veggies in South Worcester box gardens!
Anyways, the earth that is being used to grow the vegetables outside the neighborhood center is actually composted from yard wastes that city residents drop off at the City of Worcester drop sites on Chandler Street, across from Foley Stadium, the old Ballard Street incinerator that is now on Millbury Street with the change in the street names that coincided with the Rt. 146 project, and I believe out on Clark Street.
City residents can drop off their yard wastes, provided it is not full of trash, and is in paper bags, no plastic allowed.
The WorcesterMa.gov website gives the details of where and when they allow you to bring your material for recycling.
The gardens are a collaborative effort of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, Nuestro Huerto, and the City of Worcester Department of Public Works & Parks to provide area residents a place to learn how to produce their own food. There are 50 families who have box gardens and come to tend to the task of making things grow. It is a rewarding experience for all, especially the young who learn that food just does not magically appear on supermarket shelves.
Poor families learn how to grow their own food. So healthy for the kids – and a great learning experience for them, too!
Executive Director Ron Charette refers to it as a “partnership for the future” that will bring awareness to many about how they can help provide for their family through efforts such as this. Many of these urban gardeners would not have a place to use to grow their own food without this program being in place. Many of the families come from various parts of the world: there are African, Asian and Latino families, as well as just about every type of family there is here in the great melting pot that is Worcester.
There are many different varieties and types of vegetables being grown, each according to the taste of the participant.
In the South Worcester gardens I saw many different varieties of lettuce. There were items that grow on vines, like cucumbers, squash. pumpkins and zucchini, as well as corn, beans and peas of many different varieties. Someone who likes eggplant is growing them as well.
This is basically for the children, who learn as well as have fun growing the food stuffs that eventually they will be be able to enjoy when harvest time comes.
All of the people involved in this project deserve recognition for all they do to make it possible: Ron Charette and the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, Nuestro Huerto – which also has other spots in the city under cultivation like the spot on Oread Street – and the City of Worcester Public Works & Parks Department which provides the compost to grow the vegetables in, and all the people of the city who contribute to the recycling program that produces the compost through participation in the yard waste recycling program.
It seems like a win/win situation all around!
If you care to comment, you may contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Crompton Park opportunity center (building on right, behind the tennis courts) is run out of the old field house at the park. Tom’s idea!
Great recent issue
Congratulations on your 14 yrs of publication. This issue [of InCity Times] hit home with me, as I was instrumental in getting both the South Worcester Neighborhood [Center] and the Crompton Park Opportunity Center in the park buildings when I was [City of Worcester Parks] Commissioner and my idea as I could get federal funds to fix them up through park grants.
I worked closely with Ron [Charette] and Lorraine Laurie to make this happen and give them a home. Still working out great and gives me great satisfaction.
Ron Charette, on left, director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center, outside the center. The center’s housed inside the huge park building at Maloney Field.
South Worcester Neighborhood Center Executive Director Ron Charette (right) and his brother at SWNIC’s 2014 Holiday celebration. More than 1,000 families went to Camp Street and were given holiday meals, new toys for children, personal care products and/or winter clothing. Ron helps Worcester folks get through tough times! (photo by Ron O’Clair)
By Rosalie Tirella
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to me (cuz this is Worcester politics), but IT DOES (cuz I’m STILL an idealist): Worcester city officials and our local state legislators are gonna pretty much let the South Worcester Neighborhood Center die.
Close its Camp Street doors forever.
Stop caring for and helping hundreds of low-income/working-class South Worcester, Main South and Green Island families.
Within the next couple of months.
Pathetic! Our Worcester city councilors and state legislators vote themselves raises left and right, give themselves perks galore, own nice homes, vacation homes, buy Worcester rental property at sweetheart deal rates, etc, etc, but they can’t come up with the paltry amount of $$ it takes to help a social service agency put food into the mouths of poor kids.
Or give warm winter clothes to a poor local guy or gal who needs to brave the Woo elements.
Nope! It’s to hell with you! I’ve got mine! And Worcester’s destitute get more destitute. Every day the city feels poorer, more and more like Pottersville in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Before Jimmy Stewart rubs his eyes and realizes it was all a BAD DREAM.
SWNIC IS HURTIN!
The South Worcester Neighborhood Center goes WITHOUT HEAT THIS WINTER!
It goes without $$ to pay its Crompton Park site manager.
But who cares?
It’s only poor people! Most of them don’t even vote! And they’re not politically “connected” in any way, shape or form! So there are no consequences for politicians who drop the ball.
Hungry little kids?
Too bad!They’re only Worcester’s future!
Why should Worcester political LEADERS care if SWNIC’s summer program for kids – the one that has Holy Cross college students volunteering with low income kids all summer long FOR FREE FOR FAMILIES – why should our city councilors give a hoot if that program ends? And working parents have one less FREE child care option?
One more latch-key kid roaming Hacker Street shouldn’t make a bit of difference!
Why should the Worcester City Council or Worcester officials care if SWNIC’s food pantry closes? Or its referral program ends? Or its bilingual staff becomes unemployed?
Their tushies are warm on their SUV’s heated cushies! In some instances, courtesy of the Worcester taxpayer!
To enter a FREEZING COLD South Worcester Neighborhood Center in the middle of winter because Worcester city councilors or our local state legislators can’t cobble together the grant money or funds from somewhere to keep SWNIC staff and volunteers warm is heart-breaking. The elderly SWNIC volunteers who come in to the center to knit winter hats and scarves for the poor of Cambridge, Southbridge, Webster or Canterbury streets have to sit in front of little electric space heaters to do their knitting!
