LexHAB is out front on effort to preserve affordable housing in Lexington

By Jim Shaw

Lexington has undergone many significant changes over the past few decades. Great public schools and excellent municipal management have made Lexington a very desirable community. This has led to an increase in ethnic diversity, and skyrocketing home values that no one could have predicted. While the future looks bright, the rising cost of housing in Lexington have left some with little hope of calling Lexington home. The Lexington Housing Assistance Board, or LexHAB, recognized over three decades ago that more and more families who either wanted to stay in Lexington or relocate here, were essentially being priced out of the market. Since 1984, LexHAB has been at the forefront of preserving and expanding affordable housing opportunities here in Lexington.

Celebrating the dedication of LexHAB’s newest properties are (Top L to R): Kyle Romano, Chris Traganos, Lester Savage, town manager Carl Valente, Mark Sandeen, selectman Doug Lucente, selectman Suzie Barry, LexHAB counsel Pat Nelson, LexHAB chairman Bill Kennedy, LexHAB board members Bill Hays and Martha Wood. Standing to the left are LexHAB board member Henry Liu, Representative Jay Kaufman, and LexHAB vice chair Bob Burbidge.

Developers set their sights on Lexington nearly twenty-years ago and the “tear-down” craze began in earnest. Homes that were remotely affordable were grabbed up by developers, torn down, and redeveloped into what locals have dubbed “McMansions.” More and more opportunities for affordable home ownership slipped away with little objection. The ability for kids who were raised in this community to put down roots of their own was essentially foreclosed upon as hundreds of potential “entry-level” homes were lost to builders. Some believe that town officials were slow to address the situation because the new, larger homes were bringing in significantly more tax revenue. Even more, Lexington’s Vision 20/20 speaks specifically to affordable housing. Under the theme Promote and Strengthen Community Character, points 3 and 4 encourage the Town to: “Provide increased housing options to promote diversity of income and age, and create strong incentives to maintain and expand affordable housing.” This made the need for affordable housing options even greater, and LexHAB rose to the challenge. Since it was established, LexHAB has built an inventory of nearly 70 properties, providing dozens and dozens of families the ability to call Lexington home.

One of the original LexHAB board members, David Eagle, had a vision for creating a program that would benefit the community in a profound way, while providing opportunities for its partners. Dave, who passed away in 2015, suggested that the Lexington Rotary Club could act as the general contractor to build homes to add to the LexHAB inventory. They would invite students from Minuteman Regional High School to provide the skilled labor under the supervision of their instructors. Everyone would win. LexHAB would add beautiful new homes to its stock, the Rotary Club would establish a new and vital way to serve the community, and the students at Minuteman would experience real-world conditions as part of their education. The property recently developed by LexHAB at 11 Fairview Avenue is the 14th home built in cooperation with Minuteman High School and students from several shops including carpentry, electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

Lester Savage of Lester Savage Real Estate/Century 21 Commonwealth assumed responsibility as project coordinator when Dave Eagle passed. Savage has served on the LexHAB board for many years and was eager, yet cautious to step into the role. Lester explained that his predecessor Dave Eagle made it seem simple, but it clearly wasn’t. Savage said, “Dave was a problem solver. He had a keen ability to get to the heart of a problem. He made things run smoothly and dedicated thousands of hours over the years to advancing this program. I was worried that his shoes were going to be too large to step in to.” By all accounts, Savage and the other members of the LexHAB team stepped up in a big way. In fact, they are currently negotiating the building of at least two additional sights. The larger of the two involves the construction of two 3-family dwellings at the site of the former Busa Farm on Lowell Street.

Lester is quick to share the spotlight with his fellow board members, the contractors and the students from Minuteman High School. He said, ” Working with the students at Minuteman Regional High School has become a tradition that we look forward to. This particular project on Fairview consisted of two buildings; one is essentially a remodeling of an existing building which we turned into a single-family dwelling, the other is a brand new building that will accommodate three families and adhere to strict ADA standards for handicapped accessibility. In order to complete the project on time, we essentially split the project between the students at Minuteman and a company named Feltonville Building Company. This concept worked very well in that it didn’t place too much of a strain on the students from Minuteman and allowed a good company like Feltonville to construct a beautiful new building. This was truly a win-win situation.”

Savage added, “If I needed someone to fill a gap at the old house I could get someone to take care of it. The students finished about 90% of the job, certain aspects were beyond their ability. But, the students, as always, did an extraordinary job. Their work is beautiful. They built it to a higher standard than most contractors. It was an old house so there were framing issues and Chris Traganos from Minuteman’s carpentry shop really worked closely with the students to do things the right way.”

As the project leader from LexHAB, Lester depended on advice and counsel from other members of the board including chairman Bill Kennedy and vice chairman Bob Burbidge. He also looked to draw on the experience of others who have participated in the past. Kyle Romano and Chris Traganos from Minuteman have been involved in previous projects. Lester explained that Kyle Romano from the plumbing shop was his liaison to Minuteman. He said, “It was my first time leading a project like this for LexHAB, so Kyle helped me to better understand the expectations of working with the students. At the end of the day, they met and exceeded my expectations. I can see why Dave Eagle was such a proponent of working with them.”

The concept of approaching the construction from two perspectives was a bit daunting. In one situation they were dealing with redeveloping an existing property. They were also looking to build a brand new multi-family building that would meet their low energy consumption stands. So, while the students focused on the redevelopment project, Feltonville Building Company was selected as the general contractor for the multi-family building.

Feltonville owner, Ian Mazmanian, was impressed with LexHAB from the very start. He explained that he had never quite seen the level of commitment to building such a large inventory of affordable housing. Mazmanian said, “Working with LexHAB was an incredible experience for us. It really opened my eyes to what is possible when good people come together to do good things. Working with Lester Savage and the others that LexHAB was especially rewarding. These are people who are committed to the idea of providing quality affordable housing to folks who might not otherwise have an opportunity to reside in a community like Lexington. Clearly, there is a need, and we were honored to participate in this project.”

