Saturday, December 27, 2008

North End Stories: Nehemiah Housing and Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor is the Executive Director of Nehemiah Housing Corporation. His agency works closely with NEAT members, revitalizing the North End through housing.

The North End Action Team and Nehemiah Housing Corporation share much more than office space. In October 1996, the directors of each agency stood side by side in the back yard of a adjacent property, mourning the death of a young man. Residents peered from porches looking on and soon locked themselves inside to protect their children. Building on the hope to end violence and believing in the right for each family to have safe and decent housing, a wide collaboration formed to transform a small neighborhood. NEAT became the voice of the residents, business owners and a variety of stakeholders.

When the residents met, their foremost concern was to transform dilapidated housing into decent homes. They believed that well managed homes would help to create a well managed neighborhood. That was the start of a long and fruitful partnership between NEAT and Nehemiah. Even though NEAT doesn’t build houses, it does help to create homes. For instance, NEAT organizes home-buyer training seminars for first time home buyers, some who may buy the North End homes Nehemiah is rehabilitating. Nehemiah is a community-based development corporation. Like NEAT, the agency exists to serve the community and over the years has worked to help NEAT grow so that the community would have a megaphone for its voice.

Nehemiah continues to be grateful for all the active members of NEAT who form the foundation of the North End. Without NEAT and the many community partnerships that it fosters, the North End would not have come as far as it has, and would not have as much hope for the

Thursday, December 25, 2008

North End Stories: Joanne Krekian & Sue Aranoff

Joanne Krekian and Sue Aranoff are North End residents and members of the Erin St. Garden. They found each other at the garden and grew a lasting friendship.

Joanne had lived in the North End for 10 years and Sue had just moved in. Neither of them knew her neighbors, but they struck up a conversation on NEAT’s annual Earth Day clean up. Since that chance meeting, Sue and Joanne have spent many days together
at the garden, planting, staking tomatoes, watering, and sharing meals made from their hard earned harvest. Both Joanne and Sue agree that the garden has changed their lives. Joanne no longer feels isolated in her apartment but now has many friends within walking distance that she met through NEAT.

Sue has also met several people from the neighborhood that have changed her life. The Erin Street community garden is a perfect example a simple idea. Neighbors coming together to create a better community. At any given time during the summer, one can see folks tilling the land, kids listening to African drumming, children making scarecrows, people walking their dogs or simply sitting on one of the benches enjoying the perennial garden. So often we go on with our day to day lives without even realizing the resources and support we may have next door. The Erin Street Community garden makes one realize.

“Living one block from someone you enjoy spending time with is about the greatest thing. Since meeting Sue and working in the garden, I have also met many other neighbors who I consider friends as well. The garden as a meeting place and the experience of sharing my vegetables with neighbors has made me feel more a part of my neighborhood than ever before (and I lived her 10 years )! Really, because I joined the garden, I never feel isolated I know, I can walk one block and be welcomed.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White Out Night, 2008

Each day in the United States forty-eight people die as a result of alcohol related crashes.  The Middletown Substance Abuse Prevention Council will be holding its 3rdAnnual White Out Night on Saturday, December 27th to encourage people to be mindful of the dangers of drinking and driving while celebrating on New Years Eve.  This is a youth led event during which participants will be walking down Main Street, wearing self-made white t-shirts with safe driving messages on them.  They will also be handing out flyers to shoppers and diners promoting a safe New Years holiday without drinking and driving. The students feel passionate that this is an extremely effective way to ensure that they convey how important it is that everyone use good judgement and remain safe this New Years.  Rushford's school-based youth leadership programs at Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Keigwin Middle School helped to make posters with safe driving messages for the event, while members of Middletown High School’s youth leadership group Dragons In Action decorated the t-shirts. 

In past years, similar presentations have been made during Middletown High School Boys Basketball games and during the school day at Middletown High School.    

Between 5:30 and 6:00 the group will meet in the board room on the basement level of the Chamber of Commerce at 393 Main St.  From approximately 6:10-7pm, the group will be walking Main St.

Come join these Middletown Youth in raising awareness of an important issue.

Participating members of the MSAPC represent the following organizations:

Middletown Youth Services Bureau, Middletown Board of Education, North End Action Team, Rushford Center, Woodrow Wilson Middle School’s Rams In Action, Jay Keiser Real Estate, Middletown High School's Dragons In Action, Assets Community Team, Emblem Club




Tuesday, December 23, 2008

North End Stories: Tierra Gaskins

Tierra Gaskins is an 18-year-old North End resident and a recipient of NEAT’s new College Scholarship program. She is the first “NEAT Kid” to go to college.
“NEAT has given me the opportunity to do things” Tierra moved to Ferry Street when she was 10 years old from Rochester, NY where she said there was nothing to do but hang out at the playground. Living across the street from the old NEAT office on Ferry Street had a big impact on Tierra and she did do a lot of things. She helped make the original community garden on Ferry Street, build the Dream House, participated in the DaVinci Club where she worked on two documentary videos about the North End, participated in the mentoring program, helped build the Amazing Rowing Machine, regularly attended the math homework group, and has hiked regularly with the NEAT hiking club including all 4 overnight trips.
“Through NEAT I have learned that anything is possible, climbing Mount Washington taught me that.” Tierra also says she has learned teamwork in the video and boat-building project. At the math group she learned to ask for help. Tierra looks back and appreciates how people pushed her to achieve in school and give back to her community. She is now working in an after-school program and is a positive role model for other kids.

