A Collaboration Between LexMedia, LHS and LHS Parents Allows Fans to Watch Basketball Games Live During Covid

By Devin Shaw


Julie Manoogian of LexMedia filming an LHS basketball game.

In the past year, COVID-19 has taken a lot from us. Even the little things that we may have taken for granted like being in the stands for a game are gone. In some ways, it’s losing these small pleasures that hurt the most. But, COVID has also created an opportunity for inventiveness and collaboration to retain those little things we miss most. Recently, the decision was made to restrict spectators at Lexington High School sports due to safety concerns. That meant friends and family would miss all the games they loved to watch in-person, and it really stung fans—especially parents.

Lexington’s Athletic Director Naomi Martin immediately reached out to Florence Del Santo, Executive Director of LexMedia, and began a dialogue.
“Unfortunately, we’re in this situation as yet another by-product of COVID,” Martin said. “Our number one goal has always been to try and allow the kids to play and retain some semblance of normalcy in their lives. When the decision was made that we were going to play, but no fans would be allowed, the response from all of us was, ‘well, how can we allow families to still feel like they’re going to be there?’ That’s where LexMedia came in—they were my first call.”

Del Santo said, “Naomi contacted me to inform me that there would not be spectators allowed at the basketball games this year, and we wanted to find a way where we could provide an opportunity for the community to watch the games live. We talked about it, and I was aware of a technology that allows streaming live from locations with internet or cellular service. We looked into it further and found the solution. Then we went ahead and bought the equipment! The next step was figuring out how to use it. It’s just another example of adapting to the new-normal. We were faced with a problem and we solved it.”

Del Santo consulted with her employees to make sure they were comfortable going to the games. They were enthusiastic about trying something new and bringing the games to the community. Everyone immediately learned how to use the equipment and the first game was broadcast live on YouTube. Thousands of people watched it.

Dan Strollo has a son who plays basketball and had been in contact with both Martin and Del Santo throughout the process. After watching the first game, he noticed that it was somewhat difficult to follow and said, “I need to figure out what I can do to help with this.” Dan reached out to another parent, Lex Tzannes, and asked him if he wanted to contribute.

Strollo told me, “Lex knows basketball, and I know how to talk your ear off so the two of us decided it was a match made in heaven.” The play-by-play team of Strollo and Tzannes was born! “I think we have made it more enjoyable, or at least that’s what I’ve been told! We make some jokes, create fake sponsors with our favorite local businesses. We are just trying to have fun and watch our kids play. I give all kinds of credit to LexMedia. When you think about it—the responsibility they have taken on—and being able to pull this off in the short time constraints is huge! They’re being asked to do stuff I’m sure they’ve never been asked to do before, and they’re excited to be there.”

In some communities, parents have taken issue with not being allowed to watch the games in person.Martin said, “I can honestly say one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that Lexington parents have never complained. I haven’t fielded one complaint about them not being able to watch their kids in person. I think that’s so indicative of our parents—they understand that this isn’t a typical year, they understand the risks involved. I am grateful to work in a place like Lexington, where our perspective and values are in the right place.”

Martin continued, “I feel like when you can’t be there, having it on your TV or your computer at home, especially in the winter months, is just a really cool thing. I hear from parents how much they appreciate it. I think what we’ve learned in 2020, and now into 2021, is that we are only as strong as each other. And I think this has just been an awesome response as a community partner—the school had a need and LexMedia was there to fill that need.”

For Del Santo, the next step is getting the games to stream live on LexMedia’s TV channels and website, in addition to YouTube. But for now she is grateful that everything has worked out. She said, “I really want to thank the athletic department for working with us to make this happen. They’ve been really supportive and appreciative of anything we could do. It has been one of the most collaborative projects we have done with the school in a long time—and it has been fun!”

Share this:

Clean Heat for Lexington

Clean Heat for Lexington public information forum with panelists:

-Craig Foley, Realtor LAER Realty Partners

-Jordan Goldman, Chief Engineer, Zero Energy Design

-Mark Doughty, President, ThoughtForms Corp.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 7:00 PM

For details, and to register for this Zoom event, go to lexgwac.org

Other forums are in the planning stages. Stay tuned.

 

By Clean Heat for Lexington Alliance

What if you could help the planet avoid the worst effects of climate change simply by leading a healthier, more comfortable life? And what if you could even save money in the process? Well, you can. The key is electrification. In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advised that avoiding the worst effects of climate change would require a sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Lexington has already committed to address the climate challenge. In 2018, the Select Board approved a “Getting to Net Zero Plan” that laid out a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions in 25 years.

Last spring, the Town hired its first Sustainability Director to guide implementation of that plan. And in November 2020, Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved a resolution proposed by Sunrise Lexington, a local youth climate change movement, to declare a Climate Emergency and set a goal of “ending townwide greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible and no later than 2035.” How do we meet zero-emission goals? Currently, about a third of Lexington’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from heating buildings with fossil fuels — natural gas, oil, and propane. Switching the energy source we use to heat our buildings from fossil fuels to clean electricity is a logical place to begin the transition to a carbon-free future.

Clean Heat for Lexington: Moving Buildings Away from Fossil Fuels and Toward Electrification

The Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition (GWAC), Mothers Out Front (MOF) Lexington, the Lexington Public Schools (LPS) Green Teams and the Town’s Sustainable Lexington Committee have formed the Clean Heat for Lexington alliance to raise awareness of the health, environmental, and economic benefits of transitioning to clean electric heat and to support measures that would formalize that transition. “Clean electric heat” refers to heat generated by air and ground source heat pumps, which actually supply both heat and air conditioning. Heat pumps work like refrigerators, by extracting heat from the air and transferring it — into the building to warm it during the winter and out of the building to cool it during the summer.

But Isn’t Electricity Partially Generated by Fossil Fuels? 

Electric buildings produce lower emissions than those directly fueled by gas and oil, and the way we generate electricity is rapidly becoming greener as utilities incorporate more wind and solar to power the grid. This is especially true in Lexington, where most residents have 100% renewable electricity through the Town’s Community Choice Program.

The Clean Heat Article for the 2021 Annual Town Meeting: A Practical and Cost-Effective First Step 

A logical first step to transition away from heating our buildings with fossil fuels is to avoid adding new fossil fuel infrastructure. Every building we build today with fossil fuel infrastructure makes it more difficult for Lexington to meet its emission goals and will require an expensive retrofit in the future. For this reason, the alliance supports the Clean Heat Warrant Article (Article 31) to enact a town bylaw to require that new construction and major (“gut”) renovations rely on clean electricity rather than new fossil fuel lines. “It would work against the town’s sustainability goals to allow the addition of new gas piping that would likely be in place far beyond Lexington’s net-zero goal of 2035,” notes Cindy Arens of the Sustainable Lexington Committee.

The proposed bylaw would help accomplish this goal, but there is an obstacle: Lexington, as a town, lacks the authority to pass such a bylaw under current Massachusetts law. This came to light last year when the Town of Brookline tried to enact a similar bylaw. The Brookline town meeting passed almost unanimously a warrant article that would have required electrification in all new construction and gut rehabs, but Attorney General Maura Healey’s office struck it down as being in conflict with existing state building and gas codes, despite her support for the policy goal behind it. “If we were permitted to base our determination on policy considerations, we would approve the bylaw,” Healey wrote. In order for Lexington to have authority over how its buildings are powered, the Town must get a Home Rule Petition approved by the state legislature.

