Millis Housing Activity Walk Aims to Foster Community
Above: At the end of May, students from Tri-County, left, led by carpentry teacher Jeremy Barstow, installed activity walk stations at Millis Housing Authority’s senior housing. The project was funded by Millis Cultural Council, which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Right: This month’s exhibit features photos and historical information related to Millis veterans.
If you’ve been over by Millis Housing Authority’s senior housing on Exchange Street, you’ve probably noticed some kiosks permanently installed along the walkway. This “activity walk” is a project funded by the Millis Cultural Council (MCC), a local agency funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. A take on the StoryWalk Project® (which combines reading and the outdoors), the 13 stations will feature storybooks, local history, trivia, artwork, poetry and more.
This month’s exhibit, with layout designed by artist David O’Gara, features history related to Millis veterans.
“This was a way to draw foot traffic to the area of senior housing as well as encourage folks who live there to enjoy the exhibits. Everyone could benefit from the social interaction,” says Judith O’Gara, who put together the MCC grant proposal and worked on the current exhibit with Millis Historical Commission member Charlie Vecchi, Director of the Millis Public Library Kim Tolson, and Millis American Legion Post 208 member Buddy Shropshire.
“The Millis Library is thrilled to partner on this unique project,” says Tolson. “The Activity Walk brings visual interest and creates engagement in an underutilized area in town, and this exhibit is a creative way to engage the community while also showcasing some Millis history.”
Initially, a conversation with Medway Library Director Margaret Perkins led O’Gara to contact StoryWalk ® Project founder Anne Ferguson, who encouraged her to be creative with content. From there, O’Gara and Millis Housing Authority Director Candace Avery brainstormed various possible exhibits. O’Gara received design plans from the Holliston Lions and Holliston Boy Scouts, who had collaborated on the Holliston Rail Trail Story Walk.
Although the project was delayed by elevated construction material costs during COVID-19, Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School agreed to construct the activity walk within budget. The project fit in well with the scope of Tri-County’s carpentry program, and students from three different grades worked together to complete the kiosks.
“We’re always happy to do stuff that involves the community. It keeps our kids involved in the community and allows us to show off what our kids can do,” says carpentry teacher Jeremy Barstow who, along with his colleague Mark Spillane, guided students on the activity walk’s construction and installation. Barstow adds, “Hopefully, [the activity walk] will be enjoyed by the community for a long time.”