When it comes to leading the Eight Streets Neighborhood Association in the South End, new President Colleen Fitzpatrick said there are big shoes to fill, but with 25 years in the neighborhood, she said she’s ready to lead the organization and continue to build a strong community.
Former President Michael Almond announced last month he was stepping away for work and personal reasons after 10 years in leadership of the long-time Association between Tremont Street and Peters Park in the South End.
“Michael is a tough act to follow and the other officers will be around so I can tap into their experience and John McLachlan has been with Eight Streets for many, many years,” she said. “I’ve been in Eight Streets for 25 years now, which doesn’t seem possible. I got involved in the organization because my neighbor Ted Pietras recruited me and got me to come on the Board. I’ve served as Treasurer and we’ve been talking with Michael about succession and I’m really excited about the opportunity and thankful I have people around me that know so much about the ins and outs of the Association.”
One of the biggest things immediately on Fitzpatrick’s plate is continuing to move from a meeting-based Association to more of a social organization. Just before COVID-19, Eight Streets decided to have quarterly meetings rather than monthly meetings, and to focus more on social events with neighbors.
“We will continue to shift to the social gatherings because that’s what neighbors are looking for – opportunities to get together and get to know one another on the street,” she said. “We were going that direction and then COVID-19 struck. Even people you know for several years you couldn’t recognize behind the mask. I think neighbors are now really excited to get out again.”
That began with the Love Your Block clean up earlier this month, but it will likely now morph into the old-time traditional Stoop Parties that Eight Streets has become famous for hosting.
“We’re looking at a kick-off the summer Stoop Party,” she said. “It’s the beginning stages – just to get together. We did one last summer and made it work with precautions. For now, the sense of community and friendly neighbors is a big part of living in this area.”
Naturally, there is also a good deal of interest in neighborhood issues as well, including the ongoing issues with rats, alley safety and keeping up the parks in the area – including Peters Park, Ringgold Park and Watson Park. Already, they have put together a partnership where they are joining in with the East Berkeley Neighborhood Association to sit in on their mayoral forums, which have been going on for the last several months with the various candidates.
“It’s the first time you’ve had so many great candidates of color vying to be the next mayor of Boston,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’m excited about that.”
She said she’s also excited for the possibility of having more outdoor music festivals this summer, including the annual Fete de la Musique that occurs in selected parks around Eight Streets.
Secondly, she wants to continue the gift card giveaway that has been part of the quarterly meetings and other gatherings outside of meetings. That was something the Association did to help local businesses and provide some fun at online meetings. The effort included buying 10, $50 gift cards at local businesses and raffling them off to neighbors. The effort created excitement, she said, and helped the Eight Streets business community.
“It generates recognition and an opportunity to have some fun,” she said. “People loved it and it’s a way of giving back to the businesses we need to keep supporting so they are here for us. We want to do that again and keep the money in the neighborhood and support local businesses that make this a fabulous neighborhood.”
Beyond that, she said they are looking to get more Eight Streets neighbors involved in the organization. Currently the Secretary position is open and with the lifting of restrictions they’d like to get more neighbors active.
“We’re really trying to bring new people into the fold,” she said. “People enjoy the socials but not so much the nuts and bolts of running the Association. We need to do a better job of communicating. It doesn’t take 20 hours a week to do this…The more people we have and engage with, the better the neighborhood will be. We’re going to start having some fun.”
Look for more information in the coming weeks about activities in the works for Eight Streets this summer.