Lexington Reads 2014!


Reads 2


Community Book

Community Book

2014 is a Year of Discovery at Cary Memorial Library, and so our Lexington Reads theme is Digital Me, an exploration of how science and technology affects our daily lives. In keeping with this theme, our Lexington Reads book  is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better by Clive Thompson.


In Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson explores how the explosion of technology available to the average person is forcing us to adapt and change our behavior.  Featuring both experts and everyday people using these tools in new and unexpected ways, Thompson shows how humans are using technology to create real change. Whether it is students using technology to protest a factory spewing dangerous chemicals or a group of gamers collectively solving a problem that puzzled HIV researchers for a decade, Thompson demonstrates that great opportunities arise from the digital world. Along the way, he stressed the importance of keeping the best of our old ways of life while embracing the new tech that allows for such collaboration and communication.

Throughout the month of March, Cary Library will host a variety of programs focused on the ways technology has become created a “Digital Me.” As 2014 continues, we will continue to explore issues related to science and technology as part of our Year of Discovery. Please watch the library calendar and local media for more information. Please join us!

Stop by or call Cary  Library (781-862-6288 x250) to pick up or reserve a copy of Smarter Than You Think.




Author, Clive Thompson

Author, Clive Thompson

Sunday, March 9th at 3pm
An Afternoon with Clive Thompson
Battin Hall in the Cary Building,
1605 Massachusetts Ave.

Author Clive Thompson will discuss how technology is making us smarter, empowering people across the globe, and solving seemingly impossible problems. With a growing number of smart phone users, almost everyone has a computer and a camera accessible at all times. How we use these tools can and should combine the best of the old way of life and the vast opportunities presented by technology.  In this discussion, Clive Thompson will explore the many positive ways technology is changing our lives and impacting the world around us.
Clive Thompson is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Smithsonian, and a columnist for Wired. He has also maintained a science-and-technology blog, Collision Detection, since 2002 and speaks frequently on topics relating to the evolution and everyday use of technology.
Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think is this year’s Lexington Reads Community Book. Library copies of Smarter Than You Think may be reserved online or by calling 781-862-6288 ext 250. Copies of Smarter Than You Think will also be available for purchase and signing at the lecture. No registration necessary.



Saturday, March 1, 1-4PM   |   Cary Large Meeting Room

Explore the technological wonders of the past at our Retro Technology Fair! Technology isn’t only social media and big data—it is also rotary phones and manual typewriters! Everyday objects and iconic inventions will demonstrate how people entertained themselves and communicated before smart phones and streaming video. Bring the whole family and learn about the evolution of technology. Some objects may be available for hands-on demonstrations.




Wednesday, March 12
Cary Commons

Sick of the apps you always use? Looking for something new and fresh? Join us at Appy Hour and learn about the best apps for travel, photography, art, gaming, and more. This will be a social, interactive event, so bring your tablet or smartphone and be ready to discuss with your neighbors. Wi-fi is available throughout the library. No registration required




Garry Golden

Futurist, Garry Golden


Garry Golden
Sunday, March 31
Cary Hall | 3PM
What is the Future?

Join futurist Garry Golden as we look ahead to what the future holds for our digital selves. Technology changes so quickly—how can we adapt and change to integrate these technologies into our daily lives? Garry Golden will discuss how privacy, measurements of intelligence, and our relationship to our physical world might change. Golden is an academically trained futurist who speaks and consults on issues facing 21st century society, including those issues facing libraries. A short question and answer session will follow Garry Golden’s talk. No registration necessary.






Blogger, Author and Librarian, Jessamyn West

Blogger, Author and Librarian, Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West
Saturday, March 22
Cary Large Meeting Room
10:00 AM-Noon
All About Blogging Brunch

Join members of the Friends of the Library as they host this annual event! The All About Blogging Brunch gives blog lovers and computer rookies alike an opportunity to discuss the world of blogging while eating brunch. This year’s special guest is Jessamyn West, an author, librarian, and community manager of MetaFilter.com. Jessamyn West lives in Central Vermont, where she works with small libraries with technology planning and implementation. She has maintained professional and personal blogs at librarian.net and jessamyn.com for over a decade, and speaks nationally on digital divide issues. We hope that all community members interested in communication and social issues attend; use of blogs is not required. Attendance is limited. Advance registration required.





Monday – Friday
4-5 pm in the
Cary Large Meeting Room

  • Monday, March 3
  • Word Processing
  • Tuesday, March 4
  • Websites you should know about
  • Wednesday, March 5
  • Facebook
  • Thursday, March 6Skype
  • Friday, March 7
  • iPhone and iPad/iOS7*

Lexington’s tech savvy teens will demonstrate how they use technology to keep in touch with friends and family, share photos and videos, and navigate the online world.  Each day teens will explain a new topic.

No experience is necessary. *You may bring your iPad or iPhone if you have one.

Teen Tech Seminars are presented by the Cary Memorial Library Teen Advisory Board. Please register for each day you wish to attend. Register by calling Cary Library at 781-862-6288 ext 250 or stopping at the reference desk.



