Mattahunt Center re-opens with wide array of activities

By 
Alex Owens, Special to the Reporter
Oct. 19, 2011

Mattahunt Center: Cheerleaders from Mattapan Pop Warner helped celebrate the center's re-opening last week. Photo by Alex OwensMattahunt Center: Cheerleaders from Mattapan Pop Warner helped celebrate the center's re-opening last week. Photo by Alex OwensThe grand re-opening of the Mattahunt Community Center was celebrated last Thursday, capping off an unprecedented transition from city-run facility to a center privately managed by Wheelock College that could serve as a model for future community centers across Boston.

Guests were invited to explore some of the programming to be offered at the center, which closed abruptly due to city budget cuts in spring 2010. The various athletic organizations affiliated with the Mattahunt-Wheelock Partnership held clinics for younger visitors while parents had the chance to talk with several groups about the upcoming services to be provided at the Mattahunt.

“Wheelock College has done an exceptional job here. It's like a rebirth, but the work is just beginning,” said State Rep. Linda Forry. “It's good that we are thinking creatively and are able to provide this excellent resource to our community as Mattapan continues to improve.”

Thursday's spirited celebration was a far cry from the state of the center only a year ago. Along with seven other community centers around the city, the Mattahunt faced the loss of its staff with the release of the city's 2011 budget, effectively closing the center, save for a few small services offered by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. City officials engineered a partnership with Wheelock College to revamp the community center and offer new programming. With the financial backing of groups such as the United Way and the Boston Foundation, Wheelock will now take charge of the Mattahunt's programming for the next four years, while the city of Boston maintains ownership of the building itself.

Renovations began at the adjacent Mattahunt Elementary School over the summer, resulting in various upgrades to the complex's infrastructure, including the reopening of the facility's unused pool and the creation of a brand new computer access area. Volunteers with the Boston Celtics and City Year also made multiple appearances in late September and early October, donating computers, cleaning the library and outdoor areas, and repainting different spaces of the center, adding a brand new mural in the community room, to boot. Despite the renovations, Mattahunt staffers began an outdoors program and youth advocacy seminar during the summer, which will continue through the end of the year.

“Just look at this transformation! This shows that when we get everyone involved we can all prosper,” said local resident Bobby Jenkins, who is well known for his involvement around various projects in Mattapan, including volunteer service and planning at the Mattahunt. “The Mattahunt Wheelock partnership should be used as blueprint for other community centers,” he added.

In addition to activities organized by Wheelock staff, several partner organizations are offering new programs at the Mattahunt, such as the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, which is planning to offer yoga classes and nutrition education, or Sylvan Learning Center, which will be offering free reading and math tutoring. Several youth sports programs will be offered through partners, due to the high demand found during Wheelock's engagement process with Mattapan Residents. Adults are also accommodated in the Mattahunt plans. English for speakers of Other Language classes, young professional seminars and workshops will also be offered.

“This place is so much more bright and alive than when we started,” said Marta Rosa, Wheelock's co-chair of the Mattahunt Community Planning Committee. “But we are not through yet. It's important that we continue our outreach,” According to organizers, creating more partnerships and fund raising will be the goals for the immediate future.

The Mattahunt Community Center is open to the public Monday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and offers a variety of annual membership levels, including a family rate for just $25 and a $5 youth aquatics card. For more information, contact the Mattahunt Community Center at 617-635-5159 or visit the website at wheelock.edu/mattahunt