Thank you for visiting our website. Please read our press release below to see how we transitioned from a grass roots advocacy group focused on bringing a community center to Needham to an activity based organization working on safety and engagement.
New Name, Next Mission
The Community Center of Needham (CCN), a grassroots community organization best known for being the driving force behind the revitalization of Rosemary Pool, today announced a new mission and identity. CCN is now Needham Community Action Network, better known as Needham CAN, a 501 C-3 non-profit organization.
More than a decade ago, a small group of Needham residents, initially Mitchell School parents and a few others, came together to talk about creating a community center for all generations in Needham with relevant activities for each group. Surveys were done, other community centers were visited and locations were discussed, literally for years. During this period, the Needham senior center -- Center at The Heights -- was opened and the senior population's needs were well-addressed. CCN pivoted and became more about community recreation for all ages.
The aging Needham pool was a focal point for such activities as well as a challenge, since it had been put in that space "temporarily" more than 40 years before. CCN advocated for not only a new pool, but for a recreational complex with meeting space for the community and a variety of activities for all ages, such as swimming lessons and a swim park for youngsters and water aerobics for seniors. In 2018, that goal was realized when, after much advocacy and approval at Town Meeting, the Rosemary Recreation Complex was opened.
Then CCN had to decide, "what next?" Should the organization continue as an entity? If so, what would be its mission? Working with former co-president Maicharia Weir Lytle, an expert in the non-profit world, CCN was able to redefine its mission and, after much consideration and some polling, changed its name to Needham Community Action Network, a/k/a Needham CAN.
The new mission of Needham CAN was inspired by two things. First, the group was aware from previous listening sessions it had held that there continues to be a lack of community activities for teens who may not belong to sports teams or organized clubs. Visiting downtown Needham on a day off from school, residents will notice that Walgreens, Dunkin' and McDonalds are full of teenagers and pre-teens with no place else to go. Needham CAN then decided to take the recreational activities they already sponsored, such as Open Gym and Needham Gymnastics, and expand into more programming for teens. At the same time, the group is exploring the possibility of a teen-centered activity location in Needham.
The other prong of the mission came from CCN Board members who were also Needham High School students and were friends of the two young women who were tragically killed in the crosswalk accident outside of Needham High School on Webster Street. As CCN was searching for its next mission, the teen members suggested that pedestrian safety continues to be a problem in town and that perhaps it was a task that CCN could take on.
"Expanding our mission to pedestrian safety increased the number of our Board members, including high schoolers, who wanted to become involved in this issue," said Ellen Dudley, co-president of what is now Needham CAN. "We have done 'walk to school safely' days and are interested in a number of projects, including adding crosswalks, painting crosswalks and advocating for better visibility for areas where pedestrians cross the street."
Needham CAN chose the annual Charles River Chamber Harvest Fair as a soft open to display its new branding. The group has been a longtime Chamber member and for years has participated in the spring and fall fairs.
"Announcing our new identity to Harvest Fair participants was like coming home for us," said Needham CAN co-president Nancy Sterling. "We have always found the fair to be a wonderful location for advocacy and recruiting new Board members. Now we're ready to roll out Needham Community Action Network on a broader scale, including making a presentation to the Rotary Club next month."