When Meaghan Murray returned to become the administrative coordinator of the Golden Age Center on Main Street, it was like a family reunion of sorts.
The born-and-raised Charles-town woman had an amazing Town pedigree and a large contingent of friends and family to match, so it was a seamless fit for her to take over after the long-successful run by Beverly Gibbons at the Golden Age.
“I’ve been working at the Age Strong Commission for a while, but Charlestown is my passion, my heart and my neighborhood,” said Murray, 38. “As soon as Beverly retired in January, I thought it was the best fit for me. It made sense. These folks here all knew my grandparents. My grandmother is my favorite person in the world. I used to come down here with them and it just felt like home.
“I had a sense of what it would be like working day-to-day in a center, and I wanted to be more full-time in one spot and wanted to be in my neighborhood and help these folks – many of whom are my friends’ grandparents and aunts and my aunts and family,” she continued. “ I couldn’t have asked for a better job.”
Murray started the job on the most sacred day in the Town, Bunker Hill Day, this year. However, before that she had been working as an advocate around the city to help seniors with social services, home visits, and pretty much any other thing they needed. The logical next step was to direct a center, and what better place than in her home neighborhood.
Kelly is the daughter of Mick Murray and Maribeth Kelly – with Maribeth also working at the Age Strong Commission and active in about everything in Town. She grew up on North Mead Street off Bunker Hill and attended St. Francis School (a Father Mahoney product, she says), Charlestown Catholic and Matignon High School.
Murray was a pioneer girl hockey player in the Charlestown Youth Hockey Association (CYHA), one of only two girls in the early days of the emerging girls hockey program.
“Back then, it was me and one other girl – Erin Brennan – and it was just the two of us and we would have to change in the referees room,” she recalled. “We played with the boys, but we also played Little League with them too.”
She took a post-graduate year at Hebron Academy in Maine, and then played hockey at New England College.
Beyond that, she said she attended the Boys & Girls Club of Charlestown, the Community Center and the Teen Center. She also was a lifeguard at the Clougherty Pool, and worked all the City summer jobs. It was a true Town upbringing for certain.
However, within that busy schedule, she said it was her grandparents that ignited her passion for working with older adults.
“My grandparents were a huge influence in my life,” she said. “Being able to help people is good, but to help somebody’s quality of life – to help them stay in their community is very rewarding. I think the reason I wanted to work with older people was because of my grandparents. My grandmother worked at the Kennedy Center for years and I saw what the neighborhood did for her and that probably started my love for this work.”
She also had a great example in her mother, Maribeth, who has been helping people in and around the Town for decades – something that Murray said she learned by example.
Now, administering the Center, which is one of only three freestanding senior-only programs in Boston, she said it’s been interesting learning the varied needs of those that come.
“It’s been interesting because we have age 65 to age 99 here,” she said. “It’s not one size fits all. You’re dealing with a group where some are very computer savvy, have iPhones and can use Uber. Then you deal with certain groups that wouldn’t know what to do with a smart phone and maybe struggle with a flip phone. It’s a lot of one-on-one. Sometimes just helping someone charge a phone can be very helpful to them. The great thing about this place is the younger folks are very good at helping the older folks. They do help each other.”
In addition, they have added Tai Chi, chair yoga and a Memory Café.
“We’ve been able to do a lot of new stuff down here, our attendance is up and we’re adding more,” she said. “The younger group wants classes, book clubs and field trips. The older adults sometimes just want to play Bingo and that’s ok too. It is varied and we are trying to bring services to everyone.”
Murray said they are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and have lunch at noon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. She said she hopes to fill the shoes of those who came before her.
“I have huge shoes to fill because Beverly did an amazing job,” she said. “She was an unbelievable advocate for the neighborhood and I hope to do the same.”