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Town residents' generosity rallies Nicaraguan players

Young ballplayers in Valle de Casa in Central Nicaragua.Young ballplayers in Valle de Casa, Nicaragua, sport gear from  Arlington.

Last spring, the youngsters from rural Nicaragua shown at left had no uniforms or equipment. They were using dried-out fruit as baseballs and rake handles as bats.

Then Bill McQueeney and the Arlington Youth Baseball and Softball Association (AYBSA) got involved.

McQueeney works for Rural Water Ventures, a nonprofit based in Sudbury that provides fresh-water wells to remote villages in Nicaragua. He asked the AYBSA to help the children of the small, rural community of Valle de Casa in central Nicaragua who were in desperate need of baseball equipment.

Arlington met the challenge, and, at holiday time, these are youngsters in baseball-crazy Nicaragua are saying "muchas gracias."

Recently, following the end of Nicaragua's rainy season, enough equipment and clothing to outfit a number of teams were delivered to Valle de Casa.

The Agua Para La Vida (APLV) health promoter in the region assisted with this process and indicated that the kids were "absolutely ecstatic."

'Beautiful act'

Aynn Setright, president of APLV Nicaragua, wrote in an email, "This was a beautiful act of solidarity and kindness, and makes so many people happy. What the children have received from the good folks of Arlington is beyond their wildest dreams. They will remember it and the day they received it for the rest of their lives."

The AYBSA has received numerous heartwarming letters of thanks from the children in these photos. In the next few weeks, APLV Nicaragua plans to deliver equipment and clothing to several more villages in the area.

How did the effort hit such a grand slam?

Hearing McQueeney's appeal to help an area that is among the most abandoned, deprived and destitute in the Americas, Arlington pals got to work. Gregg Malatesta, an AYBSA manager and friend of McQueeney, and Capt. Richard Flynn of the Arlington Police Department formed a partnership between Rural Water Ventures and the association.

Paul Carroll, association president, was on board, and the group ran with it.

On May 3, the AYBSA offered a six-hour collection point outside the Ed Burns Arena for a used baseball equipment and apparel in conjunction with its Dana-Farber Cancer Institute blood drive.

The pitch was no curve; it was straight down the middle from the AYBSA:

In Nicaragua, as in Arlington, kids are crazy about baseball. When the weather cooperates, kids like to hit the fields, play catch, hit dingers.

Unlike in Arlington, many kids in Valle de Casa don't have bases, bats, balls, caps or shirts. They spend most of their time in school or working to help their families to survive. When they do play, they use hard-shell fruits for balls and rakes and shovels as bats.

AYBSA asked the public to help by collecting used bats, balls, gloves, caps, team jerseys, bases. The AYBSA said it would package up these items and deliver them to Rural Water Ventures.

And that's what happened.

Overwhelming generosity

"The generosity of the Arlington baseball community was overwhelming, with enough used equipment and uniforms collected to outfit several teams," noted Flynn.
Flynn said he has been involved with the AYBSA as a baseball manager and member of the board for the past 10 years. "I have found this to be a fantastic way to connect with the kids in town, teach the game of baseball and to give back to the community where I live and work," he wrote in an email.

The Arlington Youth Baseball and Softball Association thanks the town's baseball community and all those who donated their used baseball equipment in May.
Those involved also thank their new friends at Rural Water Ventures for their assistance in collecting, shipping and transporting the equipment to Nicaragua.

These efforts have helped to enrich the lives of the children in Valle de Casa and exemplify the true meaning of the holiday season, Flynn wrote.

This story was published Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. 

Help Undercovers rock Teen Empowerment

Rock music logo

Teen Empowerment, with a site in Somerville for 12 years, plans a celebration of its success of that program. The Undercovers, a band led by Stanley Pollock of Arlington, will be playing classic rock at Johnny D’s in Davis Square on Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 7 p.m. until as late as 10:30.

In addition, some Teen Empowerment youth from sites in Somerville and Boston will put their musical talents on display.

