LHS Peer Leaders Spread Hope, Health, and Strength

Lexington Youth and Family Services (LYFS) Sponsors Sources of Strength Program

By Bea Mah Holland, EdD, MSW

LYFS Board Member and SOS Adult Advisor

 

Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.

Front Row (L-R) Mona Tavangar, Bill Gao, Emily Zhang, Gili Grunfeld, Maya Joshi Delity, Logan Wells, Vivek Gopalakrishnan. Back Row (L-R) Connee Counts, James Mercier, Betsey Weiss, Bea Mah Holland, Bill Blout, Scott LoMurray and LYFS Director, Erin Deery. Courtesy photo by Betsey Weiss.

 

Lexington and SOS’s beginnings

Last fall, when Lexington Youth and Family Services committed to hosting Sources of Strength (SOS), a resilience-building program, seven smart and energetic LYFS Youth Board members identified diverse groups at Lexington High School and their leaders, then actively recruited them to attend a daylong training event. Last November 46 LHS students and 13 Adult Advisors—a mix of community and school adults who have a relational connectivity with Sources of Strength Logostudents—spent a fun and powerful day learning how to help others and more consciously use and further develop their own Sources of Strength.

SOS, a preventive program with proven results, increases teens’ connections with adults, builds resilience, and develops protective factors called Sources of Strength for navigating adolescence and life. “This is really the first peer-leader program that has shown impact on school-wide coping norms and influence on youth connectedness,” according to University of Rochester psychiatry professor and researcher Peter Wyman.  SOS is presently on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), the gold standard of prevention programs in the U.S.

The LHS SOS Peer Leaders have already accomplished much. Through peer-to peer contact and messaging on Facebook and Instagram, they encourage each other to activate and mobilize at least three or four of their Sources of Strength, knowing that having several strengths is more powerful than one. SOS is now in 250 schools and communities in over 20 states, is one of the nation’s most rigorously researched peer leader programs, and has been the subject of research and evaluation efforts at universities, including Stanford and Johns Hopkins. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is currently funding a six-year randomized study of SOS to measure the impact of 1,500 Peer Leaders on 15,000 adolescents in more than 40 high schools.

SOS’s Mission and Method

Sources of Strength GraphicAlthough intervening in crisis situations and making lifesaving connections has been a hallmark of SOS, the ultimate mission of SOS is upstream: prevention of the very onset of suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior, and attention to other factors such as substance abuse, depression, bullying, and violence. As was stated by one community, “Hope, Health, and Strength messages are developed with local voices and faces, saturating our school and community with stories of resiliency instead of messages of trauma.” November, Scott LoMurray, the founder’s son, masterfully trained 59 Lexingtonions.

Most schools have used less time-consuming approaches such as assemblies and presentations. However, there is now agreement that any sustained effort must include adults talking with kids; since the kids often have the best information, students must be part of the intervention and not just its target. And in several communities, relational connections that use teams of peer leaders mentored by adult advisors to change peer social norms have created a cultural shift to a safer environment. Destructive behaviors are lessening because of a contagion of strength.

Lexington SOS Vision

With the committed and creative leadership of Lexington 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.

The authors are indebted to SOS for permission to incorporate their material in this article. For further information, please access Sources of Strength website, https://sourcesofstrength.org.


 

About Lexington Youth And Family Services

Located at First Parish Church
(private entrance on right side of church)
7 Harrington Road
Lexington, MA 02421
Call or Text: 781-862-0330

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

 


 

 

What are your Sources of Strength?

In January, during an LHS lunch hour, SOS Peer Leaders provided the opportunity for over 100 students to make individual Source of Strength posters, be photographed, and have the photos be posted in high-traffic locations, both on site and online.

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

Hadar Boker and Carrie Tassel

“I thought it was really great to see
that people were so motivated by
their own passions and hobbies.”
“It was really cool seeing everyone from
the high school joining
on a project we worked hard to create.”
Nana Adu and Noam Watt

Nana Adu and Noam Watt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Logan Wells, LHS Student
LYFS Youth Board Member and SOS Peer Leader    

 

Lexington High School Lunchroom, January 8th

LHS students curiously walk into the lunchroom, wondering why there are so many people huddled around a table—some laughing with their friends, while others are stopping for a second and thinking before writing on paper. Upon closer look, they see that these students are actually writing their own Sources of Strength, then having a picture taken of them holding their signs. As the months roll by, students will see pictures of themselves and their peers with their Sources of Strength in the local newspaper and the LHS Gazette, on social media, and in the halls of LHS, reminding them of the many people who are in the community they can go to if they need help or just want someone to talk to.

SOS Projects and Training

The SOS Poster Project—students making Sources of Strength posters and sharing them with the school and the community—is just one of the projects in the ambitious campaign of support created by the Peer Leaders of Sources of Strength. It first began last November in the newly renovated Lexington Community Center where a group of 46 LHS students, selectively chosen by their peers as influential in the community, met for their first Sources of Strength daylong seminar.

SOS is safe and trustworthy. The training is both fun and strengthening, non-threatening and informative. We came to realize that everyone goes through both good and tough times and, as a result of the training, we are now better equipped to connect friends to the help they want and need.

We learned the importance of having a support system, and how friends, relatives, and even pets could have a lasting impact on our lives. We learned that even top specialists in their fields said they had mentors to look towards while they grew up, mostly for support and guidance. We learned how a community can do the same thing but, instead of the lucky few having access to a mentor, there would be an ecosystem that would support all of us on our growth path or whenever we needed help.

However, those who attended the seminar were not just students. There were also adult volunteers interested in making Lexington a more supportive community. The goal of SOS is not just to help the high school become a more supportive system, but the Lexington community as a whole. All of the attendees worked for eight hours, with no loss of energy as the hours went by—all 46 LHS Peer Leaders and 13 Adult Advisors stayed for the entire day. Everyone participated equally, whether it was in something silly such as team charades, or talking about who they look for when they themselves need help.

One of the Adult Advisors, Jamie Katz, graduated from LHS in 1969 and has a daughter who graduated from LHS just last year. He found both the mission and the training compelling.

“None of us can go it alone,” Katz said. “We all need our family and friends, our pets, or our passions to help us find joy, laughter, and strength. It’s painful to see our teenagers lose sight of their Sources of Strength, to see them feel so isolated and alone. Even the phones they use endlessly often increase the alienation and pressure they feel. We need to remind them, again and again, that their friends will be there for them, their dogs need them, their soccer teams rely on them, and their parents love and will support them. And the teens need to teach us how we can best help them, not further burden them.”

What’s Next for SOS Lexington?

Since then, everyone in the group has been determined to make a difference and allow for everyone in Lexington to have, and understand, that they have access to someone whenever they want it. There is a planned “Challenge Day” at LHS in a few weeks, where another 100 LHS students and 25 teachers will get an experience akin to the one SOS had in November. This will allow for even more support in LHS, especially with the teachers participating, who students often spend more time with than their parents.

LYFS Director Erin M. Deery, LICSW, has these thoughts on the future of SOS: “I hope that SOS continues to grow in Lexington and that these messages of hope and strength just become part of the way things are done in this community. We have all seen how communities come together after a tragedy, but what if in Lexington we came together to prevent tragedy?  I hope that we can repeat the SOS training annually and continue to strengthen partnerships with LHS, other community agencies, places of worship, businesses, and organizations. We want to change social norms, increase help seeking, and promote strength and wellness not just for teenagers, but for the entire Lexington community. “

So don’t be surprised if you soon see SOS around Lexington, such as in Lexington Center. We are planning to team with Lexington businesses in order to send the message that SOS is a community-wide project, and we intend to help every person included in it.

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High School Teacher Receives World History Conference Grant

By Ryan Leung

Kristin Strobel

Kristin Strobel

Over the summer of 2015, Lexington High School Freshman World History teacher Kristin Strobel attended the World History Association Annual Conference, thanks to a generous grant from the Lexington Education Foundation.