Why should Worcester pols care? It’s only Worcester’s old people! Why honor or even respect our senior citizens?! They just toiled in our factories, built this city! Who gives a fig?!
This brand of thoughtlessness was on full display when then Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, heading out the door to become Massachusetts’ newly minted LG, DOUBLED the salaries of all Worcester city councilors and Worcester school committee members pretty much on the heels of cutting the Worcester School Department’s recently hired minority teacher recruitment officer. The person was part time and made around $20,000 a year. Murray did this knowing there would be no political consequences for him because he was leaving city politics – only to self-destruct on the state and national political stages. Money, greed and selfishness brought Timmy down when he was lieutenant governor. Tim had a false sense of security because he graduated from, got his “diploma” from the Worcester School of Good Ol’ White Irish Boys Politics. He, like the rest of his fellow grads, hit all the right benchmarks: white, Catholic, Irish, St. John’s High School, Holy Cross college, Fordham University or Boston College, trips to Ireland, Christ the King Church, those pointless, beige cable-knit sweaters … . Too bad Tim was a moron and threw all his blessings away! Too bad he wasn’t listening to more Sinead O’Connor and less crooked fundraiser pal. (For Murray to play the naive altar boy and deny knowing anything crooked was going on was a stupid Murray lie on top of more Murray lies!)
But Tim Murray begat City Manager Mike O’Brien, and former City Manager Mike O’Brien changed over the decade he lorded over us Worcesterites. In the end, Mike O’Brien became a Republican leading a Democratic city, and too many organizations and people with clout in Worcester resisted him. He couldn’t realize his vision. So he left. O’Brien, who once said, almost teary eyed!, that Worcester was THE VERY FIBER OF HIS VERY SOUL and who was also on a not-so-secret mission to kill all affordable housing in Worcester is now living in very Republican Southboro and schlepping affordable housing for Winn Development! HA! How’s that for poetic justice?!
But I digress!
It was Mike O’Brien, as Worcester City Manager, who began freezing South Worcester Neighborhood Center’s funding a few years back. But SWNIC Executive Director Ron Charette soldiered on, running the center, helping more people than ever, running a kick ass summer program, etc. He called O’Brien’s City Hall office and asked for meetings with O’Brien every other day. To talk, discuss the center and all the people it serves. O’Brien’s office never once returned Ron’s phone calls.
Then things got tighter. New City Manager Ed Augustus was supposed to meet with Ron, then cancelled, then acquiesced – but only if he could bring his lawyer to the meeting with Ron.
Does Augustus know a Worcester social service center needs heat? Does Augustus know the center will close without some money earmarked for it? Does Augustus, who makes almost $200,000 as HEAD OF WORCESTER and lives just outside BOSTON IN MILLIS, where I’m certain he supports his town’s social service center, even CARE?
Like I said: SWNIC is hurtin’. Which means more poor families in Worcester will be hurtin’. Soon.
The handcrafted-with-love hats, scarves and mittens for distribution.
Yari, 22, and her 1-year-old son, Jeyziel, preparing to leave with their gifts.
SWNC Executive Director Ronald Charette and one of his volunteers, with just some of the many Christmas gifts visible in the background.
Families selecting gifts with help from the volunteers.
Jessica from Shalom Multi-Cultural on Beacon Street. She’s one of the volunteers wrapping a gift!
Story and photos by Ron O’ Clair
The South Worcester Neighborhood Center located at 47 Camp Street put on its Christmas Gift Giveaway on Tuesday, the 23rd of December, 2014.
As I pulled up on Camp Street, the first thing I noticed was that it was not as I anticipated, after having covered the Friendly House Gift Giveaway this past Sunday. There were not mobs of people, and I did not have to park far away. I thought I had the wrong date and time for the event.
As it turned out, Mr. Ronald Charette, the executive director of the neighborhood center, had prevented that from happening by staggering the times that needy families were to come to get their gifts. Only four families were allowed inside at any one time, and when I got there, there were no lines waiting to get in.
Inside, the volunteers all wore Santa Hats, and helped the families choose what gifts to take.
There were lots and lots of brand new quality gifts for boys and girls of all ages that were generously donated to the neighborhood center by many donors, among them: Toys for Tots, Hadwen Park Church, Saint Matthew’s Church, Family to Family, Welch’s Corporation, DCU Credit Union, Sacred Heart Church, Alden Research Library, and many private citizens from the South Worcester Neighborhood area who gave generously so that others might have a wonderful Christmas.
In fact, there was an entire table loaded up with scarves, hats and gloves that were knitted throughout the year by the residents of 39 Coes Pond, at Coes Pond Village Apartments by a group Ron called “The Knitting Angels.” I would like to thank these people for taking the time to hand knit these items for needy girls and boys to be warm with this winter.
Gifts like these come directly from the heart, and I can well remember getting these items as a boy from my own sister Dorothy who did not have much money for gifts, but always made sure that we kept our heads, necks and hands warm during the freezing cold by knitting us these items just like the wonderful “Knitting Angels” of Coes Pond Village did here.
There were 1,009 children registered for the SWNC holiday gift giveaway at the time I spoke with Ron Charette when I took the photographs for InCity Times. These children were predominantly from the Main South, and Green Island neighborhoods.
Hopefully, there were not many who double dipped at the Christmas trough by attending both the Friendly House event, as well as this one. There are, of course, always the greedy amongst the needy and those who deprive some little girl or boy from getting a gift. I sincerely hope there were not many of these folks so that the maximum number of needy children could benefit from the generosity of the many benefactors who make this holiday event possible.
Merry Christmas 2014 to all, and to all a good night!
Ron O’Clair Patriot of the Press.