Framingham: City of Dreams
Herb Chasan by Lucas Gustafson
Mr. Chasan, a retired high school math teacher saw a need in the lower-income neighborhood in the south of Framingham. After attending a meeting and hearing from parents struggling with their kids’ homework and trying to afford after-school activities, he decided to start an after school program free of charge. After a lot of hard work and fundraising, he founded Hoops and Homework in 2012. Hoops offers assistance with homework and activities like arts and crafts, science, music lessons and yoga.
This program has now two locations and has helped many children who otherwise would have gone home to empty houses until their parents returned from work. Hoops also provides healthy snacks, and often sends children home on the weekends with bags of food for their families. Hoops is staffed by bilingual tutors and is always looking for community volunteers to do art, music, science and other enriching activities. We are lucky to have Herb in our city!
Mike Croci by Casey Corcoran
Mike was born and raised in Framingham where he now lives on his half-acre family property and where he keeps ample vegetable gardens and composting piles. These were the first steps towards his environmental path. In 2015, Mike got involved with the local environmental organization Transition Framingham where he has been able to share his passion for growing food and has helped make Framingham a more sustainable and resilient community. Mike worked on the Framingham Plastic Bag Ban. He is also the director of the Framingham Earth Day Festival.
In 2017, Mike took the brave decision of leaving his 11-year corporate career, choosing to pursue his passion for gardening and working outdoors. The following year, Mike began working for Green Abundance by Design, a Framingham-based ecological landscaping company started by Andrew Whittaker. Green Abundance focuses its mission on bringing native plants, pollinator food and habitat, and edibles to our landscapes to bring the best of nature home. Mike is also the Garden Specialist at Framingham Centre Nursery School and runs an after-school program through the organization Hoops and Homework to bring gardening to younger generations. Mike is grateful to share his love of gardening with the Framingham community and hopes to inspire others to pursue their passions.
Edgar Baltazar by Anton Bica
A native of Guatemala, Edgar has been a Framingham resident for more than 20 years. He is the proud owner of a successful take out restaurant in Framingham: El Pikante Foods, which has two locations always bursting with local Latinos, one just across from the commuter rail and the other in the heart of downtown. Edgar is a hard-working entrepreneur who is very proud of the quality of the most popular items in his restaurant: pupusas, tacos and, burritos. On weekends he prepares a special ceviche right there in front of you. During the interview he told us, “I love Framingham because of its diversity. Framingham is a melting pot of the world”.
Shivang Patel by Fiona Burke
Dr. Shivang Patel, notorious for his Metrowest Pharmacy on Union Avenue in Framingham, is impressive to say the least. Born in India, Patel grew up in a family full of pharmaceuticals. His grandfather owned a family store in India, which first introduced him to the business. He even has a good friend in the US who is in the pharmaceutical business! However, it is what Patel has done with the business that is so awe inspiring; during the rise of COVID-19, despite taking a hard hit profit wise, Patel and his pharmacy worked hard to provide free supplies and deliveries to first responders and residents in need. They even went so far as to provide free and discounted prescriptions to families in need during the pandemic!
Upon asking Dr. Patel what message he had for young people in Framingham trying to achieve similar goals of opening up businesses that would benefit the greater good, a response was given with no hesitation. His words of advice are to stay dedicated, and always help others. He emphasized the importance of working together as a team, and described how through helping other people around you achieve their goals, you will get closer to achieving your own. Dr. Shivang Patel’s passion for helping those around him is incredible. Should you ever need anything from a pharmacy, be sure to head on over to Metrowest Pharmacy on Union Avenue in Framingham!
Priscila Sousa by Lucas Gustafson
Priscila Sousa is a well-known and respected member of the Framingham community. A native of Ipatinga, Brazil, she has been living in Framingham since 1995, where she attended public elementary school and eventually graduated from Marian High School in 2006. She attended Simmons College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She was a member of the Framingham Human Relations Commission from 2014 to 2019. Priscila was notably the first Brazilian to run for executive office in the United States in 2017 through her mayoral run for the new City of Framingham.
As part of her volunteering work, she is on the board of Amazing Things Arts Center, Hoops and Homework, Daniel’s Table, Framingham FORCE, and Friends of Resiliency for Life. Priscila is also a two-time Boston Marathon finisher. She ran in 2018 as a charity runner for Hoops and Homework and in 2019 as a charity runner for the Lenny Zakim Fund. As an example of her great service to the town, she was elected in 2019 to the Framingham School Committee as the District 5 Representative. Priscila is for sure a model citizen and we are lucky to have her!
