Chelsea resident Velvet Walsh Smith (right) is pictured with her daughter, Ashley Alexis Smith, and Travis Yohe, who were married on Sept. 8 in a beautiful ceremony followed by an elegant reception at the Tides Estate in New Jersey.
Chelsea resident Velvet Walsh Smith (right) is pictured with her daughter, Ashley Alexis Smith, and Travis Yohe, who were married on Sept. 8 in a beautiful ceremony followed by an elegant reception at the Tides Estate in New Jersey.
The leader of a violent MS-13 clique was sentenced on July 17 to life in prison.
He was convicted of being responsible for two murders, one in Chelsea.
Noe Salvador Perez Vasquez, a/k/a “Crazy,” 27, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to life in prison and five years of supervised release. In April 2018, Perez was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy, and of committing or knowingly participating in two murders. Perez also was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana.
Co-defendants Luis Solis Vasquez, a/k/a “Brujo,” 27, a Salvadoran national, and Hector Enamorado, a/k/a “Vida Loca,” 39, a Honduran national, were also convicted of RICO conspiracy and of committing or knowingly participating in murder. Solis is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11, 2018, and Enamorado is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 2, 2018.
At trial, Perez was identified as a leader of the Everett Locos Salvatrucha (ELS) clique, which was one of the largest, most active, and most violent MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts. Perez was furthermore considered to be a strict leader, demanding that clique members hunt down rival gang members and frequently subjecting younger clique members to harsh punishments.
On Dec. 14, 2014, Perez, Solis, and Enamorado worked together to murder a 29-year-old male victim at an apartment in Chelsea. According to testimony and exhibits introduced at trial, Solis was a full member, or homeboy, with the Eastside Locos Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique and Enamorado was a homeboy with the Chelsea Locos Salvatrucha (CHS) clique. Enamorado and the victim had engaged in a gang-related fight the night before the murder, and when Enamorado encountered the victim again, Enamorado called Perez to ask him for a gun. Perez delivered the murder weapon, a .380 caliber pistol, to Enamorado in Chelsea. Solis armed himself with a gun and went with Enamorado into the apartment to provide backup and necessary support for the attack. Enamorado used Perez’s gun to fatally shoot the victim three times. Enamorado also shot and wounded a second victim who was inside the apartment at the time of the murder. Following the murder, Perez arranged for Enamorado to flee to New Jersey. Federal agents, however, intercepted the car and arrested Enamorado before he could leave Massachusetts.
On July 5, 2015, a 16-year-old, mid-level member of the ELS clique was stabbed to death in a park in Lawrence by two members of his clique. Perez and other MS-13 members targeted the 16-year-old for murder because they believed, incorrectly, that he was cooperating with law enforcement. Perez planned and encouraged the murder. After the two ELS clique members stabbed the 16-year-old to death, Perez promised to promote them to homeboy status.
Perez was one of 49 defendants to be convicted as part of this case. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty. In all, 16 defendants, including Perez, were found to have committed or knowingly participated in murders.
An MS-13 member pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Boston in connection with a 2014 shooting in Chelsea and a 2015 conspiracy to kill a suspected cooperating witness.
David Lopez, a/k/a “Cilindro,” a/k/a “Villano,” 22, a Salvadoran national, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.
U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for Jan. 30, 2018.
Lopez was a member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha (ECS) clique, which operated in Chelsea and other parts of Massachusetts. On May 29, 2014, Lopez and co-defendant Daniel Menjivar, a/k/a “Roca,” approached a victim near the Washington Avenue bus stop in Chelsea. Menjivar repeatedly stabbed the victim, and as he was struggling for his life, Lopez approached and shot at the victim. The victim suffered significant life threatening injuries, but survived following emergency surgery.
Menjivar pleaded guilty in September 2017.
The investigation revealed that in March 2015, members of the ECS clique decided to kill a fellow MS-13 member who they incorrectly believed was cooperating with law enforcement at the time.
Law enforcement intervened and convinced the individual to become a cooperating witness. A subsequent investigation uncovered evidence that the ECS clique sent someone to New Jersey to pick up Lopez, who had fled Massachusetts after the May 2014 attack, so that he could come back to Massachusetts to help kill the suspected cooperating witness.
