Robert Wood Johnson Team Leaves Chelsea Impressed

By Seth Daniel

Local organizers said the City, its non-profits and its residents left a positive mark on a team of evaluators visiting the city from the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health prize last week.

“I thought it was exciting,” said Roseann Bongiovanni of GreenRoots, one of the planners. “We had planned so much for them to see and the community welcome at City Hall and the bus tour, and it all went much better than we anticipated…We actually made it to every place we wanted to go. We felt it was a great, inclusive view of the community…They said they felt their experience was really positive.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he was thrilled with the way the City was portrayed. He said he believes the City has a great chance of winning the $25,000 prize and all of the accolades that go with it.

“I was so proud of the City of Chelsea during those two days they were here,” he said. “It showcased how much great work is being done and the good collaboration that comes with non-profits and residents. This is a fantastic city. I was proud of the city and proud to be its leader. If we don’t prevail in this award, I want to visit the city that does because I can’t imagine anyone is doing better work than the City of Chelsea.”

The team arrived on Thursday, May 18, and were greeted at the Council Chambers with a large crowd of City officials, residents and non-profit leaders. Presentations were made by Ambrosino, State Housing Undersecretary Juan Vega, Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys Vega, Council President Leo Robinson and Chamber President Sergio Jaramillo.

Yeny Solis, who was recently hired by the City’s Billing Department, gave testimony as to how she turned her life around. She said the community gave her a chance to flourish through her struggles, and she and her young son have done so.

“This community helped me to grow and spread my wings and find a successful life,” she said.

Jaramillo said the City was one he didn’t plan to stay in when he came to this country, but it grew on him until he was a part of it.

“You come to Chelsea and you don’t figure you will stay,” he said. “You figure you will move on to somewhere else. That’s what I thought, but the fabric of Chelsea is in my blood and my character. I now love this place.”

Bongiovanni said the evaluators visited Roca, the Box District, talked with Councillor Damali Vidot, Enio Lopez and Judith Garcia, went to the Clark Avenue School and also to the MGH Chelsea.

They also visited the New England Produce Center to see how environmental justice played out in the outfitting of diesel trucks with more environmentally friendly equipment.

“They asked us a lot of questions and they were very interested in how we address our health issues,” she said.

The City and the planning committee expects to find out if they win before July 4.

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Council President Leo Robinson, Ron Robinson, Leo Buzzalino of ISD, Hector Prieto of ISD and Building Inspector Mike McAteer.

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Compare Supermarket owner Al Calvo, Rev. Sandra Whitley, and City Treasurer Bob Boulrice.

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School Committeeman Bobby Pereira and Councillor Damali Vidot.

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Photographer John Kennard and Judy Mastrocola.

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Roseann Bongiovanni welcomes the evaluators to City Hall, including (left) RWJ Director Karabi Acharya.

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City Manager Tom Ambrosino welcomed the team to the City on Thursday afternoon.

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Evaluators listen to the presenters (L-R) RWJ Communications Director Joe Marx, Lillian Rivera of Miami-Dade County Health Department, Rev. Sandra Whitley, RWJ Director Karabi Acharya, Devarati Syam and RWJ Deputy Director Carrie Carroll.

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Chelsea Collaborative Director Gladys Vega details how far the City has come over the years in public health.

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