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LHS Students Recognized in Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards

Forty Nine students from the Lexington Public Schools were recognized for their artistic excellence in the 2014 Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards.

Student artwork from grades 7-12 were selected by their schools, and many received Honorable Mentions, Silver Keys or Gold Keys. Of the 49 students whose works were selected, 29 Honorable Mentions, 9 Silver Keys and 20 Gold Keys were awarded. Gold Key Winners will be on display at Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014.

Following the close of the Massachusetts Regional exhibit, the selected Gold Key award winners from each national region will have their art works reviewed by a blue ribbon panel of judges at the National level in March. The National Jury will select “Gold Medal” National winners and call in their artwork to be exhibited in New York City during June. The National student awards ceremony will be held at Carnegie Hall in mid- June. Selected students will receive an invitation to this National event.

Raindrops-Emma Kaftan-Luckerman, grade 12

Emma Kaftan-Luckerman
Grade 12

A Meaningful Embrace_Colby Yee, grade 12, Gold Key

A Meaningful Embrace
Colby Yee
Grade 12


Convex Concave-  Elana Super, grade 12

Convex Concave
Elana Super
Grade 12

 Gold Key Winners will be on display at

Boston’s City Hall March 7 – March 30, 2014

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Saying Goodbye to Estabrook School

Principals 2

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

Estabrook Alumnus John Murphy

By Laurie Atwater

The mood was nostalgic as alumni and families took one last opportunity to stroll the halls of Estabrook School before its official closing on February 14th. The new building, which will open to students on February 24, is just a building, waiting for the memories of generations to come. The old Estabrook almost burst with the energy of 52 years’ of memories on Friday night as alumni, students, parents, teachers and friends reminisced and said goodbye.

Greeted by Principal Sandy Strach, folks grabbed from an abundant supply of Sharpies and searched for the perfect spot to sign their names. Was it the Library, the front office, the entrance of a very special classroom where they would leave their final tribute? According to principal Strach, it has been a “very sentimental time” for her and her fellow educators and administrators. “People have come from all over to say goodbye,” Strach said. “Alumni, teachers—it has been a multi-generational event with families that have attended the school for decades.” Indeed, the 52 year old structure has seen a lot of history.

Visitor and alumnus John Murphy who attended Estabrook from 1966-1971 recalled the day when his older brother along with all the other children were called into the auditorium and informed that President Kennedy had been assassinated. In fact, Murphy had memories every time he turned a corner and wistfully recalled that they were allowed to ride their bikes to school when he attended Estabrook. Estabrook has also become much more diverse over its 52 years. In his tribute next to the door to his 2nd grade classroom, Murphy scrawled a reference to how his class had voted for Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon in 1968.

Parents from many different cultures walked the halls with their children and took pictures. Fifth grade student Nicholas Tringale who is currently in Miss Silberman’s class and will transition to the new school, signed the wall with his mom Beverly who attended Estabrook from 1969-1975. Nicholas has mixed feelings about leaving his old school and his shiny green lockers! Nicholas will be happy to hear that all of the usable items from Estabrook will be re-purposed around the district where they are needed including the lockers. Several items will be contributed to the Lexington Historical Society: mid-century modern chairs and the original sign. Unfortunately, the much-loved mural was not able to be preserved, but it was photographed professionally and that photograph will be lovingly displayed as part of a special exhibit in the new school.

Back in the lobby, Principal Strach greeted family after family and at one point has a circle of Estabrook teachers around her with over 100 years in combined teaching time! Susan Orenstein taught Kindergarten, Elaine Hooper taught both 2nd and 3rd grade, Joan Pirrello taught grade 3 and Renée Sack taught 4th and 5th grade. Among them Len Swanton who went on to work with Carol Pilarski (who also attended) in the main office and has “great memories of this school.”

Principal Strach was not surprised by the outpouring of love for the school. “It doesn’t matter what decade they attended,” she said, “the ‘intangible’ at Estabrook is how much they were loved.” She describes it as “love balanced with progressive learning.” That is the quality that she is determined to foster in the new school as well. Principal Strach is excited that the new building is full of community spaces. “We’ve kept that as a priority.”

Strach is inspired by the rich history of Estabrook School and referred me to her speech at the groundbreaking for a little Estabrook education which I will share with you here:

Fifty-one years ago, when Estabrook School first opened its doors, it was famously known as the first team teaching school in the nation. For decades thereafter, professionals in education, research and architecture traveled worldwide to see the renowned Estabrook School in action. The school’s

progressive instructional vision, inspired by Harvard University and Lexington educators, was

complemented by an open and flexible architectural design. Cooperative learning, flexible multi-age learning groups and teacher leadership were the instructional cornerstones of the 1961 Estabrook School. These advanced best practices were not readily apparent in mainstream education until the 1990’s.


Excerpted from Principal Sandy Strach’s speech at the groundbreaking for the new Estabrook school


According to Strach the new school is designed to push the progressive learning model into the future while maintaining the vision of the past. The building itself will become a teaching tool as a LEED Silver building, it will be a living example to the students of environmental responsibility and stewardship. From the sustainable gardening practices and ecology education through the Big Backyard to a LEEDS Silver Curriculum created around the question: What makes Estabrook a green school?, Strach hopes to send informed citizens into the world. “By the time they graduate,” she says, “they will appreciate the evolution of ‘Green’ and can take it forward into the world.”

