What does WAFT do, anyway? An inside look at Worcester’s anti-foreclosure warriors: Part 2 — The team rallies around an Oak Street family

This is the second in a two-part report chronicling several days in the lives of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team, a nonprofit grassroots organization that advocates and provides support for residents facing eviction and tries to help those people stay in their homes while untangling the often complicated legality of their situations.


The team in action

It is not the “oppressive” day the morning weather report called for, but by 10:45 a.m. the mercury has risen far beyond what could be considered comfortable, as WAFT petitioners assemble in a neighboring carpark to challenge a recent eviction notice.

Parked on the curb of a short one-way street not far from downtown is a Subaru Outback, a tarp of hastily bundled goods straddling the roof, and its hatchback filled with what was once cluttering the home in question.

WAFT assembles to support Donna Berrios outside her Oak Street home.

Alex L. Khan / For Worcester Sun

WAFT assembles to support Donna Berrios outside her Oak Street home.

Neither Donna Berrios nor her husband, Rafael Mejias, have been inside the home since the eviction notice was issued five days before. Their son, A.J., not similarly barred by the sometimes ambiguous foreclosure laws, carries out a large textbook, and places it on the hood of the car.

“I’m just glad that he got my bible out,” said Berrios, a cross hanging from her neck. She is smoking — something to ease the stress, she says — while watching her son bring a fire extinguisher from the house.


Part 1 — Gaining traction and attention


Q&A: Mike Angelini, Worcester’s power broker, gets down to business

The title was innocuous: “A proposal for the reorganization of Worcester’s Economic Development Efforts.” The content was anything but.

In addition to referring to Worcester’s developmental efforts as compartmentalized, inefficient and absent of collaboration, the proposal listed a litany of deficiencies; the phrase “We do not have” appeared in six consecutive sentences.

The paper recommended a new entity, the Worcester Economic Development Corporation, assume the responsibilities of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Business Development Corporation, Worcester Redevelopment Authority, Destination Worcester, and others.

Criticism is common, but this broadside to the status quo, written five years ago, remains notable for two reasons.

angelini_4-sm

David Niles / For Worcester Sun

Michael P. Angelini

First, its author was none other than Michael P. Angelini, Chairman of the law firm Bowditch & Dewey and one of the most influential business leaders in the city. Second, it led to a fundamental change in the city’s approach to economic development — and the effects of those changes are still evident in 2016.

QUOTE OF NOTE:

“There is a difference between being a politician and being a political leader. Politicians are mindful of the pressures they face. Political leaders are mindful of the future that we face. I think it was terrible leadership by the City Council.” Find out what council decision got Mike Angelini fired up later in this story.

Ray Mariano, a Worcester conversation

Ray Mariano is sure about many things. Except what’s next.

He understands you can’t plan for everything. Something will change, get in the way, go terribly wrong. It could be uninspiring leadership, or cross words from a skeptical father to a teenage boy from the wrong part of town. A sudden job opening. Or the spark of a candle in an abandoned warehouse on a cool December evening.

It could be a funny story from one of your two grandchildren. Or the look of a troublemaker standing back to revel in the mayhem he helped cause. Each ensuing moment has the potential to be a turning point, an opportunity.

Ray Mariano will leave the Worcester Housing Authority after 13 years June 30.

Fred Hurlbrink Jr. / Worcester Sun

Ray Mariano will leave the Worcester Housing Authority after 13 years June 30.

Raymond V. Mariano, 64, the longtime mayor who will step down as executive director of Worcester Housing Authority Thursday, June 30, after 13 years at the helm, may not know what his tomorrow holds but he is certain to have an answer for whatever the next sunrise brings.

One thing’s for sure: He’ll be neither wallflower nor gadfly.

“When I left City Hall, I didn’t go back into the building for one year. And the only reason I went back at the end of a year, was to get a dog license,” Mariano said recently from behind his desk in the housing authority’s Belmont Street headquarters. “Other than that I wasn’t going back into the building. When the mayor leaves, he should leave. You won’t see my portrait, ever, at City Hall. Not gonna get it. Not interested, don’t care. I mean it’s nice — my kids don’t like the idea that I won’t get it.

