I met Liliana 7 years ago when my son and I joined her playgroup at the Paris Street Community Center. We recently had a chance to catch up a few months after the Center reopened to get her perspective on the renewed building.
Lilliana has been the playgroup coordinator at the Center since 2008. A longtime East Boston resident, Liliana and her 3 children have also grown up in the Center, making use of its classes and nearby community pool. In her eyes, the Center is more than a recreation spot for Eastie residents, it is a place for the community to connect and build relationships.
Liliana’s program is geared towards kids under five years old, and offers 14 sessions at seven sites throughout the neighborhood including the Paris Street location. Liliana’s program focuses on school readiness, group play, as well as arts and crafts, hygiene, songs and stories. Prior to the renovations, her program shared a space with the teen center, restricting the range of activities she was able to host.
When I asked about her favorite space, Liliana mentioned the gym. Always in use, the basketball court, has long been considered the “hub” of the Center. Liliana describes how the allowance of more natural light into the gym has transformed it to a space that feels safer, brighter, and more spacious – prompting the kids to “go crazy” in her words, as soon as they are released into the space, a change in energy, she notes, from how they previously encountered the gym.
The new renovations have helped accommodate a broader range of activities. Baby café, parent and child yoga classes, and dance, and are designed with families in mind – the Center is there for parents and adults as much as for children.
The Center now also has better capacity to support the community in times of unplanned need. This Winter when the sudden passing of a local teen shook the neighborhood, a new room in the Center provided ample private space for locals to grieve and receive counseling. The Center is back after a two year hiatus during renovations, as a renewed resource for its community, and like a good friend, reliable and receptive – on the good days and on the difficult ones.