by Michael Feldman
From the moment we moved into our new location at 152 Hampden St. in Roxbury, it was our objective at Feldman Land Surveyors to invest in local, diverse talent in Roxbury and Dorchester. When I first looked out my window at Orchard Gardens, I immediately envisioned a way to engage local talent so that people could start a great career in their own neighborhood and literally walk across the street to come to work. Two years later, our firm is well on our way to making that vision a reality.
After we moved in and got settled, we reached out to Madison Park Development Corporation to help us find two summer interns: Adobe Okwerekwu from West Roxbury and Dana Bowman from Dorchester. Adobe performed administrative duties in our offices, while Dana worked on our field crew. When Dana returned for a week over Christmas, he proudly showed us the car he bought with his summer earnings.
In 2017, we also reached out to Madison Park Vocational High School to see if they knew of any high school graduates in need of work. We were fortunate to find a new team member: Sam Oquendo from Dorchester. In 2018, we reached out to our friends at the Orchard Gardens Resident Association and found Francisco Rosario from Roxbury. Although neither possessed any surveying experience, we brought them in and put them through our in-house training program. Now, they’re both operating as survey field crew members on high-profile sites throughout Boston and interestingly, Francisco lives right across the street from our offices and walks to work every morning.
In addition, this past summer, we invited four youngsters from Orchard Gardens Boys & Girls Club of Boston, all between the ages of 10 and 12, to our offices. When we gave them a tour of the facility, they were amazed at the modern interior, since they’d expected a more traditional look to match the building’s exterior. To give our guests a taste of what land surveying is all about, we showed them pictures of our projects and talked about the technology we use. Afterwards, they asked a lot of insightful questions, including what happens if someone arrives late for work!
At Feldman, we are also dedicated to promoting gender equality and diversity in our field. For this reason, we work closely with the co-op program from the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Roxbury to offer positions to female engineers. To date, we’ve welcomed six talented professionals to our team: Brooke Paradis, Alexis Stickelman, Nicole Barbagallo, Liz Gunning, Kawtar Raitam — who’s originally from Morocco — and Pegah Parsafar, who’s originally from Iran.
While investing in local talent is, in large part, about offering young people with the right aptitude the opportunity to pursue a career in land surveying, it’s also about giving back to the community we serve. Because when young people understand that they can be a part of something meaningful right here in their own neighborhood, they begin to take deep pride in their community. And in the long run, this pride is critical to this wonderful neighborhood’s further development and advancement.
One of the most important things we’ve done was to drive the renovation of a semivacant, run-down structure and turn it into a building that our community can be proud of. As a result of our efforts, there has been a $4.2 million combined investment in our building and property. We performed extensive renovations and upgraded the building’s interior and exterior, then we placed trees and plantings with holiday lights around it to enhance the streetscape. We also installed exterior lights to illuminate the building and sidewalks for increased safety. Moreover, we formed a task force focused on getting some of our industrial neighbors to improve the air quality in the neighborhood.
Shortly after we moved into our new headquarters, I noticed that local students were waiting on Hampden Street as early as 5:30 in the morning for the bus to take them to their school in the suburbs. I realized this must be hard for them, especially during the harsh New England winters, so my team put a plant together to provide more than $3,000 worth of winter jackets and hats to Orchard Gardens kids at Christmas time. Now, when those same students are waiting for the bus, they’re better protected against the cold.
Similarly, last September, we purchased and filled 130 backpacks for students at the Henry L. Higginson Inclusion School in Roxbury. Afterwards, Principal Marie E. Mullen sent us a letter, saying: “We truly appreciate all your team did for our staff and students. The students were thrilled when they opened their backpacks to see all of the fun stuff they got!”
On a daily basis, the employees at Feldman, myself included, are working hard to build a solid connection between business and the community. That’s what makes our vision a journey.