“A few years ago, when the World History Association was in Salem, Massachusetts, I went to the conference,” Strobel said, “[but] I really wanted to go back another time, so when the LEF grant came up at the same time I realized the theme was going to be about art, [I thought] ‘that’s perfect,’ and that’s how I signed up.”

The conference, held in Savannah, Georgia, featured scholars and teachers from all around the country gathering together to learn and share the latest ideas and approaches in their respective fields. Strobel said, “It was interesting…to meet historians from all around the world. One of the things that’s great about the World History Association is that it’s both professors and teachers that come, and…both secondary and higher education really inform each other, which is pretty interesting.”

After her experience at the conference, Strobel plans to bring her knowledge back to the high school. “Taking a piece of art and having people analyze it in different methods was really interesting…I came back going through these different steps that different people used. [The conference] really helped me see art through new eyes, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that in my next unit,…use these tactics a little more and really dedicate large sections of the class time and go deeply into one idea and talk about technique….The Renaissance unit is the perfect place for this.”

Not only has the grant benefited her students, the grants also help contribute to the enthusiasm for learning that characterizes Lexington High School. Strobel added, “I think [LEF does] an unbelievable job at just keeping all of us up to date and enthusiastic and constantly learning. And when teachers are constantly learning they’re better teachers…It’s really one of the things that makes the culture of this place so positive.”

“The support that LEF gives is huge, just the idea that I have this special platform. And even if you don’t get a grant every year, you’re still feeding off of grants you’ve gotten in past years or that your colleagues have gotten. Just the fact that the town and the people of the town have supported us so much is really powerful,” Strobel said. “I’m very privileged to a be part of it and work in a place where such a thing exists.”

 

 

About LEF
The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) was founded in 1989 to support “better schools, brighter futures” for Lexington Public School students. Since our founding, LEF has awarded grants totaling over $4.4 million from funds raised from individuals and businesses throughout our community. Grants support exploration of innovative approaches to teaching, development of educational materials, testing of new uses of technology to meet educational needs, and professional development that enriches teachers’ subject-area knowledge and skill. Grants range in size and scope. Proposals are carefully reviewed to ensure a focus on efforts that contribute to student achievement and the quality of our schools. Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) is an independent 501(c)(3) charitable organization. LEF is not affiliated with the Lexington Public Schools.

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METCO Scholarship Fund Of Lexington Charts Exciting New Course

METCO LogoWith support from the Indian Americans of Lexington, Merck & Shire

Entering its 45th Anniversary Year the METCO (METropolitan COuncil for Educational Opportunity) College Scholarship Fund of Lexington (MCSFL) is proud to announce generous support from several community-based organizations. The MCSFL awards scholarships to Lexington High School graduates who are enrolled in METCO, a state-funded grant program that promotes diversity and educational opportunity for more than 3,300 Boston students by enrolling them in participating suburban school districts.  Lexington was one of the first seven communities at the forefront of this voluntary school-busing program when it was initiated nearly 50 years ago in 1966.  Currently 37 communities throughout Massachusetts participate.  Two hundred and fifty-one METCO students attend all grades of the Lexington School district, typically enrolling in the first grade and continuing through graduation at LHS. Long time MCSFL Trustee Charles Martin, understands that “an excellent primary and secondary education is no longer enough to prepare students for present and future jobs in what has become an innovation economy.  A college education is now a necessity.  My experience has shown that the majority of METCO families are single parent, low-income, non-college-educated households with much higher aspirations than that for their children.  Lexington’s schools have successfully played their role in making that happen but without financial aid, such as offered by the MCSFL, it stops here – a college education is just not possible.”

 

From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

From left to right: Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, Sudha Balasuryan, Archana Singhal, Co-President of IAL and Seema Sinha.

In support of this truth, in November, the Indian Americans of Lexington (IAL) organization chose the MCSFL to be the recipient of the IAL’s Annual Charity Giving at the 2015 Diwali celebration. “This year the IAL Board decided to focus on education and thought giving to METCO will further our mission to give back to the community”. The METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington “is indeed very deserving and we believe it is rewarding to help these kids when they need it the most”, said Co-President Nirmala Garimella, on behalf of the IAL Board.

 

In 2014, Cubist Pharmaceuticals became a corporate sponsor, providing matching dollars for the May-June fund drive.  The Lexington community rose to the challenge, and the combined total raised provided a significant addition to the scholarships we were able to disburse for our 2014 METCO graduates.  Earlier this year, Merck provided a similar generous donation in matching funds to support the MCSFL for our 2015 graduates. Again, individual donors stepped up and the funds raised through the drive helped our METCO students begin their college life. To close out this year, corporate neighbor Shire donated to the MCSFL to help support our students. “Shire is proud to have our U.S. Operational Headquarters in Lexington and we are committed to being a contributing member of the community,” said Jessica Cotrone, Shire’s Head of External Communications.  “We appreciate the important impact the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington has on deserving students and we are very happy to support it.”

 

In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.
In 2016, the Board of Trustees of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington will be putting into action a new strategic plan focused on raising awareness of METCO and the MCSFL in the community as well as working toward a college completion funding model to help students not just as they enter college but to help close financial gaps as they matriculate on their way toward finishing their college degrees. There is a new website as well as a Facebook Page where visitors can learn more about the MCSFL and future events related to METCO and our students. To learn more about the MCSFL and to donate online go to: https://metcocollegescholarship.wordpress.com/ or contact Jill Smilow, President of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington at metco.csfl@gmail.com. Contributions to the MCSFL are appreciated and can be sent to the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington, 10 Fletcher Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420.

 

SAVE THE DATE!
Sunday, May 15th
at 3 pm

Depot Square, Lexington Center
Join in a community-wide celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the METCO College Scholarship Fund of Lexington. Meet former METCO students, members of the Board and learn more about the history of the METCO program in our community and our strategic plans for the future of the MCSFL.
The event is free and open to all!

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Lexx Restaurant Continues to Evolve

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)By Jim Shaw

As a community, Lexington continues to evolve on many fronts.  From real estate development and our public schools, to local government and commerce, the complexion of Lexington is changing.  There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the business mix in Lexington Center.  One of the most significant changes over the past ten or so years has been the increase in up-scale casual dining options.  While several new restaurants have opened in Lexington Center, Lexx Restaurant essentially paved the way and helped to put Lexington on the map as a destination for dining.

It must be said that Lexington is home to several very good local restaurants that have served this community well for many years.  Among them are Mario’s, Yangtze River, Dabin and Via Lago.  However, Don Rosenberg and Chris Bateman wanted to introduce the concept of an up-scale American fare menu with a casual atmosphere here in Lexington.  Towards that end, Lexx was opened in October of 2004, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Chris Bateman, Lexx co-owner and managing partner.

Rosenberg, the son of Dunkin Donuts founder William Rosenberg, had previously established and operated Aesop’s Bagels for several years at the same location as Lexx.  Lexx managing partner/owner Chris Bateman explains the transition from Aesop’s to Lexx. Chris says, “I was original hired to be the general manager to help fix an opening that wasn’t quite perfect and run the restaurant the way a restaurant should be run. I came from Vinnie Testa’s where I saw the company grow from three restaurants to a chain of eleven restaurants.  I managed their Lexington location for five years before Don asked me to join him at Lexx.  I knew I wanted to work with Don.  He was a visionary and an entrepreneur with lots of experience.  I knew I could learn from him and help him bring structure and organization to Lexx.  Don had decided that it was time to shift concepts from Aesops’s Bagels.  He thought that Lexington needed an upscale casual restaurant that served cocktails and craft beer. Lexx ended up paving the way for Lexington to become a dining destination.”

