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