The cover charge of $12 (for 12 years) benefits Teen Empowerment.

This will be one of the last chances to gather at Johnny D's before it closes its doors and turn into high-end real estate in a few months. So the 3-fer on Oct. 27th is: The music, helping out TE and just being at Johnny D's before it is no more.

Here’s a link to the Facebook event page >>

This announcement was published Tuesday, Oct, 20, 2015.

May fire victim laid to rest in England; fund at $24,000

June 5 (full version): A displaced woman details ordeal for her, neighbors

Vance GilbertGilbert sang June 10.

UPDATED, Sept. 17: Echoes of the fatal May 5 blaze at the Arizona Terrace condos continue.

Arlington police report that the family of Wai Cheong, who died in the fire, was laid to rest in August, in the cemetery in Leeds, England, where his father is buried.

At the same time, the Housing Corporation of Arlington reported to contributors this month that its fund for those displaced by the fire had swelled to $24,000.

Police said the family shared a photo of the marker.

The fire, which began on May 5 around 4 a.m., claimed the life of Mr. Cheong. Sixty units were made uninhabitable; 36 wrer reported destroyed and 24 damaged, requiring repairs.

Help for those displaced first came the local efforts. Leader Bank stood up, offering low-interest loans through May. Then the housing corporation announced a public fund-raiser, held June 10 at the Regent. 

Then the U.S. Small Business Administration announced in mid-June that businesses and residents affected by the fire can apply for low-interest disaster loans.

At the time, the housing corporation had raised $18,518, said Pam Hallett, executive dorector.

Leland Stein, co-owner of the Regent, wrote June 15 that the theater raised $1,550 for the fund -- $1,125 from 45 tickets sold plus $425 in CD sales (100 percent donated by the artists who performed at the event).

"Certainly, we were hoping for a better turnout," he wrote, "but it was a wonderful event and evening for those of us who attended, performed and hosted."

 The loans were available in response to a letter from Gov. Charles Baker on June 5, an SBA news release says.

"The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of Massachusetts with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist businesses of all sizes, homeowners and renters with federal disaster loans," said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet in the release.

Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta, said in the release.

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA, to make improvements that help prevent the risk of future property damage caused by a similar event.

Interest rates are as low as 4 percent for businesses, 2.625 percent for nonprofit organizations and 1.688 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amount and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online here >>

Businesses and individuals may also obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s customer-service center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing), or by emailing disastercustomerservice[at] Loan applications can also be downloaded at Completed applications should be returned to the center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage was Aug. 10. The deadline to return economic-injury applications is March 11, 2016.

"Businesses of any size and nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets," said Robert H. Nelson, SBA’s district director in Massachusetts.

 The Regent provided most of the following for the June 10 concert:

Humorous ad-Vance man

Gilbert burst onto the singer/songwriter scene in the early 1990s, when buzz started spreading in the folk clubs of Boston about an ex-multicultural arts teacher who was knocking 'em dead at open mics. He has continued to do so, including at a show this month at Harvard Square's Club Passim. In addition, read a 2011 review >> 

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Vance started out hoping to be a jazz singer, and then discovered his affinity for the storytelling sensibilities of acoustic folk music. Once word got out about Gilbert’s stage-owning singing and playing, Shawn Colvin invited him to be special guest on her Fat City tour.

Noted not only for being the ever consummate performer, Gilbert has recorded 12 albums, including four for Philo/Rounder Records. He has opened for artists as varied as Aretha Franklin, Arlo Guthrie, Anita Baker, George Carlin, Paul Reiser and the Subdudes. Considered by many to be an integral part of the national folk scene, Gilbert’s compositions, while frequently employing sophisticated melodies and harmonies that attest to his jazz roots, remain sublime attestations to the storyteller’s craft. He even has a tune on a Grammy-nominated children’s album. How rounded is that?

