The Chelsea Collaborative hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday at its headquarters at 318 Broadway.
Collaborative President Gladys Vega and her staff welcomed members of the community, who enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and desserts. There was also a cotton candy station for children.
A large group of staff members and volunteers, led by Board President Rosalba Medina, helped serve the many food items to the guests in attendance.
But this year the celebration was a little different as the Collaborative announced the launch of the Immigrant Justice Bond Fund, in conjunction with EECO organization and the Episcopal City Mission that includes the St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea.
The fund is being set up to assist family members with people in detention centers to pay bonds established by immigration judges, with the purpose of reuniting them with their loved ones.
The Collaborative works hard with relatives who have come to its offices for assistance in locating their loved ones who have been detained by immigration agents. During the effort to locate and to be able to acquire the pro-bono services of lawyers, the Collaborative is faced with the obstacle of not having the necessary funds to help people out of detention.
It is for this reason that the Collaborative has joined forces with ECCO and Episcopal City Mission to find financial alternatives to pay bond. Chelsea Collaborative is honored to now be an organization that can count on these funds and get mothers and fathers out of detention centers.
Once the funds are used, payment agreements will be established so that these funds can always be available to other people in detention. After being released, people will be connected with legal and social resources to establish an individual plan for each family.
During the speaking program, Vega stated that the Collaborative was ready to assist residents with the agency’s many services and programs, and also to direct them to the appropriate groups for legal advice.
Yessenia Alfaro, deputy director at the Collaborative, felt the event, that drew a large turnout on a night that the first snowstorm of the season was approaching, was a huge success.
“It’s a blessing that so many people came here to tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and we’re grateful for our partnership with the ECCO organization and Episcopal City Mission in launching this important fund,” said Alfaro.
Several residents thanked Gladys Vega for her outstanding leadership of the Collaborative and the agency’s continuing diligence in helping all members of the community.
The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal has once-again decreased and is at its lowest cost since 2010, according to the 33rd annual American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Thanksgiving dinner survey.
The AFBF reported late last week that it had found the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 to be at $48.90 nationwide, which figures to be less than $5 per person. It was a 22-cent decrease from last year’s low of $49.12. This year’s new low has put the cost of the traditional meal at the lowest cost since 2010.
After adjusting for inflation, the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is $19.37, the most affordable in more than a decade.
“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.
A total of 166 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 37 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages.
The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
The chief driver of the lowering costs is the most common item – the turkey. AFBF research showed that retail turkey prices are at the lowest costs since 2014, mostly because they are in abundant supply.
The average cost for a 16-pound turkey this year is $21.71, which is down 3 percent per pound from last year.
“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.
AFBF also highlighted other foods that showed large decreases as well. They included:
Gallon of milk, $2.92;
3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39;
one-pound bag of green peas, $1.47;
one dozen rolls, $2.25.
Some items did show an increase, however, including Massachusetts’ own contribution to the Thanksgiving table – the cranberry. Other items on the increase included pumpkin pie mix and cubed bread, among other things.
Those increased prices were as follows:
12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65;
30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33;
14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87;
two nine-inch pie shells came in at $2.47;
one-pound veggie tray was $.75.
A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) was also up slightly, to $3.01.
There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.
To provide information on the increasingly changing Thanksgiving meal, AFBF looked in at hams and other new additions. Adding a four-pound bone-in ham, five pounds of Russet potatoes, and one pound of frozen green beans added about $1 per person to the overall cost.
“Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost slightly, to $61.72 or about $6 per person,” said Newton.
AFBF also surveyed the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal available from popular food delivery services. This revealed that the convenience of food delivery does have a larger price tag.
A 16-pound turkey was nearly 50 percent more expensive at nearly $2 per pound when purchased from a food delivery service. Nearly every individual item was more expensive compared to the do-it-yourself average and the total cost of the dinner was about 60 percent higher at about $8 per person.
The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986, and the menu has not changed since that time for reliable comparison year to year. While AFBF does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.
