Saugus newcomer Laura Jin said she and her family walked away from the new Saugus Middle-High School last Saturday (Oct. 15) with a warm welcome from her hometown and a better understanding about the wide array of services and opportunities available to residents.
“It was very good – and very helpful,” Jin said of her family’s decision to check out “Saugus 4-1-1,” a program initiated by Selectman Corinne Riley and a large group of volunteers to orient residents, especially newcomers.
“The highlight for me was having the baby meet people as well as finding out just how friendly everybody was. We got names and phone numbers,” Jin told The Saugus Advocate in an interview this week.
She also learned about many of the youth activities – like the Saugus Little League – that her 13-month-old daughter Alaia will be able to enjoy when she grows up.
Her mother, Elizabeth Cheng, accompanied the family on their hour-long stay at the Middle-High School.
“We didn’t know all of the organizations in the area, and my mother signed up for the Garden Club,” Jin said.
“We stayed an hour and toured the Middle School and High School. I learned about some of the groups. I am interested in the environmental groups. And, I am interested in planting trees,” she said.
Adding to the pleasant day of gathering helpful information and making new friends was finding out that she was a winner of a gift certificate to the Route One Grill. Jin guessed correctly that the 100-year-old ‘kitchen’ utensil’ on a table shared by the MEG Foundation and the Saugus Historical Society was a nutcracker.
“It was fun to go on the tour of the school, see the old kitchen tools and learn something about the nutcracker,” Jin said.
Jin’s husband – Brian Meabebasterrechea – said he was impressed with the hospitality demonstrated by town residents and organizers of the event.
“We get to see what Saugus has to offer. I think it was a good intro for new residents,” Meabebasterrechea said.
“For sure, I met some really nice people. That was the feeling I got from being there – a very warm feeling,” he said.
School Committee Member Ryan Fisher said the folks attending the “Saugus 4-1-1” didn’t have to be newcomers to find the event invaluable.
“I know it was marketed to new residents, but I took my mother who has been a resident for almost fifty years and recently retired, and she got a lot out of it,” Fisher said.
“The selectmen were all on hand answering questions, the superintendent, along with Andrea Wheeler and Gosia Knupp from the schools, SaugusTV, police, fire, library, Elks, Lions, and representatives from the houses of worship,” he said.
“There’s so many clubs and groups and organizations and opportunities in Saugus and for any resident, new or generational, and you don’t know what you don’t know because so much is built around word of mouth. I’d really recommend it for any resident if they do this again,” he said.
Selectman Riley estimated that more than 20 Saugus residents attended the event – including up to 60 newcomers.
“I felt for a first-time try, it was well-received and attended. I do know speaking with all the participants that they enjoyed it and just about all of them said they couldn’t wait until next year. I can’t thank everyone involved enough. The tours were a success and the student volunteers were awesome,” Riley said.
“I want to acknowledge all the houses of worship, nonprofits and town/school tables that were there letting everyone know who they are and what they have to offer. They are the ones that made this a success because of all they do for our town,” she said.
Riley said she planned to meet soon with Andrea Wheeler and Gosia Janik-knupp for a post event meeting.
“There have already been suggestions for next year that we will definitely review and add to make it more successful,” Riley said.
“I have already received a couple of comments that there were others that would have attended and helped out, and I will be writing those people’s names down for sure! I had seen on social media that there were several people who said they weren’t aware of it,” she said.
“Having it in the newspaper for several weeks, we talked about it at our Board of Selectmen meeting, posted on social media and I guess it wasn’t enough. So, we will need to visit that as well to get the word out there by other means that we didn’t use this time. Listening to people with suggestions and input is the way all things improve, and we look forward to it bigger and better next year!
“I was very happy to have seen so many of our Saugonians show up and mingle with everyone. It was a perfect day and I hope more than anything, that the newer residents felt welcomed, maybe saw a group that they wanted to be a part of or received information they were looking for.”