Twenty-two years ago Sharon Malt made the decision to devote her time and skills to non-profits rather than to continue her career in marketing. It was a decision that benefitted so many cultural, environmental and horticultural organizations both on and beyond Beacon Hill that last night she was presented with the sixteenth annual Beacon Award.
The community award is given annually by the Beacon Hill Civic Association to honor those people or groups deserving of particular recognition for a significant and sustained contribution to the community. Malt said that working to help this neighborhood become what it is today has been tremendously fulfilling to her. “I enjoy working with nonprofits because you can take risks, work with people when they are at their best, and help them achieve whatever course they are following.”
Helping young families raise children on Beacon Hill, as she herself did, has always been a passion for her, and perhaps her largest contribution to the neighborhood was her work with other community leaders to help Hill House grow. Formed in 1966 and then located at 74 Joy Street, the community center offered dinners for seniors and a few children’s programs, such as baseball. But by the late 1990s it had financial difficulties and so a group of community leaders joined together to put it back on its feet. “It was an exciting time. I worked with great neighbors to help make it what it is today,” said Malt, who served as co-president at the time.
After membership drives, capital campaigns and three years of renovation, Hill House moved to its current Mt. Vernon Street Firehouse location in 2001. “Since then it has blossomed,” Malt said. “It’s more inclusive and the ‘go to’ place for all families. More than 2000 children now enroll in its programs, 800 in soccer alone. We now are realizing Hill House’s value in keeping kids in the city.”
Malt, who estimates she spends about 25 hours a week volunteering, is careful to balance her time with a mix of activities. She was recently honored for her work on the Charles River Watershed Association, served as president of the Esplanade Association, is co-chair of the Council of Overseers for the Huntington Theatre, and opens her home to benefit the Nichols House Museum and the Beacon Hill Circle for Charities. She is active with the Conservation Law Foundation and is working to bring UNICEF back to the Hill.
Last month Malt stepped down from serving as president of the Beacon Hill Seminars, a membership organization of about 200 people who create, participate and lead a diverse group of about 22 adult education courses each semester. This month she’ll take on the presidency of the Beacon Hill Garden Club. It is an organization she has long participated in, having served as conservation chair regionally and nationally, and as its vice president.
And she loves cats. So much so that as an overseer of the MSPCA – Angell, she agreed to serve on the cat committee, whose mission is to reduce the population of abandoned cats through spay and neuter programs, and to find homes for mature, abandoned cats. “It’s a nice change from other committees,” she said.