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More than 60 Tufts Health Plan Workers Spruce up the Commander's Mansion's Grape Arbor

The Grape Arbor is brighter and stronger after the volunteers from Tufts Health Plan went to work on it.

The Grape Arbor provides a lovely backdrop for couples tying the knot at the Commander's Mansion, and now it will shine almost as much as the bride and groom after volunteers from Tufts Health Plan fixed it up.

On Thursday, around 67 employees from the headquarters on Mt. Auburn Street spend the day working at the as well as nearby sprucing up the facilities.

The effort was part of the Tufts Health Plan's effort to do projects around the community, said Pam Giannatisis, senior manager of corporate communications.

"The company pays us to do 8 hours of volunteer work (each year)," Giannatsis said. "We can do it on our own, but they also organize projects for employees so we can get a big group out."

The sections of the large, square arbor that had been painted gleamed under the summer skies. Tammy McKenna, facility manager at the Commander's Mansion, loved the new look.

"I am so happy," McKenna said. "I am thrilled for our couples."

Last week, the arbor and the paths around it to prepare for the big event.

While many employees had paint and brushes in hand, Rich Perkins, supervisor of mechanical services at Tufts Health Plan, was busy with a drill. He was repairing a smaller arbor near the Grape Arbor, which collapsed under heavy snows of the winter of 2010-11.

"It's been fun so far," Perkins said. "It's great to get out of the build and we've got a beautiful day."

The Commander's Mansion is just the latest place in Watertown that the Tufts Health Plan crew has worked on. The Old Burial Ground, which sits next to the Tufts Health Plan building, got work one year, and the volunteers also did work along the Charles River clearing brush and doing some painting.

"Steve Magoon (Watertown's director of Economic Development and Planning) helps us identify projects," said Ron Reppucci, director of Real Estate at Tufts Health Plan. "The challenging part of this job is managing logistics so everyone has something to do."

Besides the Grape Arbor, employees also painted over grafitti covered walls of buildings in Arsenal Park.

The town saves thousands of dollars and many hours of work thanks to Tufts Health Plan, Magoon said. 

"From our perspective, it is a tremendous opportunity for us to get done the kind of job that is extremely difficult or expensive to get done," Magoon said. "The Grape Arbor is a tremendous location for weddings and it had gotten pretty run down." 

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