Salem’s Root celebrates three years of helping at-risk youth

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Peter Endicott, the owner of Salem’s Cheese Shop and Root graduate Henrique Corminas prepare the hors d’oeuvre that they created especially for Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration. [All photos by Alyse Gause Photography

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

Last Wednesday evening, over 200 people filled Root’s elegant HarborPoint event space overlooking the harbor at Shetland Park, enjoying fine food, stylish table settings and festive lights. The well-heeled patrons were not gathered for just another holiday party. Rather, they were attending a third birthday party fundraiser for Root, a non-profit culinary-based training program for at-risk youth. They also celebrated honoree Deborah Jeffers, Root advisory council member and school nutrition director for Salem Public Schools, who received the 2018 Root Community Leadership Award.

 

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Founder and Board Chair Jennifer Eddy, Root graduate Nicky Lebron of Salem, Nutrition Director for Salem Public Schools Deborah Jeffers and 2018 Root Community Leadership Award Recipient, parent of Root graduate Leticia Carrasco, Root graduate Cassandra Bartolo of Beverly, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Root Executive Director M. Scott Knox were all speakers during the program at Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration.

 

 

Mayor Kim Driscoll hosted the Third Annual Gala and presented the award to Jeffers. “Who doesn’t like an organization that helps kids?” Mayor Driscoll asked rhetorically as she kicked off the formal program.

 

The Mayor spoke of Salem’s relationship with Jeffers, who eleven years ago proposed a food program in the public schools to provide fresh, wholesome, scratched-cooked meals with locally sourced ingredients. Today, this initiative has gained national attention and provides more than 900,000 nourishing meals a year. Every Salem school student gets free breakfast and lunch, regardless of need.

 

 

Jeffers also connected early on with Root founder and chairman of the board Jennifer Eddy to offer advice about setting a program that could both serve Salem Public School kids and be successful. “She is an exceptional partner and it is a pleasure to honor her,” Mayor Driscoll said.

 

Jeffers spoke briefly about the importance of food growing, preparation and sharing as a community to help lift us all up. “I don’t usually speak in front of a group. I’m more of a back room kind of person,” she admitted.

 

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Table of hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen for Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration includes Root’s own pickled vegetables and “Oat-eez” along with other catering items that are sold at the Root Café in Shetland Park. [Photo by Alyse Gause Photography]

Root is a social enterprise that focuses on the food industry as a training tool for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 who have significant barriers to employment. Through a rigorous 12-week, 200-hour, work-force training program, students (called Program Partners) learn career and life skills through hands-on experience. “Root is the on ramp for youth in Essex County with an obstacle to success,” said M. Scott Knox, Root executive director.

 

Proceeds from the event will help support Root’s Essex County job skills training program.

 

It all started when Eddy had an idea she wanted to pursue to give at risk youth an opportunity to build a better life and break the cycle of poverty. She had visited and was impressed with D.C. Central in Washington, D.C. and Liberties Kitchen in New Orleans, two successful programs that use the culinary arts to train motivated young adults to access employment and education, and develop their skills as leaders and mentors.

 

When she returned, she put together a group of people, including her friend Elisabeth Massey, who serves on the Root board as community volunteer. They used the same structure and training program model Eddy encountered in D.C. and New Orleans. “She took the best of those two organizations and tailored it to our needs in Salem,” Massey said.

 

The result is Root, which operates a training program as well as several lines of food service-based businesses out of its Shetland Park facilities. These provide a training environment for the students and also generate revenue to support the mission. They include: The Root Café, which offers breakfast and lunch items; Catering By Root, and HarborPoint at Root, a new 2,200 square foot special event site. “Kids in the program learn by working in a real business,” Massey said.

 

Training is an intensive curriculum that runs Monday-Friday with four-hour morning and afternoon shifts. Program Partners attend life skills workshops, one-on-one career readiness coaching, and culinary training in Root’s on-site full catering kitchen. Root graduates are equipped with industry-certified credentials and direct skills that give them a sense of accomplishment and an advantage in seeking employment. “They leave Root with the skills not just to get a job, but to keep a job,” said Knox.

 

Referrals to the program come through the school system, the Department of Children & Families, social workers and word-of-mouth. Candidates who demonstrate a “barrier to success”, such as socio-economic level, housing status, or learning disability, go through an application and interview process. The average age is between 18 and 19 and Root just graduated its fifth cohort, marking almost 100 graduates in three years. “We really try to do whatever we can to be successful,” Massey said.

 

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Root graduate Nicky Lebron of Salem, Root graduate Arianna Couturier from Salem, Root Founder and Board Chair Jennifer Eddy, Root graduate Jayla Bryant from Salem, Root graduate Nevada Winter from Salem, Nutrition Director for Salem Public Schools Deborah Jeffers and 2018 Root Community Leadership Award Recipient gather at Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration. 

 

Recent graduates Nicky LeBron and Cassandra Bartholow praised the program. “For the first time, I felt like I was able to accomplish something for myself. I learned to be more proactive. I learned what I’m good at is working with people,” said Bartholow, whose mother works in Shetland Park and heard about Root.