Lopez is the 23rd defendant to plead guilty in this case.
Lopez faces no greater than 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Lopez will be subject to deportation upon the completion of his sentence. He is believed to be in the country illegally.
By Seth Daniel
Chelsea’s Mimi Rancatore has constructed a life around an ice cream cone, and to date, it’s been topped with sprinkles.
Rancatore has lived in Chelsea since 2001, but during working hours she spends her days in Cambridge at the world-renowned Toscanini’s Ice Cream and Coffee in Central Square – a business she has co-owned with her brother for more than a decade.
Toscanini’s has been around since 1982, when Rancatore’s brother, Gus, started the business after training in ice cream making at Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square. Rancatore, who also worked at Steve’s and learned a lot about ice cream, worked in fine dining at many notable restaurants until joining her brother a little over 10 years ago.
“I love my job and I love Chelsea,” said Rancatore this week at her shop in Central Square. “I love wearing multiple hats in business and I love being in charge. Both Gus and I worked at the old Steve’s Ice Cream in Davis Square in 1975 and 1976. Steve started the parlor ice cream. He invented the mix-ins. We worked there and then we went our separate ways. Gus is the ice cream maker, which he is excellent at, and I do the business end. Don’t get me wrong, I can make ice cream and I can cook, but Gus is really good at it. I was into fine dining for a long time, but got sick of the hours and joined Gus as a co-owner about 11 years ago. The best way to describe Toscanini’s is it’s an adult ice cream store. We have a lot of flavors for children too, but we have some complex ones as well. I love working in an ice cream store because it’s happy food. Everyone is happy here.”
Rancatore was born in the New York City/New Jersey area, but she and her five siblings spent their high school years in St. Louis. Her brother Gus had already left St. Louis and settled in Boston when Rancatore graduated high school. She said she couldn’t bear to go to college and knew the academic world wasn’t for her. Gus said he could get her a job at Steve’s Ice Cream, so at the age of 19, Rancatore left St. Louis for an ice cream job, and she continues that tradition to this day – though she and her brother have pretty much climbed to the top of the East Coast Ice Cream world.
Toscanini’s has a truly incredible following, with several Best of Boston awards and numerous Top 10 lists – with the New York Times once calling it the best ice cream on the planet.
The most popular flavor in the store is the B3, a concoction of brown sugar, brownies, browned butter and burnt caramel.
“The most popular flavor is B3 and has been for awhile,” she said. “Right now, our chocolate is outselling vanilla. It didn’t used to be that way, but now the two have reversed in popularity. My personal favorite is malted vanilla, but we are doing some very exciting things with our new soft serve offerings, including a twist of chocolate rum banana with malted vanilla.”
Rancatore lives on Beacon Street in Chelsea and has been around long enough to see her condo go from very desirable to very undesirable and the, back to desirable. She serves on the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a big supporter of the Apollinaire Theatre and the Chelsea Girl Scouts.
She said she often thinks about the future of Broadway Chelsea and compares it to the successful climb of Central Square lately. One thing she said is there needs to be more restaurants, simple restaurants, on the stretch.
“There needs to be a go-to restaurant, something like Newbridge in Prattville,” she said. “When I imagine Broadway, that’s what I think.”
Rancatore said business is good and she relishes being able to spend her days in Cambridge and her private time in Chelsea.
“We’ve been very lucky and we’re doing very well with the business,” she said. “I love being able to work in Cambridge and go home to where I live in Chelsea. I really appreciate Chelsea and how in Chelsea the city councillors will go to all the events. You don’t get that in Cambridge so much. I think that’s great. There is a real community feel to the city.”
The question is an easy one following their 201 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, one has to wonder – can the Bruins learn to finish, or are they finished? Despite hitting the New Jersey net 40 times, Boston was only able to finish off one attack, with Brad Marchand notching his 35th goal of the season. Keith Kinkaid played net in place of Cory Schneider who missed his 11th game with a knee sprain, and played well, allowing just a single goal while making a career-high 39 saves. In a game where the Bs mustered several chances, they missed golden opportunities, which cost them the win. Despite losing, the Bruins were able to hold on to their playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, due to the Detroit Red Wings loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and at press time they maintained the third spot in the Atlantic Division. Their bigger worry is the Philadelphia Flyers who like Detroit are also a single point behind Boston, but currently have three games in hand.
