by Geoff Fox
Since its inception a few years ago, the plans for Martha’s House have been geared toward the youth of Hancock. But what kind of activities has been in question.
Interfaith Service Coalition (ISC) Director Deb Cohill has been asking for community input for the last two or three years and has finally been able to share what some of those activities are going to be.
ISC held a focus group meeting last month at Mayor Ralph Salvagno’s office where they took ideas from different parts of the community for Martha’s House such as what was missing when they were kids and what could have been different while growing up.
“One of the things that came out of that meeting was, for the kids to really feel ownership, it would be helpful to form an advisory panel or advisory group of youth,” Cohill said.
They took that idea and Salvagno ran with it. Cohill backed out so the group would be free to voice their opinions and ideas.
Salvagno said he and his wife, Tracy, are working as facilitators for the group.
The board is a group of seventh and eighth graders who will give ISC ideas on what to do at Martha’s House, as well as setting rules, one of which is to not be as rigid as school.
There’s a short list of rules being worked on right now and will be continuously worked on as things go along.
Salvagno said the kids would be policing themselves instead of taking issues straight to ISC.
The important thing Cohill wants is to hear what the community wants.
Cohill said grant funders want to see how committed town government would be and Salvagno and former mayor Dan Murphy have been involved since the project started.
The town itself does not have a social services department like other towns, so it relies on organizations like ISC, Salvagno said. He added the town does work with ISC and would provide support to make Martha’s House a reality.
Among the first things Cohill said would take place at Martha’s House was National Healthy Kid Day on April 27, one day after the ceremonial ribbon cutting. A partnership with Good Shepherd Preschool and the YMCA will result in activities along Main Street, Town Hall, at the library and other places.
There will also be face painting, informational booths, crafts, hair painting, temporary tattoos, a safety trailer and hamburgers at the fire hall, the rescue squad doing health checks and recruitment, and other things as the list grows, Cohill said.
“The idea is, because it is healthy kids, to get people out moving and walking,” Cohill said. “It’s really not very far to walk from Town Hall to the fire company to Martha’s House.”
If there were rain, there’d be other activities, but not a rain date.
Because Martha’s House is a pilot program, there’s expected to be a learning curve with endeavor to see what works and what won’t.
Activities, Cohill said, would be scheduled around sports activities and other things.
“We realize we can’t please everybody. We can’t avoid every conflict,” she said. “There’s going to be some, but we’re going to do our best.”
Starting in May, there will be a breakfast series with a free breakfast and a speaker.
The first is set to focus on gentleman who is avid hunter and discuss bears with bear facts and a DNR trunk with other items.
Others in the series could include Legos, another with books, and one where kids would make a birdhouse out of soda bottle.
Cohill is “super excited” about the June activities as one of her goals for Martha’s House is to engage the youth in the community and have them feel some ownership and some connection.
“You see kids here grow up and they move away and they could just as easily stay and raise their own family here,” Cohill said.
Cohill wants to have activities that will get the kids more connected with people in the community.
Each Saturday in June, Cohill said members of the community will serve breakfast at Martha’s House. Servers could include teachers from the schools, Mayor Salvagno, members of the Hancock Rescue Squad, Hancock Fire Company, and the Hancock Police Department.
For each breakfast, ISC would provide the food and these people would come in with whatever help they choose to prepare the meal.
Cohill said other ideas include Wii Wednesdays where kids would come in and play Wii Bowling and Wii Baseball.
She said the reason they went the Nintendo Wii route was it requires movement and interaction as opposed to other consoles where you sit and hold a controller.
There are other varieties of activities like fishing, cooking, possibly laser tag, sewing, “Minute to Win It,” pizza nights, a Just Dance night with the Wii, and a slime night.
Cohill said Mother’s Day weekend ccould be a night where kids can take mom out to dinner at no cost with a spaghetti dinner. There will also be a similar night for Father’s Day weekend.
She said Dave Kerns is planning on something for the fall where the week of Homecoming the kids at Martha’s House would see an activity each night that week.
Some of those activities could include honoring the players, making t-shirts or posters, get their face painted, “or whatever he comes up with,” Cohill said.
One night each month, Cohill added, could be a carnival type setting where kids could earn “Martha’s Dollars” to cash in on prizes that night.
The hours for Martha’s House haven’t been set as ideas continue to be developed for tweens and younger-age children.
All activities at Martha’s House are going to be free. Right now Cohill and ISC want the community’s input and what activities would bring kids in.
“We are getting a tremendous amount of community support, people just reaching out like crazy and excited, they want to be a part of it,” Cohill said. “It’s heartwarming for us because we know it will take a community to make this thing thrive.”
A dedication and blessing of Martha’s House will take place Friday, April 26, at 11 a.m.