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From Mali with Hope

From Mali with Hope

 

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The Taste of Lexington! Join the Fun!

By Laurie Atwater

Each holiday season the downtown retailers knock themselves out trying to find ways to entice customers away from shopping on the internet and back to the shops and restaurants of Lexington.  While each year sees an up-tick in foot traffic, nothing so far has recaptured the excitement of Lexington holiday shopping events of the past, when the sidewalks were jammed with shoppers, diners, friends and neighbors enjoying the lights and magic along Massachusetts Avenue.

Well, that’s about to change!

This year, if all goes as planned, things may change. The Lexington Mavens in partnership with Lexington’s Chamber of Commerce and the Lexington Retailers Association are introducing The Taste of Lexington, a downtown celebration of local shopping, dining and old-fashioned fun!

The brainchild of Patrice Cleaves and Delilah Atkinson, founders of the Lexington Mavens, the Taste of Lexington is set for December 6th in Lexington Center from 5-9:30 PM!

You haven’t heard of the Mavens? That’s okay. It’s a Facebook group of about 2,200 Lexington women. Patrice says, “We’ve created this vibrant community of women. Delilah and I each handpicked 60 individual influencers across town—they were connectors, and they care about the community beyond their own footprint which was a big thing for me. We asked them to come on board and help us develop the Mavens.” In a short period of time, The Mavens has become quite a force in the community

Patrice and Delilah envisioned the Facebook site as a junction box where all kinds of people can make connections in a protected space. According to Delilah, “What our members love about the Mavens is the ability to go online, get conversations go

 

ing, receive feedback or advice, and feel involved. The aim is not to be commercial — we don’t make money from the platform — and keep it authentic.  The heart of the group is all about community. Friendships have formed, events have happened that have helped people feel a part of our town.”

The Taste of Lexington event is a logical extension of the Mavens brand. Getting outside the digital space expands and reinforces membership by providing in-person events where members can socialize and share their stories and ideas and get to know each other. “The Taste of Lexington is also based on our founding principles of getting out into the community, getting involved and taking part.  We wanted to create an event that would bring people down to the Center so they can get to know what’s right on their doorstep,” Delilah says.

The women reached out to the Lexington Retailers and the Chamber of Commerce to maximize the success of the event. “We want to create a big event that supports and involves the community and businesses,” Patrice says. “We want to show businesses that we can turn out in large numbers.”

Delilah acknowledges that the retail community has been affected by the shift to online shopping. “The world of click and shop has taken over,” she says, “and as much as we all love the ease and instant gratification, there is something to say for the in-store, restaurant and service experience.”

Eric Michelson, co-owner of Michelson’s Shoe and President of the Lexington Retailers Association, has high hopes for the Taste of Lexington. “The holiday season is so important to the success of our local businesses that we are excited to partner with the Lexington Mavens to promote what Lexington has to offer.”

In the past, the responsibility of coordinating community holiday events has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the Retailers Association and the Chamber. The Retailers organize Trick or Treat and Discovery Day. During the busy holiday shopping season, they are happy to have the help of the Mavens! Eric says, “The Taste of Lexington is a true community event, with local businesses offering discounts and promotions; we hope people will join us and see just how many great shops and businesses are located right here in town.”

The Lexington Chamber of Commerce is also throwing its resources behind Taste of Lexington and enthusiastically embracing The Mavens and LRA as partners. Jim Shaw, Colonial Times publisher and Chairman of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce says, “We are delighted and appreciative that the Lexington Mavens have stepped up to help local businesses this holiday season, and the businesses have responded with significant offers and savings!  This event will bring hundreds of Lexington residents to the Center for an evening of shopping and dining. Many shops are participating and creating their own festive in-store activities.  The restaurant selections are incredible—Lexington has become quite a destination for dining out. People will not be  disappointed.” Shaw stresses that they have also included businesses from outside of the Center. “There will be ‘pop-up’ locations (that will host other Lexington Businesses) like the Historical Society’s Depot Building and TD Bank lobby.

The entire community is invited to the first annual Taste of Lexington. Shops and restaurants are offering refreshments and significant discounts and promotional offers. There will be singing groups on the sidewalks and an incredible sense of holiday spirit up and down the avenue.

If Taste of Lexington is a success, it will be because of the enthusiasm and hard work of these three groups and their desire to make it an exciting evening to share the seasonal beauty of Lexington Center, support local businesses and have fun! Delilah says, “We don’t want Lexington to lose its charm, we want to help it come to life and get residents excited!”

