A real spitfire

Everyone brings with them their own presuppositions about a new environment. The City of Lynn is no different. When one hears the phrase, “Lynn, Lynn, the city of sin” confidence in personal safety is not the first idea to enter the mind. That said, as we enter the Centerboard Headquarters, it is difficult to ignore the feeling of safety and calm that emanates from the walls.

We walk into the office in which we would be interviewing Dalene Basden to see her sitting behind a desk as if ready to run her household from a comfy armchair. Dalene is a Family Support Specialist, who has supported and mentored countless parents over the years. Prior to our meeting, she had been described to us as a real ‘spitfire’ and community member, and this description is proved accurate right off the bat as, when asked to describe her family, she responds first with a haughty chuckle and then proceeds to explain that while she does indeed have three biological children, all of the young ones in her neighborhood are her children. “Most kids call me ‘Nani’ and my husband is ‘Big Steve’”, she explains, pointing out that though her neighborhood is filled with a large variety of people, her door is never locked to the curious and friendly children.

How is this whole oneness of a neighborhood so achievable with such diversity? Not to say that different cultures cannot get along, but simply that different traditions may not always lend themselves to social harmony with one another. Dalene would simply scoff at this question. “My community is my culture,” she says, an idea that pervades her life as a mantra of sorts as both her way of living and her dream for Lynn one day. “I live, work, play, pray, and shop in my community…I work 24/7.”

She explains that the city is a big place, full of all sorts of people. The trick is finding a way of knitting together the close-knit communities throughout. Lynn is growing at a fantastic rate and the city is changing just as quickly. And with this change, Dalene advocates for the idea that “It’s all about the kids.” Here is where Dalene really starts to come alive. The passion in her eyes only grows as she starts listing off how she would work toward a day when “Lynn” would be synonymous with harmony and family. “If I had a million dollars, she says, “I’d open a gym.” Anything to keep the youth easily involved in their communities and anything to keep the parents involved with their kids, because if anything fills Dalene Basden with pride and happiness, it is seeing her children succeed and make lives for themselves. When asked what her proudest moment was, she chuckles at the thought of reducing it to a single moment. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, she says. “I have a family.”

From talking with Dalene, it is clear that she is grateful for her life in Lynn, boasting proudly that all three of her biological children were real Lynners. She is proud of her culture. She is proud of her family. She is proud of her children. She is proud of the work she’s been able to do. She is proud of her city. As we leave Centerboard, we are struck by how fitting a place Centerboard was to meet Dalene Basden as both are bastions of safety and reconstruction, and are reminded of Dalene’s words: “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin? I don’t buy that at all.”

Will Foritier, a student at Gordon College, wrote this article as part of “A Day in the Life” project led by The Centerboard, located in Lynn Massachusetts. It is reprinted here with their permission. Please visit their facebook page here.

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17 Responses to A real spitfire

  1. Nancy Norman Horrigan says:

    Dalene absolutely rocks!!!! She respects kids and never judges them. She totally gets it. We love her!!!

  2. Mary Summers says:

    Dalene is a true advocate, in every sense of the word. She truly understands the needs of the families she meets, and works hard to address them logically and fully. The community is blessed for her guidance and continued efforts. It’s wonderful to see this tribute, as we give thanks for local heroes. Best to all!

  3. Marla Owens says:

    It is so refreshing to read such a well written article about my mom, Dalene Basden. In fact it is long overdue! Although she is my biological mom I, like my 2 brothers, have become accustomed to the fact that she is indeed everyone’s ‘MOM’ or ‘NANI’. Thank you for recognizing her and her efforts to bring families together. We love you mummy!

  4. Paula Vibbard Moore says:

    Dalene is my rock, she is my all that I can me, wish to be and more. She is one of the most amazing people that i have ever encountered. She amazes me everyday with her brillient ideas and the ways that she has to make things happen. Love her.

  5. Nancy Bromberger says:

    Dalene is GREAT. She is a very warm and encouranging person. If you have a problem, you can count on Dalene to help find a solution. Also, The Friday Family Support Group is truly wonderful. We enjoy going to group, learning new ideas, and being together with other families who can relate to what you are going through. Dalene is #1!!!!!!

