The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of September 19 to September 26, 2019

Welcome to the New Winchendon Courier!

Capacity Crowd at Robinson Broadhurst Foundation Community Meeting

More than 120 involved citizens attended the informational meeting with the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation Board of Directors at the Winchendon American Legion Post 193 on Thursday, September 19.

All community groups and organizations who had benefited from Robinson Broadhurst funding, or who hoped to apply, were invited to the event. In attendance were representatives from numerous town boards, churches including Bethany Bible Chapel, United Parish, UU Church of Winchendon, Adoracion Dios es Fiel, Cornerstone Church and Church of God, the Winchendon Schools, Beals Memorial Library, the police and fire departments, the Clark Memorial/YMCA, Council on Aging, the Winchendon CAC, Heywood Hospital, and non-profit organizations including Winchendon Winds, Ahimsa Haven and the Scouts. Lisa Gauthier of the American Legion Auxiliary arranged a spread of delicious food for the attendees.

Charles McKenzie, Director and President of the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation Board of Directors, opened the meeting with introductions of the Robinson Broadhurst Board and their Advisors for the town of Winchendon. He then asked everyone in attendance to stand and state their name and what organization they were representing. This took a few minutes, but effectively demonstrated the breadth and scope of the Robinson Broadhurst Foundation's positive impact on the town of Winchendon.

McKenzie gave a brief history of the Foundation, which was founded in 1984 by Anna June Robinson and Robert Avery Robinson. Its mission is to improve the quality of life in the towns of Winchendon, MA, Stamford, NY and Worcester NY. In its first year, the Foundation awarded $164,000 in grants; since then, it has disbursed a total of $59,907,000 in grants, with more than $28 million of this going to Winchendon.

McKenzie explained that the Foundation's investments have been doing very well, consistently better than the S&P 500. The Foundation is required to disburse five percent of its assets per year, averaged over five years. However, the Board doesn't have a final figure for the amounts available until each fiscal year closes on April 30. In most years, all available funds are granted to applicants.

After this summary of the Foundation's history, McKenzie went on to explain the application process. The most important change as of this year is the deadline for submitting applications. The deadline is now November 30. The Board hopes this will alleviate the massive influx of last-minute applications during the holiday season ("we're spoiling your Thanksgiving instead of your Christmas," McKenzie joked). Grants are awarded after the Board's annual meeting in May. Grant recipients must send a report on how the funds were used by April 1 of the following year, and funds should be used within a year of being received. Applications may be filed electronically, via the Robinson Broadhust Foundation website, or as a paper packet by mail.

Some grant applications are turned down. McKenzie said the most common reasons for this are: requesting too large an amount; applicant is not a 501(c)(3) organization as required by the terms of the Foundation trust; the description of the project or intended use of funds is too vague; it is not clear how the funding will directly benefit the community; the total dollar amount of requested grants exceeds the amount available in that year; or, the same grant has been awarded several years in a row and the Board wants to give other deserving applicants a chance.

The floor was opened to questions and suggestions. Jane LaPointe asked how the Board prioritizes applications in its decision-making process. McKenzie explained that the Board meets at least three times before the annual meeting and considers all the applications carefully. They especially look at the total number of people who will directly benefit. LaPointe suggested that the Board include results-based accountability: evaluating the complete effectiveness of the project in more ways than simply numbers of persons served.

Speaking for the non-profit Millers River Watershed Council, Guy Corbosiero asked whether the Foundation would fund projects that extend outside the borders of Winchendon--for example, water testing throughout the watershed. McKenzie replied that the Foundation would look at the direct benefit to Winchendon residents.

Jill Sackett of UUCW and Winchendon Winds asked if the Board would like to hear ongoing project updates, receive invitations to milestone events, and so on, or would they prefer "not too much information." The Board assured Sackett that they'd rather hear too much information than too little.

Asked if there had been any additional money added to the trust since its founding, McKenzie said there had not been. He added that any person could endow money to the Foundation at any time, and that a donor could include criteria for the specific use of those funds if they wished.

The meeting concluded with warm applause for the Board.

Winchendon Fire Department to Receive $59,000 in FEMA Grant Funds to Purchase New Protective Gear

Chief Smith of the Fire Department recently received calls from the offices of both Senator Markey and Senator Warren advising him that the Winchendon Fire Department would be receiving an Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant from FEMA in the amount of approximately $59,000 for 20 sets of structural firefighting protective gear. This grant will be officially announced on the FEMA AFG website tomorrow. This will replace out of date protective equipment for our firefighters to wear. This is a 95/5 grant so the fire department will be also putting in approximately $3,100 out of available funds.

HEAL Winchendon Initiative Kicks Off with First Community Meeting

The first community meeting of the Healthy Eating and Active Living, or HEAL, Winchendon initiative was held at the Winchendon Council on Aging at Old Murdock on Tuesday, September 17. Representatives from multiple Winchendon community organizations, businesses and agencies gathered with community members to discuss the lack of easily available healthy food options in Winchendon and proposals to address the issue.

Tracy Murphy, Winchendon's Director of Planning and Development, welcomed attendees and introduced the speakers. Chelsey Patriss of Community Health Network of North Central MA (CHNA9) gave a presentation outlining the problems faced by Winchendon residents in accessing healthy food. Winchendon has been identified as a "food desert" since the closing of the local IGA/Central Market.

Patriss pointed out that the need for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or "food stamps"), WIC (Women, Infants and Children assistance), HIP (Healthy Incentives Program which doubles SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables), and reduced or free lunches for students has been increasing in Winchendon. Chronic health problems related to poor nutrition are increasing. The Winchendon Community Action Committee (CAC) and the Council on Aging offer shuttle buses to Rindge supermarkets. But Massachusetts WIC coupons cannot be used in New Hampshire. The Gardner supermarkets have the highest price points of stores in their chains.

Ayn Yeagle, Executive Director of Growing Places in Leominster, explained that the complete cycle of food access includes more stages than the "produce/grow, sell, consume" model most people think of. Often forgotten are the infrastructures and cost involved in harvesting, processing, packaging, and transporting food, and disposing of waste food. Only 16% of the total cost of food goes directly to farmers.

Following the presentations, attendees divided into six break-out groups. Facilitators led discussions about three proposed action plans.

CIRCL Groups composed of local community members will meet to form concrete goals and develop ways of implementing them. One possible project would involve boxes of food delivered to families along with guidelines on storing and preparing the food.

A Market Survey and Analysis will survey local residents about the kinds of food they purchase and use, the foods they have difficulty purchasing and cooking, and what would help them buy and prepare healthier food options.

A Producer Assessment will research and collect local food producers, such as farmers and local businesses that process food products for retail sale. "Local" means not just geographically in Winchendon, but producers in the area who are actively involved in the community.

Meeting attendees contributed some ideas as well. Beth Hunt of Not Just Produced spoke about the difficulty small retail businesses face in getting support for community action when funding is restricted to non-profit organizations. A community member shared his memories of World War II "Victory Gardens," leading to discussion of establishing community garden plots that residents without garden-friendly yards can use to grow food.

At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees were asked to "beta test" the Market Survey which is being developed. The survey will be distributed to community members in the near future. Both paper and online electronic versions of the survey will be created.

The HEAL Winchendon Initiative is sponsored by Growing Places, CHNA9, Heywood Hospital, The Winchendon School, The Town of Winchendon, The Clark Memorial YMCA and Tufts Health Plan. Lunch food for the meeting was provided by Roots Natural Foods of Leominster.

Stone-Ladeau Funeral Home