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For some, it will be hard to believe that the 9/11 terrorist attacks are already two decades in the past. It’s a wound that is still fresh for those who lost a loved one in the horrific tragedy.

That’s certainly the case for the Jalberts, who are still grieving the loss of their family patriarch. 

Twenty years ago, Robert Jalbert, a Swampscott resident, was headed to Orange, Calif. on United Flight 175. He was traveling to visit the Rogers Foam plant on business but never made it to his destination.

As soon as Mike Jalbert, Robert’s son, realized that his father was on a flight that day, he called United Airlines seeking any information about his dad. 

“The day remains quite vivid,” said Mike. 

John Vittori, who was the Jalbert family’s neighbor on Greenwood Avenue, described Robert as a good man who was very religious. The neighbor mentioned that he faithfully went to 7 a.m. mass every morning.

“He was a good dad,” said Vittori. “He had three kids and they all grew up here in Swampscott and they went through the Swampscott school systems.”

Vittori added that Jalbert and his wife, Cathie, had a very strong relationship. 

“He was just an easy-going guy,” Vittori added. “(The) last time I saw him he was rebuilding that porch, and a week later he’s gone.”

The resident of 79 Greenwood Ave. described Jalbert as a good neighbor who was also a good friend. 

While the neighborhood has changed over the years, Vittori says that neighbors still talk about the attack, and its toll on the Jalbert family. 

Robert Jalbert was raised in Lewiston, Maine and eventually settled with his family in Swampscott. The Jalberts said that Robert valued education and was very proud that his children had all graduated from college, something that he and Cathie had worked very hard to provide for them.

Thanks to Xavier University and the Jalbert family, Robert’s legacy will live on forever. The Robert Jalbert 9/11 Memorial Scholarship was created and established an exclusive relationship between Xavier and St. Dominic’s Regional High School in Lewiston, Maine ― alma mater of Jalbert and his longtime friend Dr. Roger Fortin, a history professor at Xavier University. In the hopes of helping more students from the Boston area who are interested in a Jesuit education, the family has chosen to expand the scholarship to include Swampscott High School and high schools connected with the Archdiocese of Boston.

The town of Swampscott also has a memorial on display near Town Hall featuring Jalbert’s name, along with two other Swampscott residents who lost their lives in the War on Terror. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said that the town plans on having a ceremony at Town Hall this year as a means to mark 20 years since one of America’s darkest hours. 

Fitzgerald didn’t know Jalbert personally, but said that, thanks to St. John’s Church, he knows how great a man he was.

“He was certainly an extraordinary person,” Fitzgerald said. “He was a eucharistic minister over at the church. He was really active in service.”

As Fitzgerald thinks back on 9/11 20 years later, he said it is a complicated memory. While he remembers the tragedy and loss that occurred on that horrific day, he also remembers the unity.

“Certainly I think it was a shock to all of us,” he said. “But the outpouring of support and community in the sense that we were all one nation supporting each other, shouldering each other through a tragedy, to me, was truly inspiring.”

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Those who responded to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 still remember the devastation, smells, chaos, and heartbreak that filled Manhattan. 

Killing 2,977 people, including Swampscott resident Robert Jalbert, the attacks hit close to home for many. 

Several Swampscott residents traveled to New York City to assist shortly after the attacks, saying what they saw seemed like a war zone. 

Swampscott police officers Jay Locke and Rick McCarriston drove down to New York after a call for nationwide assistance was sent out. While there, they stayed in New Jersey but went into Manhattan to escort grief counselors and clergy around, as well as uncovered body parts to their determined location. 

Locke witnessed the physical and emotional damage the attacks had on the city and its people. He remembers seeing massive fires raging out of the ground and popping up when materials at the site were moved.
He recalls the facades of surrounding buildings being stripped and seeing office chairs falling out of them onto the streets below. 

The surreal sights and devastation that accompanied the destruction of the two towers left people praying at Ground Zero and lining the streets with American flags, Locke said as he recalled a conversation with a New York City police officer who was working when the towers fell. 

This officer told Locke that it was incredible to see people choosing to jump out of the buildings rather than burn or be buried in the rubble, as his eyes gazed up and down as if he was replaying those dreadful moments in his head. 

