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Mattapan United contract lays out new initiatives for neighborhood

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 11, 2013 01:26 PM

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After two years of work and organizing, the leaders and residents behind Mattapan United are prepared to roll out the bulk of initiatives.

Founded in the fall of 2010, the grant-funded grass-roots group has pushed to better connect the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan and its residents to available resources and to each other.

At a Thursday evening ceremony, the group formally unveiled the initiatives it developed as part of its community contract. Although organizers have already generated and implemented a handful of programs, including computer literacy classes, a housing expo, youth police academy, and back-to-school jamboree the initiatives unveiled Thursday are the culmination of the group’s planning and the final stage in its three-year journey.

“It’s been a long process, but we enjoy doing it and the works has just begun,” said Bobby Jenkins, a member of the group’s steering committee.

Close to $74,000 will be distributed between the programs that tackle specific concerns raised by Mattapan United’s action groups in the areas of community fabric, business development, housing, public safety, open and green spaces, jobs, and health.

“We’re in a good place,” said Milly Arbaje-Thomas, director of the Mattapan Family Service Center, the convening agency for the group. “We’ve done a lot and we’re going to do more. We’re here to stay.”

Some of the money will be used to continue and expand programs that have already shown to be successful including the youth police academy.

Partnering with the Boston Police Department’s District B-3 office, the program connects officers with the local youth they protect.

“It gives them a chance to walk in the footsteps of some of Boston’s finest,” explained Cynthia Brewington, an officer with B-3 and partner on the program.

For three months in the summer the youth participants will see firsthand the work officers do in the community as they shadow them around headquarters and on the streets.

Another initiative funded through the program will be tennis lessons conducted by the Franklin Park Tennis Association.

With free lessons for both adults and youth, the program will bring tennis directly to the community with clinics at Almont Park and River Street Park.

Money will also be used to support programs that already have a following in the community including the Mattapan Community Health Center’s Health Care Revival, a day of health screening, activities, and community connections.

Overall 11 different groups including the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center, the Institute for Pan African Cultural Education, and the Mattapan Patriots Pop Warner Team will receive money through the plan.

Some like the Patriots will use just under $8,000 to help support its youth programs and others like the Student Conservation Association will use a little more than $6,000 to organize community cleanups focused on neighborhood green spaces.

“I think everyone is excited to do the work,” said Karleen Porcena, the group’s lead coordinator. “We had a lot of meetings and now it’s time to implement.”

Each funded group will have a year to implement its program and develop tangible results. Overall the organizations will help facilitate the vision of a more connected, more active, and ever growing Mattapan, which was developed in the initial community planning process.

“Even though some aren’t new projects they focus on the people who have been doing great things that just needed support,” said Porcena. “And in a year we’ll look at what areas are working and see who’s successful and how we can grow those areas.”

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

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