On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Mayor Luke Bronin visited KureRx Pharmacy located at 1156 Albany Avenue. Connecticut State Representative Matt Ritter was also in attendance. Upper Albany Main Street wishes KureRx great success in their future endeavors.
A stylish nonagenarian, George Scott, owner of Hartford’s premier Jamaican bakery, sports handsome good looks, a full head of white hair, and an intermittently functioning hearing aid that requires a guest to speak up. Scott himself speaks quietly, his Jamaican cadences singsongy but precise. Asked what year he was born, he grins.
“You will have to figure it out,” he says. “Subtract ninety-one from wherever we are now.”
Scotts’ Jamaican Bakery, which he and his wife, Pauline, opened 40 years ago this November, has grown from a mom-and-pop operation into a business with 50 employees and $3 million in annual sales. In the living room of his family’s Windsor home, Scott sits surrounded by mementos of a life divided into two halves — his long stint as a meat-patty maven in Hartford, and the earlier part, in Jamaica, where he was a teacher and headmaster.
He talks about his childhood outside 1930s Kingston, where his father worked in the tax office. “We lived in an old house raised up on brick columns. I spent a lot of time beneath the house, exploring.” Scott recalls traipsing into the woods with a slingshot to hunt birds, and taking the electric tram along Red Hills Road to school. A standout student, he landed as an apprentice teacher at Knox College, a Presbyterian high school founded by a Scottish minister. After four years he went to St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, to study psychology and philosophy.
The courses he took in Scotland have faded, but not the adventures he had there. Working on a farm. Hitchhiking around the country. Making a solo canoe trip up the River Ness and into the Loch, where he looked for the monster. At the close of the academic year, graduating students would hold a cèilidh — a party with Scottish dancing — and the men would wear kilts. “The tradition was that they didn’t wear anything under their kilts.” Scott chuckles. “I wore underpants, of course. I wasn’t that risqué.”
After four years Scott returned to Knox College to teach, and eventually rose to become principal. By then he had married Pauline — a former student — and begun a family. But education salaries in Jamaica were paltry; and so, at nearly 50, he embarked upon a new life in another country.
He had no training as a baker, but food had always loomed large. During his childhood, his mother started a business making guava jams, cooked over a fire in the yard. “They were made in an open copper pot, and there was a Jamaican woman who would mix it with a big wooden paddle. My mother would be inside, and the woman would yell, ‘Missus! Missus! It ready! It ready!’ And mother would go chasing out to test it.” The Scott house was filled with bottled jams for his mother’s startup. “The memories of that are very vivid. You weren’t afraid of starting something new.”
The new thing Scott and his wife started in 1978 helped put four children through college. They run the business now, and Scott spends his days relaxing and reading. A lifelong love of poetry persists. Pauline and the Scotts’ daughter Rachel, home for a visit, produce a sheaf of poems Scott wrote, back in the early 1960s. The former teacher recalls his habit of reading poetry out loud in class. “Some poems, you have to read them aloud, with feeling,” he says. “I was good at that.”
Rachel Scott laughs. “Do you know why my parents are together? My father was substitute teaching our mother’s English class, and he read poetry. My mother was just 15, but she turned to her friend and said, ‘I’m going to marry that man.’ And that’s what happened! So when Daddy says he’s good at reading poetry, he’s really good at it!”
The principal-baker smiles, recalling a life perfectly balanced between feeding people’s minds and feeding their stomachs. “One of my students, I’ll never forget — there was a poem by an English poet, and I read it in a poetry class. And years later, when he was in college, he came across it, and vividly remembered it. That was what I enjoyed about teaching. You strike a chord, and a student remembers it years and years afterward.”
As for meat patties, the passion remains there as well. “A patty and a coca bread is as filling a lunch as you could want. I love the taste.” Scott twinkles sheepishly. “The doctor says I’m not supposed to eat them — but whenever Pauline and I go out for a drive, I say, let’s stop and get one. And we do.”
Johnson replaces Sean Fitzpatrick, who resigned in January amid a controversy over his residency. Department heads are required to live in Hartford.
Johnson was most recently the senior director of strategy, policy and innovation for the New Haven Housing Authority. From 2010 to 2015, he worked as the executive director of New Haven’s Livable City Initiative, and after that he was vice president of development at the National Community Renaissance Corporation in California.
Johnson has a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from Trinity College and a master’s in city and regional planning from Morgan State University in Baltimore. He is a New Haven native.