Member All Stars and October Members of the Month: Congratulations to the following members who were great role models for their peers, who were helpful, kind, and friendly last month and were selected to be the Jordan Boys & Girls Club’s Members of the Month! 1st grade: Cristian Chicas; 2nd grade: Arwa Ait-Chaib; 3rd grade: Jainaba Kamara; 4th grade: Elmer Flores; Pre-Teen: Susana Garcia; Teen: Gino Gillis. And also a big congrats to all of the Area All Stars who are recognized for being outstanding members in their favorite areas at the Club. Week of Oct. 8-12, 2018: Game Room: Allison Quinonez (3rd), Computer Club House: Elvis Rodriguez, Gym: LJ Bland (4th), Music: Susana Garcia (4th), Teen Center: Cameron Bourgea (teen), Membership: Sophia Sostre (2nd), Pool: Kevin Martinez (4th), Pre-Teen Lounge: Alison Lopez (5th), Life Skills: David Garcia Meza (3rd), Cadet Room: Aura Hernandez (1st). Week of Oct. 1-5, 2018: Education: Jesus Santiago (3rd grade), Game Room: Elmer Flores (4th), Art: Emely (2nd), Computer Club House: Thania Simon (4th), Gym: William Diaz (4th), Music: Laney Vargas (4th), Membership: Cristian Chicas, Pool: Kevin Martinez (4th), Pre-Teen Lounge: Luis Ajtum (“Danny”) (preteen), Life Skills: Valeria Ortiz (4th), Cadet Room: Alexi Rios (1st). Week of Sept 24-28, 2018: Education: Miguel Ramirez, grade 3, Game Room: Wilbur Chicas, Art: Sebastian, Computer Club House: Susana Garcia (preteen), Teen Center: Angel Del Valle Cardenas (teen), Membership: Arwa, Pool: Izabella, Wilbur Chicas, Pre-Teen Lounge: Troy Arnold (preteen), Life Skills: Santo Rivera (preteen), Cadet Room: Jyzelle Artica (1st grade)
Schedule Changes: This Friday, October 26th, the CLUB IS CLOSED! We will only be open for Haunted House- more info below under Special Events! (The Boys & Girls Club does not provide transportation on Friday, Oct. 26th either.)
On November 12th, the Club will be open from 9am-4pm (no school day due to Veteran’s Day); on Nov. 13th, the Club will be opening at 12noon, as it is a half day of school for CPS. On Wednesday, Nov. 21st, the Club is open 9am-4pm (no school day- day before Thanksgiving). And the Club will be closed on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22nd, as well as Friday, Nov. 23rd. And for those planning ahead, we want to remind Club members and families that we close during the winter holiday break, closed Dec. 24th- Jan 1st. The Club will re-open on Wednesday, Jan. 2nd.
Special Events: This Friday, Oct. 26th is Haunted House! Tickets are available now until 6pm on Oct. 26th. If you purchase tickets in advance, please be sure to arrive by 6pm that night, as doors close at 6pm with or without tickets. In order to attend the Haunted House, you have to be a Club member and attend with an adult. Thanks to those who joined us this past week at the annual Breast Cancer Awareness event, Popping in Pink Party! Lots of pink-filled games and activities, with music, food, and a celebration of survivors and families members who have experienced breast cancer. And earlier this month, we also celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with the Club’s annual Celebrando Latino, sharing our stories of our families, flags for our countries, and lots of the food, games, and music of so many different cultures. Thank you Chili’s for once again provided chips and salsa for everyone!
CLUB FUNDRAISERS: The Club’s Annual Online Auction opens on Black Friday! If you or someone you know is interested in donating an item, it is greatly appreciated! We are seeking all kinds of gifts, such as sports memorabilia; unique items, such as dinner with a politician, ball boy/girl at Celtics; adventures, such as ski packages, timeshare weeks, or airline tickets; services provided- legal, such as a will; accounting, such as taxes; dinner prepared in the home; birthday party/event planning; music lessons; cleaning services; gift cards to stores, restaurants, online buying, movies, theater tickets. And once we are ready to launch the Auction, you can help by forwarding a link to anyone and everyone…you never know what someone may be looking for! Lastly, we will be selling raffle tickets as part of this event, which will be available next month at the Club. Every dollar and hour given helps the Club. If you would like to add your email to the mailing list, send to Lisa at LGillis@bgcb.org
Rasi Chau has been a championship coach at various points in his career. He was an assistant coach for the 2005
Super Bowl champion St. Mary’s High School football team, and most recently, for the Women’s Football Alliance national champion Boston Renegades.