Apparently, all did not go well when Lexx first opened.  Operations needed to be revamped and wait times needed to be reduced.  Chris explains that his first challenge was to right the ship.  He says, “In the beginning, the buzz about Lexx wasn’t so good.  People thought the waits were too long and they weren’t completely happy with the menu.  That was the real challenge.  Getting people here in Lexington to be open-minded about giving Lexx another opportunity.  Don and I had a long interview and he saw that I could bring the systems and operations that was needed at Lexx.  In the beginning, I spent a great deal of time in the community.  We wanted to partner with great community organizations like the Lexington Symphony and help other organizations.  In fact, each year we donate about $5,000 in gift certificates to local charitable organizations.  I think our sincere commitment to the community has helped to breed good will.”

Chris explains that while Lexx was always a good restaurant, it needed to go to the next level.  While he was good at operations, he wasn’t a trained chef.  So he set out to find one, and he did.  Chris says, “We were really never a chef driven establishment.  Over the years our menu has morphed with changes that we thought were good.  We wanted to move from being a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and now in year eleven I hired a chef that can help us achieve that goal.  Chef Jonathan Post was brought in because of his culinary prowess. He’s going to do great things here.  His new menu items have been off the charts. Our guests love them. I would honestly put his dishes up against any of the great Boston chefs.  So, I’m excited about what the future will bring.”

Working with a new chef can be an adjustment, but Chris decided to trust in the recommendations of his new chef.  Chris says, “From day one, we were focused on fresh, quality ingredients. But when chef Jonathan arrived six months ago, he was adamant that everything should be made from scratch.  Right down to the ketchup.  I know it sounds silly to be so concerned about ketchup, but Jonathan made the argument that ketchup can touch off allergies for sensitive people, and that making our own ketchup would illustrate our commitment to offering truly fresh food.  I was concerned because people have been using Heinz here for eleven years, but it only took three months to move people towards our fresh ketchup.  Now they love it, and it contains no sugars, preservatives or coloring.  It’s as fresh as it can be.”

After achieving the level of success that has sustained them over the last few years, Chris’ challenge had been about keeping regular customers satisfied.  He explained that their always seeking new ways to keep things fresh without letting go of what works.  He said, “I always said that we had to have enough items on the menu so people can visit us on multiple occasions.  During the week, if they want to stop by for a burger and a beer that’s great.  If a couple wants to come in on a Friday or Saturday night and have a more upscale meal, or if someone wants to have a business meeting here or celebrate a special occasion, we need to be able to have enough offerings.  One thing that I’ve noticed at other similar restaurants is their limited menu selection.  Often I’ll see only five or so entrees or only a couple of salads to choose from.  For us, we try to bill ourselves as the neighborhood restaurant with a great selection where you can spend as much or as little as you want.”

Chris continued, “The challenge for chef Jonathan is he’s always looking to introduce new things to the menu, but I say that our formula has always been to have a much broader menu.  We literally have guests who eat here six or seven times a week.  We have to keep our selections fresh, but consistent with a broad selection.  I know we can’t be all things to all people, but we have to try.”

 

Mediterranean Hummus _ Lexx-1

Mediterranean Hummus

Lexx4

Beet Salad

Lexx5

Lemon Bar

When asked about where he thought he’d be after eleven years in business, Chris was pretty confident that he has risen to the challenges he set for himself.  He says, “I think we’re about where I expected us to be after eleven years.  For me personally, I thought I’d only be here for a couple of years.  I wanted to put structures in place and get the place where it needed to be.  However, after the original chef left, I accepted the challenge of seeing just how good we could become.  As I said, I originally came on as the GM, but after a few years Don gave me equity in the company.  I then became managing partner, so now I’m one of the owners of the company. Don has now pretty much retired and has left 100% of the day-to-day operations to me. We talk several times a week about the business and how to always keep things fresh and interesting.”

Clearly, Lexx has become a staple for local dining.  It’s where you go to be seen and to see others.  Rarely do you go to Lexx without bumping into someone you know.  That’s a tribute to the success they have achieved and their commitment to the community.  When asked about the future Chris smiled and said, “I hope that our menu will grow and that we always seek to improve all facets of Lexx. We’ll always have our Lexx classics like osso bucco, the burger and our Moroccan stew, but the challenge has always been and will continue to be our focus on offering the very best food in a warm friendly atmosphere to our friends here in Lexington.”

 

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Chef Jonathan Post

Executive Chef, Jonathan Post, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, brings his seasonal, locally-inspired, New-England-through-a-Southern-lens style to Lexx Restaurant’skitchen and hopes to make the next ten years there even more successful than the past decade.

It’s easy to glimpse the influence of the down-home cookin’ on which Jonathan was raised when he’s in the kitchen.  Whether it reveals itself in the myriad of pickles and preserves, or in the multitude of containers of bacon drippings and animal fat stacked in the cooler, there’s no doubt that Jonathan carries his heritage close to him like a tattered old wallet photo.  His simple, approachable food isn’t fussed over, just presented honestly with the ambition of doing justice to the raw product, and the people who cared for it.

The people responsible for his ingredients are never far from Jonathan’s mind.  Being in close contact with the farmers is a priority, as they are the ones who really dictate the menu.  Often, on the few days that he’s not in the kitchen, Jonathan is on his knees with his hands in the dirt, helping to transplant seedlings, or hand-weeding a bed of carrots.

In the decade that Jonathan has been in New England, he has been blessed to have spent time in the kitchens of some exceptionally talented chefs.  There was a several-year stint at Blue Ginger, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Ming Tsai, where he was exposed to exotic ingredients, but most importantly to the Asian philosophy of balance.  Jonathan was on the opening management team at 80 Thoreau, where he honed his attention to detail, refinement, and realized the significance of impeccable technique.  At Moody’s Delicatessen he was given the opportunity to witness, and absorb the knowledge of a master charcutier.  All of these experiences, among others, are visible in his approach and deliberation, and ultimately his food.

Jonathan is thrilled with the new opportunity to be heading up the kitchen at Lexx  Restaurant and just as eager to get to know all of his new neighbors.  So, even if he looks busier than a cat on a hot tin roof, be sure to stop by the kitchen and say hello!

 

 

Lexx logo est 2004 (5)

Click image for LEXX Menu

Lexx is located at 1666 Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington Center.  Call them at 781-674-2990, or visit them at LexxRestaurant.com for more information about their menu and hours of operation.

 

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Lexington Remembers

Remembers Committee members (left to right) Francine Edwards, Mary Gillespie, and Bob Edwards . Photo by Digney Fignus.

Remembers Committee members (left to right) Francine Edwards, Mary Gillespie, and Bob Edwards . Photo by Digney Fignus.

LOCAL CABLE SHOW CHRONICLES THE HISTORY OF LEXINGTON FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS

By Digney Fignus

“Know what’s under your feet.”  It’s the familiar mantra of Mary Gillespie, the driving force and Chair of the Committee for the long-running Lexington Remembers television series.  One of the staples of LexMedia’s local programming, the show documents an oral history of the Lexington community.  Mary recalls what inspired the project: “I was a Social Studies Specialist at the Harrington School.  I was surprised to find that many of my students didn’t know anything about the history of their own neighborhoods.  One day I brought members of the Busa family in to talk about their farm and personal history with the town.  What was supposed to be a one-hour talk ended up lasting the whole morning.  The Busas went home for lunch and then came back and spent the rest of the afternoon talking with the children.”  The school program was an instant success.  At the time, Mary was also involved with the Lexington Historical Society.  After enthusiastic responses to the program at a number of other Lexington Elementary Schools she felt a real need to create a more permanent record of this unwritten history.  The die was cast when Mary approached LexMedia with the idea of putting on a show about the “people behind the woodwork.”  As Mary says, “to preserve the contributions of the people who served our community and helped to make it what it is.”