“When you leave, you should just leave.”

University Park

Sun Shine: Walking Together, on a mission in Worcester’s Main South

“Some of these projects may crash and burn and that’s OK. But it’s important that we get out into these communities to do some work. I guess you could say that this is at the heart of evangelization. We have an opportunity to do some amazing things.”
— Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward


There are a lot of Episcopal churches in the Worcester area, including All Saints, St. Michael’s-on-the-Heights, St. Luke’s and St. Matthew’s, among others.

Some of the church buildings are majestic, with their distinctive old-style bell towers and steeples. Others are more low-key, snugly blending into the comfy landscape of suburban Central Massachusetts.

And then, there’s the “church” that’s run by the Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward.

It has no nave, no kneelers, no spires, no altar.

In fact, an individual could pass by it without knowing that it is a house of God.

University Park

Sun Staff / Worcester Sun

Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward at a recent Wednesday morning outreach session at University Park.

You see, Rev. Ward is an Episcopal “urban missioner” and her church sits smack in the middle of gritty Main South, just a stone’s throw from the YMCA’s Central Community Branch on Main Street.

It’s located near a lot where a homeless man, a few years back, was found frozen to death in a car he sought refuge in.

Worcester Lacrosse breaks the mold

Editor’s note: Today we’re proud to introduce to our members the latest addition to our growing family of contributors, Joe Parello. Joe’s name may be familiar to astute followers who recall his byline from his year as a sports editor and reporter for GoLocal Worcester in 2012-13. He’s also deputy editor and cofounder of SuiteSports.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.

The Worcester Warriors don’t look like your average lax bros, in more ways than one. The team doesn’t have all matching helmets, for starters, and the ethnic makeup of the group is far different from many of the programs Worcester goes up against.

“We play teams from these little towns, and they look at me like they’ve never seen a black guy before,” sophomore Phil Adarkwah said with a smile. “They just stare at me, Malik (Jenkins), Livingston (Jenkins) and Paul (Yiadom). Then we just go out and scrape them.”

Harry Jones has coached the combined Worcester high school boys lacrosse team to its third straight postseason appearance.

Joe Parello / For Worcester Sun

Harry Jones has coached the combined Worcester high school boys lacrosse team to its third straight postseason appearance.

“We do feel a little bit out of place, but we embrace that,” senior Kyle Farrell said. “As raw athletes, we are a little out of place. Yeah, not all of our helmets match, and we don’t have a booster club. We don’t even have a JV program. It is what it is, and we do our best to make it work. Our uniforms might not all match, but that’s OK.

“We don’t want to fit in, we want to stand out.”

The Warriors, under the highly motivated guidance of coach Harry Jones, have indeed been standing out the last few seasons. The program’s ascension to the ranks of contender, though maybe not in your stereotypical lacrosse town or well-heeled fashion, should probably come as little surprise.

St. John’s, St. Peter-Marian baseball ready for showdown — and future

It would be no surprise to sports fans around the area to find that St. John’s Shrewsbury and St. Peter-Marian are running out onto some field or track or court somewhere a bunch of talented young men (or women) about to win a conference title or vie for a state championship in something.

That it’s baseball season and the Pioneers and Guardians are regarded among the top teams in not only Central Mass. but the state surely serves as even less of a revelation.

With such well-stocked rosters, though, featuring college- and prep-bound stars like Jared Wetherbee, Pat Gallagher, Jake Rosen and Jonathan Gonzalez, it may sneak up on some folks when they realize the best is likely yet to come.

Ian Seymour is one of several underclassmen on each side of the St. John's, St. Peter-Marian baseball rivalry who will be back to ratchet it up next year.

Sun Staff

Ian Seymour is one of several underclassmen on each side of the St. John’s, St. Peter-Marian baseball rivalry who will be back to ratchet it up next year.

