Debbie Small, Metro North Chapter

Currently, I am secretary of the Metro North Chapter of MSAC, a volunteer position I would never have dreamed of holding three years ago. One day I had finished teaching a line dance class at the Malden Senior Center (in 2013) and was wondering why the dining room was filled with so many people. Curiosity, thankfully, got the best of me and in I went. I could never have imagined that a seemingly tiny detour into the Metro North’s Chapter Meeting on that particular day would bring such profound changes into my life.

As a lifelong resident of Malden, I began my journey into volunteerism in the 1970s with Head Start and Tri Cap. I also choreographed dances for Malden Pop Warner Cheerleaders and the Malden Public School System. I had instructed a chair exercise class through Triangle, Inc. in a group home with developmentally challenged adults in Malden and in their Adult Day Health Program, also based in Malden. I have taught local line dance and chair exercise classes to many diverse populations and have choreographed many line dances as well. Choreographing is not only a creative outlet, but is also my way of being in service to other teachers and choreographers all over the world whose dances I have taught throughout the years.

Three years ago, my line dance students and I were asked to perform at the Metro North’s fundraising event at the Malden Senior Center. I had just begun attending monthly chapter meetings, however, due to other obligations, my involvement had been limited. When I learned that the Metro North Chapter was forming a Housing Sub-Committee, I knew I had to step up.  My interest was personal. I had become “homeless” after the house I was living in had quickly sold and I immediately discovered that I would not be able to find “affordable” housing. While both my daughters helped out, it was a very long and difficult two and a half years without a place to call my own.

During that time, I was invited to become a member of the Metro North Board. I have participated in as many MSAC activities as I can and attend city meetings in order to stay informed. I am looking forward to participating in the newly established Homeless Prevention Counseling Program sponsored by the Malden Senior Center. Working so closely with MSAC has given me the impetus to raise awareness around other issues, such as the many problems associated with scented products. Living in a world filled with toxic scents is not only a quality-of-life issue for me, but for countless others as well.

Taking this journey with MSAC has been truly empowering and I can see clearly how my life experiences have led me to this point. I have studied psychology and dance at Tufts University.  I have worked in human services and have had to advocate for human rights. I have volunteered in some form or another my entire life. More importantly, I have learned that it takes teamwork to get things done. Each and every member has his or her own strengths that contribute to Mass Senior Action’s success. Whether at state or local levels, together, we can make a difference.