Mary began to gather together a small team to produce what she thought would be “just a few shows.”  The project was seeded with a $500.00 grant from the Lexington Friends of the Council on Aging to purchase equipment and supplies.  Everyone involved in the project is a volunteer.  The shows don’t need a fancy sound stage.  Most of the interviews are shot right in front of Mary’s big white brick fireplace.

Bob and Francine Edwards are the show’s production team.  Bob is a retired Electrical Engineer who worked at Raytheon and helped to father the technology that led to the invention of the microwave oven. Bob heard about Mary’s idea for a community access show through the Council on Aging.  Being an engineer, Bob liked the idea of learning a new technical skill.  Francine was very involved in the Girl Scouts in Lexington.  Her outstanding work as a leader had earned her a “Wonder Woman Grant.”  As part of the prestigious award she attended a seminar about how to study and record woman’s oral history.  Francine recalls, “I only came to the first meeting to give a talk about what I had leaned from the seminar.” She laughs, “They roped me in.”

Francine and Bob Edwards filming at Hancock-Clarke House. After Francine and Bob were "roped in" to the project, they took a production class at LexMedia and they have been the production team on Lexington Remembers ever since.

Francine and Bob Edwards filming at Hancock-Clarke House. After Francine and Bob were “roped in” to the project, they took a production class at LexMedia and they have been the production team on Lexington Remembers ever since.

Francine and Bob both took a production class at LexMedia to learn how to operate the cameras and run the editing programs. That was nearly ten years ago.  What started out to be “just a few shows” has grown to a collection of 43 episodes.  Bob and Francine have been working with Mary since the beginning of the project and have shot and edited most of the current catalog.  They make four copies of each show, one for broadcast at LexMedia, and one each for the Council on Aging, Lexington Historical Society, and the Cary Library.  For the Edwards it’s a true labor of love.  Between shooting the show (yes, Bob and Francine each run a camera, set up the lighting, and do the sound recording), formatting, synchronizing, editing, laying the sound track, and making copies, it takes nearly 10 hours of effort to produce each hour of the show.  Their hard work really paid off when in 2010 they were presented with LexMedia’s Producer of the Year award.

Part of the shows longevity and success has to be attributed to the incredible team that Mary was able to assemble at the start of the project. One of the first recruits was longtime resident and Lexington Town Meeting member Dan Fenn.  Dan grew up in Lexington and has had a storied career.  Nationally known, Dan was an advisor to JFK, taught at Harvard University, and was former head of the Kennedy Library.  Dan brings a wealth of experience to the project and is one of the shows principle interviewers.  Almost everyone working on the show has lived in Lexington for years. All in all, they are a testimonial to the adage: you’re never too old to learn.  Most of the current crew is over 80.  Nonagenarians Bob and Dan are 92.

Dan Fenn (right) with Sam Doran appearing on-camera for a Lexington Remembers segment. Dan was one of the first recruits for the Lexington Remembers team.

Dan Fenn (right) with Sam Doran appearing on-camera for a Lexington Remembers segment. Dan was one of the first recruits for the Lexington Remembers team.

The story behind the show should be enough to inspire you, but the lasting value of these first-hand recollections of life in Lexington are priceless.  Any researcher would give their eye teeth to have access to this kind of information.  Yes, it’s community television.  There is nothing slick about it, no fancy special effects, just real people talking about their life and times. But isn’t that the point?

I binge-watched over a dozen Lexington Remembers episodes in between Patriot’s games and the World Series.  As I watched, I couldn’t help reminisce about my own experiences growing up in Lexington.  I remember bouncing rocks off the water tower and scrounging for a baby carriage wheel in the Lincoln Street dump just as one of the “Leading Ladies of Lexington,” long-time Town Meeting Member Shirley Stoltz, did when she was a kid growing up near the Stone Store on Mass Ave.  I recall graduating from a Sinker to a Pollywog at the town pool just as Helen Millican did as she recounted her days as a swimming instructor in Lexington.

The shows cover a range of topics and have no rigid time restrictions.  Some of them are as short as 15 minutes, some are just over an hour.  Some are already tremendously important because the people who were interviewed, like Dr. Winthrop Harrington, have since passed away.  Dr. Harrington is a direct descendant of the Harrington family who fought in the Battle of Lexington.  He was also an avid bird watcher.  Bob and Francine joked that this made the show particularly hard to edit because all he wanted to talk about was birds and not his family’s history.

One of my favorite shows was the piece on Lexington Gardens.  The Millican brothers, Harold and John Hall, told the remarkable story of how their father had lost the family’s 70-acre Lexington farm during the 1929 crash.  Never the type to give up, the family turned its fortune around when their dad was able to purchase the land that eventually became Lexington Gardens from a Harvard professor who had been using it to grow exotic plants for his Botany classes.  The brothers recount how they were able to get started for “$50.00, some furniture, and an old truck.”  It’s an inspiring story of success and hard work.  Lexington Gardens became famous as the home of the “Victory Garden” show that ran for many seasons on public television.

Over the years, Mary and her Committee have been able to secure interviews with some of Lexington’s most prominent citizens.  How refreshing is it to see Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, take us back to a time when Lexington was primarily a farm community.  His family originally came to Lexington in 1828.  What a treasure to hear him talk with pride about the “Dailey Wall” that his family built on Waltham Street and his experience as a pinsetter in the bowling alley that still exists under the floorboards of one of the downtown shops.  He grew up in a Lexington where Carroll’s cows would stop traffic on Waltham Street to cross to the lower pasture where a golf driving range now exists.

Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen (center) with Father Colletti and Lillian McArthur at one of Bill's "East Lexington Reunions" held at the Dailey Farm on Marrett Road.

Bill Dailey, former Chairman of the Board of Selectmen (center) with Father Colletti and Lillian McArthur at one of Bill’s “East Lexington Reunions” held at the Dailey Farm on Marrett Road.

I came to Lexington in the ‘50s and I still remember that world: a world where you could buy a nice house in Lexington for $12,500 and tuition at Tufts University was a whopping $250.00 (Harvard was only $500.00).  A recurring theme almost everyone interviewed talks about is how Lexington was so much more a blue-collar community then.  My father and his father were bus drivers for the Boston Elevated, and later the MTA, and then the MBTA.  My granddad had a house on Waltham Street with an upstairs apartment that I lived in as a toddler with my mom and dad.  My grandfather, who had been born in England, kept a pigeon coop in the backyard.  The pigeons are long gone, but some of our family still lives there today.

Lexington was typical small-town America not that long ago.  My dad’s sister Eleanor married Morris Bloomberg who owned Morris Motors that was just a few blocks down Waltham Street at Four Corners.  My cousin Barbara married Larry Carroll, one of the Carroll boys whose farm was a short walk down the street in the opposite direction.  Middleby Road was a just a dirt road in the mid-50s when my dad and mom saved up enough money to get their own little house.  There was no Bridge School.  There was an open meadow with a hollowed out crab apple tree we hid in during games of “52 Scatter.”  The two big chestnut trees near the current entrance to the school were our jungle gyms and just off the path were patches of blackberries, raspberries, and wild grapes.  For me, watching the Lexington Remembers episodes was not only nostalgic, it was informative.  Even though I’m related to the Carroll’s, I didn’t know that the Carroll family was once recognized as “The National Catholic Farm Family of America.”

Lexington was a place where it was not uncommon for a family to have roots that ran back multiple generations.  The show “A Conversation with Dick Michelson” traces that family back five generations.  Michelson’s Shoes was opened in 1919 by Dick’s grandfather who originally came to Lexington because the town needed a harness repairman.  From harness repair, to mending boots, to selling and stocking custom-fit shoes, Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years.  Even today it is run as a successful family business.  I happened into the shop this last Halloween to take a photo or two.  Not only were three generations of Michelson’s working that day, they were celebrating Dick’s 82nd birthday.

Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years. Three generations of Michelsons: (left to right) Mark Solomon, Dick Michelson, Barbara Michelson, Andrea Michelson, and Jerry Michelson. Photo by Digney Fignus.

Michelson’s has been a landmark in Lexington Center for almost 100 years. Three generations of Michelsons: (left to right) Mark Solomon, Dick Michelson, Barbara Michelson, Andrea Michelson, and Jerry Michelson. Photo by Digney Fignus.

Besides the archived copies, most of the Lexington Remembers shows are currently available for viewing On Demand at the LexMedia website.  From the history of the Boy Scouts, the Police and Fire Departments, and the Daughters of the American Revolution, to recollections of town leaders, and the inspiring stories of well-known families like the Busas and Dorans, there is bound to be something of interest to anyone with a Lexington connection.  The shows are always informative and have a genuine historic value.  The episodes are first-and-foremost entertaining.  How can you not chuckle when Mickey Khazam deadpans the “catchy title” of one of the Friends of the Council on Aging upcoming lectures: “New Neurons in the Adult Brain, Stem Cell Surprises.”

As they approach their 50th show, the Lexington Remembers Committee is putting out the call for more people to get involved.  Mary Gillespie has certainly realized her vision of a program “not only historical, but to honor some of the people who have made a difference in the community.”  In the last ten years Mary and her exceptional seniors didn’t just hit the mark, they struck a bull’s-eye and had lots of fun in the process.

The editing suite at LexMedia where Lexington Remembers is produced.

The editing suite at LexMedia where Lexington Remembers is produced.

If you are interested in volunteering, learning more, or contributing to this important non-profit project please contact:

Lexington Remembers Committee Chair Mary Gillespie 781-862-9166

LexMedia –  www.lexmedia.org 781-862-5388

Lexington Friends of the Council on Aging – www.friendsoftheCOA.org

 

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To view episodes of Lexington Remembers visit the LexMedia Website at www.LexMedia.org and search Lexington Remembers in the On Demand section.

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CEL Matching Gift Challenge!

CEL ArtTis the season

While there is no shortage of energy and commitment among volunteers in Lexington, often it is a struggle for nonprofit organizations to secure funding for programs that fall outside of the regular town operating budget.

The Lexington Education Foundation (LEF) which is focused on educational initiatives and the Dana Home Foundation, which addresses senior needs, have been successfully increasing funding in their targeted areas for many years However, there are programs that fall outside of the mission of these organizations and for these deserving community-building programs it is too-often impossible to thrive because of funding issues.

To address these unmet needs, a small group of determined volunteers got together and rolled up their sleeves. The result: The Community Endowment of Lexington (CEL), a community fund that provides grants to worthy nonprofit projects in Lexington.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

The Community Endowment of Lexington was established in 2013 by three Lexingtonians:  Stephanie Lawrence, Pauline Benninga and Amy Garbis.

Stephanie says, “I was introduced to a couple of women who had children in the schools and they were hearing from their school principals about the increase in requests for holiday assistance from families.” Alarm was also growing in the community about homeless families being housed at a Lexington motel.  At the time Stephanie was also serving on the Lexington Human Services Committee which was experiencing a sharp uptick in requests for emergency services—needs that are addressed through The Fund for Lexington.

It was a challenging time in Lexington and many other communities. Middle class families were under continuous pressure from the financial meltdown and subsequent business failures, personnel trimming and corporate reorganizations. Mortgages were under siege. The insecurity in the economy had a double-whammy effect on non-profits simultaneously increasing need and decreasing resources as donations crashed from both private and corporate sources.

“I knew that most Lexingtonians would be surprised to hear about the significance of the need,” Stephanie says. “We started to talk about what sort of initiative could be put into place that could be effective for Lexington.” They wanted to act quickly. That’s when Stephanie thought of the Foundation for MetroWest. As a nonprofit professional she was familiar with their work. “I thought if we partnered with the foundation we could really hit the ground running,” she says.  They had some “very promising” discussions with the with the folks at MetroWest that increased their enthusiasm for the project. Their first consideration was making sure that any new resource would not be stepping on the toes of existing organizations. “There are public agencies and nonprofits doing wonderful work for the town of Lexington,” Stephanie says.

The women met with Selectman Norm Cohen and the Director of Lexington Human Services, Charlotte Rodgers to learn more about the various programs run through the Human Services Department like The Fund for Lexington, which responds to emergency requests from individuals and families in Lexington for rent, groceries or fuel.

Rather than duplicate effective programs like this one, the women wanted to identify gaps—local nonprofits that might be struggling. “So many organizations frequently struggle to raise the funds necessary to develop their programs and services,” she says.

For organizations that are struggling to thrive in a difficult funding environment, it can make the difference between continuing their important work, or having to surrender when the money dries up leaving their constituencies to scramble.

“The Community Endowment of Lexington is an excellent vehicle to provide grants to local groups that benefit the Lexington community as a whole.  The Fund for Lexington is primarily for individuals and families impacted by financial crises,” explains Norman Cohen.

Left to right are CEL board member Stephanie Wolk Lawrence, current board chair Leslie Zales, and CEL board member Nancy White.

Left to right are CEL board member Stephanie Wolk Lawrence, current board chair Leslie Zales, and CEL board member Nancy White.

DEFINING THE MISSION

After meeting with Norm and Charlotte, the women became convinced that they could create something that would have meaningful impact in the community and they decided to broaden their mission giving them latitude to consider grant applications from a wide variety of organizations. This is the mission statement from their website:

The Community Endowment of Lexington supports programs and services that help make life healthier and more enjoyable for all members of the community in the areas of health and human services, arts and culture, ecological well-being, and community building. It encourages grant applications from nonprofit organizations and public agencies that bring innovative thinking to big issues and small ones.

They ultimately partnered with the Foundation for MetroWest to take advantage of their structure which provides financial management, legal counsel and the guidance of a highly qualified board of directors.

As an endowed fund of the Foundation for MetroWest, CEL is designed to be a permanent, steady source of funding for the town of Lexington. Each year, spending is limited to a designated percentage of the fund, leaving the rest to build for the future. While the Foundation for MetroWest provides fund administration, grants are reviewed and awarded by the Community Endowment of Lexington Community Board.

CEL has so far raised over $300,000 from its Founding Members—34 individuals, businesses,  family foundations and community groups each who have contributed $5,000 or more. The goal of the fund is to build the endowment to $1 million and to concurrently identify and award grants as it is growing.

According to Lexingtonian Janet Kern, Director of Development and Community Relations for the Foundation for MetroWest, the initial goal is to build the fund to $1M as a starting point to be able to deliver $50,000 year of impact annually. “That felt like a very achievable goal in Lexington,” she says. “We certainly hope to grow the fund beyond the $1M mark with future fundraising programs enabling even greater impact.”

CEL has awarded over $50,000 in grants in just two years to nine ono-profit organixations serving Lexington across a diverse spectrum of needs. (Check out the quotes from several grant recipients on pages 16 and 17.)

COMMUNITY CHALLENGE—DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

This season—between now and December 31st, CEL has a very exciting opportunity to increase the size of their fund thanks to two of CEL’s founding members, Leslie and Colin Masson. The Massons have very generously offered to match all gifts made to the Community Endowment of Lexington dollar for dollar up to $100,000!

Current CEL board chair Leslie Zales hopes this short, but significant opportunity will inspire the entire community to come together to help grow this fund and keep it healthy into the future.

“We are incredibly thankful to Leslie & Colin for their ongoing commitment to CEL and this exciting challenge,” Zales says. “This campaign will bring us to the halfway mark of CEL’s ultimate fundraising goal.  The time has never been better to support CEL.  Every dollar counts.”

Doubled

Double your Gift

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Light Up Lexington Together!

Colleen Smith and Justine Wirtanen, co-chairs of the Lighting Committee surrounded by the many volunteers from the town and small businesses that make holiday lighting in Lexington Center so successful!