Tierra says the bonds she has formed with people, kids and adults, has been the best part of NEAT. She says “I wouldn’t be where I am today” without the friendships and mentoring that she has experienced as a consequence of NEAT. Tierra is proud of the fact that she is the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She is currently attending Middlesex Community College and is looking to transfer to a four-year college to study computers. Tierra was one of three recipients of NEAT scholarships presented for the first time this year at the Annual Garden Party in August.

Sunday, December 21, 2008



NEAT’s job is to help the North End find its voice.
And few things are a better expression of that voice than a vote.

Leading up to this election, NEAT’s youth leadership group the Teen Dreams Society worked hard to register voters and educate people about the issues, the candidates and the importance of their participation. And this year alone, voter registrations increased in the North End by 40%, drastically increasing the neighborhood’s voice and emphasizing the value of civic participation.

On Election Day, NEAT volunteers manned a table at Macdonough School, the North End’s only polling place, and talked to hundreds of people, many of them first time voters. NEAT showed them a sample ballot and made sure they understood the referendum questions, the different offices and how the new voting machines worked. We helped bring out numbers of voters, but we also helped them make an educated vote.

It’s just one of the ways that NEAT is active in the North End, connecting residents with the institutions around them and empowering them to take more active community roles. Your dollars help to fund many programs that reach all types of people all around the neighborhood.

This year NEAT has:

*Hiked up Mt. Monadnock with 18 North End kids.
*Established a relationship with Macdonough School and worked along-side parents and teachers to keep the school open
*Maintained a monthly hot spot list and worked with the city to create a new code-enforcement ordinance
*Hosted Community Conversations on issues such as: Miller/Bridge Street Safety, Homeownership Preparation, Youth Issues,Community/School Partnerships, Civic Participation Education; an average of 70 people attended each
*Advocated on behalf of Portland St./ Miller & Bridge St.
*Maintained a Community Policing and Code Enforcement partnership with the city and other North End Stakeholders
*Started a North End Quilting Club
*Hosted workshops (in partnership with GSAC) on Homeownership Preparation & Credit Counseling, Computer Basics & Financial Aid (FAFSA). This year, 35 people graduated and are more prepared to own a home.
*Worked with Harding Development & Nehemiah Housing Corp. on the Liberty Square Project and North End Housing Revitalization
*Encouraged economic development in the North End
*Hosted five Arts in the Garden workshops with GSAC at both the Arts Center and at NEAT’s Erin Street Community Garden
*Encouraged Leadership Development among NEAT members, sent one NEAT member to a training in Boston.
*Graduated! Tierra Gaskins, Rohanna Powell & Dylan Hansen graduated from High School. Tierra and Rohanna are in college now.
*Worked closely with Wharfside Commons to engage new residents
*Helped North End kids go to Camp Ingersoll, The Green Street Arts Center, Oddfellows Playhouse, YMCA Swim Lessons
*The Garden Committee established new plots and was the focus of this year’s summer Homeroom camp, which serves North End families
*Hosted North End Pride Clean-up Days
*Moved Office to a more accessible Main Street location
*Launched a Voter Registration and Voter Education Drive along with NEAT’s new youth group, the Teen Dreams Society
*Had a record number of participants at meeting & Events
*Improved NEAT’s outreach infrastructure to include a bigger email list, a North End blog and an improved website (check it out! &
*Increased Fundraising
*Become a better resource for residents
*Increased partnerships with the City of Middletown and others

As you can see, NEAT is making a difference. During these difficult economic times, we need your support more than ever. Your donation will help us to keep our forward momentum. Please give generously.

Thank You,
Pam Wahl
Chair of Fundraising Committee

Click here to donate securely online

Saturday, December 20, 2008

North End Stories: Cookie Quinones

Cookie Quinones is the past president of NEAT, has a son in NEAT’s Teen Dreams Society, and after renting in the neighborhood for 27 years, her family now owns its own North End home.

Before joining NEAT, Cookie Quinones wasn’t active in her community. Eventually, she started to come to NEAT community meetings, but even there, she didn’t talk.

“I never thought I could have a voice. I wasn’t that type. I used to talk a lot, but in a loud voice. People heard me, but they didn’t listen. NEAT helped me realize that effective leadership isn’t talking loud, that it’s speaking clearly and with strength. Even my youngest son didn’t talk much, but now he is confident in himself…Working with NEAT’s Teen Dreams Society, he found that his ideas are important.”
Cookie was elected vice president of NEAT. “It was one of the most exciting things that had ever happened to me. No one had ever asked me to speak, to have a voice.” Since then, Cookie has gone back to school to get her high school diploma, and has inspired her children to attend Middlesex Community College to do the same. “I feel proud that I could inspire my kids. It was cool to see my girls go back to school after I did.”

After moving away, her kids have all come back. “Now, my son and his family bought a home here. All my kids are in the North End. He bought a home, and we’re all digging in.”

As a NEAT member, Cookie has learned to make big changes within herself. As President, Cookie has made big changes in her neighborhood, and is encouraging others to do the same.

Friday, December 19, 2008

North End Stories

Over the next few weeks, we'll be highlighting people, families and institutions that are making a difference in the North End or are just making a great life for themselves. If you have a profile that you'd like to post, please email me at

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Community Conversations

Common Council member Ron Klattenberg is using the inauguration of Barack Obama as an occasion upon which to engage community members in the changes we'd like to see happen in Middletown. Here's the information he's sent along.  If people are interested, NEAT could host an event...

Where are “We the People”? The answer is in Middletown, according to a group of citizens invited to come together by Councilman Ronald Klattenberg. On Tuesday January 20, 2009, the country will pause to Inaugurate the 44th President of the United States, President-elect Barack Obama, and this informal group feels that may be the best time for the people of Middletown to come together and focus, as a community, on the questions most important to the greater Middletown area in this time of great change and opportunity. 