 

LeBron is a 2018 Salem High School alum. On the last day of school, his class took a field trip to Root, and he knew immediately Root was for him. “What I loved about Root is — everything!” he exclaimed. “My mentors also felt like my friends. I could go to them about anything, not just cooking.”

 

 

Root is located in Shetland Park, 35 Congress Street, Building 2, Third Floor. For more information or to volunteer or make a donation, visit rootns.org or call 978-616-7615.

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Inaugural Salem pumpkin drop draws crowd

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Hundreds of pumpkins, diverted from landfills and incinerators, will become compost for local gardens and farms. [Courtesy Photo/Marilyn Humphries]

By Shelley A. Sackett

Last Sunday at Dead Horse Beach, the sun shone brightly, the air was Fall-crisp and pumpkins were flying through the air as over 100 people participated in Salem’s first Great Pumpkin Drop and Toss.

Scotia Hunter, 10 and a fifth-grader at Carlton Innovation School, never imagined she would be throwing her jack-o’-lantern into a barrel four days after she carved its face.

“I think it’s really fun,” she said, despite hers landing a little short of its mark.

Sponsored by SAFE (Salem Alliance for the Environment), SalemRecycles and Black Earth Compost, the community event promoted composting with the goal of signing up more Salem households to participate in the fee-based service. It also provided the opportunity for people to find out if they had the skills to shoot their pumpkin through a basketball hoop.

A blue tarp in front of the truck bore the slimy remains of those former Jack o’ lanterns whose owners didn’t score.

Justin Sandler of Black Earth Compost with is glad he put down a tarp in front of his “basketball hoop” truck.

 

“I feel like people are underestimating how much force it takes to get a 10-pound pumpkin up and over into the truck,” said Justin Sandler, Short Stop at Black Earth Compost of Gloucester, which donated its services. “We lowered the hoop for the kids, but some people have been adventurous,” he added with a chuckle.

Black Earth Compost CEO Conor Miller, who has done post-Halloween pumpkin pick ups in other towns and has handled Salem’s for the past couple of years, knew the city was ripe for just such a special event.

“Salem’s amount of pumpkins is triple any other town’s, and I always wanted to shoot one through the basketball [hoop],” he said. “We’re trying to get as many people in Salem on board to participate in curbside composting. It’s the right thing to do.”

The idea to host a free community composting event grew out of a SAFE board meeting last summer where members set reducing residential composting rates and increasing participation as one of its top priorities for the coming year.

Initially, a grant allowed Salem to offer composting at no cost during a pilot program begun in April 2014. By that December, about 1,500 homes had signed up. When the grant ran out and the city had to start charging for the service, household participation rates took a tumble.

Current subscribers pay $8/month, but the cost could be reduced to $6.50 per month with the addition of fewer than 100 more households, according to Miller.

SAFE Chairman Pat Gozema, who has been active in SAFE since its 2001 founding, says her group is concerned about the existence of methane gas coming from landfills and the incineration of organic material, particularly food.

“We need to increase composting so food waste goes to the growing of more food rather than producing more methane gas that causes climate change,” she said.

Gozemba organized an initial event planning session shortly after last summer’s SAFE board meeting. She invited Miller, Salem Business Manager Julie Rose, and members of SalemRecycles, the all-volunteer committee appointed by Mayor Kim Driscoll in 2008 to develop ways to increase recycling and decrease waste.

Miller suggested doing a pumpkin drop off.

“He said after Halloween, the compost bins are very heavy, straining his collectors’ backs. He thought this would be helpful,” said Shelley Alpern, SAFE board member and longtime volunteer.

The group decided to make the event community-wide and free, so they could amass hundreds of pumpkins and reintroduce people to composting. Black Earth agreed to absorb the cost of the pick up in return for gaining the organic material. Coffee Time Bake Shop on Bridge Street and Honey Dew Donuts and Dunkin Donuts, both located on Washington Street, donated treats and donuts. SAFE absorbed remaining costs.

Miller started Black Earth Compost in 2010 after working in the recycling and composting fields in Wisconsin and Wyoming. He is passionate about eliminating wasted materials and committed to doing his part to make that goal a reality.

“I think of composting like a soil bank. If you’re only drawing from it, in other words sowing but not recycling the nutrients, then we’re all going to be broke,” he explained. He refers to food bank and animal feed donations as alternatives to composting, but is adamant that consumers not throw away food that came out of the ground “or we’re going to run out of nutrients.”

He too hopes more people sign up for curbside composting services after attending Sunday’s event.

“Driving from one house to the next is more efficient than driving from one neighborhood to the next. It becomes cheaper and cheaper the more people that do it,” he said.

Judging from the almost full container of names entered into a raffle for a free one-year compost pickup, the event sponsors succeeded in whetting people’s appetites to participate more in composting. The free cider and treats didn’t hurt either.

