More than three decades ago, Maryann Gillespie was in between careers and taking some time off to raise her three young children.
“I worked at an insurance company then I had my kids,” said Gillespie. “The funny thing is I was walking a double-wide stroller with three kids down Boardman Street when I came to the (Marty Pino, formerly Orient Heights) Community Center.”
Gillespie had passed the building many times, but was unsure what type of programs they offered.
“I went inside to find out and there was an arts and crafts class going on for 3-year-olds so I put my two oldest kids in that class and became a member,” said Gillespie.
Gillespie said one day, 34 years ago, the phone was ringing in the Community Center’s office but no one was around to answer the phone.
She picked up the receiver and took a message. When the director came back Gillespie gave her the message.
“Do you want a job?” she asked,” said Gillespie. “So I took the job and that’s how it started.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the past three decades Gillespie had become one of the most recognizable faces of Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) in East Boston and over the course of her stellar career has touched the lives of countless neighborhood kids and their families.
Last week Gillespie officially retired as Program Supervisor of the Marty Pino Community Center–a place she spent 23 of her 34 year career.
“It was the best job I ever had in so many ways,” said Gillespie. “Just dealing with the kids, dealing with the public, all the different agencies I just learned so much about the city through BCYF. I miss dealing with the community, the kids and the families on a day to day basis but I’ll still definitely have contact with a lot of them. You have like a long lasting relationship with people that you meet in this line of work because if you don’t you are in the wrong job.”
Gillespie worked her first 20 years at the Marty Pino Community Center before spending some time at both the Harborside Community Center and the Paris Street Community Center.
She then retired to the Marty Pino Community Center, her home away from home, three years ago to finish out her career.
“I started here and I ended here and I have to say it was the best job I could have ever asked for and the best people to work with,” she said.
Her BCYF colleagues at both the Marty Pino Community Center and Paris Street shared Gillespie’s sentiments.
“Maryann first joined Boston Centers for Youth and Families in 1987 as a secretary and rose through the ranks and became a Program Supervisor,” said BCYF Administrative Coordinator Joe Weddleton. “She has been steadfast in her work throughout her tenure with the Marty Pino Community Center and both staff and participants wish her well in her retirement.”
Paris Street’s maintenance supervisor, James Cali, added, “Maryann is one of the kindest and most giving people I have ever worked with. Her retirement is a great loss to the community and community centers. I am however glad that she can retire from a position she has cared about and loved for as long as I have known her.”
As for settling into retirement Gillespie said everyday feels like Sunday. “It’s nice,” she said. “I want to do lots of traveling, visit my son in California as many times as I can. My husband and I planned a trip before COVID to Australia but had to cancel it but I’m hoping we can put that back on the list of things to do.”