It’s part of what makes Estabrook such a special place Strach said—the “ecology” of the school where one person effects the other—the school itself is a metaphor for the community it holds so dear.


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DCU Donation to Aid Literacy Programs at Cary


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Sister City Fundraiser – French A Faire!


French A Faire
 FA_14Lexingtonians turned out to attend the fifth annual A French A Faire at the Lexington Depot building. Featuring French entertainment, wine, cheese, pâté, bread, chocolate and other tastings, French A Faire celebrates Lexington’s sister city relationship with Antony France.
The Tourism Committee is the official sponsor of the event as a part of LASCA (Lexington-Antony Sister City Association). This year Dawn McKenna and Kerry Brandin of the Tourism committee appointed Maureen Poole and Sandra Gasbarro to chair French A Faire. With about twelve volunteers, they pulled together another successful celebration!A French A Faire features a lively auction called by Paul O’Shaughnessy. This year the proceeds from the auction will be directed toward the completion of Antony Park on Massachusetts Avenue.The auction theme was “A Date with…” and featured special hosted experiences donated by Peter Kelley, The Liberty Ride, French Consul Fabien Fieschi, Heather Campion and Dan Fenn, Trisha Perez Kennealy, Brenda Nishimura, Paul O’Shaughnessy and Bill Poole, Tony Galaitsis, Chef Raymond Ost of Sandrine’s Bistro, and artist Dominique Boutaud.Attendees were pleased to greet Fabien Fieschi, the Consul General of France, Swiss Consul Dr. Felix Moesner and Haitian Consul Minister Marjorie Alexandre Brunahe.Lexington’s relationship with Antony, France dates back over 30 years and includes the Minute Men, artist community, school exchanges, and many friendships. Many Lexingtonians have traveled to Antony to enjoy the annual Wine and Cheese Festival there and Antonians have enjoyed Lexington hospitality most recently during the 300th celebration.To learn more about becoming a part of LASCA, visit the Town of Lexington Tourism Committee on the town website.


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Big Lex a BIG success!

By Mollie Garberg


Big LexThe fast falling snow over the Martin Luther King weekend didn’t phase Nikhil Basutkar, one of the 1073 debaters who had come from across the country for the Lexington Winter Invitational Debate Tournament or ‘Big Lex’ hosted by the Lexington Debate Team. Instead, he posted a picture of himself standing in it on Twitter captioned “Debating in the snow. #BigLex #Boston #PFD”

PFD refers to public forum debate, one of the three types of debates held at the tournament. Students at the tournament were prepared for Lincoln-Douglas and policy debates as well. Though none of the Lexington debaters competed, they spent countless hours organizing and volunteering as hosts to pull off the event which is their largest fundraiser of the year. Lexington parent volunteers pitched in too, doing everything from acting as greeters to cooking for the judges to housing 350 visiting debaters.

Visiting coaches and judges stayed at local hotels, and Whitson’s, the food service provider for the Lexington Public Schools, catered the event and provided nutritious meals for all the participants. Event Chairs Jean Birnberg and Sue Wilner said that local businesses were especially helpful and donated food, beverages and other services to help make the event successful. Some of the businesses that contributed were Wilson Farms, Taipei Gourmet, Prime Roast Beef, Royal India Bistro, Lexx, Neillios, Ruyi Restaurant, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.

But the event was more than just a fundraiser for the team. Debate benefits Lexington students in many ways according to Sara Sanchez, Lexington high school’s debate teacher and program head. “Our society has a long history of celebrating great oratory and the presentation of ideas, which debate teaches kids to activate. Tournaments and competition provide a unique cumulative education experience that cannot be duplicated by tests/activities in the classroom. On an interpersonal level, it allows kids to challenge themselves academically in an innovative, head to head competition where their arguments are heard, evaluated and taken seriously by adults and educators who dedicate time to give them personalized feedback,” says Sanchez.

If you’d like to learn more and help support Lexington Debate, go www.lexdebate.org for more information.


Mollie Garberg is a Lexington resident, debate parent and volunteer.



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Making History, Shaping Tomorrow


Alan and Gail Fields

Alan and Gail Fields

Library Enthusiasts Alan and Gail Fields Give Back


By Jeri Zeder

As a boy living in Brooklyn, New York, before the era of television, Alan Fields remembers visiting the Kings Highway Library with his mother every week and borrowing six books at a time. “The library was the first place we were entertained and educated. Even in high school, we would go to the library to get information to write book reports and papers,” he says.

Growing up in Williamston, North Carolina, Gail Fields also has fond memories of reading all the time in a home without television. But in the 1950s and 1960s, her small town of fewer than 6,000 residents was part of a segregated and reluctantly changing South. When faced with the prospect of integrating Williamston’s public library, town leaders decided to shut it down. Gail’s mother, Sylvia Levy Margolis, was the chair of the library’s board of directors. “It was my mother who worked and worked to make sure it became an integrated library,” Gail says.