 

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Notorious swindler Charles Ponzi once called Lexington his home

By Jim Shaw

The ghost of Charles Ponzi is alive and well and thrives in the greed of modern-day swindlers like Brad Bleidt and Bernard Madoff. And, for at least one Lexington resident who fell victim to Madoff’s $50 billion swindle, this is not an amusing story or a whimsical account of an interesting fellow who happened to live in Lexington. For this 85-year-old victim whom we have chosen not to identify, the pain is very real and his future is now uncertain

With the recent arrests of Massachusetts money manager and radio mogul Brad Bleidt and Wall Street billionaire Bernie Madoff, the “Ponzi scheme” has become the focus of national and international news coverage. It has also surfaced as dinnertime banter in homes across the country. But just who is Charles Ponzi, and why are people so fascinated with his story?

Here in Lexington, the name Ponzi holds a different connotation — neighbor. You see, the world’s most notorious swindler – Charles Ponzi – lived right here in Lexington in a beautiful estate on Slocum Road. At the height of his most infamous criminal enterprise, Ponzi called Lexington his hometown.

Ponzi first arrived in Boston by ship in 1903. He claimed to have only $2.50 when he first arrived. With no real luck securing gainful employment, Ponzi soon moved to Montreal, Quebec where he found work as an assistant teller at the newly opened Banco Zarossi. At the time, the bank was paying 6% interest on deposits, which was twice the average rate. This created a huge influx of new depositors. Soon, however, the bank’s real estate investments began to collapse causing economic chaos. In an effort to prevent a mass exodus of depositors, they began paying the interest with money from new deposits. Ponzi took notice of this and the seed was planted.

When the number new depositors drastically declined and they could no longer meet their obligations to existing depositors, the bank was shuttered and its owner fled to Mexico with much of the bank’s remaining cash.

Once again, penniless and unemployed, Ponzi went to visit one of the bank’s former clients. Finding no one there, Ponzi helped himself to the company’s checkbook and forged a check for over $400. He was caught and convicted and spent three years in a Quebec prison.

Ponzi returned to the US and quickly got caught up in an effort to bring illegal Italian immigrants into the country. He was convicted and spent two years in an Atlanta, Georgia prison.

After his release, Ponzi made his way back to Boston where he met and married Rose Gnecco. Ponzi made a lame attempt at honest employment, but his greed and the promise of great riches lured him towards what many consider to be the crime of the century.

One day while opening his mail, Ponzi happened across an International Reply Coupon (IRC). These coupons were intended to be sent overseas for the purpose of return postage. But Ponzi soon realized that there was a value differential. For instance, with the Italian post-war economy in a major decline, the cost of postage in Italy had decreased. So, theoretically, someone could buy IRC coupons in Italy and send them to the US where they could be sold for a higher value. Ponzi went to work and soon bragged that after all of his costs, he was realizing a profit of 400%.

Ponzi decided to bring in investors and promised them a 50% return within six months. His scheme immediately attracted hundreds of eager investors who blindly handed over tens of thousands of dollars. Overnight, Ponzi was a very wealthy man.

The Ponzi House

Ponzi was now part of high society and required all of the trappings of his great wealth. He lavished expensive gifts upon his wife and friends, and dined in the fanciest restaurants. The only thing left was a home appropriate to his stature. He settled on a beautiful estate on Slocum Road in Lexington.

I’m not certain if Ponzi had the home built or if it already existed, but the beautiful stucco mansion that was built in 1913 still stands today. For Ponzi, the home showcased his need to flaunt his new found success.

Now, there are several accounts of just how much money Ponzi had amassed and how many investors fell victim to his scheme. One account says that Ponzi duped over 10,000 individuals for $9.5 million. Another account places the number of victims at 40,000 with over $15 million invested with Ponzi. A quick calculation at www.measuringworth.com indicates that $9.5 million in 1920 dollars is worth over $1.5 billion in GDP value (yes, that’s billion with a “B”) in 2009.

Nearly as fast as his meteoric rise in wealth and influence, came his precipitous downfall. You see, like any pyramid scheme – the basis of Ponzi’s big idea – success only thrives as long as there are new investors to pay back original investors. When the pool of new investors dried up, the jig was up for Ponzi.

In a story printed in the Boston Post in July of 1920, Ponzi’s character, and business acumen was called into question. Most of Ponzi’s early investors stuck with him because they had experienced tremendous profits. Ponzi was forced to hire a publicity person who eventually turned on him as well. The PR guy, William McMasters, quickly determined that Ponzi was a fraud and later stated, “The man is a financial idiot. He can hardly add…He sits with his feet on the desk smoking expensive cigars in a diamond holder and talking complete gibberish about postal coupons.”

