Mattahunt Task Force begins outreach work

Wheelock College has taken its first steps in a community process that residents hope will bring extensive programming options to Mattapan’s Mattahunt Community Center, one of eight city-owned facilities targeted by city officials — who pulled their staff from the Mattahunt last spring. A new task force headed by Colorado Street civic leader Gareth Kinkead and a Wheelock College official held a brainstorming session with members of the community on Dec. 7 at the community center. A larger public meeting is set for tonight, Dec. 9.

The exercise comes after an announcement on Dec. 2 that confirmed the United Way as a partner in Wheelock’s commitment to the Mattahunt. United Way president presented a $30,000 check to begin a four-year investment in the project.

“For Wheelock to come in and do this is excellent,” said Mattapan resident Robert Jenkins, who is also a member of the Mattahunt Community Center Planning Commitee which is working with Wheelock to establish the new types of programming that will be available in the coming months. “This is a way for us to give the kids in this community hope and a positive identity.”

The new programming will run in concert with existing uses at the facility, which includes an after-school program run by the Boys and Girls Club of Boston and sports teams such as the Mattapan Patriots. The new programs will be determined through community engagement events such as Tuesday’s brainstorming session, and through interaction with the planning committee which is made up of residents, community activists and business owners.

Wheelock’s vice president, Adrian Haugabrook, identified three broad focus areas for Wheelock’s programming: academic achievement, youth leadership, and inter-generational learning.
“The things I’m hearing from members of the community support the idea of the seamlessnees of these issues, and the seamlessnees of this process,” said Haugabroook. “The Mattahunt is not just a community center, but a center of community.”

Wheelock’s involvement with the Mattahunt began after the center was put on the chopping block in the city’s fiscal year 2011 budget. The city’s Center for Youth and Familes announced that it would pull its staff from the Mattahunt along with seven other facilities earlier this year. The decision drew sharp criticism from some local residents and from City Councillor Charles Yancey, who has decried the city’s pull-out at the Mattahunt and other centers, including Dorchester’s Marshall center.