Chelsea High School Director of Athletics Amanda Alpert was a player on the Renegades’ professional football team, so she witnessed first hand the highly skilled coaching techniques and winning attitude that Chau brought to the field each day.
Alpert has appointed Chau as the new head football coach at Chelsea High School. He was the defensive coordinator for the Red Devils last year.
Chau succeeds Jack Halas at the helm of the program and joins a group of CHS head coaches that includes such familiar names as Henry McCarthy, Anthony “Chubby” Tiro, Todd Flaherty, Bobby Fee, Anthony Cardarelli, Robert Tiro, Joe Gaff, and many others.
Chau, 37, is a 1999 graduate of Lynn Classical High School where he played football. He went on to play college football at Mount Ida.
He is excited to take over a high school program as its head coach for the first time in his career. He had served one season as a head coach of the Southern New Hampshire Beavers semi-professional team.
“I’m looking forward to the new season,” said Chau, who is also a certified football referee. “I’ve met with the players and they’re doing their summer workouts. We have 32 players in the program right now and hope to have between 35-40 players on the team.”
Chau has selected Joseph Solomon as the team’s offensive coordinator, along with assistant coaches Richard Wilson, David Roque, and Steph Jeffers, who like Alpert, is a women’s professional football player for the Renegades. Mike Lopez has been named as equipment manager.
Chelsea will compete in the Division 8 Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small Division. Non-league opponents are Nashoba Valley, Whittier Tech, Greater Lowell, and Pope John (Thanksgiving game).
“I’m going to try to lead this team to the playoffs, but the first year as a new coach is always challenging because you’re trying to change the culture and make sure the players believe in you,” said Chau. “Right now, I like what I’m seeing with 20-plus kids lifting weights every day and participating in the pre-season conditioning drills.”
With the Chelsea High School football field being rebuilt, the Red Devils will play almost all of their games on the road this season. Chau said he has already introduced himself to the coaches in Chelsea’s two youth football organizations, Chelsea Pop Warner and Chelsea Pride.
Six birds of prey that are native to Chelsea were presented during the Chelsea Public Library’s Wingmasters Bird Exhibit on April 7. Jim Parks and his partner, Julie Collier, rescue, rehabilitate, and release raptors such as eagles and osprey. The falcons, owls, and hawk displayed were born in the wild, but due to permanent injury are non-releasable; and so Parks and Collier care for them permanently.
“Ninety percent of the time the birds we rescue are releasable. They’re resilient,” said Parks. “Sometimes they are injured in such a way that their injuries can’t be fixed by any doctor.”
Parks and Collier visit 200 schools, museums, and libraries each year to educate the public about these remarkable animals. They work closely with Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton where veterinarians help Parks and Collier free most birds back into the wild.
“One of the biggest problems these birds deal with is their reputation. They’re often thought of as being dangerous,” explained Parks. “It’s good that we have birds of prey. These birds do us a huge favor by controlling the populations we want nothing to do with.”
Parks presented a four-ounce male, and a six-ounce female American kestrel falcon with cataracts. The female’s larger build is excellent for protecting her young; and her brown-shaded feathers keep her camouflaged.
“Falcons are built for speed because they hunt other birds. This is an incredibly difficult lifestyle,” Parks said. “They get high above the earth, close their wings and drop. They accelerate and capture a bird below. They can outfly every other bird in the world.”
The male falcon was picked up off the ground at three-weeks-old and hand fed. He bonded with a human and will never understand what it is like to be a wild falcon. Male falcons, built for hunting, are considered the most colorful bird of prey in North America.
“Unfortunately, this is a bird about to be added to the government’s endangered species list,” said Parks. “This is a bird running out of a place to live.”
Seven species of hawks live in Massachusetts, with the most common being the red-tailed hawk. The female red-tailed hawk that Parks exhibited was once a mile-high flyer. At 32-years-old, the six and a half-pound bird is the oldest bird that Parks and Collier have ever rescued. Her wing was shattered when she was hit by a car while hunting a rodent on the grassy median of Rt. 128 on Thanksgiving Day 13 years ago.
