By Cary Shuman
Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino chose the Chamber Government Breakfast Wednesday to make a special announcement that the city has been awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Prize.
The Prize honors communities for their unwavering efforts to ensure all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives. Chelsea will receive a $25,000 cash prize, join a network of Prize-winning communities, and have their inspiring accomplishments shared throughout the nation.
Ambrosino called to the podium GreenRoots Executive Director Roseann Bongiovanni and MGH Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) Associate Director Leslie Aldrich for the ceremonial acceptance of the prestigious award. Both women were instrumental in compiling Chelsea’s application to the RWJF.
“I have exciting news to tell you – something very special,” said Ambrosino. “Chelsea, Massachusetts is a winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize for 2017. And that’s worthy of applause.”
Even before Ambrosino completed his declaration, the crowd had responded with hearty applause.
Ambrosino said Chelsea is one of only eight communities nationwide to receive “this prestigious award.”
He called the application process “arduous” and added that it took months and months of work.
“And it couldn’t have been done without the two people here – Roseann Bongionvanni from GreenRoots and Leslie Aldrich from MGH (who oversees the Healthy Chelsea Coalition) They were the co-applicants to the RWJF on behalf of the city of Chelsea. And they worked extremely hard to get this application done. I’m very grateful and I want to thank them.”
Ambrosino said following the submission of the application, the city had to convince the visiting RWJF committee that it was deserving of the national award.
“It was the community that convinced the visiting committee that Chelsea was deserving. It was the incredible collaboration of our non-profits and community-based organization. It was the engagement of our business community led by our Chamber of Commerce and the powerful and emotional stories about what Chelsea meant to our residents.”
Bongiovanni thanked the Foundation for recognizing Chelsea’s efforts to become a healthier community.
“So many residents, city leaders, businesses and community partners have come together to make Chelsea a healthier community in which to live,” said Bongiovanni. “I am so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for recognizing those efforts with the prestigious Culture of Health Award. It exemplifies a whole community coming together for the betterment of our people, our environment, our future.”
Aldrich praised Chelsea residents for their unity and the city for its strong commitment to being a healthy community.
“Being nationally recognized for this work, despite the many challenges this community has faced and that still exist, is a reflection of the community’s resilience and commitment to one another,” said Aldrich. “The friendships and partnerships that have been forged in the effort to make Chelsea a healthier place to live are true and lasting and what makes Chelsea such a unique community.”
Dan Cortez, community engagement specialist for the Chelsea Police Department, Sylvia Ramirez of the Chelsea Collaborative, and Jose Iraheta Zaldana of Neighborhood Developers and Chelsea Thrives, also had key roles in Chelsea’s success and will join the local delegation at the RWJF awards ceremony.
“I think in the past Chelsea has always had issues and challenges and maybe wasn’t coordinated enough to meet those challenges,” said Cortez. “But I think Chelsea in the past four or five years under the previous leadership of Jay Ash and now Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes and other people like Capt. Dave Batchelor – we coordinate our efforts, we have a hub mindset where we can collectively approach these challenging issues and report on them – that provides the accountability that has been missing in the past.”
Ambrosino said the city will hold a community gathering to celebrate the award.