It’s the group that’s not a group.
They’re all positive individuals with an agenda, but they don’t care too much for agendas.
They like social media, and they enjoy sampling the many restaurants and social gathering spots in the city.
They are Chel-Yea, and they want you.
One of the fastest growing new groups of people who live and work in Chelsea is the five-month old Chel-Yea movement. The group encompasses young and old, residents and people who work in Chelsea, life-longers and newcomers.
Currently, the heaviest debate within the group is whether or not to put an exclamation point on the end of their name, and whether or not there should be a hyphen in the name (the hyphen apparently messes up Twitter, which doesn’t recognize hyphens). Beyond that, the discussion can lead anywhere, and the only mission is to have a social gathering/dinner in Chelsea at least once a month.
“There’s really no set structure to it,” said Matt Frank, who is the City Council president and a member of Chel-Yea. “People can come, they can just show up and create their own conversation. They can socialize or connect on things they want to accomplish. There is no set agenda and people can talk about whatever they want. It really a great way to connect; it’s a Chelsea network.”
Dan Cortez was one of the founders of the group. Cortez, who works for MGH as a community-based substance abuse initiatives manager, said the group was branded inaccurately at first as a young professionals group, but that is not the case.
“I like to say the only requirement for membership is that if you’re more Chel-Yea than Chel-no, then this is probably the place for you,” he said. “It’s not show up with all your problems and complain. We really want to come together and celebrate the community optimistically. Early on it was branded a young professionals group, but it’s not. I’m not a young professional by any means. It’s a group that isn’t a group.”
Added Frank, “As a City Councillor and life-long resident I always tell people what is available in Chelsea. They always say ‘Wow, I didn’t know we had that.’ People like to put things in boxes. You can’t put Chel-Yea in a box. It just won’t fit.”
Cortez and co-founder Melissa Walsh, of The Neighborhood Developers (TND), began the group some five months ago while sitting at a local coffee shop talking over ideas. A frustration grew out of that conversation that there wasn’t any platform for people to connect to get things done and have fun. Within a few minutes, they saw Fusion Foods owner Melissa Vo, and they continued the conversation.
The next thing they knew, they had a large, but informal, group meeting at Vo’s restaurant.
After that first month’s meeting, they held the next three get-togethers at the Mystic Brewery. This month, on July 17, they’ll have their official (if that word can be used) event at Mi Salvadoran Mexican Restaurant in Chelsea Square – their first fiesta on Broadway.
The group also often tags on to existing community events, encouraging those in the network to attend such events (such as the Apollinaire Theatre) and then participate in the group’s after party – which has settled into a home at Common Cove on Admiral’s Hill.
Each time it grows and each time there are some new faces who are introduced to the “real” Chelsea.
Cortez said, for example, one of the doctors at MGH Chelsea came recently with another doctor.
“He had been working here four years and the extent of his Chelsea experience was Fusion Foods, which is great, but there is also more to see,” he said. “He hadn’t really done anything else before. Now he comes to Chel-Yea every month and to some of our after parties. He brought a colleague that had never really done anything in Chelsea. She was sitting with the group at Mystic and mentioned that this was the kind of thing that made her want to move to Chelsea.”
And therein lies another group of untapped folks that Chel-Yea hopes to bring into the Chelsea fold – the newcomers who live in places like the Parkway Plaza, Spencer Lofts, One Webster or One North. Many times, they still do most of their socializing in Boston, and haven’t yet infiltrated the Chelsea lifestyle.
“You have a lot of folks who are moving into Chelsea and you need something for them to do – a connection point,” said Frank. “We are hoping to be that connecting point for them. We want to point them in the direction of what there is to do in Chelsea. Take Mystic Brewery for example; it’s amazing how many people have discovered Mystic because of Chel-Yea.”
In the end, Cortez and Frank said they want to keep things fun, yet bring people together in a productive way. That simple formula, they said, could strike gold.
“We’ll see what happens with this,” Cortez said. “It’s a fun thing and there’s a lot of positive energy in Chelsea right now. Much of that is because of going to Denver for the All-American City Award – which a lot of us participated in. We’re hoping to take the buzz that’s in the air now and run with it. We believe in Chelsea and we’re trying to find people who feel the same way – and have fun at the same time.”
For more information on Chel-Yea, log on to their Facebook community page.
Members of the informal group Chel-Yea gathering at Mystic Brewery in May. The five-month old loosely configured network is ready to capitalize on the energy in the community and bring together positive people.