Brendan Rodrigues by Lucas Gustafson
Brendan Rodrigues is a student at McAuliffe Charter Middle School. In the summer of 2020 after the killing of George Floyd he decided to act. He thought: “it could happen to me; it could happen to my father.” He called his teachers and asked them to help him organize a Black Lives Matter march. He was the youngest citizen to lead a march during the racial protests of 2020. Brendan believes that no matter how old you are, we all can make a difference. Brendan has also started a club at his school called United Against Racism, they are now 15 members who meet virtually during the pandemic. Brendan loves the diversity of Framingham but he doesn’t like the big economic division between the North and the South. He wants the politicians to do more to address inequalities. Brendan would like someday to be a politician, and we cannot wait because he is going to change the world!
Francisco Jaquez by Fiona Burke
Mr. Francisco Jaquez, owner of N+1 Cyclery in Framingham, MA, is undoubtedly revolutionizing the cycling industry. How he got to this point, however, carries a different story. Mr. Jaquez is originally from the Dominican Republic, though through cycling professionally he was stationed and grew up in Spain, France and Italy. He settled down in Framingham in 2010, and has since been living here. After beginning racing at only 8 years old, Mr. Jaquez realized he could use cycling as an escape from an abusive father and overall difficult home life. He soon realized he was rather skilled, and began racing for his local club team. He raced for over 30 years all across Europe, and through studying the mechanics of bicycles, Mr. Jaquez discovered a love for fine lines and engineering. On top of this, after passing through many bike shops, he fell in love with the look of the traditional bike shop. All of these things and more drove Mr. Jaquez to open up his very own shop, with hopes of generating enough revenue to turn it into a bike museum! N+1 Cyclery has bikes as old as from the 1860s! Of course, this was not the only hope that Mr. Jaquez had for his shop and the cycling industry as a whole. He holds sustainability extremely close to heart, and wants to see it take priority within bike riding in its entirety. Mr. Jaquez began his trek towards sustainability within his industry by simply emphasizing how cycling is already clean. Not only do they refrain from using oil and harmful gases, but they are recyclable. In his words, “cars burn oil, bikes burn fat.” Mr. Jaquez has continued environmental awareness in bike riding through limiting all foam when making and packing bikes, through wrapping bikes with organic cardboard, and through replacing plastic zip ties with pieces of string. These are only some of the steps Mr. Jaquez and his company have taken towards achieving sustainability within the cycling industry. As he told me during our conversation, this change is for future generations. We cannot sit back and simply let conditions get worse. If everyone collectively helps each other and gives just a little bit, we can male progress. We are insignificant on our own, but significant altogether. All in all, I learned so much not only about Mr. Jaquez and N+1 Cyclery, but about sustainability in general. I would definitely recommend checking out N+1 Cyclery for all your bicycle needs!
Brigitte Griffin by Casey Corcoran
Brigitte was born in Odenwald, a region in the middle of Germany and has been living in Framingham for over 10 years now. In Germany, she worked as a civil engineer for many years until she moved to Framingham with her husband and daughter. Brigitte currently works at the Framingham Library bringing education and entertainment to Framingham’s diverse community. At the library, she spends much of her time working with the Seed Lending section and providing technological support.
One of the most important life aspects for Brigitte is making a difference at the grassroots level, especially talking to her neighbors and friends about environmental issues. Helping friends and family to reduce their carbon footprint through small efforts, such as composting or reducing plastic usage, is something Brigitte always strives to do.
Due to her desire to help the environment, Brigitte is involved with Transition Framingham, a local environmental organization. She was one of the “bring your own bag” campaign activists, helping the community to transition away from plastic. Among her other accomplishments, Brigitte is the recycle coordinator for the Framingham Earth Day Festival and often gives workshops on the zero waste lifestyle and always volunteers at the Framingham Repair Cafe.
David Stefanini by Anton Bica
David Stefanini and his mother Angie are the owners of Waverly Market, a Framingham landmark established in 1929. Today, this Gourmet Italian Market is run by the third Generation of the Stefanini family. In 1975, David sadly lost his father while in his last year of college studying to be an engineer. Instead of pursuing a career as a Civil Engineer, David made a decision to work in the family business where his father, mother, aunt and uncle had made their life’s work. Today, in her 90s, David’s mother Angie is still working beside her son.
Once you step into this market, you will notice the passion and charisma of David who will always greet you with a smile. They carry a wide selection of quality produce, sandwiches made to order, homemade pastas, sauces, desserts and much more.