METHUEN — The dream of having a bigger community center in the Arlington Neighborhood has finally become a reality.
Methuen Arlington Neighborhood Inc. (M.A.N. Inc.) held an open house for the grand opening of the Lena Lahey Community Center at 141 Tenney St. on Feb. 12.
Linda Soucy, who has been the heart and soul of the neighborhood, greeted every local official, resident and volunteer who entered the center on this momentous day.
“This is a very special day for the neighborhood,” Soucy said. “This has been a long time coming.”
The two-story, 4,200-square-foot modular center, named after a longtime neighborhood resident, includes a homework center with 15 new computers and desks, along with a library and quiet area for studying.
“We have more than just a building here,” said Mayor William Manzi. “What we see is the spirit and fortitude of the neighborhood. This center epitomizes the great revitalization of the entire neighborhood.”
M.A.N. Inc. vice president Yawa Duse-Anthony, who grew up in the neighborhood, spoke to the crowd about what it’s been like for him to become part of the group that has single-handedly revitalized the neighborhood.
“I got involved by volunteering on Saturdays mentoring at the homework center,” said Duse-Anthony. “I believe in what the program is about and it’s hard to see what it’s all about unless you’re involved in it completely.”
Soucy joked that when Duse-Anthony was first hired as a mentor at the homework center, he was paid $30 a day for three days’ work.
“Seriously, he is a role model for these kids,” Soucy said. “He is a success story, and it lets them know there is hope and it starts with education.”
State Rep. Robert DeLeo of Winthrop, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was a special guest of the grand opening, attending the event with state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen.
“I thought I was taking a tour of Methuen,” DeLeo joked. “I’ve never seen so many Italian-Americans in one place.”
DeLeo commented on how often Campbell, state Rep. Barbara L’Italien and state Sen. Steven Baddour lobby for money to improve the city.
“This is a true success story for this city,” DeLeo said.
Campbell joked about the about DeLeo’s visit to the city. “We’re sending him home via the rotary,” Campbell laughed.
Campbell returned her attention to the real reason everyone was packed into the new center. “You’ve really done more than you’ve done in this neighborhood,” Campbell said. “This type of program could be brought outside the city as a model for other neighborhoods.”
The new building, adjacent to the Tenney Street Park where M.A.N. Inc. holds its summer programs, replaces the 700-square-foot center at 1 Broadway.