Colleen Smith and Justine Wirtanen, co-chairs of the Lighting Committee surrounded by the many volunteers from the town and small businesses that make holiday lighting in Lexington Center so successful!

snowflakeLIBH

Holiday Lighting Button will be available for $5. The buttons were purchased for this purpose by Cambridge Trust Bank and Stacey Sheehan, the manager of the Lexington branch is organizing the sale of the buttons. “We are delighted to support this effort,” Sheehan says. “All proceeds from the button sales will go directly to the Holiday Lighting Program.” You may purchase your Holiday Lighting button at Cambridge Trust, Crafty Yankee, Michelson’s Shoes and Brookline Bank.

Light Up

As we anxiously await the holiday season and the magical lights that transform Lexington Center each year, dozens of volunteers and many more citizens and organizations are hard at work to make it possible. The lighting of Lexington Center is a private/public partnership and no town funds are used. The entire project is funded by donations from citizens and Lexington businesses.

This year there are two new chairs of the Lighting Committee, Colleen Smith and Justine Wirtanen, who will continue to work in coordination with the Lexington Retailers Association. In their role as chairs of the committee, Smith and Wirtanen are responsible for fundraising and the coordination of the massive project. The total cost is around $13K which is completely supported by generous contributions. Several years ago, the committee switched over to energy efficient LED bulbs making the project both more affordable and environmentally friendly.

Lighting Committee chairperson Colleen Smith says, “We are looking forward to bringing the wonder of light and joy to Lexington Center this holiday season. I am so honored and impressed at all the different individuals that donate their time and expertise to make this happen for town.” Wirtanen adds, “Thank you to The Lexington Retailers Association and The Lexington Department of Public Works who deserve a lot of credit for coming forward to help assist with this project.”

To support the fundraising goals of the committee a special Holiday Lighting Button will be available for $5. The buttons were purchased for this purpose by Cambridge Trust Bank and Stacey Sheehan, the manager of the Lexington branch is organizing the sale of the buttons. “We are delighted to support this effort,” Sheehan says. “All proceeds from the button sales will go directly to the Holiday Lighting Program.” You may purchase your Holiday Lighting button at Cambridge Trust, Crafty Yankee, Michelson’s Shoes and Brookline Bank.

It takes more than lights to make the center merry! Don’t forget the charming whisky barrels that line the avenue planted with a mini evergreen by Mike Keegan of Keegan’s Landscaping and Keith Hoffman of Eastern Brothers Landscaping each year. Once they are firmly in place Lisa Gravallese of Patriot Community Bank and her team follow up by decorating each tree in seasonal finery.

Turn your attention to Emery Park where the lampposts are wrapped in greens and topped with a bow. Thanks go to Peter Kelley and Brian Kelley of Woodhaven Realty for their work decorating this part of the center. But they don’t stop there. Peter and Brian head over to Wilson Farm where Jim Wilson loads them up with over 400 feet of real evergreen garland that they use to decorate the block running between Wales Copy and Valentines. Wilson also donates the wreaths that hang up and down the avenue. New this year Cary Hall will be aglow with lights highlighting the outline of the newly renovated building and bringing a festive feeling as you attend all the wonderful events scheduled throughout the holidays season.

On Holiday Tree Lighting Night, Friday, November 27th at 6PM at Emery Park, hundreds of children will wait for Santa to throw the switch and officially light up Lexington Center. Part of the ceremony will include the lighting of the tree with multicolored lights at the edge of the park. That tree is one of three large evergreens donated by Laura Hopkins of Seasons Four. The tree is picked up and delivered by Marquis Tree Service and is erected and decorated by Bob Barnard of R.L. Barnard Landscape in Lexington. Seasons Four also donates the tree that at Hastings Park decorated by Lexington Boy Scouts and the tree that stands beside the Police Booth in the middle of Lexington. John Carroll of J.P. Carroll decorates the tree and the booth as well as the booth at the entrance of the center parking lot.

Finally, we have to acknowledge Matt Foti of Foti Tree Service for the glorious tree that always sparkles in front of Cary Hall. Matt used to work on the trees in the Public Gardens in Boston so he really knows how to wrap those branches and make it glow! We look forward to it every year!

When everything is ready, set, go—master electrician Scott Caron of Caron Electric makes sure everything is safe before he makes the connection.

Remember, the Holiday Lighting program is truly a community effort and a great example of a successful public/ private partnership!  This year it is even easier for you to help – visit www.LightingUpLexington.com to donate online via Paypal or fill out the form below and mail in your contribution.  Justine Wirtanen says it’s the enormous cooperation between organizations, volunteers, businesses and the community that makes lighting come together each year. “That’s why it works so well each year!”

 

TO DONATE, VISIT:

http://www.shoplexingtonfirst.com/lighting-up-lexington-together.html

 

 

          OR MAIL THE COUPON BELOW:

Lighting Coupon

 

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Lexington’s Walking Man

 

Rick Abrams

Rick Abrams


 

The Pied Piper of ACROSS Lexington

A year after Rick left us, ACROSS Lexington, the work of his final months, is being rededicated in his memory. This is a tribute to Rick and his indefatigable devotion to this project and his special talent for creating connections, leading and inspiring with quiet, grace, determination and humor.


 

By Laurie Atwater

 

He loved to walk in nature. He fell in love with footpaths in England while attending York University and continued the practice when he wanted a quiet meditative place to think away from traffic and the hectic business of life. When he became ill, he found walking to be therapeutic and life affirming, and it sustained him throughout a decade-long battle with thyroid cancer.

In his final years, Rick Abrams turned his attention to an ambitious community project in Lexington that would make it easier for the entire community to share his love of walking in nature. Linking the many protected conservation areas in Lexington to form a coherent network of walking trails, ACROSS (Accessing Conservation land, Recreation areas, Open space, Schools and Streets) Lexington is Rick’s legacy and a gift to all Lexingtonians.  He worked tirelessly to make this idea a reality and now, just about one year after Rick’s death, ACROSS Lexington: the Rick Abrams Memorial Trail Network will be officially dedicated to his memory on June 14th.

And what a memory it is for people who knew and loved him and even those who met him briefly—Rick Abrams was one of those rare people who made good things happen all around him, inspired respect and affection and left the world a better place. He had a gift.


 

Grey QuoteIt was Rick’s spirit and enthusiasm, that was the spark, his constant encouragement, positive attitude, and smile—that kept all of us coming back every month.”

Mark Sandeen, Chairman
Sustainable Lexington Committee


 

AN ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT 

Starting young, Rick learned to work hard. I recently visited with his wife Susan Kenyon and she told me that Rick’s parents raised chickens on a farm in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The family left the farm when Rick was six and moved to Providence. Then in 1969, when Rick was 12, they bought a “rundown rooming house on Block Island.” Rick’s father was a “visionary” according to Susan—one of those entrepreneurial spirits who was always ahead of the curve. Block Island didn’t have any prestige in those days, but his parents thought it would be good for the kids—they could have summer jobs at the inn and start on a new adventure. No small nod to dad’s instincts, the inn is a vibrant business to this day as the locale has grown into a popular vacation spot. His sister Rita Draper runs it now, but in the early years all the kids pitched in. Susan often tells the story of Rick’s humble culinary beginnings as an assistant to the Chef when he was 14. In a dramatic moment, after the chef burned his hand, young Rick jumped in to cook breakfast for 160 guests! Cooking was a skill that Rick continued to develop and enjoy.  In thirty-five years of marriage, Susan says she never cooked a meal, while Rick’s skills became legend among his friends. “It was good because I come from a long line of bad cooks,” Susan says with a laugh.

Rick and his brother Mark started a sandwich shop on the island and Susan says people still say, ‘I remember those sandwiches!’ with a nostalgic lick of the lips. As fledgling entrepreneurs, they stayed open late and would sell their sandwiches to the hungry bar crowds after hours. “They would sleep till 1 or 2 the next day,” Susan says with a laugh.

