A former resident and employee of the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH) is returning to her roots to take over the organization as the executive director.
“I wanted to take my positive experiences and memories of living in the neighborhood and pay it forward by giving back to an agency that has had a positive impact on my life as well as countless others,” Karen Gately, who started as executive director of RTH on Jan. 28, said in an email to the Gazette.
RTH is a nonprofit housing organization that includes Mission Park and is located mostly along Huntington Avenue and Francis Street. It has been without an executive director for about a year amid large-scale construction projects.
Gately lived on Francis Street while in high school and has family members who still live in the RTH community. She also worked for RTH while in college as a youth sports coordinator. Gately currently lives in Medford.
Gately takes over for Girma Belay, who stepped down early last year. Belay recently spoke with the Gazette, but said he could not discuss why he left because of a non-disclosure agreement. Jacqueline Boston, president of RTH, did not respond to a request for comment.
Before coming to RTH, Gately spent more than 28 years at the YMCA in a variety of roles, including leadership positions.
“I was fortunate to have opportunity to work in a variety of diverse socioeconomic, multicultural and multilingual communities in and around the Greater Boston area,” said Gately.
Gately said she was attracted to the RTH position because of the “holistic approach of community development and civic engagement that has been a large part of the rich history of RTH.” She said she wants to continue to foster the legacy of RTH, which is where people know and care about each other.
Gately said that there are several challenges facing RTH, including maintaining the quality of life residents have come to expect; increasing capacities to support growth in real estate development and resident services; and the coordination of construction projects in such a dense area.
There are multiple construction projects underway or planned in and around RTH. An RTH community center is currently under construction, while several buildings will be going up at the former Massachusetts Mental Health Center site. Gately said she is learning about the details of the project.
“I assume it will be a very busy time that will require continued coordination, cooperation and communication,” she said.
Gately said there are several things she hopes to accomplish as executive director, including strengthening and increasing partnerships with businesses and nonprofit agencies.