Jannette Velez promotes culture, youth involvement
Norwich ― Community activist Jannette Velez, was setting up a paint night fundraiser one night, when a 7-year-old girl started following her around, eager to help.
Velez, chairwoman of the Norwich Puerto Rican Committee, asked the girl to run a rock painting station.
“Things like that bring me joy,” Velez said. “I show them they can partake in anything, at whatever age.”
Velez, 39, of Norwich, owns PuraElegancia a hand-crafted jewelry business, and Extremely Clean Services, a cleaning and handiwork business with her partner, Anibal Cintron.
Velez was born in Puerto Rico. Her family moved to the Bronx, N.Y. when she was six. At age 14, Jannette started wandering. At times, “I just never made it to school.” She stayed out at night, instead of taking care of her younger brother and sister.
Her mom, Diana Lozada, called Jannette’s aunt and uncle in Norwich. They took her in, and Jannette attended Norwich Free Academy, graduating in 2000. She returned to New York, where her daughter, Destiny, was born in 2003. She moved back to Norwich to raise Destiny away from the big city.
Velez and her mother worked in cleaning for 12 years at Foxwoods Resort Casino before launching Extremely Clean Services.
Velez found her calling when she connected with Suki Lagrito, liaison for Global City Norwich, which coordinates multiple international festivals and education programs. Velez plans the Norwich Puerto Rican festival, helps with other cultural festivals and mostly, works with youths to help them find inspiration and purpose.
“They say, ‘Thank you so much for listening to me. Thank you so much for giving me the advice,’” Velez said. “I try, when I give advice, to give overall general advice, so they can make their own decisions.”