Hip harpist

Henson-Conant is a Grammy-nominated electric harp virtuoso with a wicked sense of humor, a gutsy set of vocal chords and a theatrical flair.

Forget the demure harpist -- she’s known a showman, entertainer and solid musician compared to musical greats from Leonard Bernstein to Jimi Hendrix -- and she plays a custom-built 32-string electric harness harp.
She’s opened for Ray Charles at Tanglewood, starred in her own special on PBS, toured as a symphony soloist with the Boston Pops and as a rock harpist with guitar legend Steve Vai. She has her own online school for harpists around the world.

Drumbeat for good

Woody Giessmann, a longtime musician and visual artist, is most known for his work with The Del Fuegos. Woody has recorded 22 studio albums and shared the stage with Tom Petty, Siedah Garrett, ZZ Top, The Kinks, James Brown, NRBQ, X, Los Lobos and INXS.

He is the founder and CEO of Right Turn, a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides a safe and welcoming atmosphere to creative people in recovery. The Arlington-based program is moving to Watertown days after this show.

Does this fiddler purr?

Katz Katz -- a musician, author and painter -- casts a wide net of creative endeavors. Ilana’s music mainstay is blues and old-time Southern fiddle, but her versatility as an improvisational musician beckons her to play all kinds of music.

She loves performing in Boston’s subways, but she often sits in with blues musicians all over New England and wherever her travels take her. Ilana has had the great honor to perform with many great musicians, including Ronnie Earl, Cedric Watson, Joe Moss and Diane Blue. “Marlyn’s Blues.” off her debut record, "I’ve Got Something to Tell You," has recently been nominated for best new blues song by Big City Blues Magazine.

Boston Music Award nominee

Powhida  is a multiple Boston Music Award nominee, and his songs have been featured in episodes of My Name is Earl and Men in Trees. He has sung on recordings by The Click Five, Sarah Borges and The Gentlemen.

You may have seen him perform with his beloved Boston rock and soul combo The Rudds or even as guitarist with rock-'n-roll icon and author Bebe Buell. The winner of the 2011 Boston Rock and Roll Rumble with his band John Powhida International Airport, this past April in Little Rock, Ark., he stood in for Todd Rundgren fronting the 1974 version of Todd Rundgren’s "Utopia" with three original members. His band’s latest CD, "Airport Life," features Boston Music Award song of the year nominee “cover me i’m going for milk."

Donations for Brookside Condominium fire victims

Thanks to the Housing Corporation of Arlingtonfor setting up a fund for those affected by the May 5 fire at Brookside Condominiums. When making a donation, please be sure to note in the "Designation (Optional)" field "Fire." Funds collected will go to assist those displaced by the fire. You can make your donation here.

This extended announcement was published Sunday, May 24, 2015, and updated Sept. 17.

Quad Cycles' 2nd bike swap raises over $1,600 for schools

Quad Cycles logo

UPDATED, July 7: Quad Cycles, Arlington’s locally owned bike shop since 2000, held its second annual bike swap in support of the Arlington Education Foundation on June 20 and 21, raising over $1,600 and beating last year’s contribution by 50 percent. 

"Last year, we were among donors who helped the AEF upgrade Arlington schools’ 6th grade computer science curricula and equipment, install a fully equipped science, technology, engineering, and mathematics lab at Arlington High School, and develop additional resources for other subjects," Rustem Gode, owner of Quad Cycles, said. "We’re looking forward to helping the AEF conclude the Technology Initiative and pursue even greater goals in the future."

Quad Cycles plans to host another bike swap next June and hopes to make the bike swap an even larger than it was this year.

Last year, Gode was looking for a way to help the Arlington cycling community keep itself on high-quality and affordable new bikes, as well as to make a contribution to the Arlington Education Foundation, and he came across the idea of hosting a bike swap. "It was a great way to get people on good bikes and help out the Arlington Education Foundation. Last year, we raised over $1,000 for them, and this year we want to raise even more money," he said.