Like Lester, this was Mazmanian’s first experience at leading a LexHAB construction effort. He said, “This was our first experience working with LexHAB, and it couldn’t have been more fulfilling. We had been working with Transformations [the original contractor] and circumstances prevented them from continuing on the project. We were ready and eager to take over the project.”

There were certain challenges with the specs on the project. For example, the project was originally intended to meet handicapped accessibility standards. It was changed to meet ADA standards (Americans with Disability Act). The differences are subtle, very important. It affects counter appliance requirements and basic mobility needs. But, Feltonville was able to adapt to the change seamlessly.

Mazmanian explained that he was pleased to see the students from Minuteman on the site, and that he was impressed with their commitment and skill levels. He said, “Although we were principally retained for the new 3-family building, we were involved to some degree with the old house project. We pulled the permits and assisted the students from Minuteman as needed. They were a great bunch of kids who are clearly devoted to honing their skills. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Lester explained that Transformations, the original contractor was unable to continue on the project. They had been working with Ian Mazmanian from Feltonville who stepped right in that took over the project. Lester said, “The folks at Feltonville are honest, and they do good quality work. Their clerk-of-the-works, Dave Woerpel served as the site manager and he really helped the project to move along. I would recommend them to anyone.” Lester also expressed gratitude to several local contractors and builders who provided goods and services at below market rates. They include Bob Foss Contracting, Arlex Oil Corporation, Arlington Coal & Lumber, J.M. McLaughlin Excavating and Wagon Wheel’s landscaping division.

Zero net energy is a concept that is becoming a standard here in Lexington. Last month in his Colonial Times column, Mark Sandeen outlined LexHAB’s commitment to very low to zero net energy consumption. Mazmanian explained that he appreciated LexHAB’s commitment to meeting very low net energy usage standards. He said, “One aspect of the project that I was particularly impressed with was the commitment to zero energy consumption. LexHAB was firm in their resolve to build a close to zero net energy facility. In the end, we achieved a 1 to 2 net energy rating.” Savage added, “There’s no reason why you can’t produce affordable housing that will be affordable in the long run, especially when it pertains to energy consumption. Our energy rating at the new property is better than 99% of the homes that are being built. Where in the top 1%. We are committed to drastically reducing the carbon footprint. Lexington is ahead of the curve when it comes to reducing consumption, and we want to honor that commitment by doing everything we can to achieve high energy standards on all of our new properties.”

Mazmanian emphasized that working with LexHAB was a uniquely satisfying experience. He said, “The overall experience of working with LexHAB was better than I could have imagined. Lester spent a great deal of time working with us and we felt supported throughout the entire project. I look forward to future opportunities to work with LexHAB.”

For Savage and the rest of the LexHAB organization, the challenge of identifying affordable building opportunities is becoming much greater. Lester explained that in order to meet their criteria, they have to be able to acquire land and build for well under $500,000 per unit. With land values in Lexington constantly climbing, meeting their budget limits is becoming nearly impossible. Lester said, “The challenge for us is to find a site that is affordable and within our budget. At Fairview Avenue we were able to acquire a good size parcel of land for around $500,000 and keep the construction cost to under $900,000. With the cost of land constantly increasing, it really is a challenge to find buildable lots within our budget to allow us to increase our inventory of affordable housing. We were able to build the Fairview properties at a cost of about $380,00 per unit.”

Savage added, “The multi-family property at Fairview should serve as a good model for what we hope to do at the Busa Farm property. In order to build affordable units you have to have multiple units. It’s really the only plausible way to keep total building costs under $500,000 per unit. If we wanted to build a single-family and keep it affordable, we would have to buy a lot for approximately $300,000 and keep building cost under $200,000. The multiple-unit concept was how we were able to keep the costs in check.”

LexHAB is a working organization comprised of individuals who have dedicated countless hours of service for a cause that grows more important every day. Lexington is fast becoming an exclusive community with few housing opportunities for low and moderate income families. The work of LexHAB and the people who make it happen has never been more necessary.

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Lex Eat Together

THE POWER OF KINDNESS, COMMUNITY
AND A HEARTY DINNER

Above, Head Chef Bruce Lynn with the new LET spice cabinet. Below, some of the fresh food prepared each week by LET. COURTESY PHOTO


By Jane Whitehead

Every Wednesday afternoon, the community room at Lexington’s Church of Our Redeemer transforms into an elegant dining space. Volunteers wheel out round tables, haul stacks of chairs, spread tablecloths, set out bread baskets and water jugs and arrange flowers, to welcome guests to a three-course dinner, free to anyone in need of a good meal and companionship.

Since its launch in October 2015, Lex Eat Together (LET) has served more than 5,000 meals, welcomed an average of 64 guests a week, and built a network of over 200 volunteers. “I’m proudest of the community we’ve created,” said LET co-founder Laura Derby, referring to the wide range of backgrounds and ages among guests and volunteers.

It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are

On a Wednesday in late September, the LET menu included Udon Chicken Soup, Battered Pork with Tonkatsu Sauce, with sides of rice, Napa cabbage and butternut squash. Among the early arrivals for the 5:15 p.m. dinner were regular guests Ruth Amiralian and her friend Mary.

“Look at what we get,” said Amiralian, gesturing to the table setting, the flowers, the basket of assorted breads. “To be able to walk in and be greeted with such love, kindness and graciousness is unbelievable,” she said. And as a long-term worker in the food industry, she’s impressed by the high quality and presentation of the food. “They have fine chefs,” she said, but most importantly, “they do it with their heart.”

Volunteers make LexEAT Together possible! Clockwise from left: 3-Bruce Ward, Shailini Sisodia, Toby Ward, Daniel Palant and Barbara Palant.