“It was a ‘Profiles-in-Courage,’” Alan says.

“It really was,” Gail agrees. “I look back now and think she really put herself in a very dangerous position.”

On a trip back to Williamston recently, Alan and Gail visited the little town library, which has now become a vibrant resource for the entire community.

With their palpable affection for public libraries, and their appreciation for the community support that libraries depend on, Alan and Gail have become members of the Maria Hastings Cary Legacy Society, an initiative of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation. The Legacy Society recognizes donors who have provided for Cary Library in their estate plans. Alan and Gail joined the Legacy Society last year, when they named the Library Foundation as a beneficiary of their IRA—a quick and simple way to establish a planned gift to Lexington’s library.

“I think a lot of us do our estate planning early on, and then maybe do a little bit of adjusting. I’ve noticed as I’ve talked to people our age how many seem to be reworking things at this point. We decided this was a good opportunity to say, ‘Let’s let the library be part of our legacy,’” says Gail, who serves on the Planned Giving Committee of the Library Foundation.

Leaving an inheritance to their children is their first priority, but, Gail says, “I think that sitting on that committee got Alan and me thinking about our estate planning and how important it would be to think about the institutions that really mean a lot to us.”

Alan, an investment manager by profession, is a long-time member of Lexington’s Trustees of the Public Trusts, and serves as their chair. As a trustee, one of his responsibilities has been to manage Cary Library’s endowment. When it became clear in the late 1990s that the library building needed renovation, Alan was part of the initial group that established the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, as a fundraising entity. Gail joined the Building Campaign’s Steering Committee. The campaign raised $4.2 million of the $15 million renovation costs from generous Lexington citizens and businesses. When the building reopened in 2004, the Foundation transitioned to annual fundraising, a transition that Gail and Alan helped to shepherd as members of the Foundation’s board.

Voracious readers—books can be found in every room of their house, with stacks of them cued up on their family room coffee table (“I’m always about four books behind,” Alan confides)—Gail counts To Kill a Mockingbird as one of her most beloved books, while Alan cites the authors Herman Wouk and David McCulloch. They both love reading history and historical fiction.

Alan and Gail met when she was a student at Duke University, and Alan was living in the area as a young graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We ran into each other on the streets of Chapel Hill and had one of those what are you doing this summer conversations,” Gail recalls. She was looking for a summer job at the time and was planning on attending a conference in Pennsylvania. “And the next thing I knew, Alan had arranged for me to have a ride to the conference with him and a friend of my family’s. And then he had gotten a summer job for me. And then he sort of planned my life from there on,” she says, smiling.

After Gail graduated from Duke, they married. She taught high school English at Durham High School while Alan got his MBA at UNC.

The world has certainly changed from those earlier times. From card catalogues to microfiche to digital resources, Alan and Gail have been witnesses to, and agents for, change in the world of public libraries. Public libraries today are still important repositories of books. But they are also—and here is where Cary Library shines—institutions that do so much more. They make the indispensable internet available to all. They offer access, for free, to targeted, tailored, reputable information that’s otherwise paywalled and unavailable through Google. They provide bespoke reference services remotely as well as on-site. They bring communities together through imaginative programming and opportunities to create and learn. They broaden our cultural horizons. And they teach us how to navigate bewildering new technologies.

“Gifts like the Fields’ will make something possible for Cary Library at some moment down the road. With the way libraries are evolving, it may even be something that we can’t fully imagine today,” says Cary Library Director Koren Stembridge. “Alan and Gail’s gift speaks to their faith that Cary Library will continue to be essential to the intellectual, creative, and social life of Lexington. I am reminded of the wording of Mrs. Cary’s original gift to the town, ‘having regard for her native place and being prompted by a desire to increase the opportunities for culture among its inhabitants.’ The Fields’ gift reflects this spirit perfectly.”

Gail knows first-hand how Cary Library makes a difference, even to the point of changing lives. When she returned to graduate school in 1979 to become a social worker, just a few years after they had moved to Lexington, she relied on Cary Library for her studies and research. After graduation, she worked for Concord Family Services for twenty-two years, advancing from intern to executive director of the agency. “It was such a perfect fit,” she says.

Alan, meanwhile, has used his skills as an investment manager to found or further some of Lexington’s most beloved institutions, including, besides Cary Library, the Hayden Center and the Lexington Education Foundation. “I guess I basically have an entrepreneurial bent, and I extended that to organizations that I’ve been involved in,” Alan says. “I’ve used my skill set to really give back in a way that was easy for me to do.”

“One of the things that we feel very proud of is that our children have picked up on this idea of giving back,” Gail says. Their daughter Jacquelyn is active in her children’s schools, and their son Michael helped establish “Most Valuable Kids,” an organization that distributes unused sports-events tickets to underprivileged children.

“I grew up in a family where the dining room table was always covered with envelopes,” Gail says. “My mother was on every committee that there was. She was designated by the governor as a humanities awardee.”

Gail and Alan continue carrying these lessons forward by giving back to Lexington and to other communities that have touched their lives. Legacies, indeed.

Cary Library. Photo by Peter Lewitt.

Cary Library. Photo by Peter Lewitt.

