Jeffrey Ortiz, WCG First-Time Homeowner & Board Member:
Hi, my name is Jeffrey Ortiz. It’s a pleasure for me to be here. For those who don’t know me, I’ve been a resident in this neighborhood all my life. I grew up two streets down from here, on Oread Street; I went to Jacob Hiatt. This is my neighborhood! It was about…4 years ago that I met Yvette and got introduced to Worcester Common Ground. At the time, I was taking the First Time Homebuyer course because I really wanted to own my own home. The process started where I got to see the house, and from the time I first saw it, it took a year to move in – what a crazy process! It definitely took a lot of perseverance and believing, but we were really grateful for Webster 5 for stepping up, and really understanding the ground lease requirements…better than me!
I’m grateful for the people that helped me out, and for Worcester Common Ground for not giving up! So I just want to give a shout out to Yvette – a big thank you for not giving up and moving mountains for me to get this. If it wasn’t for her and the staff, and the Board of Directors, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. It’s been a privilege for me to be a homeowner in the neighborhood where I grew up, and at the same time, being on the Board where I can make a difference – I’ve been on a few committees since I’ve been on the Board…but I’ve lost count since there are so many! Being here first-hand, I truly see the impact that WCG has on the community.
Being a homeowner has really allowed me to pursue my dream of owning my own business – and today, thanks to WCG, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to fulfill that dream! It’s been about a year that I started this journey with my best friend – to start a home health care agency called Harvest Home Health Care. Our mission is to provide exceptional health care to our community, and at the same time, giving back to this community that has given me so much. Worcester Common Ground inspired me to really appreciate my community, and to give back. So I know this is a fundraiser –every seed you guys plant, every dollar that you donate, will be planted in a common soil for the people. So thank you guys again for being here, and for everyone that put this together, and to the people that made this neighborhood the best neighborhood in Worcester! Thank you.
Arline Rosario, WCG Tenant:
Good afternoon everyone. My name is Arline Rosario. I have lived in this area of Worcester at many times throughout my life. First time, about 30 years ago on Preston St when I was in elementary school. Again a little over 15 years ago, on Piedmont St when my first son was born and now on the corner of Chandler and Piedmont. I went to Tatnuck Elementary, Doherty High and attended Becker College, where I earned an Associate’s Degree of Science in 1996. The Pickle Barrel has fed me many meals.
About 10 years ago, I moved to Philadelphia and lived there for 6 years. What brought me back home to Worcester was the need for my family and community in order to rebuild my life. I was in an abusive relationship. My older son was already living in Worcester with his father because the circumstances in Philadelphia were not something we wanted him to witness. When I got to Worcester in 2011, my sister took me in with my younger son, while my older son continued to live with his dad.
Since I already felt part of this community, Worcester Common Ground was one of the first places I applied for an apartment. When I walked in, Jeshenia was extremely helpful, and I felt at ease sharing with her, my need to get back on my feet. She followed up with me and would call when there were apartments available. Unfortunately I didn’t have a job yet, in order to get the funds to pay for an apartment. I believe everything has its timing. After 11 months, I was working, had saved up money, and at a friend’s urging, I called Jeshenia right before 5 pm. She answered. 133 Chandler St was available. In a month’s time, I moved in.
Within a year, I made the apartment a home. Not only were both my boys with me & under the same roof, I had the stability to switch jobs and get back into college. Being in this apartment allowed for me to nurture joy into my life, by attending local events, like the farmer’s market held here at Y during the summer, and being part of the video being released.
Bringing Beauty to the Neighborhood
While living here, I had numerous conversations with my neighbor, during one of them, she mentioned having a garden in the back yard but because of the overflow of soapy water from the car dealership next door, it kept dying. She gave up on it. Now all my time in Philly hadn’t been dark and dreary. I was part of a neighborhood garden like the one on Oread St while living there. I had learned a few things. So I set out to make it happen. It was another year before the garden boxes became a reality but they are there now. With help from Jeshenia, and another neighbor, we used pallets, over 125lbs of dirt and seedlings purchased from The Oread St Garden to bring beauty to the neighborhood. This summer, I’d like to add a rain collection system to water them.
Being part of this community has brought this future into my life:
I graduate from Worcester State University this May, earning a Bachelor in Science. I will be celebrating a big birthday in June. I will be the Worcester delegate representing Dress for Success in Arizona. I am currently in a healthy relationship. I have my sons here with me and my family.
So in closing I will leave you with this:
When one has stability, security and feels integrated, one feels joy and can grow naturally. That joy will show itself in the beauty of a plant within a garden.