The Bruins have now lost six of their last seven games, and are no longer, as they so often say, “In charge of their own destiny.” Coach Claude Julien was not a happy camper in his postgame comments, “You can look at it whichever way you want, but you’ve got to look at yourselves and blame yourselves for this loss. You can say you tried, but at this time of year it’s not good enough. The situation that we’re in, we expect better from ourselves. We’ve got to play for our lives. It’s our own fault if we make it harder on ourselves all the time. Obviously when you look at the way the game went, the game plan was good, but the part that we can’t help them with is the finishing part and that’s what we need to get better at.”
For the Bruins the decline has become an epidemic, one that had recently seen their power play rankings near the top of the league, only to drop down rapidly to the middle of the pack. Their stats looking rather weak have the power play effectiveness at 20.6%, and the penalty kill at 82%. Both paltry numbers compared to the high numbers they’d been posting earlier in the season. Proof of their decline is obvious, as their numbers show that in their last seven games they’ve only been able to earn two points (Toronto win) of the 14 available.
As for the immediate future, Boston has a tough schedule ahead, with road games versus the St. Louis Blues on Friday (4/1 at 8:00pm), and the Chicago Black Hawks in a Sunday matinee (4/3 at 12:30). As time runs out on playoff opportunities, the Red Wings and Bruins will play at the Garden on Thursday, April 7th, in what could be their most important game of the 2015-16 season. Foremost on many minds, is the chance that their current decline may lead to Boston’s déjà vu of last season’s finish.
Tuukka Rask faced 15 shots versus the Devils, stopping 13, as the loss dropped his record to 29-22. His stats continue to be respectable with a 2.51 goals-against-average, and a save percentage of .918. With just five games remaining on the schedule, and the playoff race so tight, Rask will likely be in net on a regular basis, with Jonas Gustavsson not supplying any respite. Each point will become a major issue, with the season ending up with a team or two missing the playoffs by a point.
The final week of the season, April 3-9th will supply the final answer to this current Bruins team’s capabilities. The Bruins schedule finishes off on Garden ice with games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Red Wings, and the finale versus the Ottawa Senators. When all is done, the injuries, the call-ups from Providence, and the play of new and veteran players will be scrutinized. Finishing with a playoff spot would soften the crunch, while elimination will probably create chaos, much like the end of last season.
for CHS indoor track teams
Members of the Chelsea High boys and girls indoor track teams competed this past week in three meets, the Greater Boston League Freshman/Sophomore meet, the Speed Classic at the Reggie Lewis Center, and the state Freshman/Sophomore meet, also at Reggie Lewis.
At the GBL frosh/soph meet at Somerville, the Chelsea squad came through with a good showing, led by Hector Garcia, Chelsea’s sole winner who took first place in the mile with a time of 5:46.
“Hector is only a sophomore and is coming off foot injuries to start the season,” said CHS head coach Mark Martineau. “We still have no idea how good he can be.”
Freshman Yarid Dera also turned in a strong performance in the mile with a time of 6:39.
At the MSTCA Speed Classic, Chelsea runners also performed well. The top finisher for Chelsea was senior Mariama Kamara, who finished fifth among a field of 128 competitors in the 55 meter dash with a time of 7.55.
“Mariama has been working hard and this time ties her personal best from last year,” said Martineau.
Also doing well in the dash was sophomore Martin Simon, finishing 14th, also with a personal best of 8.00. Martin also finished 16th in the long jump with a personal-best leap of of 14’-10.25”, a distance that is just off the qualifying mark for the state meet.
Freshman Jocelyn Poste finished 20th out of 125 competitors in the 600 — an event Jocelyn usually does not run — with a time of 1:51.69. The girls 4 x 400 relay of Kamara, Simon, Poste, and Awa Bajinka just missed qualifying for the state meet with a fifth place finish in a time of 4:40.58.
On the boys’ side, senior Jose Aguiar finished 17th in the 300 (out of 135 competitors) with a time of 39.31. Also finishing well in the 300 were Alezio DaSilva (25th, 39.92), and Leonardo DeAlmedia (40th, 40.82). Chelsea’s top performer in the 55 meter dash was junior Adriel Cedano in a time of 7.19. The highlight of the day for the boys was the 4 x 200 relay crew of Aguiar, DaSilva, Cedano, and Junior Nick Ieng, who finished 10th with a time of 1:38.10.