Willing a Thoughtful Future
Legacy giving to Cary Library is a wonderful way to share your good fortune, fulfill your philanthropic goals, and enrich the life and culture of all the people of Lexington. Contact Kat Macdonald at the Cary Memorial Library Foundation, 781-862-6288 extension 322, or cmlfoundation@carylibrary.org, to find out how you can leave a legacy gift through your will, IRA/retirement accounts, life insurance, or donor-advised fund. Or ask about establishing a charitable gift annuity to benefit Cary Library.

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As We Close out 2013…

Jim Shaw, Publisher

Jim Shaw, Publisher

A Message from the Publisher

I guess it’s the curse of getting older— you look back and wonder, where did the time go? It seems that way for me as I think about 2013. I’m still waiting for summer to arrive and the first snow of the season has already fallen.

Like every year,2013 brought a variety of good news and bad news, reasons to celebrate and cause for concern. On a positive note, the Red Sox won another World Series. It’s funny, but since they won in 2003 and 2007, we kind of expect it now. This year’s win was memorable because they won here at Fenway Park. That win, helped to take the focus off the infamous event that changed the way we look at the Boston Marathon. The bombing at this year’s Boston Marathon changed countless lives. To say it was tragic is an understatement. But, it showcased what a community can do in the face of an unspeakable inhumane act —rally together to support the victims and their families, and come together to heal emotional wounds.

On a local level, Lexington celebrated its 300th anniversary in grand style. From the opening ceremonies to the Old-Time Baseball game, I’m hard-pressed to recall an occasion where so many people came together, from so many walks of life, for the common purpose of sharing an experience. The organizers did an extraordinary job. I’m playing with fire here because so many people contributed in so many profound ways. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the hard work and dedication of committee chair Sue Rockwell, and event co-chairs Jessie Steigerwald and Tanya Morrisett. Thank you for your dedication.

In July, I was installed as president of the Rotary Club of Lexington. It has been an honor and privilege to be a part of an organization that has served this community so profoundly since being established in 1929.Organizations like the Rotary Club and the Lexington Lions Club serve a vital purpose and I’d like to encourage everyone in the community to consider joining one of these organizations, or some other similar service group. So many things contribute to vibrant community, and volunteerism is among the most important components.

As we close out 2013, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has helped to make the Colonial Times Magazine such a special publication. The writers, the community leaders, the organizations that send us information, and of course, our advertisers. I personally want to thank my wife and our editor Laurie Atwater for her dedication and professionalism. Her vision and leadership has changed this publication in immeasurable ways. Likewise, the talent and dedication of Heather Aveson has made our work a little easier and even more enjoyable. Thank you Heather.

As you know, our publication is mailed each month free of charge. This is only possible because of the support we receive from our advertisers. We can’t thank them enough, and we encourage you to support these advertisers every chance you get. And, please let them know that you saw their ad in the Colonial Times.

Finally, Laurie and I want to say good-bye to our dear friend Patti Lynah, who lost a courageous battle with cancer. Patti owned and operated Mother Earth in Lexington Center for years. She was a special person who made it a personal mission to bring joy to others, and she did. We will miss her dearly.

Thank you for reading the Colonial Times.

We wish you a Happy New Year!


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Homeless for the Holidays

By Laurie Atwater 

For many families homelessness this holiday season is a fact of life. This past summer, the great recession continued to take a toll on the very poor. Many lost federal and state housing subsidies as well as their jobs.

This past summer, the state of Massachusetts experienced a jump in requests for emergency housing assistance from around 1200 families to over 2000 at the peak of the summer. To meet the need, the state has increased its use of hotels and motels to handle the demand. This, despite the millions that the Patrick administration has directed at homelessness prevention—mostly subsidies in the form of rental vouchers—to help families remain in their housing situations and prevent the cycle of homelessness.

HomeBASE (Building Alternatives to Shelter) is one of the programs administered by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) designed to help those eligible for the state’s Emergency Assistance (EA) stabilize their housing situation. The program offers rental assistance and other housing related assistance and was so popular that the funds for this year (more than $80 million) ran out early. With a shortage of shelter options, families began to once again be placed by the state into hotels and motels in communities all around the Commonwealth. Additionally, HomeBASE is a time-limited (2 year) program and is scheduled to be phased out this June. Many families are beginning to cycle out of the program and are once again without adequate funds for housing. Homeless advocates worry that the numbers of homeless will continue to grow as this program phases out.

Those who find themselves housed in a motel, are forced to accept shelter that can be far away from where they originally lived. This creates major disruption for the children—who often shift schools—and hardship for the parents who may lose their jobs when move too far away. Families land in unfamiliar communities and in locations that are not easy to manage without a car. They become isolated and have no social support.

This practice is also challenging for the towns where the motels are located. By law—the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act of 2001—the communities must take responsibility for moving these children into their schools—often with little or no warning to the district.

The first item in the federal law states:

Each State educational agency shall ensure that each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth has equal access to the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.

The community is also responsible for transporting the children to school and in some cases that means transporting them back to their original community. While these transportation costs are shared between the two communities, and ultimately reimbursed by the state, the town must cover the costs until the reimbursement is dispersed.