“A circling hawk is showing off his red tail in the sky as a way of telling other birds to go away,” described Parks. “When they’re hunting they stand in trees, keep their bodies still, and dart out feet first after their prey. Eagles and hawks have the best eyesight.”
Parks also showed an eastern screech owl, the most common owl living around us, a barred own, New England’s second largest owl, and the great horned owl, New England’s largest owl. Owls are one of the slowest and most silent flying birds in the world. They hide during the day, and hunt and nap at night; but because of their incredible camouflage often go unseen. Owls can also see eight times better at night than humans can, and use their acute hearing to locate prey.
“They are masters of deception. They know how to blend in,” said Parks. “No other bird looks like this. We stand upright, have round faces, and have eyes on the front, and so do owls.”
Parks explained that most birds are injured in their first year of life while they are still learning. He has been working with birds for 24 years; and prior to that worked at an engineering firm in Boston.
“As a photographer, I was always interested in the natural world,” explained Parks, who grew up in Lynn. “I liked all aspects of nature growing up.”
With decreasing habitats and an increasing human population, Parks hopes that more corporations will develop properties to accommodate wildlife.
“Impact injuries are sad because there are many man-made obstacles now in the world that cause them. Julie and I do what we do to give birds a second chance to live,” said Parks. “If you want to help, donate to an organization that buys land. If you don’t have a place to release a species, they won’t know where to go. Many animals cannot adapt, and that’s when you see animals fall off the map.”
They would often discuss at family gatherings who was the better all-around athlete, the uncle, Donald Curtis Robinson, or the nephew, Reggie Wilkerson.
Donald Curtis Robinson
Donald was a three-sport standout and All-Star running back for the Red Devils in the 1960s. Reggie was an All-Scholastic quarterback and talented hoopster in the late 1980s.
Donald’s teams twice beat archrival Everett High on Thanksgiving. Reggie led Chelsea to within one victory of a berth in the Super Bowl.
The issue was never resolved but it made for good, healthy laughter among family members young and old. This week Reggie spoke about his beloved uncle Donald and the wonderful example he set for the entire family at the memorial observance.
Mr. Robinson died on Feb. 6 at the age of 68. He was a member of the Chelsea High School Class of 1967.
Donald was not only a star athlete who achieved on the field but a fine student who went on to earn his degree from Northeastern University and enjoy a successful career working for Digital and US West.
Teammates have great memories of the young, humble Donald Robinson who had a magnetic personality and let his actions speak for themselves on the playing field. His talents at the Carter School were known throughout the city even before he first put on the CHS football uniform in 1964.
Dr. Howard Glazer, the quarterback of the 1966 Red Devil team that defeated Everett, 23-8, in the final game of their CHS football careers, remembered his teammate “as a truly wonderful human being.”
“I am terribly saddened by the passing of Donald Robinson, my classmate and sensational football teammate,” said Glazer. “Robbie,” as I affectionately called him, was a great two-way football player.”
Glazer said Robinson was a gifted defensive back and a speedy halfback who could both run and catch with the best.
“Donald was one of the best two-way football players that I had the privilege of playing with at CHS,” said Glazer. “Donald was a true star on the field, but more importantly, he was a great teammate and a truly wonderful human being.”
Glazer remembers Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 23, 1966, when Chelsea stunned heavily favored Everett.
“That was the highlight of both our careers,” said Glazer. “In the first we ran a play that we had perfected during the season. It was a screen pass to Donald in the right flank. With great blocking in front of him, Donald ran 70 yards for a touchdown, with the 12,000 fans at Chelsea Memorial Stadium all on their feet going crazy!
“To this day, I can visualize Donald running with his great speed and cutting ability to avoid defender the entire run after the catch,” added Glazer.
The Robinson brothers, Latimer Society Co-Director Ronald Robinson, and Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, competed on CHS teams with Donald and on Williams School teams against Donald, who attended Carter School. Donald’s younger brother, Jimmy, would later star on the basketball court at Carter School.