The group (currently acting as a planning committee) has secured Russell Library for 12 noon and at 6:00 pm on Inauguration Day for the public to watch President Obama address the nation together and participate in a facilitated community conversation. This is a not a political event but rather a grassroots initiative to identify the needs of our community in these difficult times. We will record reactions and prioritize ideas that will help Middletown proactively contribute to and take advantage of the inevitable change which is coming. Obviously, the Library has limited space, so the Community Conversations group is asking any and all community organizations in the Middletown area to join this effort and host focused conversations at other sites including homes, thus creating a true community event with the largest possible representation of needs and concerns. 

Community organizations are asked to contact the planning committee to contribute additional sites, obtain assistance, distribute information or help in any way to make this an engaging and exciting community success. There will be a second planning meeting on December 20th, 10:00 am, in the Library’s Hubbard Room, to develop a general Community Conversations format, assess resources needed and prepare for a facilitators training meeting scheduled for January 3. 

This effort will need volunteer facilitators, sites and of course the people of our diverse community. In the end, we will record and collect results that will culminate in an unprecedented document of what the people of Middletown feel are the priorities for our City. This is the first step toward effective change. 

Any organization or group of individuals interested in supporting this effort in any way is asked to immediately contact Councilman Grady Faulkner at or 860-344-9395 in order to begin organizing and identifying host sites to publish for the general public. If individuals are having private celebrations, it is important to have those discussion results included as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Dear Friend of NEAT:

I’m a real home-town boy.

Liberty Street was my childhood home and now here I am, back in my old neighborhood — a homeowner, parent of twins, Macdonough School PTA member, soccer coach, Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) graduate, and the newly elected president of NEAT.

The North End is special in so many ways. I am one of its biggest cheerleaders and one of its sharpest critics. The neighborhood is unique in Middletown with its rich histories of the immigrant and newcomer experiences, its tapestry of backgrounds, its village-like character.

The neighborhood’s problems are not unique; they are those that impact dense urban neighborhoods throughout the world. They are problems that can be solved by linking arms, joining hearts and minds, and building the neighborhood’s self-esteem and reputation one small, positive step at a time.

I made a conscious decision to raise my family in the neighborhood in which I grew up; I have made a conscious decision to make it a better neighborhood.

NEAT has, in its12 years, restored both the heart and the will of the North End. First in the deteriorated neighborhood east of Main Street, now in every corner of the North End, the organization has reached out, identified common concerns, and helped the neighborhood focus its attention. The North End is on the move, connecting its resident leaders to each other, welcoming newcomers, and like me, helping old timers know it’s a new and better day in the neighborhood. NEAT’s office is on Main Street but its true presence is in its people.

This neighborhood needs NEAT and it needs you. Your generous donation will help NEAT continue its work. Your dollars are spent frugally. Investing in NEAT is a way to reduce the dollars spent upon municipal expenses that are incurred in a neighborhood that is marginalized. A healthy neighborhood is cheaper to operate and we need your help to restore the neighborhood’s health.

I choose to live in the North End and I’m going to make the neighborhood better. Please join me and all of us at NEAT who are fighting the good fight for a noble neighborhood.

Sincerely yours,

Ed Corvo

NEAT President

Friday, December 12, 2008

Half Price Tickets Tonight ONLY!

Hi Everyone,

Oddfellows Playhouse is offering NEAT members half off tickets to
tonight's performance of the Threepenny Opera. The show starts at the
Playhouse on Washington St. at 7:30, but they recommend that you call
to reserve a seat and arrive a half hour early. You can read more
about it below.

This is a great chance to see a show at the North End's own youth
theater. Mention NEAT to get your discounted tickets.

Happy Holidays!

Izzi Greenberg

Director, NEAT

ps. if you couldn't make it to last nigth's holiday party, you were
missed! It was a really fun event. Thanks to the Green Street Arts
Center for allowing NEAT to use its space!

Oddfellows Playhouse Teen Repertory Company presents a mainstage
production of The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's
ground-breaking work of musical theater on December 4-20. Directed by
Missy Burmeister, a cast of 20 talented teens from throughout central
Connecticut tells the legendary tale of the notorious criminal and
gentleman, Mack the Knife. A pit band under the direction of Joseph
Getter recreates Weill's innovative music and memorable songs.

A milestone of 20th-century musical theater, /The Threepenny Opera/
first presented in Berlin in 1928 and transformed old-fashioned
operetta forms with a sharp political perspective and the sound of Berlin
cabarets. Oddfellows Teen Repertory Company skillfully interprets
Bertolt Brecht's biting text and Kurt Weill's acid harmonies in this
opera "by and for beggars" that captures the contradictions of man's
existence--love, treachery, betrayal, redemption and improbable

The show has completed one successful weekend and additional
performances are on December 12 & 13, and 19 & 20 at 7:30 pm.
All performances are at Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington Street,
in Middletown, CT. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and
seniors. For more information or reservations, please call (860)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NEAT's Schools Committee Meeting

NEAT's Schools Committee had its third monthly meeting Wednesday night with great participation from parents and community members from different areas of the neighborhood and with different stakes in the success of our schools. After having guests at our last two meetings, (Shiela Daniels from the Board Of Education in October and Moody's Principal Yolande Eldridge in November) we structured the meeting around creating goals for the group, both short and long term. One common goal of the group is to gather and share current information about school policy, especially special education policy. With that goal in mind, many members plan to attend a special education workshop in January that is open to the public (more information will follow soon). Another goal is to give a collective voice to families and children to better advocate for improvements in the public school experience for all North End families. The group also felt that keeping current on Middletown Board of Education policies and ensuring that the North End's interests are met was an important goal. To that end, representatives from the school's committee will attend Board of Education monthly meetings and report on Middletown policies that will directly effect the North End, such as the district improvement plan and redistricting efforts.
The school's committee meets monthly and is open to all NEAT members with an interest in having good schools for the children in our neighborhood. The next meeting will be Jan 7th at 7pm at the NEAT office. Please call Alicia at the NEAT office if you have any questions, 346-4845.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Come to the Book Fair!