Accordingly, the alliance will ask Town Meeting at its March 2021 session to approve two things: (1)  a Home Rule Petition to the state legislature that would permit the Town to pass a bylaw that would limit fossil fuel infrastructure in new buildings and significant renovations of existing buildings, and (2) a bylaw that would accomplish this.

The Clean Heat for Lexington alliance actually had its start a year ago,  well before the Attorney General’s decision, when climate groups in Lexington began discussing the possibility of introducing a bylaw similar to Brookline’s at Lexington’s 2020 special Town Meeting. Since that time, members of these groups, along with Lexington’s new Sustainability Director, Stella Carr, have been attending workshops by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI, a nonprofit organization) with representatives of town governments and climate organizations from fifteen other Massachusetts municipalities, to learn how best to replicate Brookline’s success in winning public support for its clean heat bylaw. After the Attorney General rejected Brookline’s bylaw, the focus of the RMI training shifted to the process of authorizing home rule petitions that would allow towns to establish building guidelines that match their climate goals. In 2020, both Brookline’s and Arlington‘s town meetings overwhelmingly passed articles for a Home Rule Petition and bylaw that are virtually identical to Lexington’s upcoming Clean Heat article.

Which Buildings and Renovations Would be Affected by this Bylaw?

The proposed bylaw would apply only to new construction and to major (gut) renovations of existing homes and businesses. It is also important to understand what the proposed bylaw would not do:

  • It would not affect any existing building undergoing minor or moderate renovations, such as a new kitchen or an addition.
  • It would not prevent a homeowner from replacing an existing oil burner with a new oil burner or with natural gas, if gas piping is already in place (although this would be a great time to switch to clean electric heat, which would likely be less expensive).
  • It would exempt all cooking appliances, backup generators, outdoor cooking and heating, large central hot water heaters, life sciences laboratories and some medical offices, as well as repairs to correct unsafe conditions in existing gas lines.

In addition to these specific exemptions, the bylaw would allow for waivers to be provided in circumstances in which non-fossil fuel infrastructure is currently not feasible. More information about the bylaw and clean electric heat can be found on the alliance’s website, www.cleanheatlexington.org. There are approximately 100 newly constructed buildings and gut renovations in Lexington each year. “Given this small number, the proposed bylaw might appear to be a very small first step,” says Mary Hutton of MOF Lexington. “But as the British politician, Denis Healey, once famously advised, ‘If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.’ We are in a hole. If we want to get to net zero in fourteen years, we need to stop digging now.”

“What the clean heat warrant article helps us do now,” says Sustainable Lexington Committee member and climate scientist, Dr. Archana Dayalu, “is to put best practice building standards in place so that we’re not locking in climate-changing greenhouse gas for another several decades. Let’s stop this unsustainable and costly trajectory before it stops us.” Beginning in January and continuing through March, the alliance will conduct individual meetings and public forums at which Lexington’s homeowners, business owners, builders, developers, realtors, architects, and Town Meeting members can learn about the process and benefits of heating with electricity, and get answers to any questions or concerns they may have. Be on the watch for announcements of upcoming forums — starting soon.

Why Heat Pumps Are Very Cool Heat pumps are a “two-fer:” one installation provides both heat and air conditioning. “It is absolutely feasible and economical to heat our homes, offices, and schools with electric heat pumps in New England’s climate,” says Select Board member Mark Sandeen. “Air source electric heat pumps are an affordable and effective clean heating and cooling alternative.

The cost of operating electric heat pumps is currently comparable to heating with natural gas and about half the cost of heating with propane. Because heat pumps provide both heating and cooling, heat pump installation costs for new construction can also be significantly lower than the cost of installing separate heating and cooling systems.”  An added benefit is a lower electric rate for homes heated principally by electricity.

For some buildings, ground source heat pumps may be an alternative. While the proposed bylaw applies only to new construction, retrofitting an existing building from fossil fuel to electric heating has also become an increasingly attractive, healthy, and economical option. Following its campaign for a home rule petition and the passage of the bylaw, the Lexington alliance will be rolling out a program to provide guidance to interested homeowners on whether and how they can supplement — or, ideally, entirely replace — their fossil fuel heating system with an electric heat pump. “Choosing electricity as a fuel source will result in a comfortable, healthy indoor environment all year long while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says Select Board member Joe Pato. “It’s a win for everyone, and a win for our planet.”

Gas is Not the Clean Alternative We Thought it Was

For years, gas heat has been advertised to be clean, healthy, safe, and cheap. In reality, while it may be cheap, it is not clean, healthy or safe. Natural gas can be as bad for the environment as coal because it does more than emit CO2 during the combustion process. Unburnt natural gas is composed primarily of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas. Methane leaks plague every point of the natural gas chain, from production through consumption in our buildings. Studies show that, over time, the climate damage of natural gas is on a par with the CO2 emissions from burning coal. Combustion from natural gas home appliances has been shown to severely affect air quality, emitting such pollutants as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter that lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Unburnt natural gas releases toxic air pollutants, most notably benzene, a known carcinogen.

Gas leaks can lead to explosions. In 2018, excessive pressure in natural gas lines owned by Columbia Gas resulted in explosions and fires that destroyed as many as 40 homes in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence. In the wake of that tragedy, a team of experts concluded that Massachusetts is “rolling the dice” with gas safety. Lexington had its own experience of a gas explosion in 2005, when a home on Hancock Avenue exploded into a ball of fire because of a gas leak.

As of 2019, there were more than 15,000 reported active gas leaks in Massachusetts, including 144 in Lexington. Gas leaks are generally repaired only if they pose explosive hazards, but as noted above, a gas leak does not have to be explosive to present unseen climate and air quality hazards. Check this map to see if there is a gas leak near you https://heetma.org/gas-leaks/gas-leak-maps/). Leaking gas also destroys trees. A 2020 study of the impacts of gas leaks on trees in Chelsea, MA found that dead or dying trees were 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane leaking from gas pipelines, which displaced the oxygen in the soil, effectively suffocating plant life at the roots. Gas repairs are expensive to ratepayers. Gas companies pass the expense of repairing gas leaks onto consumers, costing Massachusetts ratepayers $11-60 million a year.

Further Clean Heat Initiatives The alliance’s Clean Heat for Lexington Home Rule and bylaw initiative is one component of a multi-part campaign to facilitate and support the Lexington community’s transition to a healthy, carbon-neutral future. Other components of the campaign include:

  • LexEnergize, a new interactive online guide to the many everyday actions residents can take to reduce their carbon footprint. The website will launch soon and include tips on improving your home’s energy efficiency, reducing household waste, turning your yard into an ecological oasis, and more;
  • A future outreach program to educate current homeowners about, and assist them in, retrofitting their homes for electric heat; and
  • Support for a bylaw that would provide zoning incentives for sustainable commercial building in Hartwell Innovation Park, and other related regulatory changes. (Article 16, passed at the 2020 Fall Special Town Meeting, laid the foundation for this by including language that all buildings over six stories in the Hartwell Avenue commercial development district will be required to have all-electric HVAC.)