“Instead of letting pumpkins sit on the sidewalk for three weeks and rot, the city collects them and makes them into compost,” said Salem resident Craig Barcelo between bites of a donut. “This is fantastic. I’d definitely do it again.”

Marblehead bar mitzvah boy boosts hockey in Israel

 

 

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Jacob Aizanman in a sea of hockey equipment he secured to donate to CIHS as his bar mitzvah project.

Ice hockey is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Israel. Not so for Marblehead resident and hockey player Jacob Aizanman, who secured more than 200 pieces of equipment to bring to the Canada-Israel Hockey School for his bar mitzvah project.

It all started four years ago when Jacob’s mother, Melissa, was at the Western Wall in Jerusalem during an Eim Chai Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip. She asked a woman who was wearing a hockey shirt with a Canadian symbol to take her picture. The two started chatting, and Melissa learned the woman was an Olympic gold medalist who was in Israel to promote the documentary, “Neutral Zone.”

“My husband [Darren] is Canadian. Jacob loves playing hockey. It felt ‘beshert’ [meant to be],” said Melissa. She couldn’t wait to get home and suggest the Canada-Israel Hockey School as a possible mitzvah project for Jacob’s bar mitzvah, which would be held in 2018 at Temple Sinai in Marblehead.

“Neutral Zone” (vimeo.com/70459909) documents a program at the Canada-Israel Hockey School in Metula, a town in the northernmost tip of Israel, smack between the Syrian and Lebanese borders. The program’s goal is to promote peace between the next generation of Israeli Arab and Jewish kids through playing hockey together.

“You’d think there would be bombs coming at us,” said Sidney Greenberg, who helped launch the CIHS and is vice president of one of Canada’s largest media companies. “Instead, here’s a hockey rink in the center of it.”

The kids who participate include Druze and Muslims from villages in the Golan Heights, Jews from kibbutzim and nearby towns, and Christian Arabs from Nazareth.

Many area Arab kids had never met a Jew. Many Jewish kids thought only of rockets screaming across the sky from Lebanon toward their homes when they thought of Arabs. Now those same kids are teammates, several even self-described “best friends.”

“Is that going to get us peace in the Middle East?” asked CIHS Head Coach Mike Mazeika in the film’s first minutes. “Probably not. But if you don’t start small and take tiny steps, you’ll never be able to take a big step.”

Jacob Aizanman, who plays hockey at Veterans Middle School and in Marblehead Youth Hockey, watched the documentary and knew contributing to the school was going to be the mitzvah project for his bar mitzvah. “I love hockey. I’m Jewish. And it’s cool to learn they play hockey in Israel,” he said.

With his mom’s assistance, Jacob contacted the CIHS to find out how he could help. He learned they needed specific gear (neck guards and jock straps). Luckily, his uncle, Jeffrey Volk, has spent his career in the sports media industry, and connected them with the right people to get the donations. The NHL and Pure Hockey agreed to support the project.

“They wanted to get involved. They wanted to promote hockey in countries not usually associated with the sport,” Melissa said.

Over 200 pieces of equipment arrived at their Marblehead home in four huge boxes. The entire family schlepped it all to Israel and on July 10, Jacob presented it in person to CIHS. The highlight for Jacob was being invited to skate on the ice and hang out in the locker room. He even received an offer to return next summer and coach hockey.

Jacob is proud that he was able to provide the school with fresh gear and promote his favorite sport in his Jewish homeland. “It was really meaningful and still has an impact on me,” he said.

Shirat Hayam Gets Down to Business

 

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Anna Hathaway settles into her new office as Congregation Shirat Hayam. She is the synagogue’s first Business Manager.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

SWAMPSCOTT — For its first thirteen years, Congregation Shirat Hayam operated without a business manager. That changed on June 4th with the hiring of Anna Hathaway, a Middleton CPA, PFS and MST with 18 years of career experience.

 

Hathaway couldn’t be more pleased with her new position. “I wanted to find a place where I could work for the greater good, using my talents to help an organization accomplish its mission,” she said from her sunny office that abuts the social hall. “In today’s world, I believe it is important that people have both a place and an organization of people to be able to connect with something bigger than themselves. After meeting the staff at CSH, I was interested in joining the team and working with them to accomplish theirs.”

 

The need for a business manager surfaced as part of a three-year process undertaken by the CSH Strategic Planning Group and facilitated by Dennis Friedman of the Chesapeake Group. The group’s charge is to develop and implement a new Strategic Plan, Vision and Mission for CSH.

 

The journey began in 2017, when Renée Sidman became CSH Board President. She and fellow board member Larry Groipen approached the full board to fund a strategic visioning program. “We felt strongly that we needed to invest time into understanding who we were and where we were going. The best analogy was that we all needed to row the boat in same direction,” she said.

 

Friedman came highly recommended by Groipen, who had worked with him professionally for over 25 years. “Dennis was a fresh set of eyes to our community and brought his own experience as past president of his congregation in the South Shore,” Sidman noted.

