Keith Boucher of Urban Kindness. (Courtesy photograph.)
First of a two-part series.
Urban Kindness, a Mount Washington neighborhood group, is hosting a joint meeting with the Mount Washington Alliance Thursday, Jan. 19, 6:30, at Rehoboth Lighthouse Full Gospel Church, 409 Washington St. Keith Boucher described the problems Urban Kindness is trying to solve.
“Our neighborhood does have the highest level of poverty. It has the highest unemployment, has the lowest test scores in the schools.”
Instead, Boucher said, he wants Mount Washington to be a place where people prosper and have better access to education, employment and social services. The neighborhood group began as part of a religious group, The Vine, but evolved by 2013 into the secular organization it is today.
One of its first initiatives was creating a garden near Fantini Bakery with help from Joseph Fantini, a fifth-generation owner of the company. From there, a community garden with 18 plots was placed on Boucher’s own property.
Boucher and his wife Diane came to Haverhill in 2008 from Salem, N.H., first living in the city’s Highlands area. Then, they bought what was once one of the most foremost homes in the Mount Washington area.
“A boarded up drug house, a former drug house. We still had people knocking on our door for God knows what a year after we moved in. We spent the last four years restoring it.”
Urban Kindness has gone on to work with the city to have trash barrels placed in Currier Square and devised its “Trash Talk” program.
“Picking up trash and talking to your neighbors and that’s one of the things we found in the neighborhood is that not a lot of the people are on the street; not a lot of people know each other; not a lot of people talk to each other
In the biggest boost yet for Mount Washington revitalization, the group worked with others to win a $475,000 Working Cities Challenge grant, aimed at closing a “social and economic opportunity gap” between it and the rest of the city.
The Working Cities Challenge builds on Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s research that success takes place in those cities where people “work together” towards “a comprehensive vision.”
“It’s a commitment to the long term. That’s my personal commitment as well as the commitment of Urban Kindness.”
Tomorrow, in part two, WHAV previews Thursday’s neighborhood meeting with a focus on residents working to improve Tilton School.