“History demonstrates that the societies that succeed are the ones that use crises as opportunities to adapt and transition proactively rather than reactively,“ says Dr. Dayalu. “In the face of climate change, it’s up to progressive cities and towns like Lexington to lead the transition to a future free from fossil fuels, starting with fundamental steps like passing the Clean Heat warrant article. Lexington was home to the American Revolution. Now we can be home to America’s next great revolution in climate and energy!”  

Share this:

Hank: Friend & Mentor

“Hank’s overarching contribution was what a beacon of light he was for younger people in Lexington.”

-Doug Lucente, Lexington Select Board

 

By Cindy Atoji Keene

Hank with his beloved grand daughter Hallie.


Longtime Lexingtonian Hank Manz had a system for everything, whether it was making pancakes for the Patriot’s Day breakfast or setting up dividers for the hockey rink. A former petty officer in the Navy, and engineer, he was a process guy, very methodical and organized. And he had to be: as commissioner for Lexington’s in-house hockey league; town government activist; and Boy Scout troop master, his distinctive 6’2, white-haired, and bearded presence was everywhere around town. Some quipped that they thought Manz, 78, had a twin brother, as his long stride and mild-mannered presence was omnipresent: at the voting booths, tea burning ceremonies, holiday tree lighting, Little League games, town hall, and more. He also had a dry sense of humor and wryly told me in an interview a few months before he passed away in December, “I’m always ready to take credit for other people’s work.”


But there was no system that even the ultra-organized Manz could put in place for beating mesothelioma cancer, which he probably developed after being exposed to asbestos fibers during his time on Navy ships. Despite the incurable disease, the workhorse Manz was active up to the end, doing Zoom calls from his basement office, joking with others about the outdated tech manuals on the bookshelf behind him. And although he was getting progressively weaker and fatigued, when the COVID pandemic hit and others scrambled around looking for masks, the ever-resourceful Manz descended into his basement retreat and came up waving a handful of painter’s masks, saved from an old Boy Scout’s project. Ever the fix-it guy, if something needed to be replaced or repaired, Manz scrounged in his basement archives – “a foreign country to me,” said his long-time wife Wendy Manz – and emerged, proudly holding up exactly what was needed.


Hank and Wendy came to Massachusetts in the early 80s. Hank took a job in IT and they settled in Lexington. The Manz house, tucked away not far from Hastings Elementary School, is oddly quiet now without Hank’s presence. There are still the piles of hockey gear, Boy Scout paraphernalia, old town records that Hank used to love to look through, and his Navy mugs, one for every ship that he served on. “Sure, you collect stuff,” Manz admitted to me. And files and papers, as he was a town meeting member for 26 years and a member of countless committees, including the Transportation Advisory Committee, the Fence Watchers (mediating land disputes), and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Hank’s son, Jonathan, joked that while some people find religion, Hank and Wendy found municipal government. “I get a kick out of the fact that Lexington is a very participatory community,” Manz said. “When you live in Lexington, there’s no chance to retire, as far as I can see.”


“Hank was a man for all seasons,” said Norman Cohen, former selectman and chief counsel for the town of Lexington. “He never lost sight of what he was trying to accomplish.” Everyone knew him, and he was always willing to help, whether it was a microphone that didn’t work or creating the informal Black Cat café with his daughter Erin, which provided a welcome cup of coffee during town meetings. And it was Manz who solved the mystery of the black cat that appeared at town hall every morning – “somehow it got in almost every day and you never knew where it was going to be,” mused Cohen. But Manz was able to discover the black cat’s origins.


Manz used his many connections to provide community service for young people while meeting town needs. In his 17 years as Scoutmaster of Lexington Troop 160, he and the scouts were everywhere, setting up holiday lights at the bandstand, picking up used cartridges at Tower Park after the Battle Road reenactment, or setting up voting booths for elections.
He was exceedingly proud of the fact that 97 scouts – including his own son Jonathan – became Eagle Scouts during his tenure as scoutmaster for Troop 160. Hank was an Eagle Scout himself. Henry Liu, current scoutmaster, remembers sitting around the campfire with Manz, watching the embers fade. “We talked about everything and anything,” said Liu. And sometimes Manz would pull out his harmonica and softly play, the sound echoing in the cold night air.


Doug Lucente, current Select Board chair for Lexington, remembers how Manz used to pore over annual reports from the 1920s and beyond. Manz, who served on the Board for nine years, found it fascinating how the town today was grappling with the same issues as a century ago, whether it was parking in the town center or keeping the downtown vibrant. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Manz mused. He particularly enjoyed being on the transportation committee, and sometimes jokingly complained that he was the only committee member who actually used the buses and trains. And, at public meetings, he loved to introduce himself by saying, “I’m Hank Manz, a recovering selectman.”

When Manz was selected to receive the White Tricorn Hat Award, which honors the public service of an outstanding Lexington citizen, he was delighted and genuinely surprised.
He felt slightly cheated because the year he won – 2018 – it rained horribly and the annual parade was canceled and he wasn’t able to ride in the convertible and wave to the bystanders. The next year, two White Tricon Hat awardees rode in the parade, but the banner with the names was misplaced, so “I was just some old dude riding in a car,” said Manz with his typical observational humor.


Manz will also be missed at the Hayden rink, of course, where he seemed to stride across the building with just a few steps. Byrant McBride, longtime Lexington Bedford Youth Hockey volunteer, said that Manz contributed in countless ways to the league, whether it was picking up the pucks under the bleachers, running the annual banquet, or figuring out a better way to draft players. “If I had to use one word to describe Hank, it would be selfless,” said McBride. Last year Hank was awarded the William Thayer Tutt Award Winner by USA Hockey. The distinguished honor is presented annually by USA Hockey to a dedicated volunteer.


What drove Manz, whether it was creating an in-house hockey league or serving hot cocoa at the tree lighting? His wife Wendy said that Hank didn’t “go out with a mission. He was just a person who couldn’t be idle if he saw something needed to be done.” But Manz was human, of course, though, with some pride about his 6’2 statuesque height. He liked being tall and as he got older and starting losing inches, “it depressed the hell out of him,” Wendy said.
But his figurative shoes – well, those will be hard to fill, said Lucente. Even the annual Patriot’s Day pancake breakfast – how will it run without Manz there at 3 a.m., ready to start the batter? And Wendy, admits she is lost without her partner of 49 years. “I turn to talk to him and he’s not there.” But then she pauses. “But he is there – he’s all around, and he always will be.”


Manz loved to teach his grandchildren, —Hallie and Elliot, aged four and one— how to say his name when they were on Zoom. It was an easy name to say and remember, and when they saw his distinctive presence on screen, even the one-year-old learned to quickly say “Hank!” In his final days, Manz grieved that he would no longer be around to see them grow up. But what he probably knew – and still knows – is that “Hank” is a name none of us will easily forget.