If you're looking for children's books and educational toys for the young ones on your shopping list, come on down to the Holiday Book Fair at Macdonough School.

While you're picking up the newest "If you give a Cat a Cupcake", you will also be paying for field trips for Macdonough students. Our goal is to raise enough money pay for one field trip per child.

As a member of the PTA, I was thrilled when the executive board decided to abandon the traditional fundraising methods this year -- no catalogs of gift wrap, no cookie dough order forms. We voted against sending our kids out to selling door-to-door or pressuring friends and family to buy stuff they didn't want or need. But that means that this Book Fair is our main fundraiser this year.

We know that three-fourths of our families at Macdonough fall into the lowest-income category of qualifying for free or reduced lunch for their kids -- and our school typically lags behind the other Middletown elementary schools in raising funds for the extras that a PTA can provide. I'm hoping that Middletown Eye readers will help us reach our goal!

The Book Fair has hardcovers and softcovers in all price ranges, for preschoolers up to middle school age. We've also got stocking stuffers like fuzzy markers, Pokemon pencils and giant pointer fingers, which are currently our top seller.

The Book Fair is open from 9 to 3:30 or so, every day through Friday, December 5th, and the public is welcome. We take cash, check and charge cards. If you haven't been there before, Macdonough is at the intersection of Spring Street and Pearl Street. Thanks for supporting the North End!


We had a celebrity sighting this morning at the book fair! Here's State Senator Paul Doyle coming through with our PTA President Marilyn Dunkley, after he visited the Family Resource Center playgroup!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Community Policing Meeting

Next meeting is on December 3rd at noon in the Green Street Arts Center

Please don't forget about Community Policing Code Enforcement. You are a part of keeping the neighborhood safe.

If you have any crime or code enforcement or health issues that you wish to report anonymously and/or are uncomfortable calling it in, simply call the office or email

Numbers to remember:

NEAT 346.4845

Middletown Police Department
  • Routine Calls- 347.2541
  • Tipline- 344.3216

School Committee Meeting

Tuesday, December 3rd at 7 pm in the NEAT office is the next School Committee meeting.

With Parent Teacher conferences for this semester over*, a meeting with the Moody principal fulfilled, two Board of Education regular meetings coming up on December 9th and 16th at 7pm, there is a lot to talk about.

Please come tell us your experiences with Public Schools and work to make things better.

*Parent Teacher Conferences:
For Parents of 6-8th grade students are being held from November 21st- 25th.
For Parents of K-5th grade students are being held from December 1st-3rd.

Interim Reports for 6-12 grade students are due on December 12th.

Teen Dream Society Meeting!

The next Teen Dream Society meeting is December 2nd at 5:30 pm in the NEAT office on 668 Main St.

We are restructuring the group a bit so all new members and more are welcome to join us.
In this meeting we are going to focus on making a documentary, civic involvement on issue affecting Middletown's youth and mentoring.

If you have any questions call Alicia or Izzi @ 860.704.8533 or email

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cool Events at the Russell LIbrary

Green Children
Join the Middletown Area Green Children at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street , Middletown . We focus on appreciating, protecting and learning from the outdoors and nature. On Wednesday, December 10 at 4:00 pm
the topic will be “Flowers in December.” A member of Middletown ’s Garden Club will show us how to create a touch of spring a few months early by forcing daffodil bulbs into bloom. Everyone will receive a container and a number of bulbs along with instructions on how to plant and care for them. With a little bit of luck, a few weeks later we will have daffodils on our window sills.

Help Launch Teen Advisory Council at Russell Library
If you are in grades 6 through 11 and interested in your public library, join us for our first meeting on Wednesday, December 17, 4pm in Meeting Room 3 at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street , Middletown . Please bring ideas of what you would like to do at the library. These suggestion may include activities such as poetry slams, creating a facebook page for our Totally Teen section, movie series, a writing club, book talks and more. Bring your friends. Refreshments will be served.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morning in the North End

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Though they've been open for the past several weeks, the new It's Only Natural Market in the North End is holding their Grand Opening today.

My family and I were there for the ribbon cutting this morning -- what followed was a celebration of North End culture.

Dancers from the Green Street Arts Center got ooh's and aah's from the crowd, shoppers milled around the store tasting samples from local producers, and neighbors in coversation clogged up the aisles.

We even got to see the third floor, which has a great view of Main Street (unfortunately, the foggy weather this morning doesn't do it justice.)

Some of the performers were from the B-Boy class at Green Street. Wow!
(Posted by Jen Alexander)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Voters from Middletown's North End Exercise Their Right to Vote

Here is a pretty cool slide show featuring Middletown residents from the city's north end neighborhood who took part in yesterday's election. I received these images from Izzi Greenberg, executive director of the North End Action Team (NEAT), which was very instrumental in registering many Middletown voters in time for this year's election, and also operated an informational booth outside the polls at Macdonough School yesterday.

Please take a minute to view the slide show, the people featured seem so excited and proud to be participating in this year's election!

