An evening of music and history took place during the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association annual meeting on Tuesday, April 24, at the Community Music Center of Boston, where residents joined to give thanks and welcome new board members.
The night began with a performance from a student at the Community Music Center and was followed by remarks from Chair John Alekna and President Ellen Sheets.
“When you chair a neighborhood association, you fill some big shoes because it comes with some history,” said Alekna. “The by-laws were written in 1964, and I am struck by the length of time that has passed since the organization has been around.”
In the 1960s, Alekna said the South End, Boston, and the world was in a much different place, but the same reasons why people loved the neighborhood back then are why residents still choose to live here – pointing to the diversity, welcoming atmosphere and the varying socioeconomic backgrounds that make up the neighborhood.
“I want to believe and I do believe that it all lives on,” said Alekna. “None of this has changed, despite gentrification.”
Alekna said that Ellis is made up of a group of volunteers who do it because they care about the neighborhood and the people who live there. As an organization that started from a small group of concerned residents, he hopes that love and care will continue on all these years later.
“I want to thank the board members. Some members have been on the board way before me and you showed me my own commitment and path to move ahead in the Ellis,” said Alekna. “Also, it is time to welcome new board members. I’m thrilled to have a next group of folks.”
President Sheets said over the past year the organization has accomplished a lot from being a big voice in the community to having some great social events.
“It can be overwhelming, the amount of things that we do, but it pales in comparison to 1965 when we first formed,” said Sheets. “There are many things happening in our community we need to pay attention to. There are a lot of new buildings that are coming that will have an increase in traffic and change the patterns of life.”
Longtime Ellis resident Betsy Hall was presented with the 2018 Arthur Howe Award for her leadership on the Ellis Board and for her longtime advocacy.
Hall moved to the South End in 1997 and soon became passionate about the area. Her involvement with the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association began almost immediately. As director she focused on design and communication to gain new members and advocated for positive change in the neighborhood.
Hall has held every position on the Executive Committee except for treasurer.
Kathy Emrich, an Ellis member, said she remembers back in 1999 when Hall first joined the organization. Emrich said they were looking to expand, but didn’t know how.
When Hall stepped up to the task, it was a no-brainer and flyers, post cards, phone calls all in assigned groups got the organization moving forward. As time went on, Hall continued to help with e-mails and a website redesign.
“She continues to just be the glue in the organization and network,” said Emrich. “I would credit much of our success to Hall. Even if she hadn’t taken on leadership positions she really turned us around.”
Gordon Holmes, an Ellis member, said that if you need to get something done, you call Betsy.
“Betsy jumps in to do everything,” said Gordon. “She’s been and done everything for years, and will continue to do so because that’s what she does.”
Hall, who has family in the neighborhood dating back for centuries, said she always felt like she’s belonged in the South End.
“My ties to the South End are strong and so are the friendships I made here,” said Hall. “Thank you.”
A special presentation was given by Lauren Prescott of the South End Historical Society on her new book “Boston’s South End.” The night ended with complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres allowing neighbors, friends and those new to the Ellis community got to know each other.