“I think I have fallen into a little heaven,” said Mary. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are – there’s a comfortableness, nobody’s haughty.” “This is our night out,” said Amiralian. “We could never afford to go out to eat.” She gives a warm welcome to a young man in his twenties who takes the seat next to her. He lives in neighboring Douglas House, a facility that provides independent affordable housing for brain injury survivors.

At another table was a group of Mandarin-speaking Chinese guests, all residents of Lexington’s Greeley Village, with their volunteer interpreter Ming-Chin Lin, who runs a senior daycare center in Billerica. “It’s very good to get together, we’re very happy, and we’re here to learn the culture and manners of America,” said Ziying Shi, who moved here over ten years ago from Shanghai to be with her daughter and family.

A Hard Place to be Hard Up

LET founders Laura Derby, Harriet Kaufman and John Bernhard saw how deprivation can escape notice in an affluent community, as volunteers with Lift Up Lexington, a group that supported homeless families parked temporarily in local motels. In 2104, having brought George Murnaghan of Redeemer’s vestry committee on board, they took a year to research and plan their response to the problems of food insecurity and social isolation in Lexington and surrounding towns.

After wide consultation with town officials and community groups, and research visits to other towns’ meal programs, including those in Concord, (where Harriet Kaufman volunteered for 25 years) Bedford and Chelmsford, the group inaugurated a weekly dinner in the newly refurbished community room at Our Redeemer, with its adjacent commercial kitchen. As an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit with no denominational affiliations, LET pays rent for the space.

Helen Zelinsky with trays of colorful appetizers. COURTESY PHOTO


“It is a little-known, painful and rarely acknowledged truth that some of our neighbors go to bed hungry,” said State Representative Jay Kaufman, at the LET launch in October 2015. According to the non-profit Feeding America, one in ten people, and one in seven children in Massachusetts struggle with hunger.

Even in Lexington, where the average annual household income in 2015 topped $150,000, around 1200 residents live at or below the poverty level, some 200 households receive fuel assistance, over 70 residents use food pantries and eight percent of school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. And these figures likely understate the level of financial hardship in a high-cost town like Lexington. “People’s circumstances can change very quickly, with sickness, unemployment, or divorce,” noted Harriet Kaufman (no relation to State Representative Kaufman.)

Baked into the LET recipe from the start was a commitment to an open-door policy, and to respect for the privacy of all guests. At LET dinners, there is no sign-in, no need to give a name or address – though guests can choose to write their first name on a stick-on label at the welcome table. “Who needs to know if you’re from Bedford or Lexington?” said Head Chef, Bruce Lynn. “If you start asking questions like that, people feel uncomfortable.” Murnaghan estimates that around 60 per cent of guests come from Lexington and neighboring communities, with some making “quite long journeys on public transport” from towns further afield.

Waste and Want – The Food Link Connection

The flip side of the US hunger emergency (one in seven Americans is food insecure) is a colossal mountain of wasted food. That forgotten bag of salad lurking in your refrigerator is part of an estimated 52 million tons of food that end up in landfill every year, together with another 10 million tons discarded or left unharvested, according to ReFED|Rethink Food Waste (www.refed.com.)

Arlington-based food rescue organization Food Link, Inc., founded in March 2012 by DeAnne Dupont and Julie Kremer, seeks to combat this cycle of waste and want. Their mission is to divert potentially wasted food to people who can use it. With over one hundred volunteers and two paid staffers, Food Link organizes the daily collection of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, bread and prepared foods that would otherwise be wasted from 12 local grocery and prepared food stores, and delivers this daily haul to 30 social service agencies serving people in need.

Kerry Brandin with strawberry soup. COURTESY PHOTO


In LET’s planning phase, Lexington resident and Food Link volunteer and board member Ivan Basch immediately grasped the potential synergy between the two projects. He offered to source a proportion of LET’s needs from Food Link donors, who include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Panera Bread and other smaller specialty stores.

“They tell me what they want, then I get as much as I can from Food Link, and go shopping for whatever else is needed,” said Basch in a recent phone conversation. (Sometimes the source is as local as his garden, as in the case of a recent order of chives.) Under the oversight of Head Chef Bruce Lynn (who also volunteers for Food Link), LET’s chefs get their menus and weekly shopping lists to Basch by noon on Sundays, and he gathers as much as possible from Food Link, then buys the rest with an LET charge card.

Depending on the menu and on the week’s donations, rescued food makes up between 60 and 80 percent of LET’s food costs, Lynn and Basch estimate. Other costs include venue rental, kitchen equipment and insurance. Once a month during the school year, from September to June, LET also purchases a ready-prepared meal from the Minuteman High School Culinary Arts Program.

“I really love the Lex Eat model, because that’s a value-add to the rescue,” said Basch. “There’s so much love and proficiency in turning the rescued food into a fabulous meal,” he said, noting that LET is “about as far from a soup kitchen as you can get,” with its three-course menus and attention to attractive presentation.

Harriet Kaufman turns rejected bouquets into elegant centerpieces. COURTESY PHOTO


Volunteer Task-force

After retiring as Director of Lexington’s Community Education Program, Robin Tartaglia moved to Cambridge, and followed her passion for food by signing up for a ten-month full-time professional training program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. From LET’s launch Tartaglia has been part of the team of around six vetted volunteer chefs who run the LET kitchen, plan the menus, devise the detailed shopping lists, organize the volunteer assistant cooks, and oversee the presentation of every plate.

“I’ve learned a great deal,” said Tartaglia. “I’ve learned how to cook these large quantities, and I do love managing the very eager and highly qualified volunteers we get in the kitchen.” (Like most other LET volunteer slots, the Assistant Cook spaces fill up weeks ahead of time, as people vie to wield the industrial-size salad spinner or learn what it takes to make Moroccan Chicken for 70.)

