board of directors
Eugene Benson, JD, Chair
Environmental and Land Use Lawyer and Educator
Eugene “Gene” Benson is an accomplished and experienced lawyer with a vast background in environmental law and justice. Through Gene’s work at ACE, he represented Chelsea residents on a variety of campaigns to bring about environmental justice. These include providing legal strategy and advice to prevent the permitting of a dirty diesel power plant across from Chelsea’s only public elementary school; and achieving a $1 million mitigation settlement from an oil spill into the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek. Gene is an adjunct professor at the Boston University Metropolitan College graduate program in City Planning and Urban Affairs and an adjunct clinical professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health.
Jovanna Garcia-Soto, Member
GrassRoots International's Program Coordinator for Latin America and former Environmental Justice Program Director for the Green Space Committee,
Jovanna has a Master's Degree in Environmental Management from Metropolitan University in San Juan, PR and is trilingual in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. She has a strong background in leading statewide campaigns, working with youth and in engaging environmental justice populations throughout Latin America and the US> She is originally from Puerto Rico where she helped mobilize students to end the US military occupation of Vieques. She also spent time working in Brazil with the riverine communities in the Amazonian region.
Yahya Noor, Clerk
Community Connector, Massachusetts General Hospital's Chelsea Health Center
Yahya is vastly knowledgeable in community-wide activities as he manages the website ourchelseama.org; and he works with several refugee populations and residents in need of medical attention. Yahya is a Chelsea homeowner, father and humble community leader.
Madeleine Scammell, Ph.D, Vice-Chair
Assistant Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University School of Public Health
Madeleine is the principal investigator on several research initiatives that seek to determine the compounded effects of environmental and public health threats with social stressors. Dr. Scammell is a Chelsea resident, environmental justice activist and a prominent member of the Chelsea Board of Health.
John Valinch, Member
Private Equity Research Analyst, UNITE HERE
John is a Chelsea resident, dedicated and passionate activist and former youth leader. John currently serves as a Private Equity Research Analyst for UNITE HERE, an International Union representing over 270,000 hotel, gaming, and food service employees. In addition, John has played a pivotal role in the creation of Hospitality Employees Advancement and Training, (HEAT) Inc., a new workforce development organization in Miami, FL designed to provide hospitality workers with the training and skills needed to earn sustainable living wages and benefits in South Florida.
John graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2014 with a B.A. in Political Science and Public Policy, receiving the Roger Feinstein award distinction in public policy. In Fall 2017, John will begin graduate study at the Heller School at Brandeis University in the dual Masters in Public Policy and Masters in Business Administration programs.
Roseann Bongiovanni, Executive Director
For the past 21 years, Roseann has implemented and managed the environmental justice work carried out in Chelsea, formerly through the Green Space Committee and now thru GreenRoots. Roseann managed the transition of this community based committee into an independent organization with a home on the Chelsea Creek. Roseann’s accomplishments include raising $1.5 million dollars to vision, design and create, with the community, Creekside Commons Park; leading an effort to transform an abandoned parcel of land into a beautiful playground and community garden built in one day with 250 volunteers and leading the successful grassroots organizing campaigns to defeat the construction of a dirty diesel power plant in Chelsea; and to stop ethanol “bomb” trains from traveling through 90 communities in Massachusetts to a Chelsea Creek facility. Roseann managed two economic stimulus funded projects exceeding $2 million that significantly improved Chelsea’s air quality.
Roseann is a lifelong Chelsea resident and former City Councilor. She has a Masters of Public Health from Boston University and was the recipient of numerous awards, most notably Alternatives for Community and Environment Founders’ Award in 2001, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Environmental Hero Award in 2006 and the All Chelsea Award “Adult Resident of the Year” in 2007. She is a mother of two feisty, strong-minded children.
Indira Garmendia Alfaro, Waterfront Initiative Organizer
Indira is a Chelsea resident who has vast experience working as a community organizer in Nicaragua and Central America where she used popular education strategies to engage and empower local communities. She has designed and implemented training's to develop leadership, community participation and political education. Locally, Indira has worked to create women-led cooperatives in East Boston and is working with other dedicated community leaders to envision a community land trust for Chelsea. Indira is committed and passionate about creating systemic change to bring about racial justice and immigrants’ rights. She believes all methods of oppression are connected. Indira is a native of Nicaragua, bilingual in Spanish and English and is vibrant and engaging.