 

What resonated most with Rabbi Michael Ragozin, however, was that Friedman remains with CSH to oversee the vision statement during its implementation. “That practical focus on implementation was very important to us. Many people on the Board sat on other organizations where an inordinate amount of time and resources is spent on creating a plan that simply sits on a shelf,” he said.

 

The resultant CSH Vision Statement has three prongs, including: “We embrace our responsibilities to invest in strengthening our Jewish community for generations to come.” Implementation of this prong led to creation of the business manager position.

 

As a business consultant with 28 years’ experience specializing in strategic planning and organizational development, Friedman concurred with the rest of the group that CSH had strong leadership in the religious and educational spheres, but needed a business manager to bring the same level of leadership in the physical and fiscal infrastructure sphere if it was to fulfill its mission “for generations to come.”

 

A successful candidate would be someone with strong financial expertise and management skills who could also work collegially with staff to assist them in increasing efficiency and effectiveness, the group decided. Hathaway’s resume was a perfect fit.

 

Born and raised in Lynn, Hathaway spent many summer days at Kings Beach. She and her husband Dave are parents to an adult son, DJ. She holds a Masters of Science in Taxation from Bentley College and a B.S. in Business Administration from Salem State University. Her experience includes: Controller/CFO of Quadrant Health Strategies, Inc.; Controller of Wakefield Management, Inc. (Midas franchises); Business Manager at Epstein-Hillel Academy, and Controller of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore (from 2001-2006).

 

After interviewing her, Groipen, a member of the Strategic Planning Group, knew that Hathaway was just the sort of person the group had in mind.

 

“Anna is a CPA, she has a lot of building knowledge, she understands enough about roofing, plumbing, landscaping, HVAC and building safety and security to make good decisions,” he said. “Above all, she wants to work towards continuing the welcoming experience we at CSH are so proud of.”

 

While Hathaway is ready to advance CSH’s vision for the future, she is also mindful of national current trends. “The biggest challenge facing CSH is similar to other religious organizations, namely attracting and retaining families to become active participants of the congregation,” she said.

 

Not Your Zayde’s Cheder

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By Shelley Sackett

 

Congregation Shirat Hayam will unveil Darkeinu (“our way”), a trailblazing post-b’nei mitzvah program modeled on a college education that gives Jewish teens credit toward Kabbalat Torah/Conformation for participating in a broad range of activities that they choose for themselves.

 

Students in grades 8 through 12 can earn credits towards their Darkeinu “degree” by participating in a variety of activities that encompass five basic areas of Jewish life: community services, ritual leadership, community leadership, study and Zionism.

 

“As an educator, I am really enthusiastic about giving teens flexibility and choice,” said Janis Knight, Director of Center for Jewish Education. “One thing is for sure — this isn’t your zayde’s cheder, or even much like your own Hebrew School experience any more!”

 

The program’s real groundbreaking innovation, according to Rabbi Michael Ragozin, is in offering credit for “life experience” already available throughout the North Shore and beyond. Teens can fulfill their course requirements by participating in any number of local programs, such as the Jewish Teen Initiative, the Sloane Fellowship, Lappin Foundation, BBYO, Cohen Camps and more.

 

They also have the option of proposing something they come up with on their own or studying with Rabbi Ragozin in a more traditional setting. Once a month, however, all Darkeinu participants will meet for a light dinner and discussion with the Rabbi and CJE Director as part of a mandatory 9-week character and Jewish values program called “Chai Mitzvah.”

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“By giving teens credit for participating in an array of teen programs already in place, Darkeinu isn’t competing with existing local opportunities. Rather, we are encouraging participation in the unique activities that are right for each teen. Darkeinu is participant-centric, not institution-centric,” Rabbi Ragozin noted.

 

Perhaps most revolutionary is that Darkeinu is open to any teen that self-identifies as Jewish and has a whole-hearted interest in building their own authentic Jewish identity as they become an adult.

 

“We’re not trying to make anyone CSH members. We’re just trying to get Jewish kids together to explore being Jewish in their own way,” Knight said, adding, “And they get credit for it.”

 

One prong of the newly crafted CSH Vision Statement reads, “We will deliver the best childhood and teen education on the North Shore,” and Darkeinu helps fulfill that mission. A recent report from the Jewish Education Project, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today, influenced Knight and Rabbi Ragozin as they brainstormed about Darkeinu. (see http://JewishEdProject.org/GenerationNow.)

 

The JEP study developed core questions for educators to imagine teens asking themselves, such as: Who am I? With whom do I connect? What is my responsibility in the world as a Jewish adult? How do I bring about the change I want to see? “Creating programs and experiences that help teens to ask and look for answers to those questions is our goal,” Knight said.

 

Rabbi Ragozin, who was equally affected by the study, agrees. “We know that Jewish teens are yearning for inspiring opportunities and that meaningful teen engagement opens new worlds of wisdom and practice as they become adults. We want all to have the best Jewish teen experience, whether it’s inside Shirat Hayam or outside,” he said. “But in the short term, our goal is that they feel energized and have fun.”