In addition to police officers, Locke said he remembers multiple teams and search dogs at the towers site searching for survivors. 

McCarriston said most of the search dogs ended up dying because they were breathing in all of the asbestos. Between the asbestos and the smoke and debris flying through the air, McCarriston said the volunteers at Ground zero were eventually given masks and protective eye gear to wear. 

While many saw the attack and its aftermath on television, viewers were removed from the chemical and burning smells that Locke remembers. 

“I had been around house fires before, but this was a completely different smell,” Locke said. “Everything was pulverized… Debris would be moved and a fireball would just pop up out of nowhere.” 

Locke referred to the site of the former World Trade Center as “utter destruction” and something he could have never imagined. 

McCarriston described the site of the attack in a similar way, saying even after being in the police department for 20 years, his preconceptions of what he was walking into were not even close to reality. 

On the morning of 9/11, McCarriston was at his mother’s funeral, after she had lost her battle to cancer. 

The funeral directors had turned off the radios because they didn’t want McCarriston and his family and friends to have to hear more tragedy during the services. 

When he heard about the attack, McCarriston said he wanted to go down to help out people who had lost someone much younger than he just had with his mother. 

When he arrived, McCarriston said he remembers going through the Lincoln Tunnel and being engulfed by a burning smell. When he got to the tower site, the scent shifted to that of dead bodies, which he said once you smell, it never leaves you. 

McCarriston and Locke worked 16 to 20-hour days, staying busy through it all. 

From the smells to walking on piles of debris formed from former skyscrapers, McCarriston said it was “mind boggling.”

As a law enforcement officer, McCarriston said other officers and iron workers who witnessed the attack opened up to him about what it was like to see it in person. 

He recalled a conversation with a New York police sergeant who told McCarriston that he had lost a good friend to the attack. 

The sergeant was stationed at the World Trade Center with his friend for years, but he had been promoted a week before and was transferred to another location. 

His friend remained at the World Trade Center and was working there the day the towers collapsed, killing him in the process. 

McCarriston said the sergeant was suffering from survivor’s guilt because if he hadn’t been promoted or if his friend had scored higher on the test and been promoted too, then he wouldn’t have died that day. 

To put things into perspective, McCarriston said the losses sustained by the Port Authority Police Department would be equivalent to losing the entire Swampscott Police Department.

Another Swampscott resident, Ed Seligman, made his way to New York City as a logistics team manager for the Massachusetts National Urban Search and Rescue Response System (MA-TF1 in Beverly). 

Seligman, who became a Swampscott firefighter shortly after 9/11, was managing the tools and equipment for the rescue mission and setting up tents to provide food, water and equipment to the first responders. 

Similar to McCarriston and Locke, Seligman said he tried to prepare for the scene on the drive to New York, but realism sunk in when he was driving by the Hudson River and saw armed soldiers lining the streets. 

From hearing the stories of survivors to seeing Ground Zero in person, Seligman said he was in awe and there were no words to describe the situation. 

“Pictures don’t put it in magnitude,” he said. “I was taking in what happened, just looking at all of the devastation.” 

The three Swampscott residents put their lives on hold to assist with the recovery from the 9/11 attacks, but said the transition back to reality was challenging. 

Between the exhaustion and digesting everything they had seen, the three said they will never forget what they witnessed. 

When returning home, McCarriston said it was one of those things where you just had to deal with what had happened, or else it would eat you up. 

Locke said it was an honor to go down and help and said he didn’t think twice about offering a helping hand. 

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Swampscott resident Lynne Krasker Schultz has big plans for the community nonprofit SPUR after being selected as the organization’s new executive director.

Krasker Schultz joined the team in early August. Founder and current Executive Director Jocelyn Cook will remain with the organization as a member of the Board of Directors and will lead development and fundraising efforts.

“I am excited to work with the board and volunteers to launch SPUR into its next stage of development and expansion,” Krasker Schultz said. “SPUR is about engaging people living in our community to make a measurable impact within the community through volunteer opportunities. In addition to mobilizing volunteers, we are going to think about how to be a convener and collaborator, as well as deepen people’s connection to each other.”

Marblehead-based SPUR describes its mission as creating a “community of doers” by providing diverse, flexible and accessible volunteer opportunities for community members of all ages in Lynn, Marblehead, Salem and Swampscott.

