November 6, 2023

Melrose, Massachusetts: One Community, Open to All

Residents of Melrose, Massachusetts are not shy to share their favorite parts of the city. Whether it’s the peaceful neighborhoods, victorian-style homes, historic downtown, green landscape, friendly people, or it’s proximity to Boston, there’s a reason people of all backgrounds have chosen to call Melrose home.

While many of these departments work directly with residents, until recently the City feared there was a gap in the level of services it was providing to residents whose primary language was not English despite using well-known translation tools, or costly interpreters for larger events.

Collin Macgowan, a Social Services Coordinator with the City of Melrose, tells us that his department had used other well-known translation tools for one-on-one interactions and would hire interpreters for larger events aimed at non-English speaking residents, but was unable to find a solution that consistently met the needs of the community to engage in proactive conversations.

The City was concerned this approach was not allowing them to serve their residents, many of whom speak Cantonese, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and more, as best as they could. However, when a nearby meeting for non-English speaking residents was held in Wakefield, Melrose staff were introduced to Pocketalk.

After a short trial period, city officials knew these devices were needed at Melrose City Hall. Thanks to generous grant funding from MelroseWakefield Hospital/Tufts Medicine and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Melrose City Hall was able to purchase 100 Pocketalk devices to be used in 15 of their department offices.

“The City of Melrose strives to be, ‘One Community, Open to All.’ Pocketalk is one way for the City to move closer to this community-wide goal, and hopefully inspire other organizations to think about how they can better serve community members whose primary languages are not English,” explained Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur. “We also hope that our residents, whom these devices help us better serve, feel more supported by the City, and more connected to their community.”

Macgowan, who provides 13 different types of social services to thousands of residents, explained that the adoption of Pocketalk has not only made the City’s services more accessible and culturally competent but it’s made him feel better about the work he’s doing now that he can truly hear and understand all of the residents that he works with.

“Before we started using Pocketalk, it felt like there was a wall between us and members of our community who speak different languages. We just couldn’t connect with them in a meaningful way,” said Collin Macgowa, “Now, that wall has come down, and we can listen to and help every resident in our city. It’s been a game-changer for making sure everyone is included and understood.”