In its fifth consecutive year, Fitchburg will
celebrate National Night Out, an annual campaign sponsored by the National
Association of Town Watch that brings police and neighbors together under
positive circumstances. Fitchburg will join over 16,500 communities from all 50
states and US territories in hosting activities aiming to develop safer, more
caring neighborhoods by enhancing the relationship between community members
and law enforcement.
While the event’s original goal to build
community has not changed, many elements of this year’s National Night Out will
be different from previous years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event,
which is typically celebrated on the first Tuesday in August, was rescheduled
to Tuesday October 6, 2020. Another change is that the event will take place on
a virtual platform and be broadcasted through Facebook Live instead of being
held at Lowe Park.
Coming on the heels of peaceful demonstrations
denouncing police brutality in Leominster and Fitchburg, and a virtual
celebration of Juneteenth, this year’s National Night Out will help to continue
a community conversation emerging in the region right now related to
contemporary issues of racial injustice.
Organizers of Fitchburg’s National Night Out
include representatives from NewVue Communities, the Fitchburg Police
Department, ReImagine North of Main, the Yo Daddy Doe Sho, and the ARTivism
Initiative. The planning team, in a collaborative effort, has developed a full
itinerary including the following discussion panels:
Pillars for XXI Century Community Policing;
Inclusion, and Representation in City Government and Services;
Strategies to Improve Communication Between the Police Department and the
The panels will be interspersed with
art-sharing, storytelling, and performances touching on themes of human
experiences and healing during this unprecedented year. The event will also
include a virtual resource fair.
Ernest Martineau, Chief of
Police for the Fitchburg Police Department and planning committee member said “National Night out 2020
will look drastically different from previous years, however the message of
police community relations will be loud and clear. Established in 1984 as
a bridge between law enforcement and the communities we serve, now more than
ever we see the importance in this relationship.”
Event organizer, Meredith Geraghty from NewVue
Communities said “My favorite part of National Night Out has always been the
resource fair. Our community’s health and safety depend on the quality of our
law enforcement as well as access to housing, healthcare, education, healthy
food, and art. This event highlights many of the great organizations and
services that exist in the region. This year we are seeing new, young community
leaders who are participating in NewVue’s Community Stewards program and are
stepping up and taking the lead on this event. “
Derek Craig aka Yo Daddy Doe said “I
want to focus this year on broadening the conversation with first responders
and the communities they serve as well as provide a platform for those who are
participating in this event to speak, listen, and observe. This will be
as interactive as possible; from questions for the panelists to information and
contacts to our resources here in North Central MA. As an artist and
activist, I feel personally responsible for providing this platform
to people who look like me and to make this as constructive and
relatable as it has been in previous years.”
NationAll residents of Fitchburg and the surrounding communities are invited register to attend the event at https://tinyurl.com/FitchburgNationalNightOut. Any organization or individual who wants to highlight a resource or service within the community during the event should email Francisco Ramos at Framos@nvcomm.org. Deadline for art submissions and resource fair materials is September 30th, 2020 at 11:59pm
Congressman James McGovern and
State Representative Natalie Higgins joined members of the NewVue Communities leadership
team for a tour of the Carter School Apartments on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. The newly completed renovation of the Carter
Junior High School on West Street provided a beautiful back drop for Marc Dohan,
Executive Director to brief Congressman McGovern and Representative Higgins on
both the challenges of a project like the Carter building and the positive impact
of completing such an important affordable housing opportunity for the
community. “We are very pleased to have this
building completed and the apartments at full capacity. The condition of the
building certainly provided some unique challenges given its earlier
condition,” said Dohan.
A tour of the building included meeting
Carol Bergeron, a tenant who moved into her unit the beginning of March. Ms.
Bergeron spoke with Congressman McGovern about how pleased she was to have
secured an apartment, describing it as spacious and beautifully designed. Ms.
Bergeron who was born and raised in Leominster was most happy about the
opportunity that her new housing provided – an opportunity to move back home to
Leominster. “There is a great deal to like about this place and my apartment,
but probably the best thing is that the people who manage the building are so
nice, responsive, and helpful,” said Bergeron.
Congressman McGovern, who supported the Carter School project throughout its development, spoke about the critical need for affordable housing and encouraged NewVue to continue identifying projects that have the impact of the Carter School Apartments. “The opportunity to tour the Carter School Apartments as a finished project was wonderful, and I’m glad my office was able to help support this important project,” said Congressman Jim McGovern. “While affordable housing continues to remain unreachable for far too many families, I was so glad to see that these welcoming and affordable units will serve as homes that families can be proud of. I commend NewVue for taking this project on and seeing it through to completion. It’s impressive.”
State Representative Natalie Higgins
offered her thoughts on the project and said “I’m so thrilled to see the Carter
School Apartments filled with new and old neighbors. NewVue Communities worked
relentlessly to ensure this project was successful, even helping residents move
in throughout the start of the COVID-19 state of emergency and continues to
bring so many opportunities to the residents of Leominster through its work.”
Thursday, June 25, brought 65 guests to the NewVue Communities virtual 2020 Annual Meeting. Leominster Mayor, Dean Mozzarella, guest speaker for the evening, offered a very positive overview of NewVue’s purchase and rehabilitation of the former Carter Jr. High into what is now 39 affordable housing units in the Carter School Apartments. “NewVue has an amazing team. I have 27 years of being involved in these projects and the work on this building was remarkable. We have a historic building that now offers sorely-needed housing in a nice area of Leominster. It really shows that if you have the right team you can accomplish anything,” said Mayor Mazzarella.
A short business meeting included the renewing of the following board members to a three-year term: Jay Bry, Christina DiRusso, Thomas Gray, Erin Nano. Laura O’Kane, the newest board member voted on Thursday, has served on NewVue’s real estate committee for three years and works at Geronimo Properties in Leominster. Laura is a resident of Fitchburg.
