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Memorial Recreation Center executive director feels connection

Loretta Wright's willingness to oversee the center evolved into her taking the position permanently

Loretta Wright's willingness to oversee the center evolved into her taking the position permanently

November 11, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Loretta Wright wasn't looking for a new job, but she was "hoodwinked" into one just the same. During the summer lull, the Washington County Public Schools substitute teacher had some time on her hands, and that led to an offer she couldn't refuse.

Wright and her husband, Fox News anchor Kelly Wright, were members of the Memorial Recreation Center board. Her willingness to oversee the rec center at 109 W. North Ave. for a couple of hours a day while the center was in need of a director evolved into her taking on the part-time position permanently.

Wright, 51, a preschool teacher, said she knows about teaching youngsters, but she knows little about maintaining an aging building like Memorial Rec and its programs. She is, however, willing to learn by trial and error.

"For some reason, I was called here to do this," Wright said.

With the help of her family and Rec Center board member Ann Martin, who works for Children in Need, Wright said she's starting to see the light of day. Carolyn Sterling of Turning Point, another board member, helped with the summer day camp.

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It's been a real team effort to get the building back into shape. Neighbors helped unload orders from Sam's Club and helped clear out some unwanted items. This summer, Frostburg State University students came in and helped clean.

South Hagerstown High School students help clean on Mondays and volunteer Paul Britten, who showed up for the United Way Day of Caring in October, "hasn't left us since -- he paints, runs errands, helps with the pool and the greenhouse," Wright said.

The library has been organized and is filled with new books, with more waiting to be sorted.

The kitchen has been redone and many walls boast a fresh coat of paint. Wright is dealing with a plumbing problem that is being looked into by the Association of Builders and Contractors.

She said computers in the lab need to be replaced, wood floors are in need of sanding and refinishing, and the pool is in need of maintenance.

Although Wright grew up in Chambersburg, Pa, she feels a connection to the center. Her husband grew up in Hagerstown, across the street from Memorial Rec.

The Wrights, who have two grown sons, moved around with Kelly Wright's job. They moved back to Hagerstown after his mother was diagnosed with cancer and have lived in Foxleigh Meadows for seven years, with both sons graduating from North Hagerstown High School.

The center serves 6- to 17-year-olds. Grants and donations pay for the expenses of the center, said Wright, who is assisted by Jessie Wigfield, a Shippensburg University student.

Besides the after-school program, Wright has started DIVAS, a program for teenage girls. They meet on Tuesdays for an hour and talk about girls' issues. A similar program for teen boys to start soon will involve basketball in the gym at the Martin Luther King building next door.

"We've got a lot going on. It's slow moving, but I can see progress," Wright said.

Wright said financial donations are welcome. More information may be obtained by calling her at Memorial Rec at 301-790-0203.

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