 

 

Share this:

COVID-19 Vaccination News from the Town of Lexington

 

 

Update on COVID Vaccine Distribution

The Town of Lexington has been notified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) that it will receive a very limited supply of COVID-19 during the week of February 1. Lexington’s allotment is based on the MDPH’s formula for vaccine distribution to communities.

 

We share the public’s disappointment with the minimal amount of vaccine available to the community, and we are hoping MDPH will be able to increase our allotment in future weeks.

 

With this extremely limited amount of vaccine, Town leaders have made the decision to begin vaccinating residents ages 75+ in properties managed by the Lexington Housing Authority.

 

Town staff have been working tirelessly to ensure plans are in place for large-scale vaccination of residents if additional vaccine is distributed to Lexington. At this point, the Town is ready for that responsibility, but are waiting on the one thing we cannot control—the vaccine supply.

 

Other Places to Get Vaccinated

We encourage residents ages 75 and older, if they are able, to get their vaccines at other venues like grocery stores, pharmacies, or the State’s mass vaccination clinics. Information on other vaccination sites is available online at Mass.gov/CovidVaccineMap.

 

If you need assistance navigating the website, please contact our Human Services Department at 781-698-4840.

 

Contact Form for Those Eligible in Phase 2

Residents eligible under Phase 2 of the State’s vaccine distribution plan can fill out our online form to be notified when future possible Town-sponsored clinics are available.

 

***This form does not guarantee you a dose of the vaccine, and it is not a wait list. It is a tool we are using to gather contact information so we can communicate with Phase 2-eligible residents as new priority groups become eligible.***

 

Staying Informed

As we learn more about the State’s vaccine distribution strategy, we will update our website at LexingtonMA.gov/vaccine. We will also be sharing information via this email list, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

We are asking for the public’s help by only calling the Public Health Office and Senior Services Division if your question cannot be answered by reading the information available at LexingtonMA.gov/vaccine.

 

Thank you for your patience as we work to get the community vaccinated.

Share this:

Kathy Fields retires; New owners carry on the Crafty Yankee tradition

By Denise J. Dubé

Pictured in front of Crafty Yankee are three generations of owners. They are (L to R): Sandi Simon (store manager), Cooper Robbins (new co-owner), Kathy Fields (former owner), Carla Fortmann (former owner), and Maddie Robbins (new co-owner). (photo by Jim Shaw)

Change is inevitable but not always welcome. If you’ve walked or driven through Lexington Center, you already know that Kathy Fields is retiring and Crafty Yankee is closing by January’s end. Don’t panic. Kathy, an icon in the town’s business world, hand-picked the new owners – no, really, she did – and after a bit of paint and the installation of a new wood floor, Crafty Yankee reopens in late March.

“It’s been fun,” Kathy said. “It’s a store that belongs to the people, whoever they are wherever they live.” Some of those people live far from Lexington, and she still hears from them. The new owners probably will too. Kathy bequeathed the store to the Robbins family, but she will still have a vital role moving forward.

Kathy chose the new owners, the Robbins family, wisely, keeping the store and the town in mind. Melissa Robbins owns and represents a manufacturing company. The two have worked together for more than 20 years. Melissa is the mom of 22-year-old twins Madison (Maddie) and Cooper, and their younger brother, Griffin, 21. The three adult children will run the store with oversight from Mom and Dad (Bob), and of course, Kathy.

Maddie, also a representative of the same company, has worked with Kathy and Crafty Yankee for about five years. She jumped feet first into Crafty Yankee, and you can find her there a few days a week. She’ll be joined by Cooper as soon as he finishes his degree. Griffin, a software guru who works on business websites, will take over the website ― www.CraftyYankee.com. Griffin will have his hands full. “The website has exploded,” Kathy said. “People have not wanted to leave home.” The store was closed for three months because of COVID, but that didn’t stop Kathy – or sales. She started including more and more of her merchandise online, and the selling never stopped. “It kept me alive,” Kathy said. “The next owners are getting a robust store and a website that’s equally robust.”

They’ll also inherit Kathy’s annual philanthropic holiday effort, The Holiday Giving Tree. Every November for the last 26 years, Kathy has filled the branches of a tree with cards, each containing the need or wants of someone affiliated with Bedford’s Minuteman Senior Services. It’s so popular the cards are gone three weeks after Kathy puts up the tree.

The landmark shop was originally the brainchild of Carla Fortmann and Kate Baty and started in 1975 with a few craft shows outside Carla’s home. “We dreamed of having a shop,” Carla said. At the time, Kate made candles and Carla ceramics. They learned through a friend in 1980 that space on Muzzey Street was available. They dove in and rented the two-rooms upstairs. Anticipating locally handmade items, they aptly named it the Crafty Yankee. One room held classes; the other was a consignment store. “We had baskets, lampshades, gingerbread houses, herbal wreaths, cake decorating, a ton of classes,” Carla said of the lessons and items she and Kate offered.

Carla Fortmann (left) and Dottie Simpson (right) welcome new Crafty Yankee owner Kathy Fields in 1994.

In 1985 Dottie Simpson joined Carla and Kate. Eventually, they moved to Massachusetts Avenue and still held classes downstairs, which later became Kathy’s office. By 1995 their time was over. The women sold Crafty Yankee to Kathy, a like-minded woman who came with extensive business savvy and a community-minded attitude.

Kathy was a New York marketing and merchandising executive who worked at Dillard’s and later Federated Department Stores, now known as Macy’s. She was more than willing to take the mantle and expand their dream. She still buys local but has grown her inventory to include American made and fair-trade products. Anything sourced outside the country’s borders has a story that is connected to America or Lexington.

“I don’t sell anything people need; I sell things that people would love to have or give to someone else,” Kathy said. Her shelves are filled with handmade jewelry by local silver and goldsmiths, exotic candles, artisan glass, ornaments, scarves, ceramics, and so much more. (Everything through December is 20 percent off. In January, Kathy expects to have further sales.) “My whole mantra for the store was that it would be called the community giving store,” Kathy said of her belief in the three C’s: customer, community, and craftspeople. Before she brings in something new, she asks herself: “How is the community going to appreciate this.” One popular item started with Carla. Shirley Lane’s made hand-knit owl sweaters were popular. Kathy kept those in the store until Shirley’s recent death.

With Kathy’s expertise, the store grew and became even more popular. A consultant suggested hiring someone to run the store. She found Sandi Simon, who, Kathy said, was and is warm, welcoming, and engaging. That was 17 years ago. Sandi fell in love with the store, and the two are good friends. “She remembers customers, what they bought, and their kids,” Kathy said. “Sandi gave me my life back. She comes in at 9 a.m. and doesn’t leave until the last customer walks out. She is the face of the store.”

Sandi also gave Kathy more time to improve the shop and work with the community. Her New York background focused on women’s accessories, including jewelry, scarves, handbags, and personal indulgences. Her experience was put to good use – not just in her store, but in other Lexington shops. Because Kathy’s a merchant and a marketer, she could see the voids along Massachusetts Avenue. “It was a center where people would come,” she said.

