Kelly Ransom, as described by many people, works like a machine. Of average height and build, with creamy white skin and highlighted eyeliner in tow, she’s always on time, always thinking about the future, and always looking for solutions. Kelly is one of the two fundraising and communications experts at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp (JPNDC). She is in contact with a great deal of people, and manages to keep most of that contact personal and based in the work that JPNDC does. However, Kelly has not always worked with JPNDC. She was once a cook, and even before that she was an events manager. One day when she was cooking at Bella Luna, (which, being stationed in the Brewery, is in close proximity to JPNDC) she caught wind of a job opening at JPNDC for an events planner and communications worker. She decided to take a look at it since she had “always wanted to give back to the community [she] grew up in.” She transferred jobs, and became the communications expert.
When I met Kelly, I thought that she was just an e-mail representative, receiving and sending formal emails to donors, collaborators, and representatives alike. But she’s much more than this. At every event I have seen her at, she has talked to at least 80% of the people there, catching up with old pals and greeting newcomers alike. She, with a smile and a laugh, meets everyone in style:
Kelly during the friendraiser was constantly moving from person to person, talking with them for a while, then moving on to the next person. From around the room people would talk with Kelly and give her praise for her timeliness and ability to juggle multiple assignments.
Along with being social at these events and productive, she spends time visiting local businesses in Egleston Square and the Brewery, checking up on places like Bella Luna, Ula cafe, Mike’s Fitness, various corner stores, Micky’s Barber Shop, the Hertz Auto Rental store, and many more. Some of the businesses she talks to (mostly the barbers and the hairdressers) recognize and greet Kelly with a wide smile and a cheerful attitude:
On our way back, Kelly ran into another colleague of hers. His name was Luis Cotto, and was one of the directors of the Egleston Square Society. They talked for a while about the 40th JPNDC birthday and other issues involving scheduling.
Kelly is also connected to the local news and televisions studios, getting spots on the air and on the screen. In terms of television, she has aired locally, explaining who JPNDC is and what they do. She even hands out informational flyers on the street to anybody interested in JPNDC.
The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, more commonly known as JPNDC is housed in The Brewery in Egleston Square. It is, in fact, responsible for the creation, and maintenance of the Brewery. Its goals include affordable housing, small business startups, community engagement, and future development planning. The main reason why JPNDC exists today is because five people stayed up late around a dinner table, discussing how to stop the construction of a highway that would split JP in two. This group worked to connect with the community and remind them of how they could help. In the 1980s and 90s, Route 93, a major highway that split Boston, was demolished and rebuilt underground. This was known as the “Big Dig.” Where the highway once was became a communal green space, now known as the Greenway. This project was, in part, inspired by the JP community’s success at maintaining a green space in the urban environment. All of this would never have happened if people did not connect with others with a passion for progress and achievement. This is the type of communication and outreach that Kelly is responsible for on a regular basis. But the JPNDC has also become a resource for every aspect of community, from education, to green spaces, to community gatherings, and a repository for knowledge about living in Boston. One way that JPNDC connects to the surrounding public is through their volunteer work. JPNDC regularly hosts parties focused on garnering attention to problems, and attracting possible volunteers. For one of my observations I attended their Friend-Raiser, which Kelly had arranged.
The Friend-Raiser was held at Bella Luna, an italian restaurant situated in the Brewery. It was March 17th, and I had just biked to Bella Luna. It was around 6:30, and the air was humid and still warm from the day. I walked into Bella Luna and was greeted by two people: Giovanny Valencia and Samantha Montoño, both volunteer recruiters who worked in community organizing at JPNDC. Both of them worked with the community through multiple means, but focusing on affordable housing. Many people during the night, including Kelly, told me that both Samantha and Giovanny were hardworking, and were constantly hitting the streets:
During this event there were some other people working to help people register to volunteer. Samantha, a recruiter helped me pick out a few days, and told me about her achievements and work on the ground with the community. She was a short, stocky but buff woman with a tattoo on her arm. To her credit, she was in at least every other photo in the slideshow set up. She works with public housing, which to my surprise was not limited to just Jamaica Plain, but she helps people all throughout the Boston area.
Along with her was Giovanny, who I have seen on multiple occasions checking in with the neighborhood and reviewing requests and complaints about the affordable housing. Giovanny is a laid-back cheerful man with glasses and black hair. He, like Samantha, was mostly involved with community organizing. Along with other participants, Brashier Kayou, the Chairman and CEO of JPNDC was present. During the event he spoke about how volunteering was the way forward and that there were still “several lifetimes” of work to be done. At the end of the speech he thanked Kelly for her service and planning of the Friend-Raiser.
At at the Wake Up the Earth Parade, Kelly was out and about, and according to the volunteers at the JPNDC tent, she was connecting with others and promoting JPNDC by herself. Giovanny had taken her place at the tent, and was handing out informational pamphlets and buttons. I stayed for a while, but got lost in the parade while looking for Kelly.
The last time I saw her was at a ribbon cutting ceremony for one of the new JPNDC housing developments. I arrived early, and helped the current volunteers with the setup. After an hour, Giovanny, Samantha, and Kelly show up. Kelly, wearing a green dress and black sunglasses greeted me, while Brashier arrived in his car.
He also greets me, and asks about my paper. Later on, while Kelly and the others are setting up, the food arrives. The food consists of cookies and Chilicates burritos. Along with being clients, JPNDC is a partner of Chilicates, helping with financing when needed. After the food is eaten, Kelly springs into action, making sure that the cameras are properly focused on the podium and recording. Many people come to talk about the apartment complex, including Mayor Marty Walsh. At the end of the speeches, the red ribbon is cut, and everybody cheers. I said my goodbyes and got to say goodbye to the Mayor. I said goodbye to Kelly which was difficult because she had already started cleaning up.