Did you know JPNDC has generations of volunteers? Today, we are chatting with Jamaica Plain native Genevieve Shattow, whose father helped get JPNDC started in the ’70s. She shares about growing up in JP, why she also volunteers with JPNDC, and why you should join us at the 3rd Annual Friendrasier on April 19th!
K: You were born and raised in Jamaica Plain. Tell me what it was like growing up here.
G: JP was an interesting place to grow up. I was really lucky. I grew up near the Pond and the Arboretum so most weekends were spent in a park, which is weird for a city dweller. A lot of the friends I went to high school with also grew up in JP. I still have a knee jerk reaction against waiting for the bus at the Monument. After six years of catching the bus there, I insist on walking to another bus stop. However, some of my favorite memories from growing up in JP do involve taking the bus with my friends in the morning and comparing notes and cramming for history tests on the way to school. That’s where I learned that I could read in a moving vehicle.
It’s fun to see how much has changed since we were teenagers. I remember my friends and I used to hang out at the store Pluto and now we visit On Centre. I think that is very representative of how JP has changed.
It has been interesting to see the restaurants that have cycled through. My parents love to talk about how when they first moved to JP in the 70s, the best restaurant available was Costello’s. They lived near Forest Hills for a while and then, in the early ’80s, moved into the house I grew up in. They painted it purple in the ’90s and that was really an important landmark in my life. My sister once got a postcard from a friend addressed to “the big purple house on Pond Street.” It arrived!
My sister and I went to the lantern parade last year, which was one of our favorite events as kids. It was fun watching all the kids go by – the costumes were much more involved than I remember and more kids were carrying battery powered candles, but the lanterns were still 2 litre bottles covered in tissue paper and modge podge. Good times!
K: Have you stayed in JP?
G: I made it all the way around the world and ended up exactly where I started! Boston to New York to England to Somerville to California to Australia to Scotland to Maine and then back to JP, a mile from where I grew up. JP really is the best place to live.
K: How has your family been involved with JPNDC?
G: My dad got involved with JPNDC about a year after it started. He’s been with JPNDC for my entire life. He’s still on the board of The Brewery [officially an affiliate of JPNDC]. He calls into meetings from his home in Alexandria, Virginia. When my parents recently moved, they donated a whole trove of almost 40 years of JPNDC and Brewery documents that he had accumulated.
My dad was there back when JPNDC was looking for a small brewer to move in to The Brewery. According to family lore, he took a pile of business proposals home and handed them to my mother who, at the time, was a student at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She went through them all, held up Jim Koch’s, and said “This is the one. We should do this one.” Who knows if that’s actually true but that is the story I’ve always heard from my family!
My dad was very involved with the redevelopment of The Brewery complex. He saw it as a chance to make a difference. He’s always been a huge champion of small businesses and has owned several throughout the years. Most recently, he sold his business ‘EcoSeaTile’, a manufacturing company that uses recycled shell materials and puts them in epoxy to create gift items like ornaments. Having a place where small businesses could thrive was really important to him and is still really important to him.
K: Did you ever go to any board meetings when you were younger?
G: Yeah, occasionally, when my mom wasn’t home or there wasn’t a baby sitter. And once or twice a year, we would come for a tour of Sam Adams and I would be the only ten-year-old on the tour. I never became a chemist or a brewer, but I can see how those tours could have influenced me in my childhood.
K: Tell me about volunteer work you have done.
G: My entire high school career was volunteering with student government, drama club, and a lot of behind the scenes stuff like checking people into the nurse’s office. I used to coach softball for the Regan Youth League. It was a family affair – my sister was on the team and my dad ran the softball league. I was his assistant coach and then, after a year, he became the commissioner of the league and then I became the “assistant commissioner”. I spent a lot of time holding a clipboard and trying to get kids to stand in line. That’s when I realized I was not cut out to be an elementary school teacher. But I loved the girls and how excited they would get when they got on base.
Lately, most of my volunteering is done with JPNDC. I’m excited to do more this year and in the coming years! It’s hard to volunteer for a place when you don’t really believe in their cause and their people.
To me, JPNDC is hugely important, particularly the affordable housing and small business aspects of it—especially with the way JP is now. A condo on my street just sold for $770,000! A condo in Forest Hills! People who are from here who haven’t had the advantages that I’ve had are being completely priced out and I think that’s not fair.
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities around, but I’ve chosen to volunteer with JPNDC. A lack of affordable housing is something that’s facing our country and I think JP is a perfect microcosm of it. Rent prices are going up. Mortgages are going up. It’s absolutely insane. Boston didn’t suffer from the housing crash the way that other cities did. Which was great for the city, but in a lot of ways you need those cycles to allow people with a variety of backgrounds to move in. We’re just not seeing that anymore.
K: What would you like to see happen to JP in the future?
G: I’d like to see more conscious development. I feel like the giant apartments next to Forest Hills are probably not the way to go. They have no outdoor space and that’s the greatest thing about JP. We’ve not run out of space fully but it kind of feels like we have sometimes. Tiny sterile apartments where people aren’t going to engage with the community is not the way to go. I think there’s a smart way to go about growing the community. I don’t know what it is but I fully believe that a smart solution is out there.
K: Why should people join us at the 3rd Annual Friendraiser on April 19th?
G: It is events like these that let you meet people who are in your neighborhood who share your interests while involving yourself in civic engagement. It allows you to find people who are interested in being a part of a community and being a part of their neighborhood. That’s important. It’s important to have that that network and the JPNDC Friendraiser is a great way to build that network. Also, I will be speaking so I would love to see some people in the crowd for that!