By Seth Daniel
What started as a summer get-together for neighbors near the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home neighborhood has turned into an effort that has logged many miles this fall within their community.
Now dubbing themselves the Chelsea Hill Community, the group has grown significantly and engages in safety walks and meetings on a monthly basis.
On the first Wednesday and third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m., the group walks the streets of the neighborhood. On the fourth Thursday, they hold community meetings at 6 p.m. in the First Congregational Church on County Road.
It’s something that has been as much a surprise to the founders as it is to newcomers and those who have been in the neighborhood for years.
Monica Elias-Orellana, a life-long Chelsea resident, said the idea was born out of the Community Enhancement Team (CET) efforts, which focuses neighborhood betterment projects citywide.
Elias-Orellana is part of that effort, and she and Councillors Yamir Rodriguez, Luis Tejada Yahya Noor and Pastor Ellen Rohan Ball had scheduled a clean up of Malone Park.
Then on Sept. 2 this year, they decided to hold a ‘Meet Your Neighbor’ day as a follow up, enlisting Councillor Roy Avellaneda, Henry Wilson, City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Councillor Damali Vidot to the effort.
“After that day, we decided that we should try to keep the momentum going,” said Elias-Orellana. “We’re an independent residential group and we are now called the Chelsea Hill Community. We do similar things to the existing Sector Groups, but we also do events as a neighborhood too.”
The walks have been very productive and the group has added a police officer to accompany them. They are now doing winter walks and plan to have hot chocolate and cookies to accompany the effort.
“We have a lot of momentum right now, and I think this is something we can keep going for a long time,” said Rodriguez. “I think we can make this group strong enough to join the other groups in Sector 4 or in Admiral’s Hill.”
Rohan Ball said the meetings have brought many of her members of the First Congregational Church on County Road a lot of comfort.
“At one of the meetings, two sisters who are members of the church and had to leave Chelsea after the Great Fire of 1972, were reminiscing,” she said. “It really brought them back. I felt this instant happiness that I was thrilled to see. They enchanted us with stories of the fire and the old neighborhood. It was really great to have the newer neighbors come back with the old neighbors and learn from one another.”
The group is also trying to address an early concern of the elderly in the neighborhood, that being the task of shoveling snow. Working with the Boys & Girls Club, they are hoping to organize volunteers from the Club who will shovel the walks for elderly folks during snow storms.
Elias-Orellana said what is important about their group now is that they have recruited a strong base of neighbors who are passionate. That, she said, will endure even the coldest winter walks.
“We’re a small group now, but it doesn’t matter if we have 30 or 50 people, we are a group of passionate people who are looking to be impactful where we live,” she said.
The next Chelsea Hill Community Walk will be on Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. Check their Facebook page for the latest location.