The spotlight is finding Roy Avellaneda and it’s a platform he didn’t seek.
No one expected a global pandemic to hit the United States in 2020 and no one could have predicted the impact COVID-19 would have on Chelsea, which has been one of the hot spots in Massachusetts.
Roy Avelleneda, president of the Chelsea City Council, has been in the middle of the fight against the disease, reaching out for many hours daily to help Chelsea residents in their time of need. Last Thursday Avellaneda stood in his Pan Y Café restaurant that his friend, Chelsea Collaborative Executive Director Gladys Vega, has converted in to a popup food pantry.
As Vega appeared on a livestream broadcast with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, Avellaneda could be seen in the background preparing food boxes for distributions to the hundreds of residents waiting in line outside the café.
A voice could be heard on the live broadcast – believed to be that of Sen. Markey – saying, “Thank you, Roy, for all you’re doing.”
Earlier, Avellaneda had appeared on a virtual town hall broadcast with Congressman Joe Kennedy III, joined by Councillor Judith Garcia and GreenRoots Assistant Executive Director Maria Belen Power. The three Chelsea representatives were quite impressive in their conversation with Rep. Kennedy.
Avellaneda’s non-stop volunteerism has not gone unnoticed by city officials, residents, and his friends.
“I take my hat off to Roy,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “He’s been out there working hard and helping to provide food and items to the community.
Avellaneda, whose family has owned Tito’s Bakery on Broadway for many years, has been everywhere in the city helping out, most notably in the food distribution effort.
“I started doing this [food distribution] to help out the community and I’m doing as well as what I can get from the people in the community – if the Monkiewicz family didn’t help me, if the Produce Center guy didn’t help me, and the donations weren’t coming in – none of this would have been possible. I may be a vehicle but what’s inside the food pantry, it’s definitely all of Chelsea. It’s incredible in that way.”
Avellaneda reached out to his father Tito Avellaneda’s contacts in the grocery industry and it’s produced results. Compare Market, owned by Alberto Calvo, responded with generous donations.
“I’m happy that so many people are responding to my requests,” said Avellaneda. “They’re watching the news and they’re seeing what’s happening in Chelsea. They know my reputation and they trust my judgement and my efforts.
“The amount of publicity this has gotten is incredible,” said Avellaneda. “Somebody like Timmy Mullaney sees it and he makes a donation. My college friends are making donations. It’s not about me. They see the efforts and they want to give.”
Long-time Chelsea residents aren’t surprised that Avellaneda’s leadership is coming to the forefront. The son of Tito and Isabelle Avellaneda, Roy was a popular kid and very good athlete growing up in the city. He excelled as a center for a championship Bucks team coached by Bruce Harrison and Leo Robinson. He distinguished himself in academics and athletics at Dom Savio and went on receive a degree from Babson College, one of the nation’s finest business schools.
Avellaneda’s colleagues on the City Council are also contributing to this full-scale humanitarian effort. Councillor-at-Large Damali Vidot, who appeared on a livestream broadcast with Sen. Markey Monday, has been a standout while the dean of the Council, Leo Robinson, is also helping out in the community every day. Todd Taylor (helping out at Washington Park) and other councilors are also doing what they can to assist residents.
Avellaneda has been in daily correspondence with City Manager Tom Ambrosino since the COVID-19 crisis began in the city.
“I back Tom Ambrosino 100 percent,” said Avellaneda. “I think the world of Tom.”
One of the co-MVPs with Avelleneda has been Gladys Vega. The City Council president is quick to credit Vega.
“Gladys is unbelievable in the fact that she can lobby for the residents, but she can also bring a team together,” said Avellaneda. “It’s great to walk in to the Collaborative and have all these people who volunteer their time because they have faith in Gladys and know they’re doing a great thing. I can go out and get some donations in food and cash, but if there wasn’t the effort by Gladys and her team of volunteers, it would be impossible to get this done.” Today Roy Avellaneda will be at the Collaborative assisting a massive food distribution operation. He is doing his best for his city as he has for all of his 49 years.