Although adults cook and serve the food, in the set-up and clean-up crews, high-school and middle-school students work alongside parents and grand-parents. Luisa Ozgen regularly superintends room set-up, with a sharp eye for detail and a set of laminated instruction cards to make sure the day’s crew forgets nothing, from switching on the hot water urns to bagging the fresh fruit that every guest takes home.

A healthy meal, lovingly prepared. COURTESY PHOTO


“I like to feel needed, and it’s great to see all these people I’ve known for two years,” said Libby Wallis, head of the clean-up team, as she cheerfully surveyed the remains of chicken noodle soup and battered pork (all food waste is composted or saved for animal feed.) As on many Wednesday evenings, Ed Lidman was methodically feeding the industrial dishwasher. “This was a job I knew,” said Lidman, laughing. By day, he works on data quality at Beth Israel Hospital.

With ten people drying steaming silverware, piling clean plates, rolling away tables, stacking chairs and vacuuming the dining room carpet, clean-up is done by 7:00 p.m. “There’s nothing more basic and human than sitting down and eating with someone else,” said George Murnaghan, “and it’s wonderful to be able to make that happen every week.”

 

To volunteer or donate to Lex Eat Together:
www.lexeattogether.org
To volunteer or donate to Food Link:
www.foodlinkma.org

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Lexington Park

By S. Levi Doran

Many of the quotes used herein are from advertising brochures in the collections of the Lexington Historical Society Archives.

Today, the 48 acres on Bedford Street opposite Westview Cemetery are home to dozens of families. A regular residential neighborhood, very few passing through here would give thought to how it appeared one century ago. And still fewer would guess that this was where Lexington Park stood and operated for nearly two decades, during which time it was one of the premier such parks in the area — right up there with Norumbega. [Read more…]

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NEW TIME! RIVALS UNTO DEATH Book Talk

Sunday, March 26, 2017

7:00 PM
The Depot Building
Lexington Center
Free and open to the public

 

Rick Beyers

Rick Beyer will celebrate the publication of his latest book, tell us how it came to be and the interesting stories he discovered in its writing.

Rivals Unto Death explores the largely unknown three-decade dance that led to their infamous duel. It traces the rivalry back to the earliest days of the American Revolution, when both men, brilliant, restless, and barely twenty years old, elbowed their way onto the staff of General George Washington; follows them as they launch their competitive legal practices in New York City and through the insanity of the election of 1800 when Hamilton threw his support behind Thomas Jefferson in an effort to knock Burr out of the running for president; and takes them finally to the dueling grounds from which just one would emerge.

Rick Beyer is a New York Times best-selling author, an award-winning documentary producer, and a long-time history enthusiast. His new book Rivals Unto Death: Hamilton and Burr will be published in February 2017 by Hachette books. His independent documentary The Ghost Army, premiered on PBS in 2013, and won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. It tells the story of an extraordinary WWII unit that used creativity and illusion to fool the Germans.  He also has co-authored a bestselling book on the unit. Rick has produced numerous other documentaries and is the author of the popular Greatest Stories Never Told series of history books.  He has curated museum exhibits relating to World War II and the American Revolution.  He has also made numerous media appearances, and frequently speaks to audiences on subjects that include innovation, film making, and the quirky tales that make history come alive. He is an adjunct faculty member in the communications department of Lasell College.

 

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Identifying Depression in Children and Youth

By Alicke Grobler

There are many stereotypes and misconceptions about clinical depression perpetuated by media and pop culture. Although there are some common signs and symptoms of depression that occur in most cases, depression can look very different in everyone. The presentation of depression can also vary significantly across different ages and genders.

Depression is not an uncommon occurrence in adults. Recent research indicates that about 16% of adults experience depression in their lifetime. Depression is significantly more common among women and the elderly. Additionally, approximately 65-75% of people with depression are initially diagnosed in adolescence. This indicates that depression is a chronic disorder and most often develops in the teenage years. Because of this, it is essential to know and be able to identify the signs of depression as early as possible, in order to ensure that your child has access to resources and support and develops coping skills early on in the course of the disorder.

Although rare, it is possible for children younger than adolescence to be diagnosed with depression; according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), approximately 2.5% of young children in the US suffer from depression. Under the age of 12, depression is slightly more common in young boys than young girls. However, once children hit adolescence, the rate of depression jumps up to 11%. This rate is the average for all adolescents between 12-18, but the risk of depression increases substantially for older adolescents. Adolescent girls are 2-3 times more likely to develop depression than boys.

This article is not meant to scare parents, but rather to provide them with information and resources to best help their children who may be struggling. However, because depression can manifest differently in everyone, it can be hard to identify it in teens and children, and to distinguish it from the typical and developmentally normative angst of the teen years. As such, the following information will include ways to recognize depression in children and teens, risk factors to look out for, ways to help your child cope with depression, and resources available to parents and children.

Depression most often presents, across ages, as persistently low mood, hopelessness, fatigue, and lack of enjoyment. However, in children, other symptoms may be more obvious including:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite – eating too much or too little
  • Changes in sleep pattern – sleeping too much, not sleeping enough or at all
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Difficulty functioning and completing day to day tasks at school, with friends, or at home.
  • Physical complaints such as stomach or headache that do not respond to treatment
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Lack of motivation
  • Vocal outbursts or crying
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

In children under 12 years old, irritability or anger, changes in sleep pattern or appetite, vocal outbursts, and physical complaints may be the easiest to identify and the most strongly expressed symptoms. In adolescents, depression looks more like adults, with major changes in mood and functionality. However, all of the symptoms listed above could apply to a child or adolescent suffering from depression, so it is important to be aware of your child’s mood and behaviors. Children will likely display different symptoms in different settings, and most with significant depression will display a noticeable change in academic performance, social activities, and even appearance.

