Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Joan Pasquale, Volunteer Magnate

by Erika Templeton

ALLSTON— Joan Pasquale fights everything from crime to trash to poison ivy.

“It’s just doing what comes naturally as being a neighbor,”

she said in her heavy Boston accent. “I haven’t thought twice about it.”

Pasquale has been volunteering in Allston-Brighton since she moved to the community 39 years ago. Now she heads the Parents and Community Build Group, a non-profit, volunteer organization.

“It’s our neighborhood, and when we fix it, we benefit first,” she said. “It only takes two minutes of your time to say, ‘Can I help you?’”

Pasquale frequently motivates hundreds of volunteers for events like the group’s biannual Ringer Park clean-up.

Ryan Woods, director of public and private partnerships with the Boston Park and Recreation Department, is grateful for her contributions to the 12-acre green space. “She helps us be the eyes and ears of the park,” he said.

Charlie Rockwell, head of another Allston-based volunteer group, Keep Allston Decent, enlists Pasquale’s networking prowess. “What we lack in my group is the numbers,” he said, “and she was really willing to connect us with people.”

Pasquale is in tune with residents’ needs, specifically those of the many low-income, immigrant families that come to Allston.

“This is their town, and this is what we’re all about,” she said. “We’re all about representing what the community is truly made up of.”

Pasquale focuses on hosting free and open multicultural events, as seen in her contribution to the Allston Village Street Fair, on Sept. 14. She used the event to inform residents about easy access to education, health care and job opportunities in the community. “People are more receptive to it in a more comfortable social environment,” she said.

Pasquale said the physical appearance of Allston is one of the neighborhood’s biggest challenges. “I find it extremely disappointing,” she said. “There’s no reason why Allston shouldn’t look like the South End. It did at one time.”

But Pasquale is not complaining. “An attitude of ‘here I am and here’s my list of change that I want to see,’” she said, “That’s not going to work anywhere.”

Instead, Pasquale is working to raise thousands of dollars in donations to improve the neighborhood. "She's very persistent," said Rockwell. "You get a lot of 'no's when you do non-profit work. It's not glamorous, and it's not fun and you get a lot of doors slammed in your face. But she doesn't let it stop her."

.Pasquale brought new playground equipment, benches, and chess tables to Ringer Park.

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