Adela Gonzalez, Junior Organizer
Adela was an active member of the ECO youth crew member who recently graduated from Chelsea High School and is attending Umass Boston where she will major in Human Services with a goal of transferring to a college where she can earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.
As a graduating member, she joins the GreenRoots staff as a Junior Organizer. In this position, she will be working with ECO youth crew to support their work plan, offer advice and assistance as a former crew member and help to engage even more youth in activities and campaigns to build their leadership skills and ownership over their community. She will also be working with other GreenRoots staff to conduct community organizing and base building work on the myriad environmental justice issues facing Chelsea residents.
In her spare time, Adela enjoys volunteering. Adela is a bright young woman who epitomizes all the good Chelsea has to offer.
Leopoldo “Leo” Martinez, Community Organizer / Youth Coordinator
Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Leo joins GreenRoots as a full time staff member who previously worked as a FoodCorps Service Member through which he partnered with MGH’s Healthy Chelsea to improve access to healthy and nutritious school foods and school gardens. Leo works closely with GreenRoots’ Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO) youth crew on food justice, environmental justice and youth empowerment projects and campaigns. Leo is passionate about growing (and eating) food, maximizing people’s access to the land, particularly in low income communities and communities of color, empowering people to take action to make lasting change in their neighborhood and about social justice generally. Leo is bilingual in Spanish and English, has an infectious laugh and loves cheese, cats and Shakira!
Yaritza Morales Gonzalez, Resource Manager
Yaritza is a lifelong Chelsea resident and former youth organizer, who began working with GreenRoots at the age of 14. After completing four years with the ECO Youth Crew, she joined the team in carrying out special events and community organizing campaigns. Over the past several years, Yaritza has taken on more administrative and managerial experience. Now, she oversees the organization’s financial reporting and bookkeeping, human resources, data management and communication strategies. She also provides programmatic, managerial and development support. Yaritza is bilingual in Spanish and English, is the mother of two intelligent daughters and is working towards her Bachelors Degree in Non-Profit Management.
Leilani Mroczkowski, TerraCorps Service Member - Community Engagement Coordinator
Hailing from the Midwest, Leilani has been living and growing in Massachusetts since 2011 and growing food, designing and installing landscapes, and teaching people of all ages how to grow through an environmental and racial justice lens. Leilani is passionate about community building and organizing. When their hands are not in the soil, Leilani can be found bopping around Boston on their trusty two-wheeled, non-motorized steed named, "Big Red" experiencing all that life has to offer. Leilani is bicultural and proficient in Spanish.
María Belén Power, Associate Executive Director
Prior to joining GreenRoots, Maria Belen was the Lead Organizer for the Green Space Committee. She oversees GreenRoots’ environmental justice campaigns and supports the work of the ECO youth crew, Junior Organizer and Research Assistant. Maria Belen represents GreenRoots in the Green Justice Coalition of the Greater Boston Area as well as national movements for environmental and climate justice.
Growing up in a bicultural family in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere in the aftermath of a revolution, coupled with her work as an organizer in migrant communities has informed her understanding of social justice and the need for systemic change. Maria Belen's work organizing with undocumented immigrants, day laborers, and public housing tenants has deepened her understanding of economic, social and environmental issues.
Maria Belen will be a Neighborhood Fellow working towards her Masters Degree in Public Policy at Tufts University's Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department. She successfully completed a year-long certificate program in Nonprofit Management and Leadership with the Institute for Non-profit Management and Leadership at Boston University.
John Walkey, Waterfront Initiative Coordinator
John is an East Boston resident who has been committed to the work of the Chelsea Creek Action Group (a cross-Creek coalition of Chelsea and East Boston residents, organized in Chelsea by GreenRoots) for the past fifteen years and the movement for environmental, climate and transportation justice. Previous employment with Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and the Urban Ecology Institute equip John with the knowledge, relationships and understanding of community organizing, project implementation and strategic planning that will help advance, strengthen and grow GreenRoots work. John’s technical capacity in GIS, database development and web-based technologies complement his program management experience in the Greater Boston area and in Central America. John is bilingual in Spanish and English and has a unique sense of humor.
The Environmental Chelsea Organizers (ECO) is a team of Chelsea teens working to improve their community by engaging other youth in campaigns and projects to bring about environmental, economic and social justice. ECO works on projects identified by themselves or peers that are worrisome or concerning to youth. ECO consists of six youth from Chelsea.