By Amelia Tarallo
Anyone who has driven past the Charles River Center (CRC) in Needham during the last few months can see exactly how much it has changed. On October 30, invited guests came to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the Grugan Center. The Center is named for former Charles River Center President and CEO John Grugan, who served for 35 years.
The Charles River Center provides employment and job training, residential homes, day habilitation, and recreational programs for children and adults with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.
Formerly named the Dwight School, the Grugan Center space has provided the CRC a place for thousands of people to acquire the new skills and experiences they will need to succeed in life. The changes to the building have been made to ensure that it continues to have a long-lasting impact on the people who come through its doors.
The ceremony began with an introduction from President Anne-Marie Bajwa of the Charles River Center. Bajwa thanked those who had worked on the building process and highlighted Grugan’s time at the center, as well as some of the thousands of lives he has touched during his tenure.
When it was his turn to speak, Grugan himself opened with a joke that had his audience cracking up. “Never did I think I would have a building named after me,” he told everyone, before launching into the process of completing the renovation on his former workplace, as well as his own journey of working at the Charles River Center. It’s a story that has come full circle; John started his job at the Center right after the Dwight School building was purchased from the town, and ended it with a renovation of the building.
In the middle of his speech, the motion detector lights, blocked by Halloween decorations, turned off. “I know they told me to keep it short,” said Grugan. After the quick laugh, he continued his speech, reminding his audience why the work they do is so important, and how he has lived his job. “I hope people remember me as a leader that was fair, honest, and ethical,” he said. At the end of his speech, Grugan made sure to mention that he would make sure to visit. “I’ll be back to say hellos every so often.”
After the conclusion of Grugan’s speech, everyone was eager to get outside for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. With a red ribbon stretched out, and a large pair of scissors procured, the renovation committee and their guests ushered a brand-new era of service offered by the Charles River Center. Despite the rain, those in attendance were happy to chat and have their pictures taken to celebrate the momentous occasion.
Grugan is excited to see the Center evolve with these changes, and can see the importance in what it does to help people. “The joy that you see in the eyes of the people we support, with even the smallest things we do for them,” Grugan said, is his favorite part of the Center.
Though he is now retired, Grugan’s legacy of service is sure to continue for years to come.