When I visted Macdonough yesterday to talk with voters, Izzi told me that the NEAT table, which provided information on how to use the voting machines, a list of the candidates that were runnning and explanations on Questions 1 and 2 regarding the Constitutional Convention and 17-year-old voters, was well visited throughout the day.

"We wanted to make sure the neighborhood has an educated vote," Izzi said yesterday. "So we set up this table and it has been amazing!"

Right up to election day, Middletown voters, many of them first-timer voters, were calling NEAT headquarters with all kinds of election-related questions, said Izzi.

I'm so glad there are organizations out there like NEAT, who are available to help people to become part of this important process. So many of us take voting for granted. I hope all these new voters will continue to use their new-found voting power at every election, so they can really have a say in who makes the decisions in Middletown.

Obama’s victory electrifies North End

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 10:07 PM EST
By SLOAN BREWSTER, Press staff

MIDDLETOWN — Word on the street in the North End of town Wednesday was all happiness and downright pride in the election of Barack Obama.

"He showed that he’s not just there for black people," Middletown resident Judy Rollins said. "He’s here for everyone."

While she believes the president elect will be there for people of all races, Rollins also thinks he will cut through racial divides and bring the country a step closer to ending racism. She was not comfortable discussing her personal battles, but said all African Americans deal with bigotry.

"As a black person, we all experience it," Rollins said.

George Guiont, 59, remembers when civil rights changed life in the country, specifically in the south. In 1965, he was one of the first black children transferred to an all-white school in North Carolina.

He remained there only three weeks.

"I just got tired of the cranks, the ignorance," Guiont said. "I was full of hatred then."

Guiont lost his parents at a young age; his mother died when he was 7 and his father passed when he was 13. Their deaths left him angry and made it even more difficult to deal with racial tensions at school. He ended up dropping out.

But the man does not pass blame or expect the government, Obama or otherwise, to solve his problems.

"My life’s not going to change," he said. "I have to make a change."

Still, Giuont believes Obama will bring change to the country as a whole. He is particularly interested in seeing an end come to the war in Iraq.

Dorothy Goss, 73, also remembers the civil rights movement, though she experienced it in a different manner. The Westbrook resident lived in Essex in 1958 and was a landlord who rented to a black family — a decision many of her neighbors did not appreciate. They did not look too fondly upon her for her political actions either, especially when she participated in a civil rights march on Washington in 1968.

"I’ve been called the n-word-lover I don’t know how many times," Goss said.

During a telephone call to The Press Wednesday, Goss expressed excitement about Obama’s election.

"In my lifetime, I’ve never expected this to happen," she said. "I believe Obama will be great not because he’s a man of color, but because of who he is. He stands up for all people no matter who they are. To me, you have to love people for who they are and not what they take from society, but what they give society. Thank God I lived long enough to see a person of color become our president."

Between moments of elation and exclamations of glee, folks walking in the North End took a few moments to share ideas on which of Obama’s policies they most anticipate.

Rollins looks forward to seeing life improve for the middle class. "He’s starting with the middle," she said. "I think everyone else started out with the upper class. I’m very proud."

Rohanna Powells, an 18-year-old who voted for the first time Tuesday, believes Obama’s economic policies will benefit the country and is pleased with his plans for early childhood education.

Marsha Jean-Charles shares her co-workers thoughts on education — both young women work at the North End Action Team office.

"It’s about making sure schools are adequately funded and higher quality teachers," Jean-Charles said.

Jean-Charles, a student at Wesleyan University, said the campus grew loud with cheer when Obama was declared victorious.

"I personally was crying," she said.

NEAT Executive Director Izzi Greenberg said she was inspired by the number of people who came to Macdonough School Tuesday to learn about Obama and McCain. The organization set up a table and passed on information about both candidates. Greenberg was surprised and impressed by the number of people who came.

"The people who showed up, the wide variety of people who came, really blew me away," Greenberg said. "People were pumped."

While Greenberg said NEAT does not endorse any candidate, she said people in the North End seemed optimistic Obama would work on issues to benefit inner-city areas.

"A lot of people in the neighborhood are really excited," she said. "People of color are feeling really empowered."

Guiont shares the hopefulness.

"When you start talking about helping people, I’m down with that," he said. "When you start talking about lifting them up, everybody’s down with that."


© 2008, a Journal Register Property

Working the Polls at City Hall

My name is Rohanna Powell, and I work at the North End Action Team. This election was my first time voting, It had to be one of the most exciting things I have ever did.

I knew this election is going to bring a lot of change about, not just the fact that Barack Obama is the first African-American president. I did an absentee ballot and I was in a room by myself and I was still really excited.

I worked at City Hall yesterday to help with the absentee ballots, and I thought it would go by really slow, that I wouldn't have much to do. But we had our work cut out for us. There were so many people who came in the minute the doors opened at 6:00am and there were people there until 8:00pm.

It was really amazing and it made me feel really special that I help out at the polls and helped to get people's vote out.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

MacDonough students get technical through donor generosity

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He's not doing it in this photo, but when I sat down next to 8-year-old Elvis Lozada last night, during a session of the MacDonough School computer club, he was drumming his fingers and bopping around in his chair to the music he had created on an XO mini laptop computer.


"I also get to chat and you can do "Tan Tan Jam" and use instruments, where you press numbers and letters and they turn into songs," said Elvis, who also often takes the laptop home to use. "I show my sister how to use it too, so probably when she is a third grader, whe can sign up for the computer club."

So not only can Elvis make his own music, connect to the Internet (for free with supervision), chat with his fellow computer club members via email and play all kinds of educational games, he also serves as teacher to his family members and is trusted to take care of the computer when he takes it home.

