Published on: Sunday, November 1, 2015 Takoma Park Newsletter

Long live the linked community

By Patti Mallin

On a Thursday afternoon last month, Karen Maricheau, director of Takoma Park’s Lifelong Takoma program and allaround Pied Piper, leads twenty-some middle and high school students and a handful of adults merrily through the computer center rotunda. Pointing to the left and right, she indicates where workshops will be held, where lunch will be displayed. She asks, “Who are my food service volunteers?” This is the second orientation Maricheau has led for the more than 50 volunteers who will assist her in running the 2nd Annual Lifelong Takoma Day.

In the year since the first event, Maricheau has tracked the needs of Takoma Park residents who contact her directly and gathered similar information from local agencies, churches, and other community partners. She and her planning committee built the agenda for this year’s program based on input from these groups.

The theme of “one community – engaged and inclusive” grew from a sense of disconnect and isolation that many aging residents reported. One person expressed it this way, “There are two Takoma Parks, one for the young and one for the old.”

However, young and old came together on this day. Community partners and service providers lined the front walk to the Community Center, ready to introduce themselves to Takoma Park residents. Mary Murphy, program director at SeniorConnection, explained the free transportation service available to eligible seniors. At the same time, she recruited others, including a young mother with an infant, as volunteers to help drive seniors to the grocery store and to medical appointments.

Right across the walkway, Michelle Dudley reminded visitors about the innovative FreshChecks program at the Crossroads Community Food Network, which helps put fresh fruits and vegetables into the shopping bags of senior citizens and low-income shoppers at the farmers market.

Participants in the financial fitness workshop, facilitated by Kristin Rodriguez, were concerned primarily about debt management. Rodriguez guided them through a decision-making process resulting in a personal plan for taking control of their debt, meeting a workshop goal of putting people in the driver’s seat where their finances are concerned.

The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County taught attendees how to register for affordable housing through the new online portal. While some were there to explore opportunities for themselves, others looked for opportunities for their adult children living with disabilities.

The social center of the day was the rotunda area outside the senior room and the public computer center. Lunch, and then snacks, were served there by a dedicated (and exceedingly busy) group of volunteers under the capable management of Joyce Seamens. Her team included veteran volunteer Gladys Harvey, also a member of the Lifelong Takoma planning committee, Montgomery College students Thareth and Vicky, and a host of others. Mountains of falafel and baklava fueled conversation among folks with walkers and those with strollers. As groups chatted over Blessed Coffee and apple juice, connections were made and community strengthened.

The day concluded with a “Community Conversation” about building an “agefriendly, intergenerational linked City.” The Takoma Community Band, whose members span generations, kicked things off. Bryan Goehring, representing Takoma Park Middle School’s Difference Makers, noted that the composition of that band is an example of what makes the City special.

Many residents are aware of the Snow Angels program (see p. 12) where TPMS students help clear the walkways of seniors and disabled residents during the winter. Goehring noted that an unintended outcome of this program is that some of the residents it serves have in turn volunteered to help the school in any way that they are able. Takoma Park appears to be on its way to building that linked community.

This article appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.