Krasker Schultz said she is excited to bring SPUR to the next level, by creating more opportunities across all of the communities SPUR helps.

She wants to expand SPUR to do more community outreach beyond the annual Backpack Drive and the Holiday Cheer Drive, potentially seeking to include programs in the high, middle, and elementary schools of the communities SPUR serves.

Krasker Schultz has 16 years of experience working with nonprofits, including programming, marketing and fundraising. Before joining SPUR, she served for six years as the director of public programming and community engagement at The Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture. She also founded and directed Prism, the young adult initiative of the New Center for Arts and Culture, now JArts.

“Lynne’s experience scaling nonprofit programs and her energetic, positive leadership style will help SPUR continue to strengthen and expand the ways that we support our community,” said SPUR Board Chair Jackie Mongiello. “The Board of Directors and I are excited to have Lynne on board and help SPUR continue to grow to the next level.”

As Krasker Schultz’s first month as executive director comes to an end, she said she feels hopeful for the future of SPUR.

“We’re off to really great things and it’s really exciting,” Krasker Schultz said. “We’re going to be bigger and better. We want everyone to know about us and want to get involved.”

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Residents will no longer have to travel across the Causeway to get a carton of eggs and a gallon of milk thanks to Turnstone Market’s mid-summer opening.

The cozy store is filled with local, high-quality products like meats and seafood, as well as fresh vegetables and handmade pasta. Store Owner Leslie Intoppa also stocks curated items made by local denizens as well as spices and herb mixes she makes herself.

“I sort of want to encourage people to cook,” she said. “I love cooking and I want people to come in here and, if they want an idea of what to make for dinner, I can help them. I want it to be a friendly, more interactive place to come and shop.”

Intoppa described the Turnstone Market as a place where you can not only go and grab things for dinner, but also stay and talk about food.

State Sen. Brenden P. Crighton (D-Lynn) stated that, since small businesses have been on everyone’s minds recently, it’s great to see Intoppa open up her market in Nahant.

“The town of Nahant has not many food options so this is certainly something that I think a lot of people will take advantage of,” the senator added. “It’s great to see businesses not only surviving (and) fighting through the pandemic, but also new businesses now opening.”

Town Administrator Antonio Barletta added that it was great to see Turnstone open, as it’s rare that new businesses come to Nahant.

“We’re just so happy and pleased that Leslie’s decided to open her doors here in Nahant, (and) provide a local place for top quality products for residents and visitors to stop in and grab groceries,” he said. “It’s a great option for all of us.”

Intoppa says that the support she has received from community members has been incredible.

“When people come in here and tell me how happy they are to have this, and look around and say how wonderful it looks, I get emotional thinking about it because I put a lot of effort into it and it’s nice that people appreciate it,” she said.

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When Joe Douillette isn’t teaching at the high school or buzzing around local government meetings to broadcast them on Swampscott Cable Access TV, he can sometimes be found in his yard with a few hundred bees surrounding him.

The media arts teacher and cable TV coordinator is also an amateur beekeeper. Despite the fact that he has been keeping bees since the 1990s, Douillette still considers himself a hobbyist.

“I took a course five or six years ago from the Essex County Beekeepers Association after I’ve been beekeeping for 20 years,” Douillette said. “There’s always more to learn.”

Douillette grew up in Nahant and attended Swampscott High School, where he got involved in the school’s cable club. At the time, it was run by Lynn’s Warner Cable. That was where he got his first taste of television.

Douillette began his life as a beekeeper while living in Boston. He said he often rode his bike to Allandale Farm in Brookline, where he was instructed by farm workers on how to take care of a hive. He soon established his own hives in Jamaica Plain, getting permission from neighbors to use their yard as a home for his bees.

“I need something that’s not looking at a screen or electronic,” he said. “I need something connected to the weather, the sun, nature.”

Meanwhile, Douillette and his three children keep busy, tending to the two beehives that sit in the family’s garden. In the spring, he purchased a package of three pounds of Italian honey bees and a queen to inhabit the hives, after the previous colony didn’t survive the winter due to varroa mites.