Some children may be at greater risk for depression than others. This is especially true for children who have a parent with depression. Depression has been linked to a genetic predisposition, and tends to run in families. Children whose parents have depression are also more likely to develop depression earlier than children whose parents do not. Other risk factors include substance use. Depression may also lead to substance abuse in older children and adolescents, which is likely to worsen the symptoms. Children may also develop depression based on major life events, loss of loved ones, or biochemical disturbances.
If you notice some of these behaviors in your child, especially if they are persistent for more than two weeks, do not be afraid to consult a mental health professional.

Depression is a cyclic disorder. This means that those who have depression typically go through periods of feeling healthy and functioning well, and periods or episodes of depression. Major Depressive Disorder is diagnosed if an individual has a depressive episode lasting two weeks or more that significantly interferes with their daily functioning. However, depressive episodes often end on their own after a period of time. The end of a depressive episode does not mean that depression has been cured and is no longer a cause for concern; rather, it is highly likely that a depressive episode will recur in the future. Therefore, even if your child is not currently exhibiting the symptoms or signs described, or if the symptoms stop or improve naturally, it is still essential to seek resources and support for your child.

There are a variety of effective treatment options for depression, including psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy have both been shown to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of relapse of a depressive episode. If you are concerned that your child is depressed, you have a number of options to seek support.

Your pediatrician may be able to help you find suitable antidepressants for your child, and can likely refer you to a psychiatrist and/or therapist.

Your child’s school counselor can connect you to resources both in and out of school.

The Youth and Family Services Social Worker, Kristie Demirev, at the Community Center can work with families on an individual basis to assess their needs and connect them to supports they need. She can be reached at 781 698 4843 and is free to all residents.

The following articles are also helpful for educating yourself about depression in children and adolescents. If you are concerned about your child, please reach out and find support for yourself and your family:

Hankin, B. L., Young, J. F., Abela, J. R., Smolen, A., Jenness, J. L., Gulley, L. D., … & Oppenheimer, C. W. (2015). Depression from childhood into late adolescence: Influence of gender, development, genetic susceptibility, and peer stress. Journal of abnormal psychology, 124(4), 803.

Avenevoli, S., Swendsen, J., He, J. P., Burstein, M., & Merikangas, K. R. (2015). Major depression in the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Supplement: prevalence, correlates, and treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 54(1), 37-44.


 

Alicke Grobler is a Master of Social Work candidate at Boston College, studying clinical social work with a focus in mental health. She is currently an intern with the Lexington Human Services Department, and aspires to help increase access to and awareness of mental health care for low income families and military families. She can be reached by calling the Human Services Department at (781) 698-4840.

 


Parenting Matters columns are presented to the Lexington community through a collaboration with the Lexington Human Services Department of Youth Services. Information provided in these columns is general in nature and not intended to be a substitute for a personalized clinical evaluation. Please see a professional for any concerns you may have about this topic or any others in a Parenting Matters column. LEXINGTON COMMUNITY CENTER 39 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421. Open Monday – Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM

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Local Election

Click to read candidate statements for the March 6th Election.

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Healing after Homicide

By Jane Whitehead

 

A TRANSFORMATIVE APPROACH FROM DORCHESTER’S LOUIS D. BROWN PEACE INSTITUTE

On Sunday, October 23, 1:30-3:30 p.m., the Gun Violence Prevention Group of the Follen Church Social Justice Action Team will host a presentation by the Dorchester-based Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (LDBPI) on their transformative approach to supporting families on both sides of murder. Featuring Peace Institute Founder & President, Chaplain Clementina Chéry and staff, the event is free and open to the public, at Follen Church, 755 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington.

Clementina (Tina) Chéry did not set out to be a peace activist or violence prevention leader. In the early 1990s her focus was on making a warm, secure environment for her three children in their Dorchester home. On December 20, 1993 their family life was torn apart when her eldest son, Louis David Brown, 15, was shot and killed blocks from home, caught in the crossfire in a shootout between rival drug dealers. He was on the way to a Christmas party for Teens Against Gang Violence.

From Pain and Anger to Power and Action

“When I was told that Louis was brain dead, I felt like a bomb exploded inside of me – my mind, my heart, and my soul,” Chéry told the congregation at Follen Church in a short, powerful talk on March 13, 2016. “When Louis was killed,” said Chéry, “I needed to find a way of channeling my pain and anger into power and action.” In 1994, she and her family founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute as a lasting memorial to her son, and a way of carrying forward his commitment to preventing violence in their community.

Clementina (Tina) Chéry

Clementina (Tina) Chéry

“When Louis was killed, I needed to find a way of channeling my pain and anger into power and action.”

Clementina (Tina) Chéry

Chéry told how in 2000, she reached out to Doris Bogues, the mother of Charles Bogues, the young man accused of killing Louis. “When we met at a local bar,” she said, “there were silent tears and a warm embrace, woman to woman, mother to mother, heart to heart.” In 2010, she met Charles Bogues face to face for the first time, and in 2012 worked with his mother, his support team and community leaders to plan his re-entry into society, as he prepared for his parole hearing. (Now on parole, Bogues works in construction and spoke at the Peace Rally after this year’s Mothers’ Day Walk for Peace, the Peace Institute’s signature annual fund-raiser.)

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Forgiveness and Accountability

Recently, Chéry and the Bogues, mother and son, took part in a restorative justice panel as part of the Peace Institute’s new Intergenerational Justice Program. The program, Chéry told the Follen congregation, supports families on both sides of murder in their journeys to healing, accountability, forgiveness and reconciliation. “I know that extending my hand in forgiveness has saved Mr. Bogues and his family,” said Chéry. “It has also saved my family, and I have been an example to my children.”

In a recent email exchange, Chéry wrote that even in the middle of her grief immediately following the murder, and the pressure on her to step into the public eye, she was determined to focus “on who Louis was, what he believed in, how we raised him, and the values that were instilled in him,” rather than join in heated debates about “guns, gangs, drugs, prison and the death penalty.”