Postal regulators soon raided Ponzi’s Boston office and found to their amazement that Ponzi actually had very few of the postal coupons that had fueled the frenzy of his multi-million dollar empire. It was all a complete fraud. Because Ponzi had used the U.S. Postal Service to communicate with his investors, he faced serious mail fraud charges. In all, he was charged with 86 counts of federal mail fraud in two separate indictments. In return for a lighter sentence, Ponzi pled guilty to one of the charges and served five years in prison. After about 3 years, he was released to face state charges for swindling investors. While awaiting trial, Ponzi jumped bail and fled to Florida where he was eventually captured and went on to serve another nine years in prison.

After his release, Ponzi was deported to Italy and eventually traveled to Brazil where he died in 1949 penniless and alone.

Wikipedia refers to Ponzi as “one of the greatest swindlers in American history.” I have a little trouble with that because I associate the word great with people who have had a profoundly positive impact on society. I’m happy that Wikipedia allows people to edit it’s content because I think I’ll go back and correct it so it more accurately reflects who Ponzi was: “one of the most notorious swindlers in American history.”

That would be more appropriate. And, I think our 85-year-old neighbor who was victimized by Bernie Madoff would agree.

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How Using ‘QPR’ Can Prevent Suicides Ask a Question and Save a Life

By David Susman Ph.D.

Originally published by Psychology Today

USED BY PERMISSION

 

Chances are you’re familiar with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), a well-established emergency procedure used to save lives when a person is in cardiac arrest. But have you ever heard of QPR? QPR stands for “Question, Persuade, Refer,” and it’s used to intervene to prevent suicide.

Recently I was given the opportunity to attend a comprehensive training program to learn about QPR. What’s really interesting about this approach is that you don’t have to be a mental health professional to use it. In fact, QPR is designed to train anyone how to offer hope and take action when they are concerned that someone may be at risk for suicide.

The term “gatekeeper” refers to anyone who may benefit from learning how to use QPR to intervene to stop a suicide. Gatekeepers are people who may be in a position to recognize warning signs of suicide and that someone is considering taking their own life.

Gatekeepers can include school and college personnel, clergy, law enforcement, correctional staff, work supervisors, community volunteers, health care providers, family, and friends. In other words, virtually everyone can benefit from learning QPR.

Over the past 20 years, more than 2,500 communities and organizations have implemented the QPR Gatekeeper training program. Over 8,500 instructors have been certified, who have delivered the QPR intervention to more than one million people throughout the US and several other countries.

Having worked with many persons who were at risk for suicide, I was already quite familiar with many of the statistics on this issue. Nonetheless, some of the facts and figures are staggering and bear repeating:

More deaths occur by suicide in the US each year than by homicide or automobile accidents.

In 2013, over 41,000 Americans took their own lives or about 113 per day.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and the second leading cause among ages 15-24.

For each death by suicide, about 25 people around them experience a major life disruption.

Firearms remain the leading method for suicide, followed by poisoning and suffocation.

More Vietnam War veterans have subsequently died by suicide than were killed in the conflict itself.

Currently, it’s estimated that 22 veterans die by suicide each day.

It’s also important to understand that about 90% of people in a suicidal crisis will give some kind of warning to those around them. Warning signs can include previous suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abuse, statements revealing or suggesting a desire to die, sudden behavior changes, depression, giving away personal belongings, and purchasing a gun or stockpiling pills.

Although we can’t predict suicide for any one individual, we can prevent a suicide if someone reveals their plans and we can intervene quickly and effectively. This is where QPR comes into play.

The QPR approach has three steps:

Q = Question

If you believe someone is considering suicide, ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide or wanting to kill yourself?” Don’t say “Do you want to hurt yourself?” as self-harm can be non-lethal and it’s not the same as wanting to die. Also remember that if you ask someone if they want to kill themselves, this does NOT drive them toward that action. That’s a myth that’s not accurate. Don’t be afraid to ask the question.

2) P = Persuade

Persuade the person to allow you to assist them in getting help right now. Say “Will you go with me to get help?” or “Will you let me assist you to get help?” Another option can be to enlist their promise not to kill themselves until you’ve arranged help for them. If persuasion doesn’t work, call a local mental health center, crisis hotline or emergency services.

3) R = Refer

Refer the person to an appropriate resource for assistance. It’s ideal if you can personally escort them to see a health care professional. Next best would be to assist in making arrangements for help and getting their agreement to follow through on this plan. Less preferable is to provide referral resources and have them seek one of the options on their own.

An excellent crisis intervention resource in the US is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. To access the lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This same number also connects military personnel to the Veterans Crisis Line, a hotline providing confidential help to veterans or service members and their families.

In the QPR training, it was stated that if, as a result of learning QPR, just one person uses the approach, and that person saves one single life, then the training will have been worth it, and then some!

So, what can you do to make a difference? Attend a QPR training, particularly if you fit one of the “gatekeeper” categories or you believe you may come into contact with people who may be considering suicide.