Douillette explained that he doesn’t expect his bees to produce much honey for harvesting this year, as they have to first build up enough to feed themselves through the winter. Once that happens, he will place a structure called a super on top of the hive that the bees will fill with extra honey.

He said that in a good year, he can harvest 100 pounds of honey from his hives. 

“It really is a form of escape,” he said. “You have to move slowly and respond to the temperament of the bees. You have to be aware of the ebb and flow of the nectar and the weather, whether it’s the next day or the next month, and really understand how to keep the colony alive.”

His passion for beekeeping is matched by his love for video production. He is a self-described amateur moviemaker.

“I developed a love of it,” he said. “My friends and I would rent VHS cameras at a VHS rental store in Swampscott in Vinnin Square. We would rent a camera for the weekend and make movies.”

Douillette attended Boston University’s College of Communications and settled in Jamaica Plain. He worked for local TV stations and afterschool programs, developing educational programming.

Doing this work, Douillette said he developed a love for public-access television.

“There’s such a celebration of free speech, of local importance, of the power that is given to communities in a medium that could easily exclude them because it’s so expensive to run,” he said. “That’s also why I love working with teens. They’re at the point where they start to realize how powerful their voice can be, and you can teach them how to amplify that.”

Eventually, Douillette and his family moved back to Swampscott and, in 2014, he began teaching at the high school, also taking over Swampscott Cable Access TV.

“Swampscott’s been unique in that it’s only had a government and an education channel in a system where you could have a government, education and public channel,” he said. 

Over the years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Douillette built up the government channel to broadcast many local meetings so that even residents without Zoom could see them, enlisting the help of his media arts students. They also improved the sports channel, spending around $10,000 to install three new robotic cameras and other equipment at the media booth at Blocksidge Field in May. This allowed them to do more with a smaller crew, and broadcast every home lacrosse, field hockey, football, basketball and volleyball game this year.

In class, students get to learn how to use both cameras and a studio, helping with the public-access station but also working on creative projects.

“It’s an elective (class), so you often get students who can’t find a place,” Douillette said. “They get to be in this environment where it’s very hands-on, but it’s not void of context and content … you see them thrive.”

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If you stand on the shore of Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn or Nahant and look out to sea to the northeast, you’ll see a small nondescript island about a mile away.

That three-acre piece of land — Egg Rock — has a rich history.

In the mid-1800s, Swampscott was home to a growing fleet of about 150 fishing vessels. After five died in an 1843 schooner wreck, many petitioned for a lighthouse on the island to guide Swampscott’s fleet safely to port. The first lighthouse was built in 1856 at a cost of $3,700 with Congressional funding, and its bright white light first shined on Sept. 15 of that year. 

Its first keeper, George B. Taylor of Nahant, lived at the lighthouse with his wife, Mary, and their children, along with chickens, goats, a tame crow, and the family dog, Milo ― a Newfoundland-St. Bernard mix of considerable size. In foggy weather, Milo also served as a kind of fog signal, barking at vessels as they came too close to Egg Rock, and newspapers made Milo a national hero for his rescues of children. 

That lighthouse burned down, but it was rebuilt in 1897. It was reported at the time that a 19-year-old local resident named Joe White was in charge of bringing materials out to the island in a dory, and it was said that he made the round-trip more than 300 times. The new lighthouse consisted of a square brick tower connected to a six-room, wood-frame dwelling. An oil house was built in 1904, and a new pier and boathouse were added in 1906. 

During World War I, the light at Egg Rock was dimmed because of fears of enemy submarines in the area. 

A series of keepers ran the lighthouse until 1919, when an automatic, gas-operated beacon was placed in the tower. 

The Daily Evening Item of Jan. 31, 1919 chronicled its arrival: “It gives one a queer, unromantic sort of feeling to look out upon the sightly landmark of Egg Rock on a winter’s evening and see the clear white gas beacon which now shines from the famous rock, untouched by the hand of man. For the long-to-be-pitied, forlorn, lonesome light keeper of Egg Rock is no more. Modern invention has supplanted this heroic figure of the north shore by an automation, in the shape of a huge tank, which quite uncannily, feeds the great beacon light of Lynn, Nahant and Swampscott shores.”