That's in addition to his regular day at school. Unique way to learn no?

josh.JPGElvis and fellow computer club members' ability to use this compact, little green marvel of technology was made possible by the North End Action Team (NEAT), through a program called "Give One Get One."

Here's how it works. When you purchase one of these XO laptops, either through NEAT or at, one laptop is sent to a child in Nigeria and the other to you, the buyer. You can either keep the XO for your own use, or turn around and donate it to a child like Zionique Walker-Elson and Josh Zona pictured above, right here in in Middletown. So far, MacDonough students have 17 XO laptops to use, which they do a good job of sharing during their bi-weekly afterschool computer club.

Here's hansome little Marc Torres, who was learning French with the help of his XO. He told me he wants to go to France some day, so he needs to learn French to communicate. Great goal Marc!  "I learned ensemble means together and la banque means bank," he said.


"I like teaching the kids how to use the computer, things they will use in the older grades, this gets them set for it," said MacDonough third grade teather Teresa Morello, chatting via computer in this photo with Nichoals Deren and Jonathan Shaw. "This thing is about creativity, with writing programs, they are doing their own thing." 

                                                                                                    Thumbnail image for morello.JPGNEAT executive director Izzi Greenburg is very excited about this grassroots program. It is her goal to provide all of the children at MacDonough with an XO computer. She is also talking with Wesleyan University students to come work with the kids on the computers, either during classtime or the computer club, so the teachers will have more time to work with the students.

"We want this to be a whole new way of learning," she said. "I want to create programs that are exclusive to this neighborhood, that will be incentive for people to come here and decrease the transiency."

Engaging, fun, community-based programmin in a safe environment - what neighborhood doesn't need that?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

North End Voters

District 1 Raw Data

1228/1735 registered voters voted- way more than ANY of the poll workers could remember.
70.8% of registered voters (turn out in this district is sometimes as low as 20%)
1 Yes: 355 NO: 719
2. YES 768 NO: 292
3. YES 603 NO: 327
4. YES 773 NO 193
5. YES 760 NO 325
PresidentMcCain 207 Obama 986 Nader 30
3rd CongressionalDeLauro 944 Itshaky 119 Ferrucci 56
9th State SenateCapenera 279 Doyle 816
33rd State Leg.Serra 831 Johnson 280
RegistrarGionfriddo 217 Faracci 815

Great Day at the Polls

It was an amazing day at District 1's only polling place, Macdonough School. The entire North End votes here, and the turn out was awesome. Many groups, including NEAT's own youth leadership group, the Teen Dreams Society were registering North End voters and apparently voter registrations were up this year from 1200 to over 1700. At 5:00pm when I left, over 1000 people had voted, with three hours to go!

I was helping to man a table for NEAT that offered info about how to vote, and who the candidates are, among other things. It was so inspiring to see the number of people that were first time voters, coming out to make their voice heard.

People were leaving the school with tears in their eyes, moved by this election and the possibilites that lie ahead.
I'll keep you posted at 8:00 and we'll see what happens here....May the best man win!

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Friday, October 31, 2008

NEAT provides students with free laptops

By SLOAN BREWSTER, Press staff
(reprinted with permission from the Middletown Press)

MIDDLETOWN — It may sound like a dream, but a delivery of free XO laptops for Macdonough School was actually quite real.

Now, children can delightfully study, learn and play on the dust-, wind- and water-proof computers with rubber keyboards. They even get to bring them home.

Wednesday afternoon, students in an after-school computer club took advantage of the laptops, which they came by via the One Laptop Per Child program and the kind heart of North End Action Team Executive Director Izzi Greenberg.

Most folks who know Greenberg speak of how she can’t avoid doing whatever it takes to improve the North End and, specifically, its school — Macdonough. That’s why when she came upon the opportunity to get laptops for the school, she jumped on it.

The story of how the idea was born was a bit convoluted and involved a woman whom Greenberg said has "disappeared." Ultimately, the woman helped Greenberg get connected with One Laptop Per Child and After some footwork, the mail just started coming.

"We just started getting donations," Greenberg said. "We just started getting computers sent to us … people just started sending us computers."

In truth, the computers Greenberg and NEAT supplied to the school are gently used.

XOs are not available for individual sale. They must be purchased in pairs — one for the buyer and one for a child in a third world country — but people who no longer need the XOs can sell them on eBay or donate them to children in need.

Between donations, which allowed NEAT to buy laptops on eBay, and donated computers that have arrived through the mail, the elementary school has been given 15. Greenberg wants more, however.

"The goal ultimately is to have one of these for every kid in the school," she said.

At this time, 24 children are divided into two groups and alternate weeks they use the laptops in their after-school program. Once a week, a child may take one home.

"The sense I’ve gotten is these things are such a good learning tool," Greenberg said.

Children can go online or chat computer to computer. They can create their own programs, read books, make videos and enjoy a variety of uses for the computers.

Fourth-grader Kimberly Chambers likes the program TamTam, which allows children to write music. "You can make music on there," she said happily. "That’s my favorite."

"If you had 10 kids with their computers you could have each one of them program their unique sound," Greenberg said. "And they’d be an orchestra."

Since the XOs are available mostly for children in third world countries, they have not been used in many communities in the United States. In fact, Middletown is one of two cities in the country to get them, Greenberg said. Birmingham, Ala., is purchasing the laptops for all children in its school district.

"So the cool thing is we are one of the first communities to get these," Greenberg said.

While that makes for good news, it also means there is no model to follow, and Greenberg and the school are basically winging it and learning as they go.

