Best of 2015

This year was easily the best in my so-far short career. In 2015, I covered murder plots, weight loss, racism, sexism, bees and much, much  more. Here are the stories I wrote this year that I’m most proud of:

Defeating obesity: This was likely my first story of 2015. I spoke with people who had or were considering gastric bypass surgery after MetroWest Medical Center expanded its bariatric surgery program due to growing need. This quickly transformed from a story about weight loss to one about personal loss. These patients grappled with the loss of a former self, of identity, and, often, of family and friends.

Struggling in suburbia: Poverty is sometimes obvious in the city. You see people begging on street corners, and lines outside the shelters. In the affluent towns in MetroWest Boston, though, poverty is very quiet, and sometimes sneaky. This poses a few challenges. People are less likely to donate to local charities in affluent towns because they don’t see the need. In the same vein, poor families struggle to find help in suburban towns because shelters and pantries are not as obvious as in the city. This is the story of one woman, but she tells the story of many.

Hudson native allegedly murdered abroad: Thanks to incessant Facebook trolling, I broke this story about a former Hudson, MA resident who was killed while working as a government contractor in Saudi Arabia. Chris Cramer’s death was originally called a suicide, but was later revealed to be something potentially more insidious.

Teacher remembered after suicide: Marc Levasseur, a teacher at Framingham’s Reed Academy, committed suicide in September. His family, shocked and grieving, remembered his dedication to his work and his love for his family. This was a hard story to write.

Shortage stretches foster families thin: After Ava Conway-Coxon died in foster care, the Department of Children and Families came under fire yet again. In this article, I took a look at the foster system, finding a shortage in families willing to take in children. The existing foster families are, in turn, asked to take on more children than they maybe should. Conway-Coxon’s foster mother had waivers in place to allow her to take care of more than the allowable number of young foster children.

Women absent from executive boards: Sen. Karen Spilka passed a resolution to get more women on corporate boards after finding dismal numbers on inclusion in the state’s largest firms. Here’s a look at why women are largely left out when it comes to corner offices.

Confederate flag sparks controversy: A Confederate flag sticker caused uproar on Framingham State’s campus in November, leading to larger discussions on race. I wrote a longer article about race on campus, but this one encapsulates the tension in Framingham.

I wrote countless more, and many that I’m definitely forgetting, but these are the ones I’d recommend if you missed them (or even if you didn’t!). Here’s to many more in 2016.

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Stretched Thin: Foster family shortage stretches families thin

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 31 

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150831/NEWS/150839602/?Start=1

In the home where Avalena Conway-Coxon lived, there were a lot of other children. By state standards, there were too many young children, but a waiver said that was OK.

Then Avalena died on Aug. 15 of still unknown causes, there were two other children under the age of 3 living in the Auburn home: an adopted 9-year-old girl, and two children who belonged to Avalena’s foster mother. The Department of Children and Families had granted an “over capacity” variance to allow more than the typical number of children under age 3 to live there.
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Triumph and tragedy with tomatoes

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 21

When the winter’s relentless snow crushed Peter MacArthur’s greenhouse, the one his sons helped him build and where he grew his prized tomatoes, MacArthur said he felt like a part of him was gone.

That’s why victory was extra sweet for MacArthur on Thursday when he took the prize for best tomato in the state. After all that was lost at MacArthur Farm, MacArthur said nabbing the title for best tomato in the state was a fruitful reward for his hard work.

“For us, it was emotional,” MacArthur said as his wife, Helen, manned the counter at their Concord Road produce stand. Next to the stand, MacArthur’s former greenhouse stands broken and bent after the weight of snow this winter ruined it. “My boys built that greenhouse. When it came down, it was like a part of me died. We were shocked (to win) yesterday.”

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Peter MacArthur slices into one of his prize-winning tomatoes on a rainy day at the farm.

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When it comes to shopping, it’s a buyer’s market

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 16

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150816/NEWS/150817287/0/SEARCH/?Start=1

When it comes to grocery shopping, many customers are creatures of both convenience and habit, but the emergence of big new stores show even loyal shoppers are subject to stray for a new experience.

Wegmans Food Market is set to open a two-story store in the Natick Mall in 2017, the second in MetroWest. The New York-based grocery chain will be entering a market already flooded with competition, but spokeswoman Jeanne Colleluori said the company isn’t worried about attracting customers.

As mom and pop stores like Hopkinton’s recently closed Colella’s are on their way out, big stores like Wegmans and Whole Foods Market are finding ways to attract customers from a large region by making themselves a destination. Shoppers don’t always want groceries to be a big to-do, however, keeping stores like Stop & Shop popular as the convenient neighborhood market.

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Good news for Buddy Dog

This article appeared in the MetroWest Daily News on Aug. 20.
http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150820/NEWS/150828957/0/SEARCH/?Start=2

SUDBURY – Buddy Dog Humane Society might have found a new home, one that might be welcomed by all involved.

At a Thursday night selectmen’s meeting, Buddy Dog trustee Steve Burtt said the animal shelter is reconsidering its planned move to Wayside Inn Road to property adjacent to its current Boston Post Road digs.

In February, the humane society agreed to suspend plans to build a new facility on Wayside Inn Road after neighbors worried the development would ruin the road’s historic quality. Now, Burtt said a new option opened up that wasn’t available when the society first scouted locations for a new building.

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