Just as CPR prepares you for stepping in to assist with a cardiac emergency, QPR will give you the skills and knowledge to intervene to possibly prevent a suicide. Remember: if you ask the question, you may just save a life.

 

David Susman, Ph.D.

About the Author:
David Susman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, and Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky.

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Transportation News

There are numerous events related to transportation happening this fall! Whether you are unsure of what modes of transportation can get you or your loved ones to/from work, after school, or other activities, or you have suggestions for how to improve transportation, there is an event (and a survey) for you! Lexpress has also made some changes to its service.

Lexpress Schedule & Route Changes
Lexpress starts its fall schedule the last week of August. NEW this year is the addition of a 7:30AM route year-round. “We hope the addition of bus service at 7:30AM will allow people who need to commute to work a better time for making transit connections, whether they work in Lexington, Burlington, connect to The REV or to MBTA buses. Taking Lexpress this time of day may also be a good option for middle and high school students who miss their school bus,” said Susan Barrett, Transportation Manager.

The new Lexpress schedule also includes a pull-in to Emerson Gardens during the 10AM-2PM routes. Lexpress schedules and maps can be found at www.lexpress.us. Want real-time arrival information? Download the free RideSystems app for your smartphone or visit http://tracker.lexpress.us

FREE Special Saturday Lexpress Bus Service
Saturday, September 20th, 9:30AM-5:25PM
In honor of World Car Free Day, and in order to allow people of all mobility levels to attend transportation and other events on this day, there will be a special FREE Saturday, Lexpress bus service. The buses will operate on their usual schedule and routes, but with the first route leaving the Depot at 9:30AM and the last route starting from the Depot at 4:55pm and wrapping up just before 5:30PM. For more info on Lexpress call 781-861-1210 or visit www.lexpress.us

Transportation Open House
Saturday, September 20th, 10AM-Noon
Lexington Community Center, 39 Marrett Road
Come talk with staff from the MBTA Better Bus Project, Lexpress & Lexington Transportation Services, The REV Alewife shuttle, and bike and pedestrian groups. This is a great one-stop-shop event to find out more about how to commute, whether you are trying to get to work in another town, the grocery store, or home from after school activities! No sign-up required.
Please note that LEXPRESS will operate a special FREE Saturday service on this day between the hours of 9:30AM-5:25PM. Routes 1 & 2 travel to the Community Center door. The MBTA operates a combined 62/76 bus on Saturdays with a stop near Marrett Road on Massachusetts Avenue.

Lexington Tri-Town Transit Study
1st Community Meeting
Saturday, September 20th, 1:30PM-3PM
Cary Library, Large Meeting Room
The towns of Bedford, Burlington, and Lexington are currently evaluating the effectiveness of the transportation services operating in the three communities.  The Tri-Town Efficiency and Regionalization Transit Study is a joint effort to assess the overall mobility needs of the three towns and identify possible coordination opportunities that could enhance transit service and efficiencies through shared resources. You are encouraged to attend this public meeting to learn more about the study and to share your views. No sign-up required. Please note that LEXPRESS will operate a special FREE Saturday service on this day between the hours of 9:30AM-5:25PM. All six routes start and end at Depot Square, across from the library. The MBTA operates a combined 62/76 bus on Saturday which stops in Lexington Center.

SAVE THE DATE: You can save the date for the 2nd Community Meeting pertaining to this transit study in which the public can review and comment on recommendations for improving transportation. That event will take place on Monday, October 22nd from 7-8:30PM in Cary Hall. For any questions about the study or transportation, contact Lexington Transportation at transportation@lexingtonma.gov or 781-698-4820.

Please take the Transit Study Survey! If you live and/or work in Lexington, please take the transit survey. Input is welcome from people of all ages – students, seniors, adults. https://www.lexingtonma.gov/transit-survey

Senior Transportation Workshop
Wednesday, September 26th, 9:30AM-11AM
Lexington Community Center, 39 Marrett Road
This workshop is geared towards senior citizens or caregivers who are helping senior citizens consider options for transportation. We will have representatives available from different organizations to discuss travel training, MBTA, Lexpress, Lex-Connect, Uber/Lyft and more. Even if you have used one or more of these service, you are welcome to attend to learn about the full array of options! Light refreshments provided. Please sign up for this event in person or by phone at 781-698-4840.

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Hancock Church Launches New Year With Climate Sunday and Celebration

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond at MIT

Hancock Church
Sunday, September 9th
Climate Justice Service
10 AM
Climate Justice Conversation 11 AM
1912 Massachusetts Avenue
Lexington, MA

All are welcome!

Rev. Mariama White-Hammond serves as the Minister for Ecologica