Quad Cycles will examine sellers’ bicycles on June 19, provide them with a suggested price, and let them set the selling price of their bike. Then, on June 20 and 21, buyers can visit Quad Cycles, look for bikes in their size and price range, and buy them from the shop that day.

Sellers can choose to receive 90-percent store credit for the sale value, 75 percent of the sale value as a check, or to make the full-sale value a donation to the Arlington Education Foundation.

For sellers who choose to receive a check or store credit, 10 percent of the sale value will be donated to the Arlington Education Foundation.

Additionally, Quad Cycles will donate its used bicycles, and 100 percent of those sales will be donated to the Arlington Education Foundation.

For more information about the bike swap, you can visit, stop by the store at 1043 Mass Ave. in Arlington, or call 781-648-5222.

This announcement was published Thursday, June 11, 2015, and updated July 7, with amount raised.

Arlington cyclist pumped up for ride to fight ALS

Joe Snodgrass

UPDATED, June 10: On Friday, Arlington's Joe Snodgrass plans to pedal for the 10th time to raise money to fight ALS, the debilitating ailment known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Last year, the team with which he rides on the three-day Tri State Trek pulled in $86,719, the second highest amount raised among all participating groups.

What pushes him? "I first became aware of Lou Gehrig's disease when my grandfather was diagnosed in 1995," Snodgrass wrote recently. "He died in 1997.

"I want to see an effective treatment for ALS developed in my lifetime, and know that our Tri-State Trek family contributed to it.

"I come back every year because of the sense of shared understanding of what it is like to love someone who is living with ALS, but also the shared urgency and mission to do something about it today, and for the future."

The Trek has a local connection: It was first developed as a fund-raising ride for the ALS Therapy Development Institute by Mathew Mendel, living in Arlington at the time. The first, in 2003, and had 13 riders; it now has about 400.

For this year's event, cyclists are featuring names of PALS -- "persons with ALS" -- on their jerseys.

Read more ...

Arlington EATS event raises $12,000, covers expanded summer lunch program

EATS logo

"Art.Food.Community," a fund-raiser for Arlington EATS called "such a roaring success," drew more than 600 people attended the May 16 event, raising $12,000.

Group volunteer Susan Stewart reported the results May 20 and called the amount raised "astounding."

"Thank you to everyone," she wrote. The total raised "will more than cover our expanded summer lunch program, and we are so thankful for how many kids we are going to be able to feed during our second year of operation."

The event "would not have been possible without the passion, skill and dedication of ceramic artists Melody Thomas and Eileen de Rosas, and would not have happened without the grants given by the Arlington Education Foundation and the Arlington Cultural Council," she wrote.

Both are Thompson parents, ceramic artists and educators who were awarded grants for the project.

Four hundred children learned about the process of making clay pottery bowls tailored to their curriculum by grade level. Each student spent two sessions with de Rosas and Thomas making two ceramic bowls, one to keep and one to donate to Arlington EATS.

She praised the support of Thompson Principal Karen Donato, Vicki Rose, her assistant, and all the teachers at the event.

"We were amazed that the silent auction, featuring pieces by the teachers and artists, brought in over $2.000! The backdrop provided by beautiful student artwork and talented musicians added a wonderful atmosphere to the event," she added.

She called the food at the event "amazing, thanks to the brilliance of Thompson parents and owners of Something Savory Catering, Jodi Auerbach and Johnny Levins. They were able to turn rescued food donated from Food Link (the exact type of food that we give out every other week in Weekend Food Bags!) into a delicious meal for attendees."

Last, she thanks "all the Thompson students who gave one of their awesome bowls to EATS to be sold, and to all of you who contributed time, cakes, money and enthusiasm on Saturday.

"Thank you, Arlington, for your support of this program and care for the students of Arlington. We are grateful and look forward to providing lots of volunteer opportunities this summer as we start our summer lunch program."

May 3, 2015: Arlington EATS: Feeding students when school is out

This announcement was published Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

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