Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 15, 2013

Forging common ground

Youth, senior advocates eye union within new center

By Dustin Luca

---- — Call it a “Win for the Ages.”

Or, maybe, a victory for people of all ages.

Special Town Meeting last week approved using half of the $1.4 million Wood Trust — a fund established for the benefit of senior citizens — on the new Cormier Family Youth Center. The vote paves the way for construction to start on the new center, to be built behind Doherty Middle School.

Now, the real work begins: Trying to figure out how the new, $5.4 million facility can be used jointly by both senior citizens and youths in town.

“There’s going to be a lot of natural programs for the spaces,” Andover Youth Services Director Bill Fahey said. “The seniors already do a lot of those programs, but want to expand. Youth Services does a lot of those services, but they want to expand. So we’re going to work together to build each other’s needs.”

Fahey said a multipurpose room proposed for phase two of the building project, for example, would cater to both Andover youths and seniors — and even unite them.

“I think there’s a lot of talent in both the senior and youth populations in terms of acting, music, singing,” Fahey said. “We were saying, `This will be great. We can get the kids involved with it, do multi-generational programs.’”

The Council on Aging is looking to put a committee together in the near future to work with Youth Services on the framework for the building, according to Council on Aging Chairman Don Robb.

Robb’s dream vision for multi-generational relationships sees seniors using their experiences to help the town’s youth.

“There are several opportunities there,” he said. “One is shared cooking classes, seniors that have been cooking all their lives and teaching the young people.”

There’s a lot the two age groups can learn from one another, according to Fahey.

“Seniors can teach young people how to be resilient, and young people have an air about them that everything is possible in their lives,” he said. “When you put those two together, it’s going to be a powerful combination.”

Chris Huntress, chairman of the Andover Youth Center Building Committee, said the money from the trust fund will have a profound effect not just on relations between the generations, but also on the actual construction of the building.

“What this money allows us to do is do the whole foundation and the whole exterior building shell as phase one, whereas before, without this (Wood Trust) money, we’d have to break the project into two construction phases,” he said. “That (appropriation) saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Andover Youth Foundation, a nonprofit group formed to raise money to support Andover Youth Services programming, still has some work ahead of it, according to Huntress.

Though the numbers aren’t yet available, some money is still needed to cover the interior of the building’s second phase, Huntress said. The second phase includes a multipurpose room, a secondary set of bathrooms and some offices.