Richelle Cromwell saw firsthand the benefits of having CAPIC based in the city when she was a teenager. She continued her association with the agency through adulthood as a board member and board president, helping to oversee the agency that executive director Robert Repucci transformed in to a national model.
And now, Cromwell is continuing her mother Emerline’s tradition of advocating and helping residents in need, having recently taken the helm as the new executive director of CAPIC.
Cromwell understands the challenge of following up on the incredible administrative career of Repucci, whose name became synonymous with CAPIC in the three communities (Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop) it serves.
“I am succeeding a legend – I think about that a lot,” said Cromwell during an interview at CAPIC headquarters on Everett Avenue. “I’m carrying on his legacy. I spent the last 23 years with Bob at CAPIC.”
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, who has been a big supporter of CAPIC for many years, feels Cromwell is an excellent choice to carry the agency’s mission forward.
“Richelle comes from good stock and she’s been very active in the community throughout her years, particularly serving on the CAPIC Board of Directors and participating in other organizations such as the CBC,” said Robinson. “She will bring a lot to the table at CAPIC and I wish her nothing but the best.”
A 50-Year Connection to CAPIC in Chelsea
Richelle Cromwell’s connection to CAPIC dates back 50 years.
“My family’s been involved with CAPIC as long it’s been here,” recalled Cromwell. “My mother was on the board prior to my 23 years on the board. CAPIC was huge to my mother. It meant so much to her. She was a community activist. It’s in my DNA.”
The Cromwell family is well known in Chelsea for its contributions to not only the city at large, but to the athletic program at Chelsea High School. For example, Joan Cromwell is the president of the Chelsea Black Community (CBC) that coordinates Black History Month program each year.
Richelle was a popular student in the CHS Class of 1981 and maintains friendships with her classmates, including Maria Schneiderman Cheever.
She worked professionally as an interior designer in addition to her commitment to CAPIC, having served as board president for the past 14 years.
Administering a Busy Agency with Many Services
Cromwell is the leader of an agency that has 102 employees who are called upon every day to provide key services, many times in emergency situations.
Such programs as Head Start, the Pre-Head Start Childhood Development Center, Weatherization, the Energy Program, the Fuel Assistance Program, the Chelsea Family Network Program, WorkForce Development, Crisis Intervention/Domestic Violence are all coordinated by CAPIC.
The agency has a collaboration with Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop on emergency services addressing homelessness, substance abuse, and people needing short-term medical services and housing. CAPIC is also a part of the Chelsea HUB, a group of community leaders led by the Chelsea Police Department.
There are also afterschool programs and a job programs for youths.
“CAPIC is amazing,” said Cromwell, reflecting on what a positive influence it has had on her life. “I worked a summer job at CAPIC when I was 14 years old. CAPIC also had a summer program for kids and I come from a family of 10, so they provided services for us during the summer time so we could have someplace to go.”
One of the programs increasing in use is a tax assistance program for residents.
“Last year, we assisted 194 low-income residents whom we assisted in filing their tax forms,” said Cromwell.
Making the Transition from CAPIC President
Cromwell’s knowledge of CAPIC, her years as president, and her close interaction with Bob Repucci allowed her to immediately delve in to the day-to-day operations of the multi-service organization.
“The board implements the policies and the executive director carries out the policies – that’s how the hierarchy goes,” explained Cromwell.
She described her emotions as “being extremely excited” when she learned that she has been selected to the prestigious position of executive director. There has been a flood of congratulatory wishes, emails, and texts from friends, classmates, and other community leaders.
It is an agency that has earned a reputation for always confronting situations that are challenging residents on a daily basis and working diligently toward the best outcome. CAPIC’s slogan is “People Helping People.”
“I’ve been with CAPIC for a long time and I believe in the mission,” said Cromwell. “I’ve always been mission driven and I think it’s important. We have employees who have been here for many years because they’re all mission driven. One of the first things I did was to assemble our employees and get everyone on board and affirm that, “It is the services to our clients first and it’s very important that we treat all of clients with respect and as collaborators, we give them all the services they need.”
Richelle Cromwell gave a glimpse of her “teamwork approach” at the agency. Asked to take a solo photo in her new executive director’s offices, Cromwell politely declined, requesting instead that the CAPIC team appear in the photo with her.