 

Darkeinu launches at a brunch on Sunday, October 14. For more information or to register, go to bit.ly/RegisterDarkeinu or contact Janis Knight, CJE Director at CJE@ShiratHayam.org or 781-599-8005 x25.

Residents whet their whistles at Swampscott Public Library

Shelley A. Sackett

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Adam Denny Golab (at left), brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd at Swampscott Library to “Beer Tasting 101.”

 

Shelley A. Sackett

Despite rumbling skies and threats of downpours, over two dozen people ventured out last Friday evening to whet their whistles another way — by attending the Swampscott Library’s “Beer Tasting 101.”

For more than two hours, Adam Denny Golab, brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd to an evening that can best be described as, “everything you never knew you didn’t know about craft beers.”

Most importantly, after describing the brewing process and explaining in detail the differences in tastes among six beers, they circulated throughout the library’s reading room, pouring sample of the beers. Patrons cleared their pallets with pretzels, chips and cheese and crackers.

Nunnari, who says his wife, Kim, “kind of volunteered him” to sponsor the beer tasting (Kim is a volunteer at the Swampscott Library), hopes people learn a little about the complexities and subtleties of beer.

“There’s more to this than just opening a can,” he said with a laugh.

The library’s philanthropic arm, The Friends of Swampscott, captured the proceeds from the $20-per-ticket admission to the beer tasting event. The nonprofit provides volunteer help, conducts the annual book sale, sponsors programs for adults, purchases all museum passes, funds the library newsletter and underwrites many Young Adult and Children’s Room activities.

The tasting offered four different and distinctive genres of beer: an original German lager beer (Weihenstephaner Original); two malts (Murphy’s Stout and Mayflower Porter); two India Pale Ales (Bent Water’s Sluice Juice and Thunderfunk), and two Sour or Acid beers (Bent Water’s Cosmic Charlie and Destihl Wild Sour).

The history and intricacy of each beer was detailed before patrons had their first sip. IPAs, for example, were developed from pale ales in England to be shipped to India, where the hot climate demanded a lighter beer than typical English stouts. Hops were added so the brew would survive the journey.

Golab pointed out that hop flavors can be personal to the taster, with women, “for some unknown reason,” more prone to taste garlic. The hoppier the beer, the less bitter it tastes.

Some describe IPAs as hazy, chewy or mouthy, he added.

Nunnari also explained the importance of the “three-sip rule” when tasting beer.

“Never trust that first sip. Always sniff the beer first and drink it from a glass, not out of the bottle,” he advised.

Golab attributes Bent Water’s superior flavor to Lynn’s water, the “best water in the area” since it comes from the Lynn watershed instead of central Mass. The different profile minerality-wise gives Bent Water’s beer a different quality.

“After all, beer is 98 percent water,” he pointed out.

Like Nunnari, his interest in beer brewing started with the gift of a home-brewing kit from his parents. He has been brewing beer professionally for four years and the activity reminds him of family life as a child.

“I grew up in a house that cooked together a lot. Combining ingredients that create flavors that are unique and fun and work together well is a creative process,” he said.

He hopes after the tasting people realize there are more styles of beer than their usual go-to brand.

“There are so many different kinds of beer. There is something out there for everyone,” he said.

Sitting at café-style round tables of six, patrons chatted between sips, getting to know each other and the different brews. Anthony Cerra, a Swampscott resident whose father was a soda bottler and beer distributor from Pennsylvania, likes to support the Friends of the Library and likes to taste different kinds of beer. He used to brew beer before he had children.

“I guess it’s in my blood,” he said.

At a nearby table, Andrea Mercurio marveled that this was the first time she had been in the library.

“I love it. I want to wander around. I think I spend too much time at work. I definitely need to hang out here more,” said Mercurio a newcomer to Swampscott, she found out about the event on a Facebook page and thought it would be an excellent way to get out and meet people in the community.

Four years ago, the Swampscott Library hosted a beer tasting, and the library’s executive director, Alyce Deveau, thought it was time to do it again.

“It’s summertime and people drink beer in the summer,” she said. “People will get a lot of information and have a chance to come in and see the library and what they’re missing if they haven’t been here before.”

Reference and Teen Librarian Janina Majeran, who helped serve cheese and crackers between beer “courses,” thought the evening was fantastic.

“It’s really great for the library,” she said. “It is great exposure and something different than just books.”

Salem’s first rooftop bar touts strong drink, simple food and stellar views

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Shelley A. Sackett

Salem has no shortage of special summer attractions and activities.

From recreating at Salem Willows Park and Winter Island to enjoying the Essex Street Fair and Jazz and Soul, Salem Maritime and Salem Arts Festivals, there seems to be something happening every day guaranteed to suit almost every taste and age.

And, as of last month, those who crave a lively seasonal bar with a 360-degree view perched atop a snazzy new downtown hotel can have their specific summertime itch scratched too, with the opening of Salem’s first rooftop bar, aptly and simply named “The Roof.”