“We’re a very young team,” said seventh-year SPM coach Ed Riley, who knows a thing or two about young, rising stars in the Seven Hills. “We’re up and coming, and we only have four seniors on the roster this season. We’re looking at big expectations for the younger kids over the next couple of years.”

Sun Shine: Arrays of light — Clark student’s solar project to aid ‘our heroes’

Folks who have visions for special projects to benefit society often spend years, decades, and even lifetimes in order to turn their ideas into useful, practical and workable accomplishments.

Not Krissy Truesdale.

Krissy Truesdale, Clark's latest aspiring social entrepreneur

Mark A. Henderson / Worcester Sun

Krissy Truesdale, Clark’s latest aspiring social entrepreneur

It took the Clark University student only three years to transform her innovative plan to benefit the environment, while financially helping deserving everyday “heroes,” into a reality.

But the short turnaround time isn’t the only thing that makes Truesdale’s project remarkable.

You see, Truesdale started bouncing around the idea for “Solar for Our Superheroes,” a project aimed at providing solar power to the homes of people who benefit their communities through their efforts in the workplace, when she was a sophomore in high school.

Work to install solar panels on the project’s first home may start as early as this August.

Sun Sampler: A healthy portion of our freshest good stuff

With in-depth reporting, intricate storytelling and thoughtful perspectives we have striven to create a menu that accentuates the best of Worcester and its surrounding communities. Something you didn’t know yesterday that makes you think about tomorrow. The places you’ll want to go. Real folks with incredible stories, who we think you’d want to meet.

Hanover Theatre

Sonoma restaurant in, now out, as part of Hanover Theatre expansion

Sonoma, the swanky and well-regarded north county eatery, has abandoned plans to open a second location in the building at the corner of Main and Federal streets where Hanover Theatre is in the midst of a $5 million renovation and expansion project.

Plans for the first-floor restaurant at 551 Main St. are now in limbo, according to Troy Siebels, president and CEO of Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, after Sonoma Restaurant of Princeton decided to walk away from the project because it was too expansive of an endeavor.

Hanover Theatre

Worcester Sun

The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts

“[Sonoma] decided that they’re not looking to move ahead,” Siebels said Tuesday, April 26. “I think it was just a bigger bite than [Sonoma chef/owner Bill Brady] was looking to take.”

“It just didn’t work for me at this time,” said Brady, who has also been a culinary teacher at Worcester Technical High School. “It just didn’t add up for us.”

Michael and Coreen Gaffney

Mike Gaffney, a Q&A with Worcester’s ‘People’s Councilor®’

He’s earned degrees from Worcester State and Assumption College. Bought a house on Burncoat Street at the ripe, old age of 23. Been practicing law in the city since 2002. And he was elected to an at-large seat on the City Council in 2013.

It wasn’t until February 2015, though, when he declared his intention to run for mayor, that Michael T. Gaffney really made a name for himself. Here we are 14 months later, and he’s the “People’s Councilor” — at least that’s what Facebook says.

Michael and Coreen Gaffney

Mark A. Henderson / Worcester Sun

City Councilor at-large Mike Gaffney and his wife, Coreen, photographed at Salisbury Mansion.

Indeed Gaffney has been ubiquitous in social and traditional media since mounting a serious challenge to Mayor Joseph M. Petty in November, when the incumbent tallied the narrowest margin of victory in his three mayoral elections (2,119 votes, about 11 percent) and the upstart garnered 3,020 more at-large votes than two years prior.

Voter turnout increased from 15,272 in 2013 to 19,954 last fall.

“There was a lingering defeatist attitude. That’s changing,” Gaffney said. “Once people believed that I could pull it off [having a chance to be elected mayor], that changed the dynamics because then they were willing to come out.

“Once people actually believe that you will stand for something — which I think so few politicians do — and that you can actually win, then they will show up and start voting. If you think your team is going to stink, you’re not going to go to the game.”