Ironically Susan and Rick started out just miles from one another in Rhode Island; Rick on the chicken farm and Susan in potato country in South Kingstown, but they wouldn’t meet for years down the road. They both landed at Colby College in Waterville, Maine in the 1970s, but for the 4 years on campus they only spoke a few times. Rick was a dedicated student and applied himself enthusiastically to his studies at the expense of a social life—often disappearing into the library stacks. (He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in economics and mathematics. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa.)

Susan did know Rick’s roommate Doug Kaplan at Colby. After graduation when Susan was in law school and needed a place to crash while she started a summer associateship at Mintz Levin, she contacted Doug. He was in Boston and still rooming with Rick. Finally Susan and Rick got to know each other and discovered everything that they had in common! They were married in 1982 and moved to Lexington in 1993.

Rick was a family man first. Rick with his wife Susan Kenyon and beloved children (left to right) Archie, Sydney and Stan.

Rick was a family man first. Rick with his wife Susan Kenyon and beloved children (left to right) Archie, Sydney and Stan.

In the early years Rick worked for Data Resources in Lexington and Susan was practicing law at Mintz Levin. They had a great life for two young people, but Rick was itching to do something else. Susan says he was toying with going back to graduate school, but wasn’t really that interested. His inner entrepreneur was just dying to get out! Rick had a regular squash game with a venture capitalist named Jerry Dykama. One day Jerry hinted around at a possible business opportunity. Eventually Jerry introduced Rick to Tom Snyder, a teacher from the Shady Hill School who had started a business called Computer Learning Connection. Snyder would eventually become Rick’s business partner in something that was called “educational software.”

SOFTWARE, WHAT’S SOFTWARE?  

Susan can laugh about it now, but it must have been pretty scary at the time. “Rick took a fifty percent cut in pay,” she says and moved to an office in a 3rd story walk-up. His desk was a piece of plywood on hinges that rested atop the sink in the kitchen! “Back then, no one understood computers,” she says. “Everyone thought he was crazy!”

It appears that Rick had inherited some of that visionary gift from his father because the field of educational software was in its infancy and their company, Tom Snyder Productions (TSP), went on to pioneer innovative, creative products, even expanding into animation with Soup2Nuts Studios.

“The notion of combining business with a social agenda like education was something that appealed to Rick,” Susan says. “Their products were never designed to replace teachers, they were made for teachers who wanted to enhance the curriculum and enrich the learning experience.”

Eventually the partners sold TSP to Scholastic. Rick stayed on as General Manager and was still working when he discovered a lump while shaving. The lump turned out to be thyroid cancer.

THYROID CANCER

Rick attacked the new challenge with the same inquisitive, hard-working, optimistic attitude that shaped his every endeavor. He researched and learned everything he could. He met his treatment regimen with mettle and everything seemed to follow the predictably curable path of the most common thyroid cancers for a short while. But when it came roaring back and it was obvious that Rick’s was a more virulent form of thyroid cancer—a cancer that is actually rather rare.

He underwent grueling radiation and chemotherapy. During his therapy, Rick contacted a group called ITOG (International Thyroid Oncology Group) and went on to become the only patient advocate on the ITOG board.  Susan explains that Rick spent hours advocating, helped the organization develop their website and made a short video about his experience to help other patients (still on the website) all during his difficult illness.

He continued to work for as long as he could, reduced his hours to part-time, and began to look outside his professional life for sources of strength. He loved photography, cooking and reading. He was well-known for his men-only book club with paired meals—the menu matched the topic of the book!

He connected with Ramel (Rami) Rones, a Tai Chi instructor after seeing a flyer at Dana Farber and learned to expand his understanding of the mind-body connection through Tai Chi and meditation—a practice and friendship that sustained him on his journey.

And he kept walking.

When he decided to go on disability, he experienced the stress that anyone experiences when they stop working. “He said, ‘What am I going to do?’” Susan says, and he was really worried about the idea of “retiring.”

For Rick, “retirement” meant continued work with the ITOG board, a position with the Woods Hole Corporation, the Wheelock College Board of Directors, the Lexington Greenways Corridor Committee, the Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition, Sustainable Lexington, and the Battle Road Historic Byway Committee.

ACROSS Lexington   

The sinage that marks the trails of ACROSS Lexington.

The sinage that marks the trails of ACROSS Lexington.

Despite his fears, Susan says, “The timing worked out really well. When the Greenways Corridor Committee was formed there were people involved who were thinking about creating trails and linking paths in Lexington.” Susan says that their son Archie, a former member of the LHS cross country team used to tell them that he could go for a 10 mile run and “his feet would barely hit pavement.” The idea of interconnected footpaths really appealed to Rick’s love of walking in nature.

“We were always big walkers. Route B, as it’s now known, is the trail that we would walk together.”

Susan explains, “Over time ACROSS Lexington became like his full-time job!” He threw himself into the project and worked tirelessly with Keith Ohmart and other committee members. “He went to 22 boards to gain approvals,” Susan says. Soon he became the public face of ACROSS Lexington. He had the time and seemingly endless stores of energy. It was hard not to wonder how he was managing it all in the face of his illness. He never talked about it. “I think in the last two years of his life he was in bed maybe for a day or two,” Susan says. “He was always busy with meetings and things to do for ACROSS Lexington.”

Rick, ever the technology advocate, even made a connection with David Neal, an IOS developer and Lexington resident, to create the ACROSS Lexington App which is available for free download from the Apple App Store and provides GPS guidance while walking the trails.

Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

Members of the Greenways Corridor Committee. Front row- Alex Dohan, Eileen Entin, Rick Abrams, Keith Ohmart. Back row- Peggy Enders, Paul Knight, Mike Tabaczynski, Bob Hausselein, Stew Kennedy. Photo by David Tabeling.

Keith Ohmart, Chair of the Greenways Corridor Committee says, “Rick seemingly came out of nowhere, blazed across my life and those of my colleagues on the Greenways Corridor Committee for a much too short period of time, made what became the ACROSS Lexington project his own including creating the name for the project, and will be forever remembered.”

The members of the committee loved working with Rick. Much as he had done in his professional life, he infused his work with energy, creativity, inclusiveness and fun. He was a motivator. When several college students reached out to the Sustainable Lexington Committee Rick offered to be their mentor. Mark Sandeen, Chairman of the Sustainable Lexington Committee says that Rick thought it was a good way to pass on their concern and keen interest for the future of the planet to the next generation.

“When you think about climate change and sustainability,” Sandeen explains, “you can get lost in numbers and graphs and reports, but Rick said, ‘We’re talking about quality of life. How can we make this town a better place to live and how can we do the right thing for ourselves and for our kids?’”

“Rick touched many lives through his work with Sustainable Lexington. Rick was the first person who gave me hope that we really could pull a group of great people together who would be willing to work together to make a sustainable difference in Lexington. It was Rick’s spirit and enthusiasm, that was the spark, his constant encouragement, positive attitude, and smile—that kept all of us coming back every month,” Mark says. “Rick was an amazing guy who had more friends than you can count, because Rick made a new friend every time he met someone new. That is a rare gift indeed!”

Sheryl Rosner, who was new to the committee at the time says, “Rick brought such an important perspective to the Sustainable Lexington Committee as he was so committed and enthusiastic about connecting people to nature and very savvy about messaging and technology. His passion and vision about the protected parcels not only led to the success of ACROSS Lexington but was the catalyst for creating an app for the routes. He would have been thrilled with last weekend’s Hidden Treasures event that also tied in art to the trails.”