Casual high-top tables and plush banquette seating lend the bar a trendy, urban air that suits the slick retro décor of the hotel below. Although The Roof can accommodate 85 guests seated and an additional 150 more standing, its 18-seat rectangular bar fills quickly, especially on balmy, clear summer evenings and weekends.

Offering a casual menu of Mexican small plates and views of downtown Salem (and a sliver of a glimpse of the harbor), The Roof is above Salem’s newest hotel, The Hotel Salem, at 209 Essex Street. Its wood-paneled exterior walls, turquoise and lime green color scheme and live greenery produce the feeling of a hip, vibrant and modern outdoor space.

Glass barricades provide safety without compromising the views and a seasonal heating system will keep patrons toasty as summer fades to fall and Salem’s notoriously busy Halloween season. A retractable awning creates shade over the bar area.

Executive Chef Justin Perdue has created a menu of traditional and composed oysters, ceviche, six taco dishes and three inventive guacamole preparations designed for sharing. Recent standouts include Pork Belly Guacamole, Marinated Flank Steak Tacos with dates, pickled mushrooms and farmer’s cheese, and Roasted Eggplant Tacos.

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The small plates complement The Roof’s cocktail program that boasts three rotating seasonal cocktails on tap, fresh house-made frozen Frosé (frozen rosé), sangria and the usual craft beers and wine by the glass and bottle.

 

So far, the Frosé and various guacamole offerings have been the most popular items. To keep up with the volume, The Roof plans to buy another Frosé machine. As for guacamole, “we can go through 50-60 avocados on a busy day!” Perdue exclaimed.

He admits that managing The Roof’s wait list has been difficult. “During peak times we can have a wait list of almost two hours and hundreds of people. Once people get up there, they are happy and enjoy the atmosphere, but we’re still working to find a balance between turning tables quickly and inviting people to lounge around and relax,” he said. “It’s a fortunate position to be in.”

Nonetheless, Perdue said overall response to the rooftop bar has been strong and positive. “We have been busy since day one. When we opened in June, the amount of people who immediately went out of their way to visit really blew us away,” he said.

Although The Roof has no special events planned for this summer, Perdue said he looks forward to exploring different programs in seasons to come. He also plans to add more tables and chairs to accommodate more guests and “hopefully bring the waitlist down.”

In the meantime, those anxious to check out Salem’s first rooftop bar are advised to come early and bring plenty of patience.

Texting not allowed — senior and fourth grade pen pals keep alive the old fashioned tradition of writing letters

 

Paul Calsimitto and Bill Hyde, Sr

Hadley fourth grader Paul Calsimitto and his senior pen pal, Bill Hyde, Sr

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

To the casual observer, last Wednesday looked like just another noontime at the Swampscott Senior. The lunch tables were set, the bingo spinning wheel was in place, and the alluring aroma of pizza wafted from the kitchen.

 

But at 12 o’clock sharp, the Senior Center van pulled up to the front door with a surprise. When its doors opened, out poured a throng of excited and agile Hadley fourth grade students, ready to meet their senior pen pals for the first time.

 

Since last October, Julie O’Brien’s class has corresponded with volunteer seniors from Swampscott the old fashioned way: by writing letters. “This experience was wonderful. I wish the seniors had a chance to see the look on the kids’ faces when they opened their letters. It was amazing to see the joy as they discovered new things about their new friends,” O’Brien said.

 

The intergenerational program was started 6 years ago by Marilyn Cassidy as a way to connect seniors and young children. Gina Bush, whose son William is in O’Brien’s class, chaired the program this year.

Chairperson Gina Bush serves pizza to Noah Murphy

Chairperson Gina Bush serves pizza to Noah Murphy

 

“The best part is the connection the seniors made with the class,” she said as she looked around the dining room. “It’s fun to see how well some of them are getting along and to see them meet face-to-face for the first time.”

 

The exercise is not just for fun, however; there is also a pedagogic and life skills component. The students learned to write a formal letter, how to address an envelope and how to share personal information with someone they had never met.

 

When the class received mail from the senior center, all the students would open their letters and read them at their desks. Then they would all meet “on the rug” to share something new they had learned about their new friend, O’Brien said.

Hadley fouorth grade teacher Julie O'Brien

Hadley fourth grade teacher Julie O’Brien

 

Some pen pals were uncannily well matched. Student Paul Calsimitto’s father is a fireman in Revere. His pen pal, Bill Hyde, Sr. was a Swampscott fireman for over two decades, including a period as Fire Chief. “My dad was very surprised,” Calsimitto said. “He thought it was kind of funny.”

 

For Hyde, who has been part of the program since its first year and has kept in contact with several of his former pen pals, it’s not just about getting to know a fourth grader. “It’s an opportunity to learn about their parents, their brothers, sisters. It’s almost like I have another family,” he said.

 

First time pen pal Rick Pierro, who retired from his advertising agency, Designer’s Eye, has always wanted to be a big brother, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Although he has lots of nieces and nephews, he has no children and loved having a pen this year. “My only complaint is it takes too long between letters,” he said with a chuckle.

