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Familiar face takes helm of West Roxbury Main Streets

Posted by Roy Greene  May 4, 2011 10:00 AM

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As a native of the area and an advocate of the West Roxbury community for many years, Kara O’Connor has taken the next step in community involvement by becoming the new executive director of the neighborhood’s Main Streets program.
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Photo courtesy of Kara O'Oconnor
O'Connor is a native of the area.

O’Connor recently took the helm of the West Roxbury Main Streets program, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving and enhancing West Roxbury’s business district by offering grants for storefront improvements, design assistance and technical support. She said she saw the job as an opportunity to get more involved with West Roxbury businesses, and with the community as a whole.

“I have always had an interest in small business and community development,” O’Connor said. “I think that small business districts are the heart of every community, and that a strong business district can really make an area thrive.”

Born in Roslindale, O’Connor moved to Westwood when she was in elementary school. As an adult, she has worked in several positions in the West Roxbury community, including as director of marketing and development for the neighborhood branch of the YMCA. Through that work, she said she had the opportunity to work with local business groups such as the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and WRMS.

O’Connor grew up playing sports at the West Roxbury YMCA, taking swimming and gymnastics lessons and becoming a counselor-in-training at the YMCA’s summer camp. She earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in business administration from the University of New Hampshire.

As executive director, O’Connor is in charge of facilitating several community events, including the program’s annual “Spring Cleaning Day,” which was held April 30.

Michael Loconto, president of WRMS Board of Directors, said O’Connor’s keen organizational and communications skills, as well as her experience working for a non-profit, have made her a great asset to the program.

“She’s the first person we’ve had in the job with an MBA and with fundraising, marketing and organizational experience,” he said. “It’s really professionalized the approach the organization takes with the community.”

During her brief tenure, O’Connor said she has already facilitated many events she is proud of, including a “Holiday Stroll,” an event that drew over 100 people to 25 businesses in the district. She said she hopes the event will continue to grow in future years. In June, WRMS will be partnering with Cops for Kids with Cancer for a fundraiser called, “Put the Cuffs on Cancer” at the House of Blues.

Loconto said O’Connor’s familiarity with the area has been helpful in facilitating relationships with businesses.

“She knows the community, so she is able to draw on a lot of those relationships to really help the organization along,” he said.

Although she has been in charge for only a few months, O’Connor said she has already forged bonds with the business community she represents.

“So far, working for Main Streets has been a great experience,” she said. “I am fortunate that I get to work with a very committed board of directors, as well as business owners and landlords who are extremely dedicated to the West Roxbury community.”

This article was reported and written by Northeastern University journalism student Laura Finaldi, under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (l.chedekel@neu.edu), as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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