A year ago in April Rick found out that the last of the experimental drugs was not working and the cancer had spread. He was facing two surgeries over the next couple of months. According to Susan, he was most worried about getting things done for ACROSS Lexington. “He was working on the first map and it was Bike Walk ‘n Bus Week—he led 3 walks that week!” He was thinking ahead to the future and never lost his hopeful attitude.

Susan is working on approval for a memorial bench on Route B in Dunback Meadow, Rick’s favorite spot. It will hopefully inspire walkers to stop for a few moments, breathe deeply and connect with the beauty of nature. Rick would like that.


 

Brochure

To download the complete ACROSS Lexington  brochure visit: www.acrosslexington.org

 

Visit ACROSS Lexington on facebook: www.facebook.com/acrosslex and post a picture of yourself enjoying the trails!

 

Download the FREE ACROSS Lexington App at the Apple App Store:

ACROSS LEXINGTON

 


HatThe Board of Selectmen has established
the Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Fund
to support the trail network by creating:

• New directional and interpretive signage,
• Electronic and/or print maps, and
• Web/software development to incorporate current technologies.

The mailing address for donations is:

Board of Selectmen
ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund
Town of Lexington
1625 Massachusetts Ave.
Lexington, MA 02420

Please make checks out to “Town of Lexington”
and write “Rick Abrams ACROSS Lexington Trust Fund”
on the memo line.

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LHS Poetry Book Helps Students Show Academic Merit and Share Their Own Unique Voices

The Student Publishing Program has announced that its fourth poetry book, The Common Understanding: Poems from Lexington High School’s Class of 2017, has already received submissions from over 450 sophomores. “It’s the most ever in over a decade of working with LHS,” says program cofounder and LHS Grad Anthony Tedesco, adding that “print publication is a great motivator for students, but none of this would be possible without the dedicated writing support of LHS’s English teachers and the courageous participation of the sophomores themselves.”
This year’s book is titled from one of the featured poems, The Common Understanding, written by LHS sophomore Austin Fowlkes, and the book will include a foreword by Robert Pinsky, former U.S. Poet Laureate, founder of The Favorite Poem Project (favoritepoem.org), and author of Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux).
Founded in 2002 by Tedesco and LHS English Teacher Karen Russell, The Student Publishing Program (SPP) is a school-fundraising English Literary Arts curriculum that works with local teachers and the nation’s top poets to help students find and express their own unique voices and demonstrate their academic merit – to themselves and to the community at-large – beyond data-driven assessment. Russell explains that “While SPP meets key Common Core standards and benchmarks for 10th grade English Language Arts, it goes beyond that to help students often exceed perceived ability levels when they are given the opportunity to find their genuine voice that expresses what truly matters.”

SPPbookcover2015-CTIMES_New

For SPP’s free writing and publishing resources, information on pre-ordering LHS’s poetry book, and opportunities to help The Student Publishing Program with your time, tax-deductible donations or expert advice, please visit ColonialTimes.LHSpoem.org

SPPbookcover2015-CTIMES_New

SPP’s school-safe, online publishing platform, makes it easy and quick for teachers to secure and manage hundreds of submissions and permissions, so all sophomores have the opportunity to get their poems published and promoted in an online literary magazine and in a paperback book, with SPP giving 100% of profits back to LHS to further support English Language Arts.
In 2011, when SPP was last able to publish students in a book and promote their work through a book launch/poetry reading event, it was thanks in part to vital support, says Tedesco, from the William G. Tapply Memorial Fund and Lexington Community Education. But even without funding this year, to enable participation and the benefits of print publication, SPP decided to provide the program at no cost to LHS, with SPP’s small staff volunteering all of its time and services, much as so many generous advisors and authors have done to benefit students in the past, including invaluable support from teachers, students, and parents, as well as from local writers such as C. Anthony Martignetti, author of, most recently, Beloved Demons (3 Swallys Press), and X.J. Kennedy, winner of the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry, and author of In A Prominent Bar In Secaucus: New & Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

Van Seasholes

Van Seasholes

Van
In 2011’s book, titled Unsaid, Kennedy wrote: “To any writer, writing always seems more a meaningful act if it results in publication. In bringing out Unsaid, Anthony Tedesco and the Student Publishing Program have accomplished something rare and valuable. This book and this program strike me, to the best of my knowledge, as the most remarkable gift to student writers that anyone has offered in America.”
For SPP’s free writing and publishing resources, information on pre-ordering LHS’s poetry book, and opportunities to help The Student Publishing Program with your time, tax-deductible donations or expert advice, please go online to ColonialTimes.LHSpoem.org.
As the Student Publishing Program’s founding media partner, The Lexington Colonial Times Magazine is also proud to be featuring additional student poems and program coverage in an upcoming issue during April’s National Poetry Month.
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Building Community Around the Supper Table

COMMUNITY ACTIVISTS SEEK TO HELP THOSE IN NEED

From L. to R: Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, George Murnaghan and Laura Derby stir the pot for Lex Eat Together. Photo courtesy of D. Peter Lund.

From L. to R: Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, George Murnaghan and Laura Derby stir the pot for LexEat Together. Photo courtesy of D. Peter Lund.

 

By E. Ashley Rooney

On Tuesday, May 26, a group of 35 residents met to discuss how we as a community could help those in need. Though not easily visible, there are those among us who struggle with not having enough food and social interaction.  By providing a free, nutritious and regularly scheduled community meal, open to all, we can address these needs and build community with those whose circumstances serve to isolate them.

It is difficult to imagine as the bulldozers raze older homes and turn them into multi-million-dollar dwellings, that we could be hungry because we didn’t have enough money to buy food, but a husband can die, a job disappear, a family or medical emergency can devastate our savings. As Laura Derby, one of the organizers, pointed out, once you lose your financial security, you may drift into social isolation. Life becomes a vicious spiral downward.

PROVIDING A FREE COMMUNITY MEAL

Laura, Harriet Kaufman, John Bernhard, and George Murnaghan have been meeting for several months to understand how Lexington can help those in need with a free weekly meal, open to all, which they have named Lex Eat Together.  They have researched similar efforts in Concord and Bedford, worked with the Town’s human services director Charlotte Rodgers, and met with community activists to get their suggestions and input.

Harriet Kaufman pointed out that we have many individuals and groups in town with a strong commitment to service.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ”Life’s most persistent and important question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ Here is an opportunity for connection, for change, and for performing a valuable service.”

She then described the Open Table in Concord and Maynard, which provides a pantry and dinner to all who come, with no questions asked. She spent twenty-five years as a volunteer there, in a variety of roles, including pantry manager, cook, president, board member, and head of guest support services.  The spirit of Open Table, she said, is one of kindness, dignity, inclusion and community.  This spirit is what the group envisions replicating In Lexington.

HARNESSING LEXINGTON’S VOLUNTEER SPIRIT

Their overall plan is to have a weekly meal on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7 pm, starting, in mid-October, and they are working with the Church of Our Redeemer, located in Lexington Center, to hold the meal in Redeemer’s renovated parish hall and kitchen.  They believe a central location, with suitable kitchen and dining facilities, ample parking and handicap access will serve the guests best.  Redeemer, which has hosted the food pantry for 25 years, fulfills all those requirements.

The 35 attendees broke into teams to discuss obtaining volunteers for cooking, serving, setup/cleanup, outreach and promotion, and organization and fundraising. In the next several months, they plan to build awareness about the Lex Eats Together program, to inform and invite potential guests and our community at large about the meal. They plan to seek funds to secure at least six months of operation.  The organizers believe it will cost around $500 per meal to purchase, prepare and serve 80 individual guests, or $12,500 for six months. They will establish a non-profit group to receive donations in the next several weeks.

To volunteer, contribute or obtain more information, contact John Bernhard jhbernhard2@gmail.com, Laura Derby lauraderby32@gmail.com, Harriet Kaufman harrietkaufman@rcn.com, or George Murnaghan gmurnaghan@verizon.net.  Or email lexeattogether@gmail.com.

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