Noah Murphy and Rick Pierro

Noah Murphy and Rick Pierro

 

His pen pal, Noah Murphy, really liked learning about Pierro through their correspondence. What amazed him the most? “I was surprised he wants to be a champion chef and enter in the Julia Child competition,” Murphy said as Pierro grinned.

 

After lunch, seniors and fourth graders teamed up to play four rounds of bingo, bonding even more in lessons of frustration, good sportsmanship and gracious winning.

Norma Freedman and Talia Pagliaro

Norma Freedman and Talia Pagliaro

 

Norma Freedman, who chaired the program last year, was happy to just relax this year. She enjoyed her Italian ice with her pen pal, Talia Pagliaro, who was surprised to learn Freedman’s children attended Hadley and said she couldn’t have asked for a better pen pal. “Whenever she talked about something, she put a lot of thought into it,” Pagliaro said with a big smile.

Shelley Sackett and Caden Ross

Shelley Sackett and Caden Ross

 

Last but hardly least, each pen pal received a card and envelope. They addressed the envelope to themselves and exchanged them, with the intent of keeping the correspondence going over the summer. After all, as Caden Ross enthusiastically put it, “It’s fun!”

Salem Garden Club celebrates its 90th anniversary

Church Stroll

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

On January 7, 1928, 20 men and women met at the home of Mr. Wilis H. Ropes. Bound by a love of gardening, the mostly married couples had decided to form the Salem Garden Club, a Salem mainstay that celebrated its longevity on May 20 with a 90th Anniversary Tea and Social at the First Church.

 

Mayor Kim Driscoll was on hand to express Salem’s appreciation. “It was an honor to recognize the club’s 90 years of dedicated service beautifying our city, sharing horticultural knowledge and providing social enterprise to members young and old,” she posted on her Facebook page.

 

Co-pres.

Co-Presidents Meg McMahon and Tracy Rubin at the 90th Anniversary Tea and Social.

On display were artifacts from years gone by, including old program books, photos, certificates of recognition, handwritten thank you notes from the people of Britain for seeds sent in the 1950’s and a slide show of special moments over the last nine decades. “Some members wore hats, which added to the festive atmosphere,” said SGC 2017-2019 Co-president Meg McMahon.

 

Following its 1928 establishment, the club’s first decades of existence were marked by much activity. It joined the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts in 1929 and participated in the annual spring Flower Show in Boston that same year.

 

Members

Members Eleanor Soucy, Rosemary Mroz, Mimi Ballou, Jane Koza, and Judy Giunta at the 90th Anniversary Tea and Social held on May 20, 2018.

 

At the suggestion of local architect Philip Horton Smith, members rebuilt the garden at the Brookhouse Home on Derby Street. For a few years in the 1930’s, SGC sponsored a garden contest for children involved in the Salem summer playground program. With cash prizes for the best home gardens, the event was a summer favorite.

 

To celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary in 1938, the ambitious membership sponsored the city’s first garden tour, opening to the public ten gardens on Federal and Chestnut Streets and others along the Salem Common. Called “Open Garden Day,” the event drew over 600 people at $1.00 each, and the club raised enough money to hold its own horticultural show in historic Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street the next year.

 

The club sponsored a second, smaller garden tour in 1941 to celebrate the opening of the Gardener-Pingree House on Essex Street, designed by Salem architect Samuel McIntire. As one of its missions, SGC had taken on the responsibility for replanting the gardens at this magnificent Federal mansion.

 

Library

Spring arrangement at the Salem Public Library.

 

Over the next decade, WWII interfered with the club’s many activities, although conservation chairperson Mrs. Willis Ropes advised citizens on how to plant their own war gardens. Never ones to remain idle, members began diaries with interesting facts and entertaining anecdotes about their own gardens. “Old Salem Gardens,” a compilation of these entries, was published in 1946 and remains available for purchase 72 years later.

 

McMahon, who has been a club member since 1999, described the SGC’s early years, when meetings took place in members’ homes. “Some records indicate that there may have been Saturday night meetings and sherry drinking with lovely flower arrangements set up by one’s maid or butler,” she said.

 

Today, with over 100 active, associate, sustaining and honorary members — all women —, the meetings take place in many venues that can accommodate the club’s growing numbers. Tracy Rubin, who has been a SGC member since 2013, is its co-president.

 

City Hall

Large group of members after winter planting of urns on Washington Street.

 

Another difference is that membership in SGC is “very hands on. Today’s members dig in their own dirt and enjoy refreshments that the hostess committee provides,” McMahon said. Programs typically include presentations by experts in landscape and floral design, environmental studies, local farming and native plants, among many others. Open to the public, the meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from September through December and from March through June.

 

Although the style and membership of the club has evolved in the last 90 years, McMahon stressed that its traditions, missions and objectives remain unchanged: the advancement of gardening; the development of home grounds; civic beautification, and aiding in the protection of forests, wild flowers and birds.

