Lena Park cutting programs, may close headquarters

To help cut costs in a worsening economy, Lena Park Community Development Corporation (CDC) told parents last week that it will eliminate its popular daycare and after school programs at its building on American Legion Highway. Asked if the rest of the building might close, interim director Ronald Jones said it hasn't been decided yet, but he didn't rule it out.

In a phone interview Monday, Jones cited rising energy and maintenance costs on the building, rising healthcare costs and contractor's rates, and a shrinking flow of donations.

"We have to find a way that Lena Park will be here in the future," said Jones. "We can't continue to heat and maintain the entire building. We're evaluating every square foot in the building and how we can use it."

The problems are particularly striking given Lena Park's partnership role in the sprawling Olmsted Green housing development with a private developer, the New Boston Fund.

A handful of other organizations showed up at a parents meeting on Thursday to help parents find open daycare slots for their children elsewhere. Lena Park will cease to run the two programs on Nov. 10, just a week and two days after most parents were told of the closure.

"I think they should have told us before," said one parent walking out of Thursday's parent meeting at the CDC, identifying herself only as Tanya. "He said he'd find another program opening, I don't think no kids will be left behind."

According to Jones, another daycare nearby on Harvard Street, called Children's World, also closed down in September.

There have also been a series of leadership changes at the Lena Park. Lorraine Baugh, director of the CDC, was asked to resign and did on Oct. 24. Theodore Fleming, former chair of the board of directors, left last year on Nov. 13, and David Wright, director of the Black Ministerial Alliance, took over.

Baugh was taken by surprise by the resignation request, but did not question the board's decision publicly. Fleming was instrumental in guiding the board into their partnership with New Boston on Olmsted Green but decided to scale back his involvement after a move to Connecticut, according to his wife.

The large building at 150 American Legion Highway was first bought by Lena Park from the YMHA-Hecht House in the summer of 1970, well after several Hasidic and Jewish congregations had relocated to Brookline - taking the area's Jewish population with them.