This past Saturday the top CHS freshmen and sophomores competed in the State Freshman/Sophomore meet at Reggie Lewis. Sophomore Martin Simon finished fourth in the long jump with a leap of 14’-7.25”. Simon also finished 22nd in the 55 dash in a time of 8.11. Freshman Jocelyn Poste finished 24th in the 1000 with a time of 3:35. Freshman Yarid Deras ran a personal best time of 6:36 in the mile. Freshman Masireh Ceesay finished 22nd in the shotput.
“It is great to bring our younger athletes to meets of this caliber,” noted Martineau. “By competing on the state-wide level this early in their careers, they will get used to the ‘bright lights’ and be able to focus on competing, not adjusting to their surroundings.”
The entire CHS boys and girls squads will compete in a dual meet today (Thursday) against Medford.
by Bob Morello
Bruins skating on thin ice
As the saying goes, ‘A win is a win is a win,’ the alternative being ‘A loss is a loss is a loss!’ That being said, despite a pretty good effort by the Bruins in Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the league-leading Washington Capitals, it was costly, not only in the missed points in the standings, but also the loss due to injury to Adam McQuaid. The Bruins defenseman took a major hit from behind, courtesy of Washington’s Zach Sill early in the second period, driving his head into the glass. McQuaid needed assistance leaving the ice, and did not return, a definitive report was not available following the game. In a happier note for McQuaid, following a review by the NHL of Boston’s only goal scored in the recent 2016 NHL Winter Classic, originally credited to Matt Beleskey, the change now awards the goal to McQuaid – his first of the season, with assists to Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.
Washington’s 3-2 victory on Tuesday, allowed Braden Holtby to continue his mastery over the Bruins, boosting his numbers to 9-2-0 in 11 games against the Bruins, including three shutouts. On the other side of the ledger, Tuukka Rask’s record fell to 1-8-3 in 11-career games versus the Capitals, as the Caps improved their league-leading road record to 14-4-2. Eluding the Bruins again on Tuesday night was the chance for Boston to reach a milestone with a victory, which would have raised their lifetime record to 3,000 regular-season victories. Having lost five of their last six games, after not bearing a regulation loss in the previous six games, the Bs are beginning to appear as a cyclical team with a Jekyll/Hyde makeup.
Beginning tomorrow (Friday) night, Boston will embark on a schedule of five road games in eight nights, before returning to Garden ice, Saturday night (1/16) to host the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 7:00pm faceoff. The Bruins five road games will include facing the New Jersey Devils (Friday 1/8 at 7:00pm), the Ottawa Senators (Saturday 1/9 at 7:00pm), the New York Rangers (Monday 1/11 at 7:00pm), the Philadelphia Flyers (Wednesday 1/13 at 8:00pm), and the Buffalo Sabres on Friday 1/15 at 7:00pm.
At press time (Wednesday), the Bruins were precariously holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, tied with Ottawa (Bs with 2 games in hand), the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night and were one-point behind Boston (Bs with one game in hand), and Tampa Bay Lightning two points back (Bs with 2 games in hand). Presently three games shy of hitting the mid-point of regular season play, the Bruins need to put together another winning streak to create some space between themselves and the rapidly approaching rest of the pack.
Bruins winger Brad Marchand will sit out the New Jersey Devils game on Friday, completing his three-game suspension for his December 29th hit on Ottawa’s Mark Borowieki. With the question of the severity of the injury to McQuaid, and the prolonged absence of David Krejci presently on injured reserve, Boston can’t afford many more holes in their lineup.
Bruins prepare for camps
The long wait for Boston Bruins to return to the ice is almost over, as Bruins President Cam Neely has announced the Boston Bruins will open Training Camp, Thursday, September 17. Boston Bruins Rookie Camp will start a week earlier, Thursday, September 10. The round-robin rookie tournament will include two games in Buffalo, New York, against the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils.
