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Countdown time for census workers

Teams spread out to urge residents to be represented

Kathleen Jeanty (left), a census volunteer, at the Pontes house in Dorchester. Maria Dossantos (middle) helped explain to her mother, Eugenia (right), the importance of the tally. Kathleen Jeanty (left), a census volunteer, at the Pontes house in Dorchester. Maria Dossantos (middle) helped explain to her mother, Eugenia (right), the importance of the tally. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)
By Sydney Lupkin
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2010

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As Kathleen Jeanty started her day as a volunteer for the city’s census outreach event in Dorchester yesterday morning, she and her teammates were not having the best luck.

One resident barely opened the door before closing it in the women’s faces. Another woman glared before saying, “I already did that,’’ and retreated into her home.

But Jeanty and her team were not discouraged. “If we can help them to help themselves, I figure why not,’’ Jeanty said.

Jeanty, who works in the Office of New Bostonians, joined about 60 volunteers yesterday to knock on doors in the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester — census tract 918 — to persuade residents to complete the 2010 Census, which will bring government resources to the area. The Boston Globe reported last month that less than 40 percent of the residents there had completed the census compared with 61 percent for Boston and 73 percent for the state.

Volunteers split into teams of three: one resident, one city representative, and one 2010 Census enumerator. They handed residents free resource guides and asked about their concerns regarding the community.

Jeanty joined Dorchester resident Katia Pina and census enumerator Syndie Cine to take on Stanley, Kane, and Mount Everett streets.

Lunchtime came and 90- degree weather crept up on them, but the team persevered.

Eventually, they found some people who came to the door and said they’d filled out their census forms.

“We count,’’ said Lynishia Whitlow, 37, of Stanley Street. “You have to bring it back to the community.’’

She told the volunteers that she is happy living in Dorchester, and safely raised her 16-year-old daughter there.

“Just because Dorchester has a bad reputation, doesn’t mean it’s true,’’ she said.

Cine, who lives in Hyde Park, said she was surprised by Dorchester’s charm. She said she and her partner chose to take the T instead of drive because of the neighborhood’s reputation for crime.

“We could have driven,’’ she laughed at herself as she waited before a home with flowers in the yard.

Diane Rayford, 52, said she’s lived in her Stanley Street home for 23 years, and she knows all the neighbors. When someone goes on vacation, the neighbors keep an eye on the house.

“I’ve had opportunities to move,’’ she said, adding that she gets upset when she hears about the area’s reputation for being a high-crime area. She pointed at each house on the street, naming who lived there and for how long. “We know everything that goes on in the neighborhood.’’

Mayor Thomas Menino said people tend to focus on news reports of crime in Dorchester, but that its people are resilient and have formed a cohesive community.

“Most of the people who are critical of the area have never been in the area,’’ he said. “I know these people. They’re not going to let the bad guys take over.’’

Sydney Lupkin can be reached at slupkin@globe.com.

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