Timing is everything. In 2006, two very importance milestones happened in my life. The first one was that I was selected to serve as the new Executive Director of MATV, Malden’s Media Center replacing Jeff Hansell, who moved on to become the E.D. at the Belmont Media Center. The second significant event was the news given to me by Howard McGowan that the City of Malden was about to transfer the Centre Methodist Church into the new Senior Community Center.
This was of consequence to me for two reasons; I was a former member of this church and sang in the choir in the original building that burned down in 1970. I was part of that congregation when they rebuilt the present building in 1971. I played basketball in the gym and eulogized both my father and my sister in this very space that for me was my original house of worship. Needless to say, I was interested in the city’s plans for the renovation and wanted to have a say in the outcome. Not only because I was affiliated with its historic past. but because as the new leader of Malden Access Television, I felt our organization could assist in designing a structure that would best serve the future media needs of both the seniors and the community at large.
I immediately met with the former Director of Human Services and my old MHS schoolmate, Christine DePietro to talk about some of my ideas. It was the city’s curmudgeon and senior activist, Mr. McGowan, who suggested that MATV help build a TV studio in the new structure. Not only did I love the concept, I knew that having a built-in media lab would encourage entertainers to perform for low cost since they would get a “free” DVD copy of their performance.
The idea was that the seniors would benefit from getting some quality entertainers and we (MATV), would teach them how to use the control room and get them to be actively involved. They would learn how to enhance the audio, use the projector, and record the various performances or events that would be scheduled. It would be an active space that the whole city could use, whether it was to support a community meeting, feature some local entertainment, or support some political forum or non-profit organization; the thought was, the building was there to support seniors, get them involved and create a community center both as a structure and a way of life.
And when I say involved, I mean getting folks who are elderly and finding a way that gets them in touch with their own lives. Exercise, social interaction and getting involved. We all know how vital it is to be aware of one’s health, to make some kind of connection with our neighbors and have a place to go that’s comfortable, safe and encourages activity. That place to me, and so many others, is our own, “John and Christina Markey Senior Community Center” that opened in 2009 and is located at 7 Washington Street.
From the very beginning, as we documented its construction, MATV has been an active partner in its development. We helped design the media lab and donated some of our capital money to the building of the auditorium, its cameras and control room, the projector and the wireless sound system. In fact, we have it wired fiber optically, so that we can go “live” on any of our channels at a moment’s notice. Periodically, we have workshops that teach interested volunteers how to use the facility and we encourage people to check out our class schedule and get involved.
For almost a year now, I have been working with Christine’s interim replacement, Jean Benoit, who has been working part time since she accepted the position in 2011. She has been great to work with and I love her energy, as she has had big sneakers to fill. Jean has a wonderful sense of humor and a clear understanding of what this building should be used for. The primary goal is to service our seniors and secondly, find a way that helps them connect to their community. For her, that is the “community” in the Senior Community Center.
The City Council is currently looking at establishing a policy for the use of the center. Recently, I attended a city council committee meeting on that very issue. I want to publically thank Councilor at Large, David D’Arcangelo for giving me a chance to speak. My goal was not only to make the council aware of our contribution to this “jewel of a building”, but how important it was, that we help fulfill its mission of connecting to the community. I wanted them to know that MATV, Malden’s Media Center could be a partner in setting those goals and through our dedicated group of volunteers, we could make it happen.
When I became the new E.D of MATV, I committed myself to the notion that our media center would become a leader in advancing media education and connecting our community. I believe, over the last 6 years, we have established ourselves as that very institution…that resource that everyone knows is inviting, invigorating and brings people together.
I asked the city councilors to think about our offer. While it’s important to set a policy that protects the Senior Community Center, insists on the proper insurance of interested parties, and makes people clean up after themselves, it is equally vital that they consider the purpose of a “Senior Community” Center. A beautiful building such as the one created in the heart of Malden Square should be open and accessible to not only our well deserved seniors, but a place that encourages them to plug in and be part of that community. Interaction brings connection and a life full of purpose.
We need our seniors and they need our connection. I ask that you to support MATV’s mission of supporting community with our involvement and our offer to collaborate with the Senior Community Center in overseeing its function and helping implement its goals. Call your Councilor today and let them know, you like our idea and would join us in keeping the “community” in the Senior Community Center.