By Aaron Keebaugh
In mid-December Boston faith-based ministry Episcopal City Mission (ECM) awarded a $15,000 grant to The Neighborhood Developers (TND), one of 21 community organizations to receive money from the $282,000 total given out for community development projects.
ECM “works for social and economic justice in Massachusetts, with particular emphasis on the urban poor,” according to its mission statement. The grant money came by way of the Burgess Urban Fund, a grant program designed to support grassroots organizations in the Greater Boston area, such as TND.
The goal of TND, a nonprofit based in Chelsea, is to build a housing infrastructure that people can afford as well as build connections within the community, said Executive Director Ann Houston in a phone call Tuesday. “The Episcopal City Mission really supports this idea,” she said.
TND presently owns and has redeveloped four properties in Revere for affordable housing, including rental spaces on Nahant Ave., Highland Ave., and Walden St., as well as a two-family unit on Beach St. In addition, the group does a good deal of collaborative work with the City of Revere, said Cate Blackford, manager of Healthy Community Initiatives, on Wednesday.
TND representatives sit on the Revere on the Move task force. And the organization has been involved with large-scale community development projects, especially in the Shirley Ave. area.
Last year TND collaborated with the Revere Community Council; D.C.-based, pro-playground organization KaBoom!; and JetBlue Airways for the redesign and construction of Costa Park, which was completed in June.
The latest community project is the Shirley Ave. Gateway, a collaborative effort—between TND, the city, the urban planning firm Ager Group, and the Community Design Resource Center—aimed at redesigning the area just outside the Revere Beach T station.
“We’re trying to find ways to redesign the area [using] more art and murals along the street to make it more inviting,” Blackford said. So far there have been three community input meetings to gather ideas for the project, she added.
The Gateway project will be funded through a combination of city and TND money, she said.
And Houston said that the ECM grant money will help fund TND’s portion of the project.
The redesign, Houston noted, will “develop a neighborhood [the residents are] very excited about” and provide ways to strengthen the business district on Shirley Ave.
ECM money will also be used to fund “neighborcircles,” grassroots community meetings run entirely by TND and residents.
At a cost of a few hundred dollars each, the “neighborcircles” draw between 6 to 10 neighbors who, in the initial meetings, get to know one another by talking about why they came to the area and why they stay, Houston said. The meetings vary. Some “neighborcircles” organize block parties. Others organize flash clean-up projects in the area. TND has done a half dozen or so in the Shirley Ave area, she added.
The grant money will be used to purchase food for meals, fund incidental expenses (such as babysitting services), and pay the TND staff person who oversees the events.
“It’s really begun to change how people feel. It gives them a sense of neighborhood,” Houston said of the meetings. “‘Neighborcircles’ are really critical and important to build community life.”
She went on to say, “The neighbors in Shirley Ave. are really engaged. They have great ideas. We’ll see a lot more [activity] over the years.”
Ward 2 Councillor and Council President Ira Novoselsky said Wednesday, “[TND] is making a big push to come into the city… It’s a great program…”