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Mattapan Square Main Streets looks to raise money, bolster support in neighborhood

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 11, 2012 04:34 PM

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As Mattapan Square Main Streets organizes, the search for an executive director has been put on the back burner as the group tries to raise the necessary funds to receive matching support from the city.

Some within the group though are saying the city needs to provide more support and money now to help the fledgling organization get off the ground.

At a Monday evening board meeting in Mattapan Square, members questioned the city’s commitment to the program and why the group is held to what many perceived as different standards than the other Main Street groups in the city.

The Main Streets program is a federally funded citywide program that works to revitalize neighborhood commercial districts through technical, design and financial support.

In November 2010, the city officially accepted Mattapan's application to become a recognized Main Streets District, making it the 20th Main Street group in the city.

At Monday’s meeting, the group went over its financial status and its application to become a non-profit.

Currently, the groups needs to raise $30,000 to receive matching funds from the city, but the group has only raised approximately $9,000. Once the money has been raised, it will receive $30,000 from the Boston Main Streets program and $20,000 from the Boston Main Street Foundation.

But many said its just too hard to raise that kind of money without a director or the city fully backing the program.

“The only focus has to be fund-raising,” said Nancy Rachael Rousseau, president of the board. “We are not in a position where we can be selective about the money we receive.”

Although the all-volunteer board, which is made up of local residents, business owners and non-profit leaders, agreed, many expressed concern about tackling the financials without having a full-time staff person or being a registered non-profit.

“We don’t have the time every day to do it [fundraise] and having a support staff would help with that,” said Lillie Searcy, a member of the board.

Many on the board contended that the city isn’t providing the same financial support that it did to help other Main Street programs throughout the city get started. Many of those groups, however, were formed prior to the recession when more funds were available.

“The reality is that funders usually give money to organizations that have demonstrated success and we are trying to just build our foundation,” said Rousseau.

Others questioned why the city, according to them, pushed the group in the past to hire an executive director when the city knew the group couldn’t fund a salaried position.

“We were led on that if we got an executive director we’d get the $30,000 and that got switched on us,” said Brian McPherson, vice president of the board. “We were told we needed to hire someone, we were told we need to get an office space. We were led down this road. We really need some help here.”

Steven Rumpler, senior project manager for the city’s Office of Business Management and liaison for the Mattapan Square Main Streets, said no matter what, the money needs to be raised.

“Fundraising is the hardest part of the job, but it’s the job of the board,” said Rumpler, who recently replaced Karen Kaigler, the city’s previous liaison. “The mayor is committed, my office is committed [to this group]. I know it’s been difficult for all of you.”

While the funding was a point of contention for many, the reality is that the money must be raised if the group ever wants to become a fully operating Main Street in a neighborhood that desperately needs a business oriented organization.

The group also had to tackle problems on the board Monday night and the lack of participation by three members.

A vote was taken by the board to expel Chris Yarde, Jeff Brewster and Mohammad Aslam because they missed three consecutive meetings with no excuse.

The board also voted to make Peter Kong, a board member, the interim treasure until the position can be filled permanently.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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