Rozzie & Me: Kristie Helms
The Rozzie & Me blog series is guest-written by RVMS Marketing Committee Volunteer Kelly Ransom. Kelly will be interviewing residents, business-owners, and folks from all walks-of-life who make Roslindale a special place to live and work.
Did you know that some folks in Roslindale participate in a Facebook group called 'Keep Roslindale Quirky?' Quirky is a group created by Kristie Helms, a long-time Rozzident and social media guru. Today, I am chatting with Kristie about why she chose the word 'quirky,' her dream of giving Roslindale a voice, and why the Roslindale Day Parade is her favorite annual event.
Kelly: Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
Kristie: I am originally from a town called Possum Trot in Kentucky. The population is like ten people [laughs]. The closest city to us is Nashville. It is in the middle of nowhere, and there are a lot of chemical plants and tobacco farms. The chemical plants in my hometown have really tall smokestacks and at night they are covered in white lights. I used to drive around at night blasting Run DMC and pretend I was in the city. I had to get out of there. I moved to New York, and I lived there for six years. I loved it. Then, I fell in love with a woman who lived in Roslindale.
KR: Wait. Did you fall in love in Roslindale?
KH: Actually, yeah, we did! Now, she is my wife, and we have been together for 17 years. She had a house on Florian Street, which is near Hyde Park Avenue and I moved in there. We met online before meeting people online was a thing. We started flirting online, and she came down to New York and then that was it. Six months later I was in Roslindale.
KR: Tell me about your Facebook group, Keep Roslindale Quirky.
KH: Quirky started two or three years ago. It was originally started as a way to support the Pet Cabaret during their adjustment to having another pet store moving into town closeby. I wanted to make it broad enough to cover lots of things about Roslindale. One of the things I have noticed about Roslindale is that it’s such an involved community. Everyone has such a great neighborhood and community voice, but there was never one place that brought all of Roslindale together. Roslindale is divided by multiple city councilors, multiple state senators, multiple wards, and multiple state representatives. It’s always been hard to give all of Roslindale a voice and that was really what I wanted to do.
KR: How many members are there?
KH: Right now, there are 4,200 members. It absolutely blows my mind. You know how neighbors will talk to each other over the fence? Quirky has become like that experience -- but online. I treasure it. That was one of my intentions.
KR: Why did you choose the word “quirky?”
KH: I very intentionally chose the word quirky. I wanted a positive word that could mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. Everyone has their own definition of the word quirky. It’s a very positive word. I, personally, feel that what makes Roslindale so awesome is that it is quirky.
I wanted to keep the ethos of the Roslindale Day Parade. The Roslindale Day Parade is my favorite event ever. It is the quirkiest event I have ever been to in my entire life. It’s lesbian moms marching next to Haitian step dancers marching next to pro-life parents and no one cares because it’s just how Roslindale is. That’s what Keep Roslindale Quirky is. I started the group to give people a space to keep that spirit going all year long. I love that people are a part of it because they want to know their neighbors -- but at the same time they don’t care what your lifestyle is.
KR: Do you have any favorite stories about Quirky?
KH: I love how people are just people on Quirky. I remember, one day, an elderly woman posted that she was having a hard time putting her SIM card into her phone. One of the members, Abner, saw the post and just went to her house and put it in for her. It touches my heart that these little neighborly things happen on Quirky that might not happen without the group. A lot of people think of the group as a place to talk about all the huge things happen in the neighborhood, but it’s really about all these small interactions between neighbors.
KR: What other ways have you been involved in the community?
KH: I have always been involved in community organizations. When I first moved to Roslindale, one of my first jobs was with Rogerson Communities which is headquartered in Roslindale. Rogerson is really great because they provide low and middle-income housing for elderly people all over Boston. One of their locations is in the old Roslindale High School. They take abandoned properties, usually schools, and turn it into housing which is so amazing. They have properties in Chinatown, Beacon Hill, JP, and all over Boston. They have a wonderful ethos about giving back to the community. When I started there, it was the first year of Roslindale Open Studios. They have a huge gorgeous auditorium in the old Roslindale High. They open it up to community groups all the time, so I suggested that we open it up to Roslindale Open Studios. I was really involved in that for the first two or three years, and they still host an open studio every year.
KR: What is one of your favorite things about living in Roslindale?
KH: I love Roslindale Square so much. I feel like, as someone who grew up in a really small town with a courthouse square, it feels like a small town to me. It is a great center where people can come together, and it’s easily accessible by walking from almost every corner of Roslindale.
KR: Do you have a favorite Roslindale memory?
KH: One of my favorite memories is one of the first Open Studios. It was so tiny. We had no idea if it was going to work or not because we had never done anything like that before. People came out for it. It was amazing to see all the artists work from around here. I had no idea that this neighborhood had so many artists in it.
I have to say another favorite memory that I have is, right after the last presidential election, Quirky had a get-together. Thirty people came to my house and it was an incredible moment. It wasn’t political at all. People just wanted to meet their neighbors. We had all felt so divided after that last election that a lot of people were like, ‘I live in a neighborhood, and I want to know my community.' I loved that.
KR: What would you like to see happen in Roslindale or with Keep Roslindale Quirky in the future?
KH: My ultimate goal is for Roslindale to have a real solid voice with elected officials. My dream of dreams with Quirky is to make it into a space that really gives Roslindale a voice, and I think it has started doing that by promoting things like WalkUp Roslindale, the RVMS Farmers Market, and other community activities that bring everyone together. I would like to take it one step further and start to host regular town halls where our local elected officials can come and hear what the people of Roslindale have to say because we don’t have a space for that right now. We are so divided with wards and community groups which is great, but we don’t have anything that’s just one Roslindale. Jamaica Plain does it a lot, but they have the advantage of one city councilor and one state rep. I really think Roslindale needs to have that voice because we have so many people who care and so many people who bring vibrancy to the City. I just really want to give that a more powerful voice.