SHIRLEY -- The Grace Winslow Trust Fund -- which the state Attorney General's office allowed the town to repurpose a couple of years ago -- is a more flexible charitable resource than it used to be, but only interest can be tapped, leaving the principal intact.

Established with just $500 in the 1950s to assist elderly nursing home residents in town, the trust balance grew over the years, but because there were no such facilities in town, it was untouchable until the selectmen authorized the town treasurer to seek a state waiver.

Now, the Winslow Trust is the main funding source for the Community Assistance Collaborative, which operates under the auspices of the non-profit Shirley Charitable Foundation and provides food, fuel and other assistance to residents in need.

The SCF also acts as an umbrella organization for other town charities and serves as the selectmen's pass-through agent for grants the board distributes from the Winslow Trust.

With an annual budget of $8,000, the CAC recently submitted an application seeking a $5,000 grant from the Winslow Trust. But when selectmen awarded the grant Monday night, they downsized it to $3,500.

Added to an earlier emergency grant of $1,000, paid out from available trust fund interest, the total awarded to CAC this year totals $4,500, selectmen said, but it