“Before we got to Chelsea High, I remember Donald being a phenomenal athlete,” said Ronald. “It was so heartwarming to here Reggie talk about his uncle at the funeral service and his athletic prowess. Reggie said he used to tell his uncle he was better, but the reality was Reggie was a great athlete, but Donald was special.”
Donald was not a large man by football playing standards, but he had speed to burn and seemed to understand football, according to Ronald.
Donald went on to play at Northeastern University but what Ronald the most about the former Red Devil great was how he used athletics to gain an education and make a path toward a successful life.
“Donald used sports as a way to receive a great college education and make a life for himself and I think he did that,” said Donald. “Donald married a local woman and they had a daughter, who was a beautiful person and pursued higher education with the passion that he did.”
Ronald said many of his teammates paid tribute to Donald Robinson this week.
“So many of our teammates, like Kenny Lava and Dale Johnson, and others said farewell to a great man who set a terrific example for his family,” said Ronald.
Leo Robinson was also profuse in his praise and admiration for Donald Robinson.
“He was just a wonderful person who touched so many people in a positive way,” said Leo. “He had a close-knit family who took great pride in his accomplishments and his success.”
The councillor-at-large said he will call for a moment of silent tribute for Donald Robinson at the next meeting of the Chelsea City Council.
“Chelsea has lost a true sports legend,” said Leo Robinson.
The Chelsea Collaborative began its turkey drive for Thanksgiving recently and took delivery of several turkeys from Greg and Caryn Antonelli of GTA Company, Inc. Pictured here accepting the turkeys are members of the Collaborative, including Director Gladys Vegan and Sylvia Ramirez.
Wild Turkeys have shown up in the craziest places over the last few years, including on city streets, and that’s due in part to a 35-year effort to restore them to the state. The native species was pushed out by European settlement and industrialization in the mid-1850s. Now, they have come back in a big way and frequently come to city streets or parks.
There aren’t too many comeback stories that begin with the phrase, ‘Gobble, Gobble,’ but the story of the once-prolific wild turkey in Massachusetts certainly begins and ends with just such an utterance.
Though the wild turkey disappeared from Massachusetts for nearly 180 years, the Thanksgiving bird was once everywhere in the state, including throughout Chelsea and neighboring locales.
It was so common in the wild that it is likely the precise reason turkey is served for the Thanksgiving meal. With so many wandering around, it’s likely that the first Thanksgiving took advantage of cooking up the bird because it was so common.
It was also such a common sight that Ben Franklin argued for it to be the national bird instead of the American Bald Eagle – saying it symbolized the early Americas more than anything else.
But by 1850, it was gone from Massachusetts.
“Really, by the early 1850s, it was extricated from the state,” said Wayne Petersen of the Mass Audubon Society. “Because of all the changes brought by coming Europeans with land uses, as well as hunting and targeted removal of them, they just didn’t make it. They were gone for a good long time.”
That said, the wild turkey in the last three or four years has re-established itself and made a complete comeback to Massachusetts – becoming so prevalent that they’ve adapted to not only living in the wild and the suburbs, but can often be found wandering around city streets in very urban environments as well.
It’s a story that Petersen said is fun, amusing and a great example of re-introducing a native bird that had been long-lost.
“It’s great to have them back,” he said. “In most cases, they are entertaining and the worst they can do is cause problems with traffic if they get into trouble on the roads. By and large, most people are mildly amused by them when they see them in the neighborhoods for the first time. I think it’s just a great story. They are indigenous and we have a whole holiday built around the wild turkey…Wild turkeys are to Thanksgiving what Santa Claus is to Christmas. I think it’s great.”
Turkeys didn’t just pop back into Massachusetts out of thin air though.
The effort to restore them began as early as the 1950s. Serious efforts were made to reintroduce them back then, but the varieties brought to the state were usually from the Southern states where they are still prevalent. Unfortunately, those birds could not acclimate to the harsh winters of Massachusetts and didn’t survive. In the 1970s, though, another group of turkeys from the Adirondack region of New York – where they are also very easily found in the wild – were introduced into the western Massachusetts region.
Later, after that group found some success, preservationists introduced them into the Quabbin Reservoir area. That was also successful, and the birds just kept moving further east in greater numbers until now you can find them almost anywhere – sometimes in the craziest places.