  6. Natasha Megie says:

    I can’t say enough about how wonderful Dalene is . She has definitely been an inspiration and role model to so many families in Lynn. If you ever need anything, just ask her, and if she can’t help you, she will find someone who can help you. The Friday Family Support group has helped and continues to help countless families in Lynn. It’s a shame that such an important group can’t get the necessary funding it needs. Although the group has grown over the years, funding continues to be a huge problem. Thanks Dalene for all you have done and continue to do for families facing challenges everyday.

  7. Melissa Romaniello says:

    I was referred to Dalene, PPAL and the Friday Family Support Group when my son was hospitalized 5 years ago. Since then Dalene has taught me to be a better person, a better parent, a better community member and a better advocate. Dalene, along with many other wonderful Lynners, are the reason why my children are where they are and doing as well as they are.

    Personally, and professional, I believe that Dalene should be in charge. In charge of the school, of the city, of children’s mental health. I don’t care – just someone please put this woman in charge!

  8. Jennifer Nickola says:

    This article is awesome . Dalene is the glue that keeps everything together ; without her its like a ship without a captian . We love her and more importantly our kids love her ! she deserves a giant S for super woman because she is ! thank you Dalene for all you have done and continue to do . lots of love the Nickolas .

  9. kielisa fisher says:

    Dalene has helped our family in so many ways! She’s there day or night if you need information or suggestions or just an ear to Listen or a shoulder to cry on. She truely is a gem to this community and I don’t know where we would be without her <3 she is like no other.

  10. Linda Brown says:

    I have met Dalene and participated in a Friday night group. I think she is great. I also think that this is a wonderful article about Dalene.

  11. meri viano says:

    Dalene…
    dedicated….amazing..loving…energetic..negotiator ..expert
    My life, children, heart and family has been personnally affected positively by Dalene. Her guidance hope and energy helps a village to raise a child. I wish daily Lynn was closer to Worcester. Well deserved blog…you are it! Hugs:)

  12. Diane Lawn says:

    I met Dalene and the Basden family 13 years ago when I moved across the street from them. My family and her family were instantly connected. At one point in time my now 20 year old son Adam spent more time at her house then ours….he called her “his” black mother….and her husband Steve has always been Uncle Steve to us. They are our family…its amazes me how people are connected and the force that brings them together….I remember years ago when we were scheduled to have my daughter Amy’s 8th birthday party at the YMCA. We were expecting 35 + small children and their parents to attend…Approximately 3am on the day of the party I was rushed to Salem hospital for emergency appendectomy surgery. I contacted Dalene to come stay with the children and she did. Without a blink of an eye Dalene packed up the prepared food/piñata/presents and my children and off to the YMCA she went…she told my daughter mommy will be back soon but we need to get ready for your party….to this day I dont know how she did it but she managed to throw quite a 8th bday party for my daughter…my daughter will never forget that Dalene did this for her…..As I am writing this I recall when the children were small they would go back in forth about how they wanted to live at Dalene’s house…they said she always had the best snacks and kids movies…LOL Dalene provides this community with stellar service and I personally feel she is the fabric of our town…She has a very magnetic personality and a wealth of knowledge for services for kids of needs. I am proud to be called a friend of Dalene Basden

  13. Donna Lawn says:

    Dalene has been a wonderful friend and confidant to both myself and my family. She is a valuable member of the community. Dalene is the type of person that will (and has) put others needs first. So glad to have her in my life.

  14. Donna Lawn says:

    Dalene is a valuable member of the community in too many ways to describe. She has become family to me and mine. Dalene will (and has on many occasions) put others needs first. I feel blessed to be her friend.

  15. Donna Lawn says:

    Dalene is a very valuable memeber of our community. She is the driving force in the neighborhood. Any time some need help, advice or just an ear she is available. Dalene has and continues to put others first. Glad to call her friend.

  16. From in the day when we did the MFOFC Family Leadership Series and through the many years since Dalene has always been a cross between an old soul (with a quiet wisdom) and fearless voice. (Kinda Gandhi meets Norma Ray)
    But more than that… she lives it, brokers it and inspires it.
    Dr Katherine Grimes says it best when she describes individuals like Dalene as;
    “Cross directional brokers”
    She is the voice of family experience to systems of care and elected officials
    and then, the wise guide back to families about how those folks need to see and hear from us.
    Beyond being such a passionate and authentic person… she is the change we want to see!

  17. Dalene Basden says:

    i can’t thank everyone enough for all the support and wonderful comments. Honestly though, I have to say it’s easy to be me and do what I do when those that I serve are such great co-pilots. For me there is no greater joy than success and for our families,success is measured in every step we take.