Fourth-grade teacher Sarah Claffey and third-grade teacher Teresa Morallo run the computer club and help students figure out how to use the laptops.

"We’re still learning," Claffey said.

Children write stories in a journal on the laptop, learn vocabulary through a Web site called and have access to multiple books they can read on the small computer screen, Claffey said.

"I think that the fact that it’s a computer and it’s technology … its motivation," she said. "It gets them motivated to read. I have kids that tell me they don’t have books at home … This changes that."

Morello taught a group of students during a meeting of the computer club.

"Now you need to find a circle," she advised students following her lead. "There is a green circle and you’re going to click on it … "

After some guidance, students wandered off to sit alone or in groups to work. There was laughter and seeming creativity going around the classroom where students talked of making videos and teased one another on their performances.

Greenberg hopes the rest of the city will want to follow Macdonough’s lead.

Students from the "generally under-served" neighborhoods of the North End are now bringing home computers and therefore can teach their parents about technology.

"The kid comes home and says, look I learned how to make a program,," Greenberg said.

"And you’ve changed that whole dynamic from insecurity to empowerment."

Nov. 4th...Get Out And VOTE!!

Next week is a very important election. We will be deciding who is our next president and who represents us in State Senate and the State House of Representatives. Nationally, this is a historic election and locally, we are chosing people who will really affect our day to day life. I urge you all to get out and vote!! IF you have any questions about candidates, how to use the voting machines, reforendum questions or anything else, please contact the NEAT office. I'll send this out again next week as the election draws nearer.

As part of the North End votes campaign, we need volunteers this week to help out. If you can help with any of the following activities, please contact the NEAT office to sign up. A neighborhood that votes is empowered!!

We need people to:

1) Make phone calls to registered North End voters reminding them to vote. NEAT has a phone list and you could make calls from your home or from the NEAT office. You could do as many or as few as you are able

2) take a shift at Macdonough School (the North End's only polling place) to hand out "North End Votes" stickers and to answer questions (don't worry, we'll give you cheat sheets!)

3) offer to walk or drive your neighbors to the polls, or call NEAT if you know of a neighbor who needs a ride.


Also on the ballot are important reforendum questions. They are confusing, I know, so please contact NEAT if you do not understand the question or its implications, or if you need more information.


• Shall there be a Constitutional Convention to amend or revise the Constitution of the State?

• Shall the constitution of the state be amended to permit any person who will have attained the age of eighteen years on or before the day of a regular election to vote in the primary for such regular election?


• Shall the revisions to the City Charter be approved?

• Shall the proposed corrections to the Charter regarding grammar, spelling, terminology, consistency, and other corrections of a technical nature, be approved?

• Shall the $4.5 million appropriation and bond issuance authorization for city water and sewer improvements consisting of 1) Westfield Service Area Water Pressure Enhancement, 2) Route 66 Water and Sewer installation, 3) Well Field Planning, 4) Equipment and Material Purchases, as adopted by the Common Council, be approved?

Presidential Candidates on the CT Ballot
*John S. McCain, III - President
(Republican, Conservative Party of New York , Independence Party of New York)
*Ralph Nader - President
(No Party Affiliation, Independent, Write-In, Natural Law Party, Alaskan Independence, Ecology Party of
Florida, New Mexico Independent Party, Nominated by Petition, Nomination by other than Primary, Peace, Populist)
*Barack H. Obama, Jr. - President
(Democratic, Democratic/Farmer/Labor, Democratic-NPL, Working Families Party of New York)

Rosa L. DeLauro - U.S. House
District 3 (Democratic, Working Families)
Ralph A. Ferrucci - U.S. House
District 3 (Green Party)
Bo Itshaky - U.S. House
District 3 (Republican)

State Legislative
Catherine M. Johnson - State House
District 33 (Republican)
Joseph C. Serra - State House
District 33 (Democratic, Working Families)
Ralph Capenera - State Senate
District 9 (Republican)
Paul R. Doyle - State Senate
District 9 (Democratic)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

YMCA Scholarships for North End Kids

The Middlesex YMCA has offered NEAT scholarships for swim classes for kids 6 mos. to 12 years. If your child would enjoy participating, please call NEAT for more details. 860-346-4845.

NEAT Elections

NEAT held elections on October 8th and we now have 10 new board members and some new officers. Congratulations to Ed Corvo, NEAT's new president and Mandy Sickle-Smith, NEAT's new Vice President. 50% of the board was also elected. Congratulations to the Newly elected Advisory Board including: Deirdre Lanham, Tyechea Hunden, Cynthia Spivey, Tina Brown, Marilyn Dunkley, Bobbye Knoll, Steven Kovach, Dominick Grant and Lydia Brewster.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Letter to NEAT Members from Councilman Faulkner

Ms. Greenberg,

I'd like to thank you and the members of NEAT for inviting me to participate in the panel discussion. As a Councilman, I rely on the citizens for input on a wide range of issues I am called upon to vote on and make decisions. Feel free to contact me anytime for your events and especially in the area of Youth development where I have years of experience in programming.

Since we spent a lot of time on Politics, I want to at share my recommendations on opportunities for citizen participation.

* Finding and Contacting political leadership - Email or Snail mail, an elected official is always available for contact. DON'T use it to gripe, but OFFER your ideas for solutions on issues or to Alert them to things that may not be visible to them. THERE ARE public computers available in the Library!
* Write Letters to Newspapers - Every news outlet (including Blogs online) accepts letters to be published by citizens. Some even have Awards for most effective writers. Use this access to constructively highlight issues of concern so others can see and join your cause; maybe even find you're not alone. You can also propose solutions there as well as ask questions.
* Participate in Boards & Commissions - you can join these as members or ATTEND them (their meetings are open to the public). The Public is allowed to speak on a limited basis, but the opportunity is there.
* Join a Political Party - the US uses a Party system, joining a Party (or visiting their monthly meetings) can give you an idea how things work at the grass roots level. You can also gain (informal) access to elected officials.