“Erik Johnson is a seasoned, highly regarded economic development professional with extensive experience, and I am excited to bring him on board,” Bronin said. “Erik has worked in New Haven for almost a decade and in cities around the country for most of his career, as well as in the private sector. He has helped create the kind of public-private partnerships that are key to Hartford’s continued economic development.”
Johnson is expected to begin work with the city on Oct. 2. He will be paid $148,000 annually. The city council must approve his appointment.
Kiley Gosselin, who has served as interim development director since Fitzpatrick’s departure, will return to her role as deputy director.
“I’ve watched the beginnings of a revitalization take root in Hartford, and I am thrilled to help lead economic and community development in the capital city,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’ve worked to bring residential and commercial development projects to life across the country, and I think Hartford is in a strong position to build on the growth we’ve already seen.”
Fitzpatrick listed the address of a Hartford social club as his residence on city forms. He also owned a home in Simsbury.
The social club, in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood, normally rents rooms to its members on a short-term basis and is not zoned as a residential property.
The city requires department heads and other non-union employees to move into Hartford within six months of their start date.
Prior to his resignation, the city’s internal audit commission began an investigation into Fitzpatrick’s actual residency. Howard Rifkin, Hartford’s corporation counsel, issued an opinion in January finding that Fitzpatrick’s address met the requirements of the city’s residency mandate.
“I told you at our first team meeting two years ago that we public servants shouldn’t expect to be thanked very often,” Fitzpatrick wrote in an email to his staff upon resigning. “Baseless scandal-mongering needn’t be part of the deal however.”
Dollie McLean is a passionate, admired, inspirational soul. Together with her husband, Jackie, she turned a remarkable idea into a state-of-the-art facility, the Artists Collective, on Hartford’s Albany Avenue in 1999. But, the nonprofit’s new headquarters was doomed from the start.
It took the Artists Collective funders 20 years to realize the organization was undercapitalized, lacking experienced administrators and existing without a fundraising strategy — a perfect recipe for failure. But now, help should be paramount, starting with proper and strong governance from the board of directors.
To turn this valuable asset around and support the incredible outcomes it can achieve, the board should be firm in asserting its duty of care, requiring a reassessment of the purpose, operational plan and feasibility of the organization including, most important, a financial projection on revenue generation that goes beyond “If you build it they will come.”
Millions of dollars are being requested by the Collective, dollars that could be used more effectively by other organizations with equally remarkable ideas and appropriate strategies and operational acumen. In order for the Artists Collective to prove its case, it needs to focus not only on its historical program success, but on its business plan for sustainability, specifically philanthropy.
A nonprofit must have a balanced strategy for philanthropy, to ensure it can weather the economic, social and political storms that are sure to arrive. This balance is designed through policy and through professional leadership. If an organization’s executive director doesn’t have the expertise, then a professional needs to be hired.
Contributions from individuals, starting with the board and some invaluable high profile alumni and supporters, are paramount. Relying on corporate and government funding as the sole development plan is a death knell.
As early as 2003, the industry was sounding the alarm to the more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the US: seek individual giving for sustainability. Nonprofits must identify individuals who find their purpose and mission valuable and then prove their worthiness for support. Stewarding those donors is essential to a nonprofit’s success. This means personally inviting them to visit the organization (please, no letters), showing them the accomplishments and demonstrating that the administration can be trusted to perform in a fiscally prudent way. That is the key to philanthropic sustainability.
Funders begin to balk when nonprofits hit the rocks. The hard truth is no one wants to fund a sinking ship no matter how remarkable it is, which is one reason to avoid crisis campaigns for donations. It’s like telling potential donors, “I need a year’s worth of mortgage payments because I bought a house that was too big for my budget, and even though it’s a temporary fix, I’d like you to consider giving me money for it anyway. I’ll figure out how to keep it funded later.”
Instead, the strategy for a turnaround is to develop a solid and justified business plan with financial models showing what is possible with donor support, when it can be realized and who will be in place to lead it.
I believe in the Artists Collective. I think the founders’ idea is remarkable but the organization needs help. Fortunately, the Hartford region has a broad pool of qualified executive directors, experienced board members and successful consultants to guide and bring the Collective back to a stable financial base and become the whole and balanced asset the region needs.
To read the full story, click here: http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-dellaripa-artists-collective-management-20180906-story.html