She reached and still reaches out to help others start businesses or just to help them grow. Kathy, on the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors – for the second term – is also one of the founding members of the Lexington Retailers Association. Kathy, Carla said, is an unsung hero and her concerns go beyond Crafty Yankee. “She appreciates the larger picture that Lexington sits in.” Maddie, who has only been there since November, has noticed the same. “She’s always willing to share any information she has to make others successful. She is one of the most professional people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”

Nannette Cole, the manager of Fancy Flea, located across the street from Crafty Yankee and Eric Michel- son from Michelson’s shoes, situated a bit further down Massachusetts Avenue, are sad to see Kathy retire and appreciate the help she has given them and other local businesses. “I adore her,” Nannette said. “She’s given her heart and soul to the community and will help anyone.”

“We’re going to miss her,” Eric said and spoke of her efforts with Discovery Day, the Halloween Walk, and holiday events. “She’s one of those rare community-oriented business owners,” Eric said. “She’s always been out there working for our businesses and community events. She has gone above and beyond to help people and the center,” Eric said. “That’s a rare thing to find in a local small business owner.

More importantly, she’s not afraid of competition. She even encourages it. “One of the really unique things about Kathy is she’s never been afraid to have other stores similar to hers come into town,” Eric said. “She always sees it as a plus, mainly for the town. Not all business owners feel it’s their responsibility to reach out and work with other businesses to make Lexington center attractive to shoppers.”

No worries. Kathy isn’t going far.

She’s still on the Chamber of Commerce’s board and part of the Lexington Retailers Association. And, she’ll be assisting with the Crafty Yankee transition.

Carla is thrilled that Crafty Yankee lives on in a third iteration, and Nannette is happy she’s going to have some free time ― maybe.

Congratulations to Kathy and Sandi on a well-deserved retirement, and welcome to Maddie, Cooper, Griffin, Melissa, and Bob.

Crafty Yankee is located at 1838 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center. You can also visit them online at www.CraftyYankee.com.

Share this:

Lexington Native’s mRNA Research Leads to Coronavirus Vaccine

 

Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D. in his lab at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Bridget Velasquez

Like most young kids in Lexington, Drew Weissman grew up in Lexington playing with friends in the neighborhood, avoided trouble, and moved through the Lexington school system graduating with the Class of 1977.  While his years in Lexington were seemingly unremarkable, everything he has done since has been nothing short of miraculous.  Searching for a cure for a nephew’s affliction, Drew’s research has become the cornerstone in the development of vaccines that will save millions of lives.

Lexington High School Class of 1977.

Weissman’s research as a professor of medicine at UPenn is the foundation for the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines developed by both Moderna and Pfizer. But, Dr. Weissman’s original motivation was not to cure a future pandemic, it was to cure his nephew.

His nephew, Max, has something called X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA). This is a genetic disorder caused by a mistake in the Bruton’s Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) gene. Although it’s a mistake in a single gene, it has catastrophic consequences – Max cannot properly develop his own B cells, which means that his immune system cannot properly develop antibodies. To protect himself from everyday viruses and bacteria, he has to get immunoglobulin infusions made from serum from donated blood. These infusions give Max antibodies, and he has been dependent on these infusions for almost his entire life. XLA is on the X chromosome, so if Max has sons, he won’t pass it down. But he will pass it down to his daughters. His daughters will become carriers – meaning that they won’t express the genetic defect and need immunoglobulin infusions, but they will have the defective gene and could pass it down to their children. If their sons get the gene, they will express it and will need immunoglobulin infusions like Max.


This genetic disorder could last for generations, and there is no cure.

No cure yet, anyway, but Drew Weissman plans to change that. When Max graduated high school, Drew approached Stephanie Weissman (his sister and Max’s mother).

“Drew would never tell me anything unless he knew it was going to happen or was very sure,” Stephanie said, “and he told me, ‘I think I’ll be able to cure Max.'”

Stephanie believes in her brother.

“I don’t know how long it will take, but I believe he will come up with a cure for my son,” she said.

__________

According to Stephanie, Drew was a very responsible child who “never got into trouble in his life” (he actually got into some mischief at least twice). When he was only six years old, their mother trusted him to bike to the library without being distracted and going elsewhere – even at six years old, Weissman enjoyed the library.

They had typical childhood experiences. Their mother would get on them to clean their rooms, and they would shove things under the bed to make things look clean. They would argue, but only when their mother was watching. They would accidentally get locked out of their house and have to climb in through the window to get inside after school. But even as a child, Weissman showed great promise.

“I don’t think I ever questioned what he was going to do,” Stephanie said, “I knew he was going to do something big that would change the world.”

Weissman was always interested in all sciences, but he also had great potential as an engineer. His father was an engineer, and he often did personal projects with his children. Weissman was a natural, but unfortunately, one of these projects would put him at odds with the local constabulary.

When Weissman was around 12 years old, he, his dad, and his sister built a hydroplane boat. It was small (built only for a single person) and was powered by a motor. They took it to a lake in New Hampshire, and the police caught Drew the very first time he used it.

“It was a minor thing,” Stephanie said, “We did not have a New Hampshire boating license. In Massachusetts, you did not need a license for a motor less than 10 hp.”

A minor thing, indeed. It had no long-term impact on Weissman. And today, it’s a story that Stephanie enjoys telling journalists when they ask for fun stories about her brother. It was one of two times she said he got into trouble – the other time was when she knocked over the Christmas tree and blamed her brother.

Despite his promise as an engineer, Weissman’s mother tried to dissuade him from studying engineering. By the time he graduated from Lexington High School in 1977, engineers were being laid off in big numbers throughout the country. So, he changed course and chose pre-med. He earned both his Bachelors in Biochemistry and Masters in Enzymology from Brandeis University in 1981. Master’s degree in hand, he attended Boston University and earned a medical degree (M.D.) and Ph.D in Immunology in 1987. Afterward, he got a fellowship researching HIV at the NIH under Anthony Fauci (for reference, 1987 is when WHO launched The Special Programme on AIDS, President Ronald Reagan gave his first speech regarding the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S., and the first AIDS medication gained FDA approval. More than 50,000 AIDS cases had been reported in the U.S.).

Not long after graduation, Dr. Weissman accepted a position at the University of Pennsylvania and has been there ever since. It was here that he met Katalin Kariko, and the two would begin their mRNA research in earnest. The two of them met entirely by happenstance – there was no formal introduction, no third party who thought their research would complement each other.

The two met by arguing over the photocopier.

“This was back in the old days when the only way you could read an article in a journal was to photocopy it,” he said, “So [Kariko] and I used to fight over the machine.” For the next few months, the two chatted while waiting for their turn with the photocopier. The two learned about the other’s current research – Kariko was working with mRNA and Weissman was working with a cell of particular importance in vaccines. Realizing the complementary nature of their research, the two teamed up for experiments and research.

Their research was riddled with challenges. It wasn’t necessarily that mRNA is unusually difficult to work with – it’s that it killed the mice upon injection. The mRNA caused intense swelling and a catastrophic immune system response. The issue was that the regular mRNA looked too much like a viral genome. When injected, the regular mRNA elicited pathways that shut down protein translation – and if the immune system response was aggressive enough, it would kill the cell.

The research was slow.

