Volunteers are the faceless people of history, said Horace Mann School fourth grader Mary-Kate Mahoney, who never give in and never give up.
"The people who are the soul of cities and the heart of humanity," Mahoney said to the people assembled last Thursday at the park on the corner of Warren and Melrose Streets. "The people who will never have their names in history books, but will remain in our hearts forever."
With those words, Mahoney bestowed Warren Street Park with its new name: "Volunteer Park," an idea Mahoney came up last summer with while on vacation in Washington D.C.
At the rededication ceremony on June 21, Mahoney told the crowd—after first eschewing the use of a megaphone held by Mayor Rob Dolan—that as she looked at the statues in our nation's capital of the famous people read about in history book, something dawned on her.
"I realized there wasn’t any type of statue for people who weren’t famous, but spent countless hours helping their communities," she said. "These people are faceless when it comes to being in history books, or even on television, but they’re faces we see all across America: at sporting events, teaching children how to become better athletes; at schools, helping teachers and children; at fundraisers, raising money to improve cities and towns; or just simply a younger person helping an older person shovel a walkway."
Mahoney brought the idea of renaming one of the city's park after Melrose's volunteers to Mayor Rob Dolan at last year's Victorian Fair, and the city decided on Warren Street Park, one of the few parks in the city not named after a person and with an active group of volunteers, the Friends of Warren Street Park, who support it.
That group of volunteers raised $2,600 for new playground equipment at the park, purchasing a new seesaw and two bouncy seats, and the city purchased a new slide, picnic table and park benches.
Jen McAndrew of the Friends of Warren Street Park acknowledged Mahoney "for her terrific idea" and thanked all of the park's neighbors who donated time, money and ideas to help upgrade the park over the past year.
She also spoke of the "tremendous leadership" and financial support from the city, including the mayor, Board of Aldermen President John Tramontozzi and the whole board, and especially the Park Department led by Superintendent Joan Bell and Cindy Brickley.
"I think it says a lot about Melrose and the city leadership that we have—even in a time of pretty significant fiscal constraints on city resources—preserving, protecting and improving open spaces as a top priority," McAndrew said.
Dolan led a round of applause for the "smart, articulate" Mahoney and said her idea was the reason everyone was gathered at the park that evening.
"Also the reason to be here today is all the volunteers from Melrose," he said. "Maybe you volunteer in the schools, at your church, at Little League, maybe when you come here for picnic you pick up the trash. Everyone contributes to make our city beautiful and better, particularly a city like Melrose."
Tramontozzi, who's also the Ward 1 alderman, said that when first heard Mahoney's idea, he thought, "Why didn't we think of it?"
"Of course it took the insight of a child to make it happen and I want to thank Mary-Kate for her wisdom and brilliance in bringing this idea to the city," he said.
The park has a special meaning for Tramontozzi, he said, as when he first moved to Melrose 17 years ago, he and his children were frequent visitors to the park and his wife and others volunteered their time to raise funds and improve the park back then, in partnership with the city.
"Now a new generation of young families and volunteers like Jen McAndrew and other Friends of the Warren Street Park have come together to make this most recent updated change," he said. "So this rededication of this park as Volunteer Park is most fitting and representative of a deeper appreciation for all those who give up their precious time and energy to be of service to the whole community."
Before unveiling the new sign at the park, Mahoney closed her remarks: "Tonight in creating Volunteer Park, we’re stepping forward to recognize the men, women and children who make Melrose, the state of Massachusetts, and the United States of America great places to live."