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney listed the Rookie Camp roster to include: Forwards: Noel Acciari, Anton Blidh, Colby Cave, Austin Czarnik, Jake DeBrusk, Mitchell Dempsey, Jesse Gabrielle, Colton Hargrove, Justin Hickman, Joonas Kemppainen, Jordan Maletta, Eric Neiley, Zachary Senyshyn, Frank Vatrano. Defensemen: Linus Arnesson, Brandon Carlo, Max Everson, Max Iafrate, Jeremy Lauzon, Frankie Simonelli, Jakub Zboril. Goaltenders: Matthew Ginn, Zane McIntyre, Daniel Vladar.
Although the schedule for both Rookie Camp and Training Camp are set, both are subject to change. Dates for rookies will begin with off-ice testing on Thursday (9/10), followed by Friday and Saturday (9/11 & 9/12) practices in Buffalo, in preparation for their matchup with the New Jersey Devils rookies on Sunday (9/13). Bruins rookies will participate in a morning skate on Monday (9/14), as they ready themselves for the second and final rookie game versus the Buffalo Sabres rookies at 7:00pm.
Main Camp opens Thursday, September 17 for off-ice testing, and will be closed to the public. Practices at Ristuccia Arena will be open to the public. Two-a-day practices will be held Friday and Saturday (9/18 & 9/19), scheduled for 10:00am and 12:15pm. The team will practice on TD Garden ice on Sunday (9/20) morning, before departing for Providence’s Dunkin Donuts Center, and the start of their first pre-season game versus the New Jersey Devils (7:00pm).
Twice-a-day practices resume on Garden ice with Monday (9/21) at 11:00am and 1:15pm, and Tuesday (9/22) 10:00am and 11:15am, before playing their first home pre-season game against the Washington Capitals (9/22, 7:00pm). Wednesday practices are set for 10:00am and 12:15pm. Thursday (9/24) 10:00am and 11:15am, with pre-season game #2 versus the New York Rangers on Garden ice at 7:00pm. Friday (9/25) will resume with practice at 10:00am and 11:15am at Ristuccia Arena, Wilmington. Saturday (9/26) continues with 10:00am practice at Wilmington to prepare for Boston’s second road preseason game versus the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (7:00pm).
The Bruins return to TD Garden ice for Sunday (9/27) practices at 10:00am and 12:15pm. Monday’s (9/28) practice at 10:00am will serve as preparation for the team’s pre-season rematch by hosting the Red Wings at 7:00pm. Tuesday (9/29) practices at Ristuccia Arena are at 10:00am and 12:15. Bruins will practice on Wednesday (9/30) at Ristuccia Arena, traveling to New York to take on the Rangers in a 7:00pm contest. Thursday has a lone 10:00am practice scheduled at Ristuccia Arena, with the final day of camp winding down with a 10:00am practice at TD Garden, before heading to Washington to take on the Capitals for their final preseason contest at 7:00pm. Boston’s regular season home opener will be versus the Winnipeg Jets at 7:00pm.
Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and longtime NHL scout Bob Crocker have been named recipients of the 2015 Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. The New York Rangers presented the award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, to the National Hockey League in 1966. It honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager and was a pioneer in the sport’s development. The recipients will be honored as part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 17, in Boston. Ticket information available at www.ushockeyhalloffame.com.
Red Devil football team
readying for 2015 season
The Chelsea High football team has been preparing for the 2015 season in the final week of the proverbial dog days of August under the direction of new head coach Jack Halas.
However, the Red Devils escaped the traditional opening week of double sessions thanks to the early start of the school year, with football practice officially getting underway August 24 and classes beginning the next day.
“Things have been going well and everybody has been working hard thus far,” said Halas, who has been the CHS defensive coordinator for the past five seasons. “We’ve had a good turnout of 60 candidates with a lot of new faces.”
The Chelsea football program is entering its third year of co-op with Pope John XXIII of Everett, but at the present time there is only one player from that school, senior quarterback Mike Rowan, who is a returning letterman.
Among the other returning Red Devil lettermen are senior two-way lineman Denny Hernandez, senior offensive lineman and linebacker Christian Carceres, junior wide receiver and linebacker Javier St. Leger, junior wide receiver and defensive back Nik Ieng, junior running back and defensive back Jahhaiha Carr, junior wide receiver and defensive back Muktar Mohammed, junior tight end and defensive end Dashawn Alves, and sophomore linebacker and offensive lineman Nelson Hernandez.