Just a few ideas to pass along, but to be honest, you have good leadership in NEAT who implore these options and can reinforce them. Thanks again for the honor and I look forward to seeing you all, often!

Grady Faulkner Jr.

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Laptops at Macdonough School

A few weeks ago a bunch of new laptop computers were delivered to Macdonough School. The laptops are spillproof, dustproof and drop-proof. They weigh just three pounds and have an incredible assortment of capabilities. And they were free.

Thanks to the North End Action Team (NEAT), Macdonough School's students have access to one of the newest and hottest educational tools on the market, the XO laptop computer. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child to develop a low-cost, high-potential computer for educationally underserved children.

For those who may be fooled by their appearance, be assured that these computers are no toys! They have a built in video camera, word processor, calculator, PDF textbook reader, a few games, music programs, a painting application, a chat program, and yes, they can access the internet too!

Two of Macdonough's teachers have taken on the challenge of introducing the XO laptops in an after school program for the school's third, four, and fifth grade students. Sarah Claffey and Teresa Morello have been providing an overview of the laptops to get children started. Once oriented, the students have the option of taking the computers home for a few days to share new learning with their families. The laptops are also making their way into classrooms to support a variety of learning activities.

About two dozen computers have been donated to NEAT to date, although Izzi Greenberg, NEAT’s Executive Director, is actively seeking donations through the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. For more information, please contact NEAT at 346-4845.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Computers at Macdonough!

A few weeks ago a bunch of new laptop computers were delivered to Macdonough School. The laptops are spillproof, dustproof and drop-proof. They weigh just three pounds and have an incredible assortment of capabilities. And they were free.
Thanks to the North End Action Team (NEAT), Macdonough School's students have access to one of the newest and hottest educational tools on the market, the XO laptop computer. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child to develop a low-cost, high-potential computer for educationally underserved children.
For those who may be fooled by their appearance, be assured that these computers are no toys! They have a built in video camera, word processor, calculator, PDF textbook reader, a few games, music programs, a painting application, a chat program, and yes, they can access the internet too!
Two of Macdonough's teachers have taken on the challenge of introducing the XO laptops in an after school program for the school's third, four, and fifth grade students. Sarah Claffey and Teresa Morello have been providing an overview of the laptops to get children started. Once oriented, the students have the option of taking the computers home for a few days to share new learning with their families. The laptops are also making their way into classrooms to support a variety of learning activities.
About two dozen computers have been donated to NEAT to date, although Izzi Greenberg, NEAT’s Executive Director, is actively seeking donations through the One Laptop Per Child Foundation. For more information, please contact NEAT at 346-4845.

North End Vintage

MIDDLETOWN - Sandy Fernandes was cruising Craigslist one day when she came across a sales listing for a wardrobe's worth of vintage clothing. Inspired, she called her sister Debbie, a former fashion merchandising student living in New York.

After looking at the items on the online-classifieds site, the sisters went to see the clothing in person.

"We took a look at it and loved it," Sandy said. "We said, 'Why don't we open up a store?'"

Fast forward one year.

Sisters and business partners Sandy, 25, and Debbie Fernandes, 23, opened the doors Tuesday to Desa Vintage.

"I think we had the entrepreneurial gene," Sandy said.

Desa Vintage specializes in women's apparel and accessories as well as some men's apparel. Blouses start at $8, the average dress is about $24 and jackets run $54 and up.

Debby and Sandy select the pieces at estate sales, flea markets, antique stores, thrift stores and consignment shops, sifting through for "keepers," Sandy said.

"We try to ask ourselves if we would wear it," she said.

The Main Street boutique sells unique pieces in good condition, Sandy and Debbie said.

"You're going to be the only one wearing it," Debbie said. "You won't find it anywhere around here."

Everything is dry cleaned before it is put in the store.

"Being from New York, I have shopped at a lot of vintage clothing stores," Debbie said. "I wanted something that didn't smell like it was grandma's basement."

Sandy also wanted to make sure Desa Vintage had a boutique feel.

"We didn't want to be considered a more upscale Salvation Army."

When Debby and Sandy decided to go into business together, they were looking at retail space in towns such as West Hartford and Avon, but Middletown had more of the downtown appeal they were looking for.

"We were looking for something that was more up and coming," Sandy said.

"The other towns we were looking at were more cookie-cutter," Debbie said. "You need a more eclectic mix of people."

A more liberal demographic that includes the student population at Wesleyan University seemed like a fit.

"I think Wesleyan students are our target market," Debbie said. "They want something different - not something everyone is wearing.

Desa Vintage is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The boutique is closed Mondays.

Sandy and Debbie decided to stay open Sundays because of the student foot traffic downtown.

"Through the renovations, we noticed that a lot of students would walk by to go to the diner," Debbie said. "I think because students aren't in class, they're walking around."

Sandy and Debbie have had a great deal of support from their families as they got the store ready for Tuesday's opening.

Their brother, Brian, built the fitting room, and their father hung clothing racks and made a radiator cover that doubles as a display area for jewelry.

"We have a lot of help from our family," Debbie said. "Everything in here is thanks to one of them."

Desa Vintage is at 534 Main St. in Middletown. For information, call (860) 704-0870.
Printed with permission by the Middletown Press.