By Gladys Vega & Roseann Bongiovanni
The Chelsea Collaborative has been rooted in community organizing for almost 30 years and has been the agent for social change in the city of Chelsea. Throughout this time, we have grown into a robust agency that mobilizes and organizes its residents to respond to immediate needs of economic, social and environmental justice. Our intentionality in responding to the community has led us to establish one of the largest base building efforts in the city. We have responded to the greatest priorities and most pressing needs of the community: immigrants’ and workers’ rights, tenants’ and homeowners’ rights, environmental justice and youth empowerment.
In keeping with the Collaborative’s successful history of incubating and spinning off successful projects into strong, independent organizations; we are proud to announce and positively support the “spin off” of the Green Space Committee into an independent, environmental justice organization in the city. Green Space’s members have decided that with this new birth, there should be a new name. As such on July 1st, the Collaborative welcomes “GreenRoots, Inc.” as Chelsea’s premier environmental justice organization whose work will include but not be limited to urban agriculture, climate justice, waterfront revitalization, open space, public health, transit justice and more.
Background on Our Decision:
In order to help prioritize our work and focus our energy, the Chelsea Collaborative delved into its longest and most in-depth strategic planning process in 2014. With the support of nationally renowned consultants whose expertise is rooted in popular education models, we assessed each one of our committees, their work and their outcomes. The process engaged a wide range of stakeholders including city officials, members of our Board of Directors, resident members, organizers and administrative team.
After many months of hard work, we developed a 5-year plan for the agency and its areas of work. We gained great insight into our best strengths as well as areas of growth. One of our most significant lessons from this process was identifying how we can continue to connect our internal organizational strengths with the most immediate needs from the community at-large. At the same time we realized the need to prioritize our reactions and responses to community emergencies. While we see great importance in reacting to the needs of the community, we also understand there are areas of work in which we excel and others in which we are not the experts. We realized the need to identify these, hone in on the areas we have expertise and be able to take a step back when necessary.
Parallel to our strategic planning process, a sister organization in the City of Chelsea, Centro Latino, had been undergoing very difficult times. Unfortunately, it was not able to overcome the challenges and as of September 2015, Centro Latino closed permanently. The closure of this well-known and established community based organization also serving the Latino community has left a huge void and great sadness in the city. Many of the residents who saw Centro Latino as their second home, have come to the Chelsea Collaborative seeking those very services they once received at Centro. This process presented itself as a challenge, in particular because while we understand we are not Centro Latino and will not replace its work, we cannot simply ignore the need and continue business as usual. We have the responsibility to respond to the call, serve our community and re-direct our energies and work to respond adequately to our residents, our community. With Centro Latino’s closing and the results of our Strategic Planning Process, the Collaborative Board and Staff saw opportunities for reflection and growth.
Simultaneously, the Chelsea Green Space Committee, which had recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and has had a strong history of achieving significant environmental justice victories was recognized as a program that is and has been successful, but could have a deeper impact in the community as an independent organization with broad reaches into the myriad environmental and public health threats in our community.
The Chelsea Collaborative will remain the premier, multi-issue organization dedicated to immigrant and refugee families, youth and other residents in need of services and seeking justice and equality. Our foci and programs will respond to urgent and immediate needs of the community, such as fear of deportation, helping residents stay in their homes, obtaining back wages for workers, ensuring workers are being paid fair wages and overtime, and helping our young people stay out of harm’s way by providing good employment experiences both during the summer and year-round.
GreenRoots, under the leadership of Roseann Bongiovanni, will be making a public announcement about their new office location, website and organizational contact information in the coming weeks.
Should you have any questions on our process, the future of these two organizations or how to get more involved, please do not hesitate to contact either or both of us.
Very Truly Yours,
Gladys Vega Roseann Bongiovanni