Among the other Red Devils who have impressed thus far in the pre-season are senior two-way lineman Petherson Braga, senior wide receiver and defensive back Jahro Marshall, and junior tight end and defensive Malik Bissett.
“We have a good number of skilled players and lots of athletes,” said Halas. “In addition to the players who are returning, there are some boys on the roster who have the ability and potential to become consistent impact players. However, we are just a little thin at offensive line and we do not have a lot of size.”
Halas’s coaching staff consists of mainly former Red Devil players and coaches. The offensive coordinator is Jaime Delverde, a Northeast Regional grad who previously coached at Chelsea from 2004-06, Medford, and Boston English; Joseph Saez (’12) and David Roque (’13), both of whom played for Halas at CHS; Corey Doe, who played as a running back at Charlestown High and Mt. Ida College; and equipment manager, Adam Aronson, who is the Dean of Discipline and an assistant track coach at CHS and who graduated from Tufts University.
“I think we’re building something worthwhile right now,” said Halas. “If we can keep our excitement high and stay healthy, we have a chance to have a very good season.”
Halas and his squad are set to entertain Boston English for a scrimmage Saturday afternoon at 1:00. The season-opener will be a Friday night lights affair September 11 on the CHS field.
Chelsea has added former long-time rival Revere to its schedule, which figures to be a highlight of the season, with that contest set for September 18 at Revere’s all-new Harry Della Russo Stadium and sports complex.
When Rev. Edgar Gutierrez-Duarte arrived in Chelsea in 2007, there was a small closet with a few rows of non-perishable food items in the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church that Father Edgar’s predecessor had left behind and had sometimes handed out to the hungry.
It had been an act of service that was small, but meaningful.
Shortly after discovering that closet, Father Edgar (which he often called locally), 61, was asked by the Church Vestry (Board) what was the biggest need in the community.
It took but a short time for Father Edgar to look at the little closet and realize that it needed to be grown into a full-blown Food Pantry.
“We wanted to have a measure of success in our worship, but we also wanted to make an impact on the community,” he recalled during a recent interview. “I was told we could do English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. That was very important, along with addressing issues of immigration. All that sounded fine but I felt there was a something more – something larger. As the recession got deeper and deeper in 2007, there were more and more people coming for help with food. It was then that I decided that need was to officially start a Food Pantry.”
That Pantry started with the St. Luke’s Church community fully on board, serving about 10 families.
Soon, 10 turned to 20 and that gave way to hundreds.
“I had to move the Pantry out of the closet and into a small room,” he said. “I was spending about $4,000 a year out of our budget to buy food. I had no idea about Food Pantries and didn’t even know I could get help from the Greater Boston Food Bank. We got help and now we serve around 800 people a month, or 250 families. The community has really come to depend on it, and it’s a service the church is called to do.”
That calling also gave way to a weekly soup kitchen at St. Luke’s operated under a five-church partnership, and also a Thrift Shop made up of donations from wealthier churches that those in need can access.
Those acts of service have just shown their fruits in an expansion of St. Luke’s – located on Washington Avenue – in order to handle the crowds that have come to rely upon the church. The $1 million renovation project has added more space for refrigerators, expanded the soup kitchen and made new classrooms and office spaces. A few weeks ago, the bishop visited to give the blessing and affirmation on the new addition.
It was a ceremony that almost never happened.
Father Edgar said the church leadership had approached him a few years ago and said that his congregation was thriving, but his building was crumbling. At one point, he said it was suggested that they sell the property and move to another location.
“I told them we might as well close the church,” he said. “We were not going to find a suitable place because our strength was the location. We would lose so many people if we were to move. The bishop paused after listening to that. Then he said to me, ‘What would you do with $1 million?’ I had to catch my breath. I told him, ‘I need to think about that.’”
It didn’t take much thinking. Soon, the plans were in place, and after a few stops and starts within the process, the project has now been completed. It’s another high mark for Father Edgar and the folks at St. Luke’s.
Father Edgar, himself, took a unique path to Chelsea, he said.