 

Committed to the beautification of Salem, the club has worked on the Town House Square, planted shrubs and annuals in Lappin Park, donated and planted trees in Salem Common and maintained the gardens at Brookhouse and Emmerton House.

 

Today, SGC’s civic involvement can be spotted in the celebrated large urns on Washington Street, the City Hall window boxes, and the Blue Star Marker on Hawthorne Boulevard. The club also provides monthly floral arrangements to the Salem Public Library and helps judge the window box and traffic island contest during Heritage Days. Each year, one lucky qualifying student receives a generous $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of club members.

 

Blue Star

Blue Star Memorial Marker on Hawthorne Boulevard honoring all Veterans.

 

The club is hardly idle during the winter months. Since the Christmas House Tour began in 1984, SGC members have participated by decorating one of the homes in the annual event. Starting in 1999, the club expanded its involvement to include the Christmas Boutique, where members sell handmade wreaths, swags, boxwood trees and arrangements to raise funds for its activities.

 

In 2017, the club’s biennial Garden Stroll, which highlights gardens in different neighborhoods, featured 15 private gardens in the McIntire District. The club is already busy planning its 2019 Garden Stroll.

 

McMahon has enjoyed her almost 20 years of SGC membership, with its monthly meetings where she has learned much from the many presenters and from fellow members. “Most of all, I’ve loved being a part of a dynamic organization and having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people,” she said.

 

For more information, visit salemgardenclub.com or its Facebook page.

In Salem, NSCDC, United Way forge ‘win-win’ partnership

105Congress-1

North Shore Community Development Coalition redeveloped the Congress Street residences, an 8-building 64-unit complex, after buying the property in 2014.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

The North Shore Community Development Coalition will host an evening on June 6 to spotlight the local impact the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) is having in Salem, where the funds have created affordable housing, neighborhood development, vital community services and vibrant urban mural art.

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and its partner, FHLBank Boston, are co-sponsoring the event to show investors how they have helped revitalize the North Shore community.

“We thought a donor appreciation event would be of interest to ‘spread the news’ while showing off the wonderful work they do with a walking tour,” said Senior Executive Director of the North Shore Region Bill Weihs.

This is the first North Shore CDC partnership with United Way to help market its Community Investment Tax Credits, and Weihs thinks it’s a win-win association.

“It was tremendously attractive to the donors that I cultivate and steward throughout the North Shore, since they want their donations to remain local. In previous years, they only had Boston-based CDCs to chose from,” he said.

United Way partners with a couple of dozen CDCs throughout the eastern MA region to administer a CITC strategy as they try to sell their tax credits to individual investors.

NSCDC could do this itself, but Weihs explained many CDCS choose to go through an agency like United Way because “often they are not selling out their credits. They are looking for another way to market these excess credits.”

Like most CDCs, the North Shore CDC has a particular niche — youth homelessness and vibrant urban mural art — that Weihs called “particularly unique. I don’t know of that many CDCs that focus on youth homelessness,” he said.

NSCDC Chief Executive Officer Mickey Northcutt said the nonprofit concentrates primarily on housing development projects that will have a “triple-bottom-line impact” — they create meaningful affordable housing units; they create highly sustainable, cutting-edge energy efficient housing which serves as a model for sustainable development, and they have a transformative economic development impact on the neighborhood in which they are located.

One example of a finished project is the Congress Street Residences, an 8-building, 64-unit Salem development. NSCDC acquired the buildings in 2014 because they were “some of the most distressed assets in the city. People were living in unsafe conditions,” Northcutt said.

After a $26 million rehab, the space has turned around for tenants and neighbors and includes a sculpture garden on Dow Street and a 2,000 square foot community center, called Espacio, on Congress Street.

Another finished project is Harbor & Lafayette Homes, a 2-building 100 percent affordable Salem development project that will be completed in early 2019. Of the 27 units, 16 will be prioritized for formerly homeless young people aged 16-24.

“They will have access to many services to help them with job training, support services, etc. to help them get back on track,” said Machel Piper, NSCDC director of development.

That project will have a live-in manager and additional case management services as well as a public art installation.

Future projects which have already been designed and permitted and await funding are The Lighthouse, a 2-building 46-unit mixed-income new construction in Salem, and Harbor Village, a 30-unit mixed-use 100 percent affordable project on Main Street in downtown Gloucester. This will revitalize a long-closed, blighted commercial property and when completed, will reconnect Gloucester’s west and east ends.

“We work only in low-income neighborhoods throughout our footprint on the North Shore, choosing environmentally challenged and distressed properties that are in dire need of renovation,” said Piper. “Many times this is a property that, once renovated, has the capacity to completely revitalize an area that will, in turn, transform a neighborhood.”

Both Northcutt and Piper point to CITCs, passed by MA in 2015, as helping NSCDC tap into the fundraising world and enabling it to become a strong partner with United Way and its excellent fundraising capacity. “We both have the mission that whatever is raised locally, stays local,” said Piper.

For more information or to attend, contact Bill Weihs at bweihs@supportunitedway.org or call 978-922-3966 x2005.