A few years later in the early 2000s, Weissman’s and Kariko’s work paid off. They discovered how to keep the mRNA under the immune system’s radar by slightly editing one of mRNA’s four nucleic acids. It no longer looked too much like a viral genome and, as a result, the immune system no longer attacked it. Weissman and Kariko published their findings in 2005.

mRNA and Regenerative Biology

Weissman’s and Kariko’s findings have had far-reaching impacts. In 2008, a team of stem cell biologists, including Dr. Derrick Rossi, were trying to use mRNA to induce pluripotent stem cells from adult stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are incredibly valuable and promising in regenerative biology research, because they can give rise to any body cell, including neurons and heart tissue. However, at that time, these cells were found only in human embryos, so research was highly controversial. If the team could induce pluripotent stem cells from adult cells, scientists would no longer need to rely solely on embryonic tissue. The research was frustrating because when the team injected the mRNA into adult cells, the adult cells died. The team was at a dead-end – that is until they found Weissman’s and Kariko’s 2005 paper.

“Finding Kariko and Weissman’s paper was really the key moment,” Dr. Rossi said, “What I recognized is that we could use this technology to synthesize any protein and have the cell synthesize any protein.” Dr. Rossi co-founded Moderna in 2010 to use this technology to develop therapeutics. Today, Moderna has 20 mRNA vaccines in development and is one of the leading manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines.

mRNA and CRISPR-Cas9

mRNA is not limited to vaccines – it also shows promise for gene therapy. CRISPR-Cas9―a genome editing technology― also shows promise, however mRNA and Cas-9 have some fundamental differences. According to Dr. Weissman, CRISPR-Cas9 is primarily used to remove parts of a gene, while mRNA is designed to add to a gene. CRISPR-Cas9 also edits and alters the genome itself, but mRNA does not.

“With CRISPR-Cas9, the good thing is that it alters the genome, but the bad thing is that it alters the genome,” Dr. Rossi explained somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “And I would argue that mRNA is almost surely going to be a safer therapeutic paradigm because it doesn’t alter the genome.”

When directly editing genetics with CRISPR-Cas9, scientists must be careful of unforeseen consequences and off-target effects, such as unintended genetic deletions or unintended genetic insertions. Genetic deletions or insertions cause frame shift mutations, and these mutations can contribute to the development of a variety of genetic disease, including Tay-Sach’s disease and Smith–Magenis syndrome (there is a beneficial deletion though – a particular deletion decreases the risk of getting a certain strain of HIV).

Genetic deletions or insertions cause frame shift mutations, and these mutations can contribute to the development of a variety of genetic diseases.

 

Dr. Rossi explains that mRNA doesn’t have this concern, because it’s transient and degradable – the mRNA creates the protein that you want it to create, then the mRNA degrades, and then the protein would degrade as well. Although this requires multiple injections, it is much safer.

 

mRNA and the COVID-19 Vaccines

The COVID-19 pandemic and mRNA vaccines threw Weissman and Kariko’s work into the center of public attention.

The mRNA vaccines differ from traditional vaccines. In a traditional vaccine, you get injected with a weakened or inactive strain of that particular virus. Your immune system sees the invader and creates a new, specialized antibody to destroy it. Your body learns how to destroy the virus before you encounter it in real life, so that if you do encounter it, your body knows what to do. Unfortunately, it can be difficult and expensive to manufacture weakened or inactive viruses to use in vaccines.

In a modified mRNA vaccine, the modified mRNA is designed to slip into cells and instruct the cell to make specific, desired proteins. For the COVID-19 vaccine, the mRNA will instruct your cells to create a “spike protein” – a harmless protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. Because mRNA is transient, it gets broken down when your cells make the spike protein. Your immune system recognizes that your cells aren’t supposed to have the spike protein and creates antibodies to destroy the cells. You will now have COVID-19 antibodies.

Weissman and Kariko’s work is the fundamental foundation for the mRNA vaccines. Without their work, we would not have the vaccines.

“I believe that Weissman and Kariko deserve the Nobel Prize in Chemistry,” Dr. Rossi said, “Without their key discovery, we wouldn’t have the COVID vaccines right now.”

If they hadn’t made their discovery then, maybe it would’ve been found eventually by another researcher. But that hypothetical researcher would’ve made the discovery later, and so subsequent research would have happened later, and so the technology required to make a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine would have happened later as well. According to Dr. Rossi, overcoming the pandemic would be on an entirely different timescale.

__________

Weissman has been incredibly busy since the pandemic started. While he is not directly involved with making American COVID-19 vaccines, he is working with Thailand to develop theirs (Weissman has a history of collaborating with Thai scientists going back several years).

According to Weissman, Thai scientists are concerned about vaccine accessibility – they’re concerned that it could take years for them and their neighbors to see the arrival of a Western vaccine.

“The U.S. is trying to grab as many [vaccine] doses that they can, and Europe is doing the same thing. The pharmaceutical companies sell the vaccine to the people who are able to pay the most,” Weissman says, “That leaves Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Pakistan – all of those countries with very limited access and difficulty getting the vaccines.” Population is also an issue. China has a population of about 1.4 billion, and the U.S. has a population of 328 million – a vaccine developed by a country is likely to go to its own citizens first, and then exported.

Weissman is committed to helping Thailand.

“He shared his technology with us because he wants Thailand and low-income nations to have access to the crucial vaccine,” said Dr. Kiat Ruxrungtham, chair of Chulalongkorn University’s Chula Vaccine Research Centre, explained to Thai PBS World in June, “Dr. Weissman has been a true partner, also attending online meetings with us every week.”

__________

The pandemic has kept Weissman both very busy and very sleep deprived. He used to enjoy martial arts, going to the theatre, and kayaking, but has not had time since the pandemic began.

Still, Weissman enjoys working in science and doing research and the creativity is his favorite part.

“It’s the creativity –  with research, you have to evaluate all of the data and then the trick is to figure out what is going on and then develop your own hypotheses to test and see if they’re correct, and see if they make a new, interesting finding.”

__________

Despite being a doctor for humans, Drew Weissman’s office at the University of Pennsylvania is located at the  Hill Pavilion Veterinary Medicine Teaching Research Building. Several other medical research buildings are nearby, probably because of the close association with animals in medical research. There are no framed accolades in his office – just a photo of his family and a sculpture his oldest daughter made for him.

Weissman’s goal for 2021 is to continue his mRNA research and advance the research he and his team are working on to find a simple-to-deliver cure for sickle cell anemia.

While his research has spawned vaccines that will no doubt save millions of lives, he keeps his focus simple and true. “If we can develop this, curing Max will be much easier,” he said.

To that, we say amen.

 

Share this:

Town of Lexington DPW Engineering Division awarded the Prestigious James B. Sorenson National Award for 2020

The DPW Engineering Division has been awarded the prestigious 2020 James B. Sorenson National Award for Excellence in Pavement Preservation. This award recognizes superior preservation practice and is awarded to only one entity per year. A quote from the award site states, “This is a very prestigious National Award and is the ultimate recognition to an agency for their excellence in exhibiting an outstanding program of pavement preservation and pavement management.” Some previous winners include Los Angeles, CA, New Hampshire DOT, California DOT (Caltrans), Nashville, TN, Charleston County, SC, and the Ohio DOT.