In 1922, the light was discontinued. The government sold the buildings at auction for $160, requiring the new owner to remove the buildings from the island. During this move, a cable snapped and the house tumbled into the ocean. For some time, the remains of the dwelling washed up on local beaches.The state of Massachusetts took over Egg Rock in 1927 and maintains it to this day as the home of the Henry Cabot Lodge wildlife sanctuary.

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At the beginning of the pandemic, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein ― who has been the Unitarian Universalist Church Of Greater Lynn’s minister since 2013 ― was on sabbatical and home between travels. 

As the news came in about the COVID-19 contagion, cancellations and closures, she called the congregation’s board president, who said that staffers knew the minister would not be calling during a sabbatical except in cases of extreme emergency.

“It sounds like a global pandemic might be an extreme emergency,” Weinstein said. “We had no idea what a cataclysm awaited the world.”

The first thing UUCGL had to do was figure out how to stay connected safely, which involved learning a lot of new technical skills while experiencing a great deal of shared fear, confusion, and dread. 

“How would we do this? Our scramble to learn how to gather for worship and meetings on Zoom, produce videos for worship and host online fellowship hour was like repairing a hole in the boat while out on choppy seas,” Weinstein said.  

While this transition was underway, everyone in the congregation was experiencing their own version of this chaos while forced to quarantine in their homes. One of the great parts about the UUCGL, said many members of the congregation, is the support everyone showed for each other during these unprecedented times. 

The Unitarian Universalist religion has prided itself on being a denomination that is open to all people, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality. 

The UUCGL has always had a tight-knit congregation, one that comes together to support its members and the community, whether it is by hosting and participating in food drives, volunteering at My Brother’s Table, supporting housing for families in need, donating money to charities, volunteering for beach clean-ups and community gardens, and much more. 

When the pandemic left many anxious and confused, Weinstein said the phones suddenly became very popular again as church members reached out to each other to make sure that everyone had basic necessities and were coping emotionally with the disruption. 

“To our relief, almost everyone in the congregation was able to remain employed at least part time, so we were eventually able to turn our collective attention to the needs of others in the wider community who were suffering food insecurity,” Weinstein said. 

UUCGL also has a long history of working with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Lynn on the issue of food insecurity. 

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn (UUCGL) has been a part of the Swampscott community for more than 40 years.

The church was formed from the combination of the Unitarian Church of Lynn, the First Universalist Parish of Lynn ― which was the largest Universalist congregation in America in the late 1800s ― and the Swampscott Universalist Church. 

Between 1964 and 1966, these three churches consolidated and on March 22, 1981, the seven-and-a-half acres of wooded land at which the church is currently located ― 101 Forest Ave. ―  was dedicated and renamed the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn.

The congregation itself dates back to the First Church of Christ of Lynn, which was organized in 1632, and later dispersed into a number of Universalist and Unitarian organizations. 

UUCGL has long been a community resource, reaching beyond its membership to make ministry and social justice programs available to all, providing aid to underserved populations, and supporting organizations in need by making the church and its grounds available for meetings and events.

While the church has served community members and generations of families for years, it was forced to adjust its usual services when the pandemic hit. 

After closing down the church for all in-person services and events, the UUCGL transitioned to a fully-remote capacity. While this offered a way for the congregation to stay connected, many still faced struggles outside of the church. 

Church members Clare Campbell and Michael Celona said that St. Stephen’s food pantry saw its demand for food triple after the start of the pandemic, so several UUCGL members started volunteering at the pantry to help organize and hand out food. 

Members also organized several drive-up food options during the pandemic. Campbell and Celona said these “pop the trunk” drive-ups provided goods for local food pantries and a “fun, safe method of socializing for church members who masked up to retrieve an abundance of offerings from the trunks of friends and neighbors of the church.”

While many struggled with food insecurity, others struggled with losing loved ones. 

Weinstein’s mother died suddenly in South Carolina in the first weeks of the pandemic, so she became one of many grieving people who lost a loved one but was not able to travel to be with family for their memorial service. 

“This personal experience gave me a renewed appreciation for how much human communities need rituals that facilitate our sense of the sacred and connect us in spirit across time and distance,” Weinstein said. “Not just funerals, but other rites of passage like birthday celebrations, baby blessings, graduations, holidays and holy days and ceremonies to mark transitions. It has been beautiful to see the creative ways people have managed to mark these moments of life’s passage.” 

