It is a project started by social entrepreneur Jeanne Dasaro, who has spent the last few years connecting people across Boston and beyond as co-founder of The New Prosperity Initiative, as well as other projects.
“It’s been challenging to convert interest into interviews,” says Jeanne. “People are excited about my project, but getting them to sit down with me has been a challenge.”
Nevertheless, she has managed to collect on video dozens of personal experiences from neighborhood residents, ranging from 96-year-old Antonetta Bonaffine to Bob Skole, who used to work for the “Italian News” publication.“Each person offers a unique piece of information, history, and perspective of the neighborhood and its residents,” says Jeanne. “It’s amazing and inspiring. Its one thing to read about the neighborhood in history books, but it’s another to hear about it through its residents — Those who breathed life into the community.”
Jeanne understands the value of gathering stories from a generation that is quickly vanishing from the North End.
“The neighborhood is rapidly changing and the loss of this generation means the loss of its stories and knowledge about the neighborhood,” she says. “Having worked in digital media for the past few years, I felt I could collect these stories in hopes of preserving and sharing them, keeping these stories from being lost with the passing away of this generation.”
Jeanne’s interest in the North End comes from her own family’s history with the neighborhood.“My father was born and raised in the North End and moved away for nearly 35 years when he was 33 years old,” she recalls. “As a child, each summer, my family spent the month of August in Boston, specifically the North End, visiting my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, cousins. August is also the month the Fisherman’s Feast is held and all of my family would come to visit my grandparents. The neighborhood always felt like a second home.”
Actually, the neighborhood was “home” for Jeanne as well for three years.
“I moved to Boston about 8 years ago,” she says. “I lived in the North End for about three years before moving to Dorchester for more space and cheaper rent. During this time, my parents lived on North Street in an apartment that various members of my family had lived in for over 90 years.
“About a year ago the building was sold and my parents moved into a senior citizen apartment building on Endicott Street, the Casa Maria.”
That change inspired Jeanne to look more into the lives of the neighborhood’s residents.
“I was inspired to undertake this project during my visits to my parents’ new apartment building,” she says. “The median age in the building is 85 and nearly half of the 80 or more apartments are filled with lifelong North End residents. Each time I visited I would learn something about the past of someone in the building or about the neighborhood… So many rich stories about the neighborhood and its residents.”