 

This award encompasses the activities of all DPW Divisions and especially the Engineering Division of JohnLivsey, Mike Sprague, Matt Weisman, Wayne Medlin, David Pavlik (now W/S Supt.), Tricia Malatesta, Marissa Liggiero, Meghana Shah, and Ross Morrow. Continued great work on behalf of the citizens of Lexington.

 

We have a dedicated, professional, and hardworking staff. On each road project, they take into account need, priority, and cost to deliver effective and efficient solutions that extend the useful life of the pavement in Lexington. Under this roadway preservation program, the Town’s Roadway Surface Rating (RSR) has increased from 68 in 2010 to its current rating of 85. This translates to improved pavement surfaces for driving, biking, and walking.

 

Share this:

Kitchens by Lombco Opens New Showroom in Lexington

John Marchese, Jr. of Kitchens by Lombco.

By Devin Shaw

“It was six years after the work we did on this building that we ended up opening a showroom here,” John Marchese, Jr recently told me in Kitchens by Lombco’s new showroom location at 311 Marrett Road in Lexington. Six years prior to their July opening, they had done construction work in the back of the building.  At the time, they never thought they would call this home. While they wanted to eventually expand closer to the city, there seemed to be other plans for the location.  John told me, “We kind of just dropped the idea and then never really thought about it again. And then last year, I was thinking, ‘now is a good time to expand down closer to the city.’ I was looking at spaces in Burlington and my father reminded me, ‘what about the space in Lexington? They never did anything with it.’ Now we are lucky to call it home.”

 

John grew up surrounded by the remodeling industry. His father, and now business partner, John Marchese Sr, had owned a company called Positive Improvements. John told me, “My father has been in the remodeling business my entire life. So, during summer vacation when other kids were working in a grocery store, or other typical summer jobs, I was working as a carpenter. So, I’ve been a carpenter, on-and-off, the last 20 years. So that is how it started for me.”

 

John had an incredibly interesting journey to his new Lexington location. He explained, “I spent my 20s just traveling all over the world. After college, I didn’t know what to do. I graduated during the 2008 recession when there weren’t many job opportunities. So, I bought a one-way ticket to Spain and spent a year traveling through Europe. After that, I got the travel bug. I then spent the next decade traveling the world. I was volunteering a lot, and doing lots of backpacking—it was the best time of my life!” He continued, “I would occasionally come back to the US, and every time I came home, I would work for my father’s company. Luckily I didn’t have to get rehired every time. I would just show on up on Monday morning. I would save money, then do more traveling.”

 

John had one last detour before starting his business with his father. After settling in Lowell for a few years and working in the insurance industry he met his wife. She was getting her Master’s degree at UMass/Lowell and John had remained active on a website he used while traveling—it introduces hosts to travelers in need of a place to stay while visiting their city. John had become a host and a friend for people visiting the Boston area and he told me, “She reached out to me and was just looking to meet new people outside of the University. And, when she reached out we met up and hit it off.”

 

For John, that meant one last trip! He said, “My wife is from Malaysia, so when she finished her degree we went to Malaysia for a year and a half. Being from New England, I have pretty thick blood, and it was just such a hot place. After about a year and a half, we decided to come back to the states.”

A beautiful renovation in Chelmsford is bright and full of roomy, accessible storage.

Perfect timing. John told me, “When [John Sr] bought this business, I was telling him I was thinking about coming home. And he suggested, ‘if you want to start and run this business with me, you’re more than welcome to come back in.’ So, he purchased the Kitchens by Lombco name and opened the first showroom in Tewksbury with all the brands of cabinets and countertops that we sell. We both knew a lot about installation and remodeling. But we both had to figure out the cabinet end of things together. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last six years. We do most of our projects up in the Tewksbury, Lowell, and Andover area because the residents know the name Kitchens by Lombco; it has been a staple in that area for 30 years. But, my father also did a lot of work in Lexington and that is what drew us here.”

 

The father and son team have done a lot of work in Lexington. The amount of projects is too long to list! They vary in size and scope and include both residential and commercial. Their jobs are not always kitchens either. John explains, “We do more than kitchen remodeling. We do lots of kitchens and bathrooms every day, but we do a number of additions. We do a lot of basement remodels—we do bars and media rooms. So basically, we remodel a lot of residential homes but we also have commercial projects as well.”  Just last year, Kitchens by Lombco completed an brand new build-out for Drs. Coppe and Sears, who are well respected dentists here in Lexington.

A warm and inviting renovation in Billerica.

John tells me, “There are three parts of the business. We supply cabinets to other contractors, we supply cabinets to people that have their own contractors that just need cabinets from us, and we offer full kitchen remodeling. So if somebody finds us—they kind of hit the jackpot. It’s like a one-stop-shop, and they’re working with one company. They don’t have to go and juggle multiple people and spend lots of time searching for cabinets and other materials. We can handle it all. With a full kitchen remodel, we offer or source all the products that go into the kitchen including cabinets and appliances, and we do the labor and all the coordinating. Plus, we do more than kitchens. We can do bathrooms, game rooms, and just about anything you need ”

 

Kitchens by Lombco provides beautiful cabinetry and state-of-the-art products from locally-sourced vendors.  They will also work with your preferred vendors. Their Lexington showroom offers a stunning glimpse of what your new kitchen could be! Give them a call and arrange a time to drop by and see for yourself.

 

In the end, after all of John Marchese Jr’s traveling, he is happy to have a new home in Lexington. He exclaims, “We are just so excited to be here. We want to become part of the community. I’d love the opportunity to work with anyone in the town. We provide free estimates and have a brick and mortar showroom right here in Lexington. So you know you’re not just hiring a contractor—you’re hiring a neighbor who is committed to providing high-quality service with the best prices, and a history of working in and around Lexington.”  John concluded, “We take great pride in our craftsmanship and stand by our work. It’s always very fulfilling to see the expressions of joy on the faces of our clients when a job is completed. To us, you’re family, and we treat our customers the way that we’d like to be treated.”


For more information, or to get local references and/or arrange a time to visit their Lexington showroom, call them or visit them on the web at KitchensByLombco.com.  Their local showroom is located at 311 Marrett Road in Lexington, and their phone number is 978-858-0700.

https://kitchensbylombco.com

Share this:

Delicious ‘Hip’ Soups and ‘Dorky’ Stews are on the Menu at Drew’s Stews

 

Chef Drew Maggiore of Lexington.

By Devin Shaw

Drew Maggiore wants everyone to know that soup can be hip. As he thinks about that, he says, “Well, I guess you would have to decide if I am hip first. Maybe you decide that soup is kind of dorky and I am kind of dorky and that works out somehow. I guess I am aiming for dorky-cool!”

 

Drew Maggiore started making soups and stews years ago for his family and friends. With Italian and Eastern European blood, home cooking has always been important to him. And, during his ten years living in the Netherlands, he discovered produce and organic meat markets that began to make their way into his home cooked meals.