The church’s theme for the year is “Together In Spirit,” which Weinstein herself suggested. 

At the time, there was no way of knowing how long the congregation would be unable to gather in the sanctuary, to hug each other, to see each other’s smiles, to sing together, and to pray together in physical closeness, but from the pastoral perspective, Weinstein said she saw that everyone was suffering in some way. 

For example, Weinstein said she saw that people who lived alone experienced terrible isolation and loneliness, and those who were in roommate situations or family settings often felt overwhelmed by the constant togetherness. 

UUCGL offered a parent support group and several meditative and small-group listening circles ― all online ― for spiritual support; additionally, some of the church’s cherished traditions, including the October Blessing of the Animals, the New Year’s Blessing and Banishing Ritual, and the Flower Communion in May moved outdoors. 

“I will never forget the ways that people would call out in joy just seeing each other walking across the parking lot,” Weinstein said. 

The church’s choir director, Kenneth Griffith, organized Zoom choir rehearsals, and used an online app to record hymns and anthems for Sunday services.  

Each choir member recorded their own part individually and at home, and then the voices were layered into a complete chorus.

Members of the choir said that, although they learned a lot from this experience, they are looking forward to the day when they can “stand shoulder to shoulder again and rejoice with our voices in person.” 

Now that the vast majority of the congregation is vaccinated, that day doesn’t seem too far away ― and the UUCGL is moving forward with a reopening plan. 

The church’s Reopening Task Force is consulting with many public-health resources and is listening to the congregation, whom Weinstein said expresses a deep yearning to be together. 

“We are committed to living by a covenant of love and mutual compassion and will do what it takes to mitigate risk and to continue to include folks remotely,” Weinstein said. “Things will not go back to ‘normal’ any time soon, but the congregations that merged to become the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn have been around for centuries and the church therefore bears witness to human resilience across many generations.” 

UUCGL Business Administrator Elizabeth Muller recalls March 23, 2020, when she was in the church office and heard Gov. Charlie Baker announce an emergency order requiring nonessential businesses to close by noon the next day.

Muller said the building may have closed, but the church never did.

“We took a giant leap forward in the realm of online services and offerings. We learned ― often painfully ― new software, and became adept at flower arranging to escape the ire of the Zoom Room Rater,” Muller said. “We were welcomed to online Sunday services by avian mascot Babs the hen, by adorable children lighting candles from their homes, and by guitar solos overlooking a sparkling Lynn pond. I learned, to my embarrassment, during what was to have been an audio-only webinar that ducking and falling to the floor is not a guarantee of escaping being seen, but it is good for comic relief.” 

To expand the church’s possibilities for outdoor and indoor services and events, the church purchased a new sound system and continues to explore better ways for hybrid

services and meetings to accommodate those at home. 

Muller said that although reopening has been a challenging issue, everyone worldwide is having the same difficulties, discussions and questions. 

“It can test one’s mettle: the old is not there, the new is not clear, and the one given is that it will have changed. Fortunately, those changes can provide great opportunities to deepen faith and service,” Muller said. “The cracks in the armor of our previously well-ordered lives have allowed the light of new opportunities to shine forth. We are ready to come out of the shadows and embrace them all.”

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Douglas Flores and Greg Perez may have only moved to the North Shore last year, but they are already making an impact.

The Swampscott couple both work to address food insecurity locally and throughout Massachusetts, with Flores serving as chief operations officer for Project Bread and Perez as reverend at St. Stephen’s Memorial Episcopal Church in Lynn.

“Greg deals with the immediacy of things. He’s taking care of people here and today and tomorrow — but Project Bread and most of my work — has been looking at systems change and environmental change,” Flores said. “People need food and they need it today. They can’t wait for the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to take effect. But we want to give them a solution that is sustainable and one that provides dignity.”

Texas natives Flores and Perez started in their positions during the pandemic, launching directly into dealing with widespread hunger exacerbated by the pandemic on top of the struggle of remote work.

Before his position at Project Bread, Flores worked for over a decade at GLSEN, a nonprofit that focuses on education and awareness for LGBTQ+ students. When Perez’s career brought them to the Northeast, he looked to his experience growing up in a family that frequently relied on food stamps and other governmental assistance programs to eat.