Three awards recipients were recognized at the meeting. Wingate Companies, NewVue’s housing management company for the past 8 years, received the Community Partnership Award.
Commenting on the award, Michael Martin, President of Wingate Companies stated, “we are truly honored to receive NewVue’s generous recognition of our dedicated Wingate staff. We are so proud of their commitment and compassion especially when recent circumstances have been so uniquely challenging. Such dedication is only possible because Wingate and NewVue share a true partnership and we look forward to an even stronger alliance over many more years to come.”
Stacey Fenton, a former Fitchburg resident and NewVue Public Education Steward, was recognized posthumously with the Luz Sanchez Resident Leadership Award. Close friend and fellow Steward, Luisa Fernandez, said “Stacey actively participated in the fight for education in Fitchburg. She had a great vision of what she wanted and an enormous strength to achieve it. Thank you, Stacey, for this huge life lesson that you gave us,” said Luisa.
Jackie Mastrangelo, Small Business Developer at NewVue had the pleasure of presenting a new award, Small Business of the Year, to Stacey Sparrow Murphy, owner of Art on the Rocks. “ NewVue selected Art on the Rocks not only for their impressive small business growth but also for the ability of Stacey and her husband to stay current, accessible and operating full time during COVID-19 and surpassing her business goals during the most recent six months. Stacey strengthened her business through offering social media video classes,” said Jackie. Art on the Rocks is in their tenth year of operation.
Marc Dohan, Executive Director, reported into the Zoom meeting from Carter School and assured guests an appropriate ribbon cutting ceremony would take place when guidelines allowed.
Marc provided an overview of the Agency’s work during the past year with a focus on the impact of COVID-19 and the staff’s timely response in shifting NewVue services to meet the ever-changing needs of clients Face-to-face homeownership and financial classes and coaching went virtual as well as the technical assistance offered by the small business team. Community organizing continued to be strong, just different, also counting on virtual meetings.
Acknowledging the incredible work of the Carter Apartments development team, Marc was able to walk guests through the condition of the building prior to construction and the character and beauty of the current building with before and after construction photos. “Thank you to our terrific contractor, Hutter Construction and our design team led by Davis Square Architects for making this all happen,” said Marc. The New Liabilities to Assets project was also highlight.
Marc included in his comments his reaction to the recent events in our country leading to marches in some of the cities and towns across our service footprint – offering his steadfast commitment to ensure NewVue is an active participant in the solutions to end social injustice. He spoke specifically about how structural racism in housing has made it harder for Black Americans to purchase a home.
In closing, Marc stated, “none of what we do at NewVue can be accomplished without partners, funders, and donors. You energize us with ideas, inspire us with your action and fund the work that we do every day. Our board guides us through these turbulent times, and both encourages us and holds us accountable. We couldn’t do what we do without our great staff. Thank you all for taking the time to come out tonight and thank you all for providing me with hope.”
If you are connected in any way to the work of NewVue Communities, then you have been impacted by the great work of Neighborworks America. This week, the 240 plus community development organizations in our nation, like NewVue Communities, are celebrating all that we can accomplish as a result of the supportive structure Neighborworks America provides its members. June 6 – 13, is Neighborworks Week and NewVue is proud to be a member.
Neighborworks America offers quality resources, demonstrating their commitment to affordable housing and safe neighborhoods. Their technical assistance, including peer exchange opportunities, as well as training and leadership development, position community development centers to be current in best practices and promising strategies as they plan work related to affordable housing, economic development, and community leadership. “We make regular use of the learning resources made available to employees,” said Marc Dohan, NewVue’s Executive Director. “The conferences, webinars, and various peer learning groups are excellent. They are designed specifically for our work and that makes for strong and worthwhile training opportunities.”
Financial support through grants is an important way that Neighborworks America demonstrates an interest in the progress and success of each member. Their funding helps NewVue leverage additional funding so we can achieve our mission. Learn More about NeighborWorks support of our Liabilities to Assets program.
Self evaluation is key to any successful nonprofit and Neighborworks makes available applicable tools to measure progress and evaluate data that makes for better informed planning and decision making.
Bottom line – we value NeighborWorks America and the impressive, supportive and professional relationships we have established as a result of our membership. THANK YOU Neighborworks America!
Our newest program, Liabilities to Assets has completed the first home, rehabbed and made beautiful for an income eligible family. The house is located on Lorchris Street in Leominster. Liabilities to Assets is a pilot project and partnership between NewVue, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the five municipalities of Athol, Gardner, Leominster, Fitchburg and Clinton.
This program was made possible, in part, through the support of Neighborworks America. A grant from Neighborworks provided the much-needed initial funding for this project that identifies abandoned houses causing blight and rehabilitates those houses. The program provides families with incomes between 60% and up to 110% of the area medium income an opportunity to purchase an affordable home.
Neighborworks’ grant, in support of NewVue’s expansion and growth, funded the legal, financial and feasibility studies, housing assessments to start the 121A Plan (cataloguing potential homes) as well as staff and administrative startup costs. That initial investment has resulted in the recent completion of the first home on Lorchris Street and positioned NewVue to move forward with other houses in the region.
Hired in March of 2019 as the Director of the Liabilities to Assets program, Anne Reitmayer oversees the transformation of each home beginning with identifying qualifying houses through to the sale of the rehabbed home. Anne, who has spent most of her career in real estate stated, “this program is making a difference, it’s important work that benefits neighborhoods, the new homeowner and our economy. The value of this program can be measured well beyond the joy it will bring to the new homeowners, although that is my favorite part.”
NewVue has additional homes under development in Fitchburg, Leominster and Athol.