Mary Barjolo, WCG Tenant:
My name is Mary Barjolo, and I am a tenant of Worcester Common Ground at 7 Bellevue from 1998 through the present. Before moving, I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter, Harriet. I had her at 7 Bellevue street on the second floor, and now she is 16 years old. When I moved to Bellevue street with my twin boys, they were 3.5 years old, and now they are 20, and they are in college at Quinsigmund. When I started renting from WCG, they became family for me and my children, and also for some family members that I introduced to WCG who later became tenants also. From the start, they have been so wonderful, and they are like a real family to me.
For my boys, it was nice because the staff of WCG was like an extra group of babysitters. Sometimes, I was looking for them, and they were downstairs playing with Yvette and her dog Simba, eating cookies, jumping up and down, running around with the dog! It was a great way for them to grow up! And now, they are at college, happy, and had a safe place to call home which made it easier for them. They love the WCG employees -- they still ask me how everyone is doing! So my children are all so happy for WCG, to have known them as they were growing up.
And like I said, we are a family! So, on behalf of Worcester Common Ground, I would like to say thank you for coming. May God bless you all.
Jason Feifer CORRESPONDENTNovember 25, 2003
WORCESTER - A once-abandoned and ramshackle brick shell on Chandler Street has returned to life as a cradle of homes and commerce.
City officials and business owners gathered yesterday for the unveiling of Worcester Common Ground's latest project, a three-story building at 133 Chandler St. The building now contains five affordable housing units and one storefront, and is part of a series of revitalization projects in the Piedmont neighborhood.
The project included tearing down an adjacent building and replacing it with a parking lot for tenants and customers. The tenants will move in Nov. 1; the storefront space has not been rented yet.
Officials praised the project for its contribution to the city's affordable housing stock. "For people to live productive lives, they need to have a home. They need a stable home," Mayor Timothy P. Murray said. "This is why we're so excited to have groups like Worcester Common Ground. This is what it's all about."
The city has contributed $1.4 million to WCG's projects, according to City Manager Thomas R. Hoover. "If you have a blighted building, the surroundings suffer greatly," said Scott M. Hayman, the city's director of housing. "If you do the opposite, there is evidence that this stimulates more investing and development. That is why the city is willing to devote money to these projects," he said. "There is no negative impact in providing good, safe, stable homes," he said. "People invest, emotionally and financially, in something they can be proud of."
WGC bought the property from the city in 2001; it secured all necessary funds last April. Construction was finished recently.
Before the renovation, the roof was heavily damaged and a skylight was missing. Now, the building holds four two-bedroom apartments and one one-bedroom apartment, each of which is equipped with a washer and dryer. The storefront is 1,000 square feet.
The renovation cost $500,000, according to WCG Executive Director and City Councilor Stephen T. Patton. He said the apartments will be rented for around $500 a month. Other WGC projects include the renovation of three houses on Austin Street, which will be sold to first-time homeowners, and renovations of houses on Bancroft and Bluff streets.
September 17, 2001
José Nieves and Beverly Grandmaison are recent purchasers of a Worcester Common Ground (WCG) community land trust property in the Piedmont section of the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. They couldn't be more excited about being first-time homeowners -- something they never thought would be possible. Through the Institute for Community Economic's (ICE's) work with community land trusts (CLTs) like Worcester Common Ground, lower-income families gain a foothold into homeownership and its many benefits.
The citywide homeownership rate in Worcester is 43%, yet in José and Beverly's Piedmont neighborhood, only 11% of the residents own their own homes. WCG, one of ICE's many Massachusetts partners, is creating a ray of hope for families that are otherwise being priced out of their own neighborhoods. Roughly one third of the city's residents are considered at risk of losing their current housing.
In addition, nearly half of Worcester's elderly are disabled and lack access to adequate and affordable independent living situations. As community-driven, resident-controlled organizations, CLT's quickly identify and accommodate such special community needs and take them into account in the affordable-housing development process -- which in this case enabled Jose's grandmother to remain at home, making a great difference in the quality of life for the entire family.
Through the CLT, José is finding his voice as a homeowner and community member. Today his interest extends far beyond just "getting a house," to broader neighborhood concerns. José is hosting meetings with his new neighbors for an Earth Day cleanup and contacting city officials to repair a stop sign on the corner of his street. Instead of being displaced, Jose is emerging as a leader in his community.
ICE receives calls daily from people who want to create CLTs in their communities. The experience of being home -- feeling grounded, safe, and part of a larger community -- is one that far too few people in our country have the opportunity to enjoy. CLTs make this dream a reality. We urgently need your support to meet this growing demand.
ICE's partnership with Worcester Common Ground began in 1988 when ICE provided technical assistance to help WCG form, and that assistance continues today: ICE is currently financing two WCG housing projects through its Revolving Loan Fund. WCG has created permanently affordable homes and rentals throughout the city of Worcester.
Worcester Common Ground, Inc. 5 Piedmont Street Worcester, MA 01610 USA508-754-0908
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