“I just took a step back and wanted to think, what are the other mission areas that I wanted to focus on?” he said. “There’s a lot of structures I’m able to build (at Project Bread). I think I can really contribute to HR, the people work, the diversity, equity and inclusion work that’s so critical to reach these communities.”

Meanwhile, Perez had to acclimate to a new church and a new congregation without ever meeting them in person. He said that one of his favorite parts of the job is the regular food pantry events that the church holds, where they bring in up to 11,000 pounds of food each month from the Greater Boston Food Bank, My Brother’s Table and Lovin’ Spoonfuls.  In January, during the peak of the pandemic, they served 2,571 individuals from 683 households. 

“We have kept going because we know that people are hungry,” Perez said, noting that the vast majority of community members they serve are immigrants from Latin America. “People are out of work and resources are limited.”

Flores said that this trend is in line with the rest of the state. He said that across municipalities, there has been a 5 to 20 percent increase in households who have signed up for SNAP. Before the pandemic, one in 11 families was experiencing food insecurity; that number has gone up to one in six, and among Black and Latino families, one in three.

“It’s really just magnifying some of the fractures in the disparities,” he said. “It’s been really impactful on the most vulnerable populations.”

Flores and Perez are optimistic about the future, as both Project Bread and St. Stephen’s start opening up their operation, but both men are both committed to continuing the hard work they have done over the past year.

“When you see these people coming by, you become their friend, you strike up a conversation and you just see the need on their faces,” Perez said. “Their gratitude is written all over their face.”

The St. Stephen’s food pantry is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on the second, third, fourth and fifth Friday of every month. For more information about how to get help, call the Project Bread FoodSource hotline at 1-800-645-8333.

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In August, a formal reveal of the Frederick Douglass sculpture by 99-year old Nahant artist Reno ‘Ray’ Pisano highlighted the official dedication of a new Lynn park named after the prominent African-American abolitionist. 

The park and Pisano’s work is adjacent to the location where Douglass was thrown off a train on Sept. 29, 1841 for protesting passenger segregation aboard the Eastern Railroad Company. 

The incident led to the Massachusetts Legislature proposing a law prohibiting common carriers from discriminating against any class of passengers. The Eastern Railroad ended up abandoning second-class cars before the bill was passed in 1843. 

At the Lynn celebration of his work, Pisano rose up from his seat on the stage to say a few words. The crowd gave him an ovation. 

“All right, already,” joked Pisano, who thanked the Lynn administration, state senators and specific people who had helped him with this project. 

“Today is Frederick Douglass Day,” the sculptor proclaimed, sharing his sentiment about the dedication. “He believed that we are all cousins. That, to me, it is a big deal. That was the essence of the Frederick Douglass purpose ― the oneness of us. We are not separated. We are of each other and that’s the thing that I felt most of all.” 

Age can’t keep Pisano from carving, casting and creating art. A town resident for more than 40 years, he has an impressive resume of sculpting accomplishments.

His work, “Tectonic Eclipse,” graces the Nahant library’s lawn. Lynn is dotted with his creations, including a Douglass monument on the common and a carved tribute to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy. 

His sculptures and the material he works with reflect an inquisitive, impatient spirit that age and time have failed to tamp down. He switches from plaster to marble to granite to wood and epoxy, and his creations range from a massive likeness of P.T. Barnum to delicately rendered torsos.

For Pisano, art is not so much a process of creation as it is an exploration of the artist’s abilities.

“Most artists will produce work to impress others, but if that is your mission, it almost immediately compromises your objective,” he said. 

The son of a barber and a bridal gown designer, Pisano grew up in Lynn’s Highlands, graduated from Classical High School, and attended the Boston Museum School for a semester before joining the Army and taking part in several World War II campaigns.

He went back to school after the war and went to work for General Electric’s household division, creating stylistic designs for appliances. The father of four was married to his late wife, Mary, for 67 years.

Before channeling his energy into art, Pisano funneled it into physical fitness to overcome the effects of rheumatic fever. He lifted weights at the old Lynn Market Street YMCA and swam a mile a day. 

