What Happening on Main Streets

April 15! The tax deadline date alone conjures up thoughts of frenzied accountants and panicky procrastinators. This year I didn’t expect the vision I encountered on Tremont Street while returning from a community meeting. Bearded men in grass skirts and cocoanut brassieres looking like audition castoffs from the Rogers and Hammerstein play “South Pacific.” Athletic women adorned in crazy hats, animal masks and wild wigs, with one guy who was a dead ringer for Czar Nicholas II in full Russian regalia. Zany running outfits of every color and design, and various other costumed characters with one common characteristic…running sneakers. This motley cadre cheered, ran and reveled wildly in Mission Hill, and within five minutes they were off on their merry trek. The group call themselves the Boston Hash House Harriers (their motto: “a drinking club with a running problem”) and I’m told they are quite popular getting their exercise while patronizing various gin mills along their route. Their joie de vivre was uplifting. You never quite know what you’ll encounter in Mission Hill.

Our board of directors is proud to announce this year’s selectees as Mission Hill Main Streets Business and Volunteer of the Year. If you’re into Mexican cuisine as much as I, you are no stranger to the Montecristo Mexican Grill at 748 Huntington Ave. in Brigham Circle. Owner Otto Hernandez’s reputation for coastal Mexican seafood dishes, Northern Mexican beef and meat favorites, and the spicy vegetable and chicken specialties from Southern Mexico makes Montecristo a must-visit spot for those who yearn for authentic South of the Border comida y bebida. Neighborhood notables like Representative Jeffrey Sánchez are frequently seen holding court at the corner table. In addition to being a good businessman, Otto is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. His employees adore him, the community appreciates his generosity, and Main Streets knows him as a stalwart merchant and dedicated board member and is proud to call Montecristo our “Business of the Year.”

This neighborhood knows well the outstanding work of the Redemptorist Fathers of Mission Church ministering to the poor, the sick and the marginalized each and every day. However, one special padre brings an uncommon enthusiasm, humility and infectious kindness to his duties as parish priest. Since 2008, Father Phil Dabney pitches in, picks up a broom, croons a tune to neighborhood seniors, encourages others to give of themselves, and makes time to whoever asks with the vitality of 10 men. If there is a worthy neighborhood event to help others, he is there. He loves his work and it shows. Father Phil, a Maryland native, is as crucial a part of what makes Mission Hill special as much as the puddingstone upon which the neighborhood rests. This year’s Mission Hill Main Streets Volunteer of the Year is the Reverend Philip Dabney, C.Ss.R.

Both honorees will be highlighted at our Awards Night on June 2 and again later that month in a separate citywide ceremony with Mayor Walsh.

Last week I toured the refurbished Huntington Avenue YMCA (America’s first) with their enthusiastic new Executive Director Aaron Donahue and was impressed. Great workout, swimming and gym facilities as was always the forte of the Y of yore, yet now it is all new and improved. What really wowed me was learning about all the service programs and facilities to engage young people. A flock of youth workers are on staff to encourage every kid to find some way to channel all that youthful energy into positive behavior and prepare for that great big world out there. Mission Hill is a key area for the YMCA, and anyone can just show up and ask for a tour. You might find it’s not your grandfather’s YMCA and might be a great place for you. I have no doubt that Aaron will add a lot of zest to that sharp facility.

Growing up, the family living next door to our three-decker had a family of 19 children, and household chores on spring Saturdays resembled watching that opening scene from the movie “Annie.” I was reminded of those Saturdays of my boyhood, as close to 300 students hit the streets to spiff up Mission Hill on April 11. The amount of trash bags full of debris corresponded to this year’s record breaking snowfall.

Northeastern University really rallied to the cause this year providing the lion share of volunteers and trash removal. Gail Olyha and Rebecca Regan from NUs Off-Campus Student Services Office coordinated all the Huskies with their indispensable Dave Isberg making the whole thing function like clockwork. Wentworth Institute’s Courtney Wright marched a few dozen of her Leopard undergrads to Sheehy Park to man the brooms and shovels. The community garden crowd down on Parker Street told me they truly appreciated the assistance in getting their growing season off to a great start this year.

Saturday, April 25 had perfect weather for this year’s “Boston Shines” day with additional trash pick-ups, flower plantings and graffiti removal with neighbors involved throughout the City. Once again we received a squad of helpers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Young Professionals group, a delightful group of twenty- and thirty-somethings who donate their spare time. They are impressive young people, many from spots throughout the globe, who appear to love working in our neighborhood. Brigham seems to always top the charts in the job satisfaction surveys published in the regional business journals. These young folks appear to affirm those opinions.

At mid-day, volunteers rested their brooms to salute and applaud the players and coaches in the Mission Hill Little League parade up Tremont Street. Mayor Walsh and Councilor Zakim kicked off the annual procession to the delight of the parents and neighbors. Local sports enthusiast and longtime Gazette scribe Mossy Martin was observed leading the rollicking cheers with his cronies from the sidewalk in front of Mike’s Donuts.

As I predicted last month, interest in attending the Mission Hill Main Streets Awards gala at the Parkman House mansion on Beacon Hill is intense. Folks raved about the hors d’oeuvres, fellowship and (short) speaking program in a gorgeous setting for Mission Hill Main Streets’ one fundraising event of the year. You can reserve a ticket, be a sponsor or donate a prize by calling the Main street office at 617-427-7399 or emailing [email protected]

The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.

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