“Now you find them all over,” said Petersen. “Over the years, that group took hold in a huge way. It is no longer a surprise to anyone to see them in the suburbs or even in the cities. They have learned to live in close contact with people here and are very safe. Many people enjoy them. Other than being huge, they are quiet and passive. They are not known as being vicious birds.”
Petersen said they get reports all the time of turkeys in the middle of the city, in car lots, sleeping on doorsteps or holding up traffic in a congested business district.
“There are lots of reports of turkeys being turkeys,” he said. “They can hold up traffic and can be a pain if they get hit on Rt. 128 or Rt. 3, but that is spot on about where people are finding them. There is no question we get reports of them being in very odd places.”
Beyond the fun of the new and surprising sights of turkeys back in the communities where they haven’t been for 180 years or more, there is also the serious subject of brining a native species back to where it belongs – somewhat like the Bald Eagle’s success story.
“The wild turkey in Massachusetts is just another great argument for restoration efforts,” he said. “They were a native species here that was lost in time. They were here before we were here and it was our introduction that pushed them out. Now we have helped to bring them back. That’s certainly worth noting.”
The Chelsea Fire Department announced this week that they have secured a major federal grant to pay for the hiring of eight new firefighters in this year’s budget – with Chief Len Albanese saying the new recruits could hit the streets by Thanksgiving.
The Homeland Security grant provides $1.4 million of federal funding over a three-year period, covering 75 percent of the salary and benefits for two years. The third year of the grant will cover 35 percent of the share of salaries and benefits.
In the fourth year of the grant, the City would be responsible for 100 percent of the costs associated with the new hires.
Albanese said that in the end, concerns about not getting the grant due to Chelsea’s Sanctuary City status did not factor into whether the City did or did not get the grant as the application was put in last year.
Overall, the big news is that the Fire Department will go over 100 members for the first time in decades.
The grant will put the contingent up to 102 member.
“We’ve had 92 members for quite a while,” said the chief. “Prior to my arrival and when I got here and that’s a situation I assume goes back to the 1990s – post-receivership. (Last year), we added two members to get up to 94 and with the intention to add more. With the SAFER grant now in place, we can add eight new members and that brings our staffing up to 102…Having 102 is what we consider to be a really good staffing level for the Fire Department.”
He said that Revere’s contingent is at 98 and Everett – which also has a SAFER grant- is at 111.
He said adding the new members won’t eliminate overtime, but he believes it will bring it down to a reasonable number – eliminating what has been many years of controversy surrounding overspending on overtime.
“The purpose is to not just decrease overtime,” he said. “There’s always overtime in a 24/7 business…This will control overtime and put boots on the ground. It will stabilize overtime and increase staffing.”
Already, Albanese said he has identified the eight recruits from Civil Service, having been confident of getting the grant and taking early action. That will mean they get in the Station very quickly.
“We have eight recruits identified and they preparing to attend the Brookline Fire Academy on Sept. 5,” he said. “That means if all goes well, we will have these additional firefighters on the street by Thanksgiving.”
Along with this grant and another recently received, the fire department has garnered $2 million of federal funding from the 2016 DHS/FEMA programs.
Take a walk down Broadway Chelsea and one will see a mix of life.
The poor, the rich, the less fortunate.
One often doesn’t realize, however, that some of the people walking along amidst everyday life are homeless.
In the U.S. there are more than half a million homeless people (according to the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress: AHAR) with about 21,237 people being attributed to Massachusetts.
Massachusetts has many shelters around the state that cater to the homeless, and many programs and shelters that offer to assist the homeless in getting back on their feet. Some examples are the Salvation Army, the Pine Street Inn, the Dennis McLaughlin House and YMCA of Greater Boston. With these shelters, and other programs, according to the AHAR, Massachusetts has the third lowest number of unsheltered homeless individuals in the country, 3.6 percent of the total homeless population.
Those in shelters can be families and individuals, and many receive care and help from the state and community during the holidays.
Here in Chelsea, the Salvation Army doesn’t have a shelter like it does in Cambridge, but it does have a meals program and donation program to help those in shelters or those in housing who are in need. The Chelsea Salvation Army also offers help to those who are on the streets, abusing drugs, to stop using.