Like many Nahant residents, he owned a boat, but art has endured as his abiding passion. He has forged his own tools to create an implement capable of crafting clay or plaster into the creation he envisions. 

His interest in Douglass was influenced by Tom Dalton’s book, “Frederick Douglass: The Lynn Years, 1841–1848,” and the illustration on its cover, Pisano said. 

The sculptor incorporated into his work a description of the train incident and a quote from the famous abolitionist: “…justice must be done, the truth must be told, the wicked must be exposed, freedom and righteousness must be vindicated … I will not be silent.” The statue stands to the left from the “Stories of Lynn” mural, which was completed in 2014 and which also features Douglass presiding in the middle of a group of prominent Lynn residents. 

“This is way long overdue since Frederick Douglass has had such a footprint on Lynn,” said Nicole McClain, founder and director of the North Shore Juneteenth Association, who attended the dedication. 

Andrea Gayle-Bennett, from the Lynn-Swampscott E.F. Gilmore Chapter of the Disabled American Veterans and a trustee of North Shore Community College, echoed the sentiment, saying “It is a source of pride for Lynn. You hear ‘Lynn, Lynn, city of sin’ all the time but look at all the wonderful things that are here in Lynn. 

“It should be Lynn Lynn, city of him, and her, and her,” added Gayle-Bennett.

Frederick Douglass Park is now officially a Department of Conservation and Recreation public property, available for daily use and events. Beside the statue, the space features a wooden stage in front of the mural, a lush lawn and benches both in the sun and shade.

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When George Floyd was murdered by a police officer on May 25, 2020, Tamy-Feé Meneide heard a call to action.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison but activists like Meneide realized that their work is still not done.

She was hired as a critical partner in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) after Floyd’s death ignited a national demand for police reform and racial equity. Meneide was instrumental in the town officially acknowledging Black History Month for the first time this past February. She has also hosted an anti-racism forum with town officials in December of 2020.

Looking back to where the town stood in terms of racial equity before the murder of Floyd, Meneide believes the town has made strides in regards to race and racism.

“There’s been more of an awareness and education that I’ve seen,” she said. “I’ve seen and beared witness to folks moving into doing their own work and unlearning some of the harmful stories that are not necessarily the truth around the history of race and racism in the United States and having a sort of reckoning as it relates to their own upbringing, and how they show up, and whether or not their community is welcoming for all.”

Meneide added that while racial-advocacy groups existed prior to her arrival to the town, a lot more have been willing to participate and attend different events, “(t)o again, do their personal work and learning and unlearning some of the harmful lies that we have been told.”

Also, Meneide noted, the awakening experienced by Swampscott residents is on par with the changes experienced by other predominantly-white neighborhoods ― but there are still areas of concern.

“There are areas of concern until we all say that racism has been dismantled completely,” said Meneide. “There’s never going to be an end point to stop learning.”

She added that one of the things that has been most helpful for the community is holding public conversations for residents of Swampscott. Meneide stated that she has received feedback where residents have shown her how successful these events have been.

“I think as we continue to plan out what diversity, equity, and inclusion looks like in Swampscott that we will continue those learning forms, those community forums,” she said. “I think also providing spaces for other parts of the town to have honest conversations is kind of the direction which we’re going, whether it be the school communities, scholars and families, staff, or even our other municipalities … from the library, to the Select Board, to the police department or the fire department.” 

While some of these conversations can be uncomfortable, they are necessary and are not just about fulfilling a requirement, said Meneide.

“If you are looking at DEI work as sort of check(ing) the box off, you did your monthly forum or you did your quarterly forum then you missed the mark,” she cautioned. “A lot of the work has to be on your own, personal work. Everybody is going to be in a different space, which is why forums are great in terms of shared discussion but they shouldn’t be the only way in which one is learning to dismantle racism as well as unlearn(ing) some of the things that they have taken as gospel throughout their lifetime. 

“There has to be a willingness of individuals to put in the work to become more educated, become more aware, and then start to practice that education and awareness,” she said. “Because once you know better, you should do better.”

For Meneide, as long as Swampscott is centered around race, equity, and justice, the town will be on a path forward.

“It’s a matter of keeping the momentum going,” she said. “(That) is the bar of success at this point: for us to be able to continually impact change.”

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