Last week, I got a call from someone regarding he Chestnut Hill Senior Center, or as it is known today, the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment.

After 32 years, I was told, the center would cease to be at the end of this year. For the person who called me, the center’s closure was bittersweet. Sure, she had dedicated a great deal of her time to the center’s operations, but there was an upside. It seemed to her that part of the center’s financial decline was based on the fact that there were many more services and programs serving seniors in the area.

“The nice thing is that we’re just not needed now as we once were,” she said.

So, just like that, a neighborhood institution will disappear.

The instinct, I think, is to fret about change like this. We can chalk this up to an ever-lengthening list of that which has been lost.  And it’s easy, when looking at that list of things that have slipped into the past, to worry a bit about the future.

Like the senior center, the Local is facing a bunch of competition, most of it (or, all of it, really) online. A group of CHCA board members and other various stakeholders met Monday night to talk about what the community’s response might be.

The big idea, championed as of late by CHCA board member Rob Remus and Hill web expert Gerald Tracey, is to create what they call a community portal – a single website that would be the go-to place for Hillers to get and share information.

During the meting there was a lot of serious conversation about the pros and cons – How would the portal be financed? How could it realistically compete with better financed outside competition? Could it really accomplish the seemingly impossible and unite neighborhood groups that have occasionally been at odds?

These are big questions with no easy answers. What we all agree on is that the community could use a better online presence. And we agree that our local institutions could do a better job of cooperating and communicating. We could all use a way to better engage the community. And we all agree that the cost of doing nothing is probably not acceptable.

Here, again, I think there’s good skepticism as well as that old instinctive fear of change. Change isn’t always good (or) bad just because it’s change, but it is inevitable. The choice we face at this crossroads might not have to be between driving off a cliff or rising to new heights, ever onward and upward.  In other words, we can progress without simply throwing away the old, just because it’s old.

The community can build a new portal. Or it can enhance the Local. Maybe it can do both. What we do need to be sure of is that the community makes the right choice because the margin of error is getting smaller. I don’t think there are many here who want to see the Local repeat the history of the senior center, in which we let the competition start to do our work for us.

We don’t want to be not needed any more.

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