They are able to make connections for those willing to make change, as there in no shelter at the Chelsea location itself.
“We don’t have any specific programs that are just for homeless. With the community meals program, we don’t ask if they are homeless when they come in to eat, though they could be,” said Capt. Armida Harper of the Salvation Army in Chelsea. “We have food pantry Monday through Friday, 9:30 to noon. People can come in once a month and get food for their families or themselves.”
This Christmas the Salvation Army gave out 400 Christmas dinners to people who singed up to say they needed help.
“We start in November, at Thanksgiving, and we do about 270 of the baskets in East Boston, and for residents of Chelsea and Revere, we have a dinner hosted by the Cheesecake Factory,” Capt. Harper. “In all, about 400 meals are served on Thanksgiving. Then comes Christmas, where we have a toy distribution. We have 378 families here and also any of our families from East Boston and Charlestown, which is again about 275 families, go down to Boston, to the South End and get toys with the rest of the city of Boston.”
People like DeAnn Brown came to the Salvation Army for both her Christmas dinner basket and to receive toys for her children. She sat the Monday before Christmas in the lobby waiting for the bag of donated toys.
“I am glad they do this every year, to help those that need the extra help, I’m grateful,” said Brown.
“Anyone who needed something for Christmas could have signed up to get it,” said Capt. Harper.
Sometimes it’s just a meal that people need to get through the day and the Salvation Amy offers that as well.
“We have food pantry Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to noon,” said Harper. “People can come in once a month and get food for their families or themselves.”
The Salvation Army also offers meals daily to anyone who walks in off the street.
“We have about 10 to 15 senior citizens that come in at noon and eat here and then at 1 p.m. we have anywhere from 20 to 30 people from the community that come in and eat. People that are homeless; that are dealing with addiction. Sometimes we even have families that are eating here at 1 p.m., mothers with their kids, things like that.”
During the community meal last week, there was a mix of addicts, and just people needing a meal to get through the day.
A 26-year-old women known as “Pink” said, “I have been coming to Chelsea for five years,” as she showed obvious signs of intoxication.
Pink considers herself homeless.
She slept in a hallway on the previous night.
“I always go out of my way to find a place to sleep,” she proclaimed as she laughed and ate her meal.
Across the room sat Joey, who had no shortage of words.
“After my dad died, I got sentenced to jail, and the day I got out, March 9, my mom died that same day,” said Joey. “That day I took two Klonapins and then shot up.”
Joey went on to claim that he wished that there was a shelter in Chelsea to keep him off the streets at night, looking for a drink or drug or another fix.
Also in the room was Raquel Rodriguez, a women who was just the focus of a Boston Globe one-year photo essay and feature story that followed her as she dealt with her family and addiction.
“(I) Used to be homeless,” said Rodriguez. “I come here to see my friends. I don’t forget where I came from.”
Rodriguez, who was attached to an oxygen tank, spoke of trying to get clean, relapsing and trying to get ready for Christmas. As she sat, another women did her hair and they laughed. To them, everything was normal.
She was excited that she was going to be a feature in a “big” story by the Globe.
Before the start of the meal service, Debbie Dunn, the cook, stepped out of the kitchen to say a prayer with those in the room.
“You would have to get emotional, when seeing those who have a problem or are going through a hard time,” said Dunn, a 25-year veteran of the Salvation Army. “I needed a little job, and when I came I did breads and deserts. Then the other cook got sick and I took over.”
Dunn was serving a pasta and meat dish that day and knew what each of those in attendance liked and didn’t like. One man didn’t like meat and she made him a separate dish. She offered everyone a donut for dessert and bread rolls as well.
“You have to be a person. I love the people,” said Dunn.
On average the community meal feeds 20 to 30 people a day, according to the Salvation Amy.
“I do know homelessness is an issue, I do know people are sleeping under the Bridge, but because we have been here six months, I couldn’t tell you if it was higher or lower,” said Capt. Harper.
According to AHAR, since 2010 homelessness has decreased by 62,000 people nationwide.
When asked what she would do with the cold winter months approaching, Pink responded, “Maybe I’ll get into a program to better myself.”