The first public event after Louis’s death was a celebration of his life, on what would have been his sixteenth birthday. The Chéry family asked guests to nominate a young person for the good she or he was doing in the community. “We asked people to focus on the assets of our young people and not on the deficits,” she said, and this continues to be central to the mission of the Peace Institute.

Healing, Teaching, Learning

Twenty-two years later, the LDBPI is a center of healing, teaching and learning for families impacted by murder, committed to helping not only families of victims, but also families of people imprisoned for murder. “Our purpose is to transform society’s response to homicide so that all families are treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of the circumstances,” said Mallory Hanora, LDBPI Communications and Policy Coordinator.

At the core of the Peace Institute’s programs are Survivor Outreach Services (SOS), offering immediate help and guidance to the families of homicide victims, from coordinating family support networks and assisting with funeral planning, to navigating the criminal justice system. According to the LDBPI website, the Institute serves close to 1000 people annually. The Louis D. Brown Peace Curriculum for students K-12 was recognized in 1996 by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for its contribution to reducing juvenile crime.

The Traveling Memorial Button Project features memorial buttons created by victims' families. COURTESY PHOTO.

The Traveling Memorial Button Project features memorial buttons created by victims’ families. COURTESY PHOTO.

The Traveling Memorial Button Project, which literally puts a face to murder victims by commemorating them in two-and-a-quarter-inch buttons, given out to family and friends and displayed all together on a large banner that travels across the country to conferences and community events, was recently named fifth on a WBUR list of 50 Best Public Artworks in Boston.

“It takes courage to turn a personal tragedy into a public service for good,” said James J. Kelly, the then-president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in the 2011 citation of Tina Chéry as the organization’s Public Citizen of the Year. “Clementina Chéry is a tireless advocate for peace in struggling neighborhoods, and an inspiration to us all,” he said. Chéry’s other awards include Lady in the Order of St. Gregory the Great, bestowed by Pope John Paul II, the Search for Common Ground 2001 International Service Award, and the American Red Cross 1998 Clara Barton Humanitarian Award.

The Follen Connection

Members of the Follen Church community first met Peace Institute staff in 2010, following the murder of Jaewon Martin, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at the James P. Timilty School in Roxbury, who was shot dead on a Roxbury basketball court. Counselors from the Peace Institute were offering support and counseling to Martin’s schoolmates, who were in a tutoring program run by the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry at the nearby Roxbury Meeting house, in which Follen Church members participated.

“Over the years, we got to know Tina Chéry and her staff, and I and others were in awe of the work of the Institute, founded and staffed entirely by survivors of victims of gun violence,” said Anne Grady, chair of Follen’s Gun Violence Prevention Group, founded in the fall of 2013, who initiated the invitation to Chéry to speak at Follen. “We started sending people to the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace – last year 85 members of our congregation of 300 people walked,” said Grady, noting that for the past two years Follen donations to the Peace Institute through the Walk have been the largest from any faith community.

This year’s Walk, on May 8 2016, marked the event’s 20th anniversary and drew more than 15,000 people from communities throughout the Greater Boston area, starting at Field’s Corner in Dorchester and ending with a Peace Rally at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. PHOTO BY CHRIS LOVETT

This year’s Walk, on May 8 2016, marked the event’s 20th anniversary and drew more than 15,000 people from communities throughout the Greater Boston area, starting at Field’s Corner in Dorchester and ending with a Peace Rally at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. PHOTO BY CHRIS LOVETT

This year’s Walk, on May 8 2016, marked the event’s 20th anniversary and drew more than 15,000 people from communities throughout the Greater Boston area, starting at Field’s Corner in Dorchester and ending with a Peace Rally at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. Among the walkers for the first time this year – the first time she’s found a substitute to take the Sunday service – was Follen Minister Claire Feingold Thoryn, who took part with her husband and daughters, then aged three and six. “To join that moving river of humanity walking through Boston was really incredible, and shows the support that so many people have for making Boston and all of our communities in the surrounding areas safer and more peaceful, ” said Feingold Thoryn.

Recognizing Strength as Well as Struggle

Feingold Thoryn hopes the October 23 event will raise awareness and promote engagement in the wider Lexington community, and deepen Follen’s existing partnerships with the Peace Institute and Urban Ministry. Given that “some of our communities are really devastated by gun violence and others are living in a world of privilege,” it’s particularly important to be “a partner and an ally and not try to create something new when there are already people out there doing really good work,” she said. Grady hopes people will be inspired and empowered by Chéry and her team. “I hope that people in Lexington will understand that there are things you can do to work for peace and help students at risk,” she said. Chéry welcomes the Follen community’s willingness “to bear witness, to listen, to learn, and to participate.” She added: “It’s very important to me that people outside of Boston see the beauty in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan and truly recognize our strengths, not just our struggles.”

Find out more about the work of the Peace Institute at the website: www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org

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LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

By Joan Robinson, MSW, LYFS Board Member

BEGINNINGS Last fall, Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) committed to hosting and funding Sources of Strength (SOS), a program designed to build self-confidence, define one’s own strengths, and know when and where to seek help. Seven high school students who are members of LYFS Youth Advisory Board, were asked to identify diverse groups and leaders at LHS. They then invited 46 LHS students and 13 adults to attend a daylong training event. In November of last year, this mix of students and adults spent a powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength. This prevention program with proven results increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life.