The state pays a little over $80 a day for a motel room under contract for this purpose. It would be far cheaper to provide rental assistance if affordable units were available, but the statewide shortage of affordable housing continues despite progress with the 40B developments and other programs.

In October the Massachusetts House and Senate approved a supplemental to the budget that includes $13million in additional funding for sheltering in hotels and motels. Lawmakers and advocates alike are frustrated with the seemingly little progress being made against the homelessness issue in the state and promise to seek more long term solutions in FY14.

Case workers from the agencies administering the HomeBASE funds work with homeless families in the motels to help them find a more permanent housing solution. Many families are in need of help with acquiring English language skills to become more employable and general assistance like SNAP funds for food.

In Lexington, the Quality Inn is housing a number of homeless families. The exact number is uncertain, but according to a report prepared for the school committee by Valerie Viscosi, K-12 Director of Guidance and Tessa Riley, K-12 Assistant Director of Guidance, “In Lexington the majority of our current homeless families are living in a local hotel.” The report was presented at the November 19th School Committee meeting by Viscosi who advocated for a .5 Social Worker to handle the “significant amount of case management” involved in dealing with the “families that have joined our community.” Most of the students residing at the Quality Inn are attending Estabrook and they propose that the social worker use that school as home base.

The memorandum states:

As of the date of this memorandum, there are 25 families identified as homeless living in Lexington. Among those families, there are 26 school-aged children. Sixteen of the children attend their “school of origin” in another community, while 10 attend a Lexington Public School. Of those children who are attending the Lexington Public Schools, 7 attend elementary schools, 1 attends middle school, and 2 attend high school. Many of the families also have younger children. There are reportedly 28 children under the age of 5.

Presenting to the school committee Viscosi discussed the complexity of the different family situations, the need for a wide array of services from Free School lunch to health care and educational interventions such as English Language Learner assistance. She also described the difficulty of navigating the state systems and locating the appropriate agencies to deal with regarding the care of the students in their charge. And she noted that these students are truly in the charge of the Lexington Public Schools—by law.

Currently guidance staff has been stretched thin trying to assess each child and develop an appropriate plan for intervention. Having the part-time social worker would alleviate the stress on the schools and help to further develop protocols, procedures and policies moving forward.

These students could be in Lexington anywhere from 6 months to a year. Families must try to create a life for their children within the four walls of a motel room. It is a situation that is almost untenable for these families who cannot prepare healthy meals, get outside or even get to their children’s teacher conferences. Still, it is better than being without shelter in the middle of winter.

Concerned Lexingtonians have begun to rally around the children attending school in Lexington and their families. Church groups and the PTSAs are organizing for action. The Lexington Human Services Department headed by Charlotte Rodgers is stepping up to help.

This story is just beginning to develop in Lexington. Ashley Rooney has been following the issue of homelessness and wanted to hear the story from the perspective of one of the residents at the Quality Inn. What follows is an account of Ashley’s visit with Osamah Salman, his wife Maha and their four children.


Osamah Salman and his wife Maha. and their four children: (from right to left) Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah.  The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

Osamah Salman and his wife Maha. and their four children: (from right to left) Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah. The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

Hoping for a Better Future

By E. Ashley Rooney

Photo by Peter Lund


My curiosity overwhelmed me! I knew homeless people supported by state social services were living in the Quality Inn in Lexington, but I didn’t see much happening around town to support them. Nor did I see people hanging out around the inn. What was going on? I had heard many stories about the “motel people” in Bedford and the community providing them with healthy food and services, but nowhere in my travels around town did I hear about the motel folks in Lexington.

So I went to the bustling food pantry at the Church of Our Redeemer and met Osamah Salman and his friend Ali Ai, who are from Jordan. The next day, I went to the Quality Inn on Bedford Street to meet Osamah and his wife Maha. They have four children: Muntedar, age 10; third-grade twin daughters, Hawraa and Zahraa, and 2 ½ year old Hasah. The school aged children attend Estabrook School in Lexington.

The six members of Osamah’s family have lived in two small motel rooms for over a year. They cook, sleep, bathe, play, and do their homework in these two rooms; they are not supposed to loiter outside. Every morning, the children go off to school at Estabrook and the parents attend English classes at Middlesex Community College.

When I went to see them, the twin girls waved shyly from their bedroom door. Preschooler Hasah came out smiling happily and followed me into his parents’ room. Pumpkins sat on the window sill and a Unicef box was sitting on the telephone. Leaning against one bed was a bicycle—their only means of transportation other than the bus. Across from the bike stood the motel mini-refrigerator and a small microwave oven—the kitchen.

They all said they wanted out of the motel and into a home. Nine year-old Hawraa said, “We want a kitchen and a room for the family.” Muntedar and Zahraa added that they wanted a back yard. Their parents echoed the need. Their mother said living in the motel was like living in a cage–one they don’t often escape.

In 1989, Osamah and Maha left Southern Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime. They went to Jordan, where they had their children. Osamah did stonework in the construction industry; Maha was a busy housewife with four children. Although he had a good job there they felt that their future was limited because of their Iraqi background. They were not accepted.