He was born in Colombia and didn’t move to the United States until he was in his 20s, in the 1980s, settling in New Jersey with his family. After working his way up through various jobs, he continued an education that he had begun in Colombia and graduated with a psychology degree. After a move to San Francisco, he returned to New York City and was working as a social worker serving patients with AIDS. While getting his Master’s Degree in social work from Rutgers University, he got acquainted with the Episcopal Church and converted in 1993.
“I had always felt called to the priesthood in Colombia, but when I was an adolescent I gave up on the idea,” he said. “When I was in the states in New Jersey, I discovered the Episcopal Church in 1993. A year after that, I got the call. It was intense; I struggled with it for awhile. In 2000, I was approached to go to the Seminary. I stopped working and began my studies.”
During a snowstorm, Father Edgar was ordained at a church in Patterson, NJ, in 2003. He served there before coming to Chelsea and discovering the community that he so loves now.
“Patterson is a city where the sense of desperation is more acute,” he said. “It is similar to Chelsea, but more dangerous and more violent. There are great people there, but there was not this great sense of community. What I found when I got to Chelsea is that despite all our differences, it is like a small town here. Those in the trenches, we really care about Chelsea…This sense that we’re all working together is very great in Chelsea.”
Father Edgar said he hopes to continue to build more cooperation between the churches in Chelsea, which is one thing he sees that can improve. He said such cooperation in the faith-based community here will be essential in the coming few years to address issues like immigration, but more importantly, to address the forces of gentrification that have come with the ‘New Chelsea.’
“We can’t deny this is happening; it is the big question mark in the community,” he said. “The big question marks that come with gentrification is are we going to lose this small town feel and become city dwellers who work in Boston and only come home at night. If so, will those people conduct their spiritual life elsewhere. Also, is this new, highly educated crowd very spiritual or not? Those who remain, how many will be able to stay when rents double or triple? Those will be major issues for Chelsea. My hope is all the transitions will lead to a greater sense of the Spirit and of God’s presence in Chelsea. Quite frankly, I’m excited about the possibilities there are here.”
He said that as new people arrive, people who may be looking for a new church or looking for God in general, that perhaps the acts of service at St. Luke’s will draw them into the church and the community.
“That will probably be our next question; in all these things we do, is God present?” he asked. “So many people are looking for something more. There is more of a sense of God in the shelters and soup kitchens often times than in the temples or churches or places of worship where people go to get away from the struggles of the world…This is why we put so much emphasis on service.”
And for those that know him and find him at St. Luke’s, he said one can call him by any name – as so many have grown fond of doing since he came in 2007.
“In the Episcopal church, we carry the official title of vicar,” he said. “When I was in Patterson, everyone wanted to call me Reverend Edgar. When I came up here, where there is a strong Roman Catholic presence, they all started calling me Father Edgar. That’s fine if they’d like, but for my friends, I just say to call me Edgar.”
Edgar it is.
Benjamin Franklin coined the expression 200 years ago, “You should buy land because they are not making it anymore.” Well, that may not be exactly true for the last 100 years, as all the communities on the water have been reclaiming low-lying marsh land. One just has to look at the the Back Bay and the waterfront in Boston; sections of Revere such as the Point of Pines or Oak Island or lower Revere Street that are all below sea level; or areas along Bennington Street in East Boston that are reclaimed marsh land.
What brings this to mind is the recent discussion that took place in Boston about rising sea levels. There seems little doubt that the “if” of disastrous flooding and the loss of billions of dollars in property damage and above all, the loss of human life, from Superstorm Sandy that occurred last year has become a matter of “when” for our neighborhoods.
In Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority seems poised to approve billions of dollars in new construction for housing and office spaces in these very areas of East Boston and Boston that would be devastated by rising sea levels coupled with a hurricane like Sandy. In Revere, new construction is being proposed along the beach that would be easily flooded with a tidal surge from a storm.
Revere Ward 5 Councillor John Powers has been leading the charge and has secured more than $3M in flood improvements for residents in these Revere neighborhoods. For the normal storms, these improvements have stopped the flooding that was commonplace. However, all bets are off with a major hurricane.
After viewing the damage in New York and New Jersey on the Weather Channel special this weekend, we urge our city officials to make sure that these new buildings are using the most up-to-date technology and water safety measures to prevent the sort of disaster that happened last fall along the coastline just a short distance to our south.