MISSION AND METHODS The primary stance of SOS is positive, focusing on resiliency rather than trauma. Historically communities come together after a tragedy, while SOS hopes to encourage the LHS and Lexington community to come together to prevent tragedy. When students feel there is a supportive environment–a safety net–they are less likely to feel alienated.
Consequently, they are less likely to get involved in self-destructive behaviors, and more likely to ask for help with their feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress.
As the year has progressed the SOS peer leaders, with the guidance of LYFS director Erin Deery, have developed a number of activities aimed at improving connections between students and with trusted adults. Some activities have been directed towards encouraging students to recognize and define their own Sources of Strength. They may feel more comfortable to reach out to family, friends, a trusted coach, minister, teacher, the school nurse, etc.
Any peer leader program must have adults talking with students: the students know what is going on, and the adults have experience with the world at large. The hope is that both the students and the adults will “spread the word” about the importance of talking with, not at, each other to the community of Lexington. This process is designed to remind students that they are not alone, and to destigmatize asking for help.

LEXINGTON SOS VISION With the committed and creative leadership of LYFS Adult and Youth Board members, together with the energy and dedication of the developing peer-to-peer social network, it seems possible to positively change Lexington youth norms and culture. This collaborative effort is supported by the schools, town, and many community groups and, with continued support, it could become a comprehensive wellness program impacting many people and touching every corner of our community.
As the LHS 2015-21016 school year comes to a close we asked two SOS peer leaders have crafted descriptions of two SOS activities: The Teacher Appreciation Progect and The Compliment Project, they carried out to to improve the LHS community environment.


Lexington High School teachers wear yellow Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

Lexington High School teachers wear yellow
Sources of strength bracelets in support of the program.

THE TEACHER APPRECIATION PROJECT

Approachable teacher mentors are key for a healthy high school culture.

By JULIE KAN
LHS Student and Peer Leader

A core part of students’ lives is mentors — adults or older individuals in whom students put their trust. Whether it be a teacher, a parent or guardian, a sibling, or a guidance counselor, a mentor is an important Source of Strength for many. In times where guidance is needed, students will often turn to an adult for advice.

Ideally, the school environment should be a place where adults are encouraged to help students with their lives, where students feel completely comfortable turning to any adult for support—a place where, no matter where you look, there is always someone smiling, ready to hear what you have to say. Lexington High School is a community in which individuals can find the best help they need if they ask for it. However, many students are unable to find guidance because they are simply unaware of where to go for help.

Inspired by a project originally created at MIT, the Teacher Appreciation Project was Sources of Strength’s way to recognize teachers for being outstanding mentors. Each student Peer Leader nominated one teacher he or she felt was a person who was not only a role model but a trusted adult who students would be able to talk to if they ever needed someone. The 45 nominated teachers selected by the Peer Leaders each received a yellow wristband that read: “Tell me about your day,” signifying that they were approachable. The nominated teachers did not hesitate to wear their wristbands. In the Arts and Humanities lounge, teachers who received the bright yellow bands proudly waved their arms in the air, joyfully exclaiming, “Ooh, I got one of these!”

In an interview with English teacher Mr. Olivier-Mason, he explained how he felt honored to receive one of the yellow bands. He thought the bracelets helped to remind people of overcoming the “professional relationship” between teacher and student — that this can and should be more of a “human relationship.” He continued on to say that even if students don’t need to approach teachers about something, “There is comfort in knowing that if they did want to, people are there.”
At the end of the project day, the nominated teachers were told to gather outside the building for a group photo. Teachers walked out into the sunny school courtyard, looking confused about where to go. Amidst the afterschool buzz in the Quad, student peer leader Bill Gao directed all the teachers to one area as other students bustled around. The teachers smiled and laughed, some holding up their wrists to flash their yellow bracelets at the camera. Even Principal Laura Lasa, left a meeting to join in for the photo.

The purpose of the Teacher Appreciation project was to commend teachers for being trustworthy adults who are making a difference in students’ lives. This appreciation is meant to encourage nominated teachers to continue to be supportive, to celebrate positivity in the classroom and to inspire other teachers to mentor their students as well.

LHS, Sources of Strength Peer Leaders used this event to advocate for strong, healthy relationships between students and teachers. The next step is to familiarize more students with the bracelets so that students can actually feel comfortable approaching a teacher for help, and have the opportunity to form a special bond with a trusted adult.


THE COMPLIMENT CHALLENGE

Creating a more positive and communal environment at lhs is one of the cornerstones of sources of strength.

By SHIRA GARBIS
LHS Student and SOS Peer Leader

One of the goals of Sources of Strength is to create a more positive and communal environment at LHS and SOS decided to create a one-day project to do just that.
In early March each member of SOS came to school with a sheet of paper and a simple task. The sheet read, “compliment someone in your next class who you wouldn’t normally talk to.” Each member of SOS went to their first class of the day, gave someone a compliment and passed on the sheet. The idea was that the person who received the compliment would then go on to compliment someone in their next class and hopefully start a chain of positivity.
Although this project was non-tangible and we couldn’t measure how much of a success it was, we hoped to have done a small part in creating a more positive and supportive environment throughout our school. In the future, SOS hopes to reach out to not only students but also other adult members of the community and challenge everyone to be someone’s source of strength.


LHS PEER LEADERS FROM SOURCES OF STRENGTH CONTINUE TO WORK FOR A LEXINGTON WITH LESS STRESS Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Pictured above from Left to Right: Emily Lo, Julia Kan, Shira Harris and Maya Joshi-Delinty

Lexington Youth and Family Services Sponsors Sources Of Strength
and continues to offer free and confidential counseling

LYFS is a safe and confidential place to talk and get support. If you or someone you know is having a hard time – feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed; using/abusing drugs and alcohol; having trouble at home; having suicidal thoughts, come in and talk to us! We will listen and can help.

LYFS is located on the side of First Parish Church on the Lexington Battle Green. Open every Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm (September – June) or by appointment. We have a private entrance, office and waiting area, and offer confidential therapy to teens free of cost!

How is LYFS funded? LYFS receives funds from private contributors in the community and grants from the Foundation for MetroWest and CHNA 15. It is a 501(3)(c) tax deductible organization.


INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTING?
Make checks out and mail to:`Lexington Youth and Family Services
c/o First Parish Church / 7 Harrington Road / Lexington, MA 02421
For questions please email our Treasurer: Bill Blout,at BBlout@LYFSInc.org.
DONATE ONLINE: http://www.lyfsinc.org/donate.html

LYFS is located at First Parish Church(private entrance on right side of church), 7 Harrington Road, Lexington, MA
Call or Text: 781-862-0330
Director/Clinician: Erin M. Deery, LICSW

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LEF Grant Brings Robotics to Elementary School Students

By Varsha Thatte  |  LEF Student Ambassador

The future has arrived at Estabrook Elementary School!! Thanks to the Lexington Education Foundation (LEF), elementary-age students now have the opportunity to learn engineering concepts through hands-on instruction in robotics. The use of robotics to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts is gaining wide-spread popularity in the U.S. as a way to help students develop a passion for STEM subjects, and to teach skills such as problem-solving, goal-setting and logical thinking.

Jeffrey Harris, LHS Mathematics teacher.

Jeffrey Harris, LHS Mathematics teacher.

Jeffrey Harris, a Mathematics Teacher at Lexington High School, received an LEF grant to design and implement an after-school robotics program for elementary school students. The grant funds Lego kits for students and training for the teachers running the program.

The program, designed for fourth and fifth graders, has been extremely well-received at Estabrook Elementary School, where it was implemented. “The first six-week session started in the fall and the class got filled quickly. There were 25-30 kids signed up for the whole series. I myself taught robotics for a group of fourth graders. Kids at Estabrook wanted to get involved and were really excited about it,” stated Mark Taggart, a 4th grade teacher at Estabrook.

Jeffrey Harris explains one reason for the program’s warm reception, “Elementary kids did not have the opportunity to learn about robotics until LEF helped us to establish the program at Estabrook. The LEF grant has had a huge impact on the elementary kids. It gave us an opportunity to teach robotics, which will spark their interest in engineering at an early age.”

lego1lego4
The curriculum is divided into six sessions. Each session is structured as a conceptual presentation for 10 minutes, followed by a challenge period to be done in small groups. The introduction session starts with brief explanation about Lego and how robotics work. This session is then followed by hardware and software sessions. The hardware session teaches concepts such as using sensors and motors. The software session covers programming objectives and the programming languages used to program the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits.

Mark Taggart, with Lego robots, at Estabrook Elementary School.

Mark Taggart, with Lego robots, at Estabrook Elementary School.

The fifth session tests students’ abilities through an advanced challenge, which incorporates the hardware, software, and engineering concepts from the earlier sessions. The last session is a free build session, which runs like a robotics science fair. During the final session, students think up, design and build a robot of their own, and then present their creation to the entire class.

Kevin Le, a student at Lexington High School who helped to create the curriculum for the robotics program said, “The curriculum we made gives a huge exposure to engineering. Kids will gain problem-solving skills and creative decision-making capabilities.” Also, completing these hands-on projects builds concept understanding and reinforces students’ confidence in their own abilities.

Mark Taggart mentioned that they received many thank you notes from parents, saying their kids learned a lot of interesting, fun, and useful concepts. A parent at Estabrook said, “It was the absolute best after-school program we’ve ever participated in. Thank you so much for bringing that program. It taught my son that he absolutely loves computer programming, which is a big deal for me, since he doesn’t seem to like anything but watching TV! Thank you, LEF.”

Mark’s vision is to take this initiative to greater heights, explaining, “Our next goal is to bring robotics into the regular classrooms, make it a part of the curriculum officially, and extend it to the five other elementary schools.”

 

The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) was founded in 1989 to support “better schools, brighter futures” for Lexington Public School students. LEF funds faculty-initiated grants that help address emerging issues and priorities in the district. LEF grants often fund pilot programs that point the district towards the most effective ways to address challenges and improve achievement for all students.Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  LEF is not affiliated with the Lexington Public Schools. For more information go to www.lexedfoundation.org or find us Facebook.

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Voices & Visions—Building Supports to Address Youth Concerns—The Lexington Coalition

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The Community Coalition invites everyone to gather at Grace Chapel  on March  9th to continue work on the three goals identified by the 80+ participants who attended the October 7th Kick-Off: 

  • Reduce stress and improve wellness
  • Address mental health issues
  • Prevent underage drinking and substance abuse

Steering Committee members include representatives from community groups, including Selectman Suzie Barry, Kate Ekrem and Brent Maracle from Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association, Eileen Jay from the Chinese American Association of Lexington and the LHS Site-Based School Council, Bettina McGimsey Chair of the PTA/PTO Presidents Council, and Kathleen Lenihan (LHS PTO Co-President), as well as Val Viscosi (Director of School Counseling), representatives from the the Police, Fire, and Human Services Departments, and School Committee members Sandro Alessandrini and Jessie Steigerwald.

The Coalition was formed to bring town and school staff together with community members to build a stronger network for youth. Lexington has had a long-standing commitment to supporting community, but organizations have not always worked in concert. Adopting a coalition approach offers many benefits, including aligning on goals, pooling resources, scheduling events so they build on one another, and reaching a broader section of the community. While town and school staff have frequently undertaken outreach efforts together, the Coalition aims to also bring community volunteer organizations to the table to find new ways to address concerns around stress, mental health, and substance abuse.

The October meeting also identified some possible improvements. Sharing and learning from data will be a part of the Coalition’s early work; for example the Coalition aims to utilize data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to inform its work. Gathering input from students directly represents another concrete step. The Coaltion also plans to make more consistent use of a shared events calendar to avoid situations where two events targeted at the same youth-focused audience are inadvertently scheduled on the same day.

The Coalition welcomes new members, as well as anyone who wishes to attend just to learn more about the goals and how the Coalition is working to achieve them.

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