They wanted to live in a democratic country. Osamah said, “We wanted freedom.” On July 5, 2012, they immigrated to America. They began their life here the day after our Independence Day. Osamah quickly realized that with “zero language skills” finding work would be difficult.

Like many of our forebears, they came here for the American dream. Fulfilling that dream has been very challenging, but they persist. The Department of Social Services sent them to a shelter and told them to get a job, but the language barrier proved too difficult—Osamah couldn’t understand the application or respond well to the interviewer. His first priority is to learn English and he is studying hard. I mentioned that they might want a tutor and they lit up.

Meanwhile, Osamah wants to work. He is looking for part-time labor during the college breaks and on weekends. He will shovel snow, build a fireplace or clean a basement … whatever it takes to make his way in this country.


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Turkey~The Truly American Bird

HeaderIntroBy Digney Fignus

Everybody knows the legend about how Thanksgiving came to be. However, the actual first Thanksgiving was somewhat different from the version I learned in school. Although there had been numerous celebrations of “thanks” in Colonial America, Thanksgiving has only been an official national holiday since 1863. It was during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln set aside the fourth Thursday of November and declared it a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

While Virginia claims an earlier similar event, the commonly recognized first American “Thanksgiving” took place in 1621 at Plimoth Plantation when Puritan Governor Bradford and about 53 Pilgrims got together with 90 Wampanoag Indians, including the tribe’s legendary king Massasoit (for whom Massachusetts is named).< br >
The feast sealed an alliance between the two groups and celebrated the colonists’ first harvest in the New World. Venison rather than turkey was the main course. Warriors from the tribe brought five fresh killed deer to the feast. Rather than a few hours, this harvest bash lasted for three days. Although no specific date has been established, it was probably held sometime in October. Surprisingly, despite abundant wild turkeys available to hunt there is a controversy as to whether they were on the initial bill o’ fare. Apparently the partying Pilgrims preferred duck and goose to the wily gobbler, a bird that was coveted more for its feathers than its taste by the Native Americans, who considered it “starvation food.”

Our domestic turkey is hardly the same as the wild turkey that was indigenous to New England when the Pilgrims arrived. As the European invasion spread westward, it hunted the native turkey into near extinction. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the wild populations of turkeys in Massachusetts had been completely eliminated by 1851. The wild turkey might have gone the way of the carrier pigeon if it had not been for a dedicated group of turkey enthusiasts who in the last century began to reintroduce the species to areas where it had once flourished.

The turkey is a bird to be admired on many levels. There is even a story that Benjamin Franklin argued that the turkey should be our National Symbol rather than the Bald Eagle. He talks about it in a letter he sent to his daughter Sally from France on January 26, 1784: “For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this injustice, he is never in good case but like those among men who live by sharping & robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. … For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

New YorkerThe legend of Franklin and the turkey was further cemented in November 1962 when the New Yorker magazine published a cover by artist Anatole Kovarsky (left) taking Franklin’s idea a step further and depicting the Great Seal of the United States with a turkey pictured in the center.

Turkeys are fascinating in a prehistoric kind of way. Mature males are called “Toms” and display prominent red wattles and wart-like caruncles on their fleshy heads along with a long hanging “snood” that drapes over the beak. They can turn colors like a chameleon. When they are excited their heads turn blue and when they’re ready to fight their head flushes red. In addition to their prominent fan-shaped iridescent display feathers, adult males have long “beard” feathers jutting out from their chests. Juvenile males are called “Jakes” and although similar to the adults can be differentiated by their shorter beard and a tail fan that has longer feathers in the middle. The adult fan is the same length throughout. Wild turkeys can gather in huge “rafters” of up to 150 birds or strut around the woods by themselves.

Backyard Behavior
These days the suburban bird doesn’t seem too afraid of humans. I had one perched on my back wall every day for about a week a few years back and I watched a gang of eight running across the lower end of Concord Ave. just the other day. Wild turkeys are here to stay and as human interaction increases we need to know a little bit about how to deal with them. Both MassWildlife and the Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs recommend not feeding wild turkeys. Not only does it disrupt the natural order, you just might be opening Pandora’s Box. One of our mail carriers told me this cautionary tale. Thinking he was doing the right thing, he tossed a few crumbs out to a turkey that happened by his yard one day. Big mistake, “The next day there were four turkeys in the yard and the day after that there were twenty.” One turkey is cute. Twenty turkeys can be a little scary.

If you are ready to go and catch your own turkey Pilgrim-style you won’t have to rely on a handy blunderbuss. Turkey hunting has become a highly specialized affair. Considering that the wild turkey has almost reached nuisance status, it’s hard to imagine that wild turkeys were only reintroduced to Massachusetts 40 years ago. With the cooperation of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, MassWildlife trapped 37 turkeys in southwestern New York and released them in Beartown State Forest in the Berkshires in 1973. In 1978 they began to relocate birds from the initial group to other locations across the state. From there the turkey population literally exploded. Today they inhabit every mainland city and town in the Commonwealth. Currently the state’s turkey population is estimated at well over 30,000 birds. In Massachusetts the recovery has been so complete that limited hunting is allowed for this prized game-bird in the spring and fall.

Turkey Shoot

The wild turkey is considered one of the toughest birds to hunt and is highly respected by sportsmen. I got to talk to Bob, one of the hunting experts at Bass Pro Shops, the local mecca for sports hunters. I wanted to know what it would take to outfit myself for a turkey hunt. To be honest, I didn’t think turkey hunting would be such a challenge.

Group shotI’ve often seen the crazy birds brazenly stopping traffic on some of the main drags around town. I figured all I’d need was a loaf of bread and a hammer to bag my quota. Bob assured me it would be a little more complicated than that. “Their eyesight is phenomenal. There’s no rhyme or reason as to what turkeys do. The trick is just don’t move. Call them, and have them come in on a decoy. Hope they come in on your line of sight because if you have to swing your gun, you’re not going to get them.” Because turkeys roost in the trees at night Bob gave me an excellent tip: “Go out after dark and blow a crow call. The turkeys will respond to it because they don’t like crows.” Once you’ve located the general area where the turkeys are roosting you can return around dawn the next morning when they are leaving the trees to begin their activity.

So what will it cost you for a turkey hunt? Once you pay for your license and ammo you’ll need a complete camouflage outfit, along with a turkey hunting vest with a brand name like “Thunder Chicken” or “Ol’ Tom,” one of the 202 choices for a turkey caller, an optional crow call, a couple of turkey decoys, and of course a super-deluxe fully camouflaged 12 gauge Remington short barrel turkey shotgun. The total cost to get you started: $2000 – $2500. In comparison, that buys about 500lbs of store-turkey @$5.00/lb.

There is a big difference between the wild turkey and the domestic bird that has been bred for consumption. Technically it’s the same species, however wild birds are black and brown and fly, while domestic birds are typically white and nearly flightless. Wild birds are mean and lean. Domestic birds are bred to be BIG and especially to have more breast meat. And while the wild bird is cantankerous and combative, the domestic version has been engineered to be less aggressive.

Turkey FarmingKate

If you don’t have the patience for hunting and are going the more traditional route of snaring your turkey at a store, the modern chef has more choice than ever before. During the second half of the 20th century turkey farming was aggressively consolidated. Family farms began to disappear and large farm conglomerates raising over 50,000 birds at a time became the norm. Driven by profit, these huge businesses often employed inhumane practices and questionable additions of growth hormones to maximize their returns. Beginning in the 1950’s the industry also heavily marketed the modern image of Thanksgiving with the perfectly roasted turkey at its center.

Current Practices

More recently, public awareness and demand for a more natural and humanely bred bird has challenged that model with smaller high-quality operations and boutique farms that specialize in free-range and “all natural, cruelty free” birds. Rather than preparing your banquet with a frozen turkey, places like Wilson Farm and Stillman’s at the Lexington Farmer’s Market offer tasty alternatives.
Mark Silvano is the turkey buyer at Wilson Farm. They supply locals with about 2000 all natural, no antibiotic, humanely raised and processed birds every Thanksgiving. He is proud of their product: “It’s certainly not a turkey you can get anywhere else. It comes in a clear bag so you see what you’re getting.”

For years Wilson’s has been getting its “fresh not frozen” turkeys exclusively from Jaindl’s Family Farm of Orefield, PA. The farm emphasizes their turkeys are “raised on corn, wheat and soybeans in open large barns, not cages. No growth hormones, nor animal by-products or fish meal is in the feed.” Wilson’s has to place turkey orders 6 months in advance in order to meet holiday demand. Customers can reserve a bird starting in November either by phone, at the farm, or online. Mark never worries about selling out. He smiles, “If there is anything left over, there will be a big sale on turkey pot pies.”

If you prefer your turkeys raised and processed locally, Stillman’s at The Turkey Farm in Hardwick is a terrific choice. A regular at the Lexington Farmers Market, Kate Stillman has been raising turkeys for the last eight years. When she first bought the farm, turkeys were not in her game plan. “Turkeys are not as entertaining as pigs or sheep.” But the first time Kate pulled into the only gas station in her small town, “the attendant said ‘Oh, you bought the old turkey farm.’” She laughs, “I figured if everybody knew it as ‘the turkey farm’ I’d better start raising some turkeys.” She later met one of the members of the original family who had operated the farm since 1830. At that time the farm was raising more than 5000 free-range birds.

Currently Kate manages around 500 birds along with the rest of her farm animals. Remarkably, a turkey can grow from a newborn poult weighing a few ounces to a full-grown bird topping the scales at 30lbs within 6 months. Kate starts taking holiday orders beginning in August and is enthusiastic about her product. “How we raise them. That’s what makes them taste so good. That’s the biggest advantage. Even if you go to a high-end grocer, it’s not the same thing as buying a local free-range bird. The taste difference is profound.”

Personally I’m amazed at the speed with which the wild turkey has been able to reestablish itself into our local woodlands. Today they are almost as common as crows. I tip my hat to the tough and cocky symbol of our annual holiday feast.

Now if they could only learn to cross the road in the crosswalks.

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