 

Drew worked as a consultant and a translator for expats for 20 years. When he returned to the states, he continued working in that field, but after a while he had an epiphany. He exclaimed, “I was 10 years out of being an expat; I’m in Lexington and I have a four-year-old, a six-year-old and a husband, but something is missing in my career! I felt like I needed more fulfillment. I did some brainstorming last fall and thought about what I enjoy most—and it is cooking and talking about food!”

 

That’s when Drew’s Stews was born. He told me, “I have always been a real soup fanatic and I have always received good feedback from family and friends. I realized that must be my culinary-calling! So I thought about ‘how can I cook and talk about food?’ So, I came to the conclusion that I like being in kitchens, supermarkets, and farmer’s markets. That’s where Drew’s Stews came from.”

 

Then the pandemic happened. Drew told me, “No one knows what to do, we have no childcare, and do I start the business? I decided to start Drew’s Stews very small—small scale and small batches. I started on March 30th. Those first couple of weeks was surprising–with everyone housebound I had a ton of orders! I think people, myself included, didn’t last long before resorting to takeout. Long story short, it just evolved. I am still cooking two days a week and will probably begin to increase it into three days a week shortly!”

 

For Drew, using all natural and preservative-free food began in 2011 when his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. His desire to find the healthiest food possible has continued with his company. He said, “More than anything, this is about fulfillment for me, but it’s also about bringing all natural, organic, and locally sourced products―the same products I use at home―to the people around me! I do really believe that soup can be both healthy and fun!”

 

Drew’s signature dish is a delicious cacciatore-style chicken stew. Drew told me, “I made that for my family for many years. My dad is always super critical of food—and this is a family recipe that his grandmother and mother made. My dad is Italian-American and always talks about stuff being ‘mezza-mezz’. If it stinks, it’s ‘south-a-mezz’, but if it is good it is ‘nord-a-mezz’! So, I call this soup the Way-Nord-a-Mezz!”

 

“À Pesca!” – A Brazilian-style moqueca packed with cod, sweet bell peppers, carrots, celery, coconut milk, cilantro, and lime.

Drew’s soups, stews, and spreads range in styles and often rotate by the week. From fish-and-foul to vegan, Drew’s products include anything from a Gazpacho, Cucumber Soup, Moqueca, to a vegan Corn Chowder. Drew’s brilliantly named “Children of the Corn Chowder” fits into a larger theme you will surely notice. He explained, “The names of my soups are allusions to 80’s television that people may or may not recognize!”

 

You can find Drew and his wonderful personality and products at Farmers Markets right now (his fall project is getting a wholesale license to sell his products in smaller stores.) Drew tells me, “I’m at the Lexington, Belmont, and Winchester Farmers Markets. Even in these times where farmers markets are not as cozy as they usually are, where everyone is hanging out and eating food and socializing, I am still having great conversations with people that provide great feedback and keep coming back for more!”

 

But farmers markets close at the end of October, but thankfully you can order Drew’s products on his website (DrewsStews.com) for delivery! Drew tells me, “You order delivery through my website. We deliver on Sunday evenings and Wednesday afternoons. I deliver to Lexington, Bedford, Winchester, Medford, Malden, Melrose, Woburn, Somerville, and Cambridge.” Drew also collaborates with the company Bread Obsession because, as we all know, nothing pairs better with a homemade stew, soup, or spread than homemade bread!

 

Drew is also in the process of launching a “soup share” program which he calls “The Soup Ally Shares: Mo’ Soup for You!” With a potentially not-so-obvious nod to the obstreperous Seinfeld character. The share will be for either four or eight weeks in November and December, and will include two quarts of soup, two spreads and a loaf of Bread Obsession bread each week, with add-ons available. The monthly share will also include a bottle of Zaazey Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Read more about it at HotSoupisCool.com!

 

Drew is a Lexington resident with a passion for making hip soup, stews, and spreads. You can taste the years of practice and passion with every spoonful. As Drew tells me, “I want people’s lives to be a little bit easier in a year that kind of stinks, and get fun and healthy food delivered to their home!” Whether you decide that soup is hip or dorky-cool doesn’t matter, just order a few pints and taste something delicious. Visit HotSoupisCool.com or DrewsStews.com to learn more, or to order some hip soup.

 

 

 

HotSoupisCool.com

Check out the Fall/Winter Soup Shares!

Share this:

Donna Hopwood Cole Retires After 37 Years of Caring for Lexington Kids

Donna Hopwood Cole enjoys a surprise combination birthday and retirement car-parade that led off with a Lexington police cruiser and included over sixty vehicles. The parade was organized by her daughter Tracy Cole Marrigan with help from her brother Steve.

By Devin Shaw

After 37 years of running a home-based day-care in Lexington, Donna Hopwood Cole has decided to retire. The life-long Lexington resident recently had a surprise combination birthday and retirement car-parade that led off with a Lexington police cruiser and included over sixty vehicles.  The parade was organized by her daughter Tracy Cole Marrigan with help from her brother Steve. The large turnout featured families of her most recent kids, former students, parents of former students, and parents of students who were once students themselves. Her son, Steve Cole, Jr exclaimed, “You know you’ve had a long and successful career when so many people show up to express their gratitude and good wishes. Especially, when that includes parents who were also mom’s students when they were children.”

 

Donna explained, “Unfortunately, I was unable to reopen my day-care due to the State’s rigid regulations in regards to COVID-19. So, it was a sudden retirement and it made the car-parade really bittersweet. I have had this business for 37 years and I’ve loved it. It allowed me to stay home with my own children when they were young. I was devastated because I had absolutely no closure. I didn’t know it was the last day back in March and I couldn’t give the kids hugs and say an appropriate goodbye.”

 

She continued, “I was planning to retire in the fall anyway, but I was really looking forward to this last summer. I would have had the closure and would have been able to say goodbye. I totally love the kids.”

Even though it was not the goodbye Donna had envisioned, the love was reciprocated with all the cars that showed up, most all completely filled with people who simply wanted the share the moment and express their gratitude. All of the vehicles were adorned with signs expressing love and thanks to a woman who dedicated 37 years to caring for children here in Lexington.

 

When the tough decision was made to close her day-care  permanently, what was originally going to be a birthday event evolved into something greater, and the guest list grew. Donna said, “There were four families in the parade that I had taken care of both the parents and their children!”  Emotions of joy and gratitude were evident as Donna greeted each of the vehicles and the families inside.  Clearly, love was the overall theme of the day.

 

The kids loved “Mrs. Cole” so much that oftentimes, when they were older, they would come back and help out over the summer. That includes her daughter Tracey, who worked at the day-care for 17 years! Donna estimates that she has cared for over 1,000 kids during the 37 years of operating her day-care.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Donna’s husband Steve Cole, Sr.  Steve, also a Lexington native, is the son of former longtime State Representative and Town Moderator, the late Lincoln P. Cole. Donna’s late father, Bob Hopwood was also active in the community through his longtime association with the Lexington Lions Club.

 

Of course, when I asked Donna what she is looking forward to in retirement, she told me, “I have three grandchildren and I am looking forward to helping my son and daughter with their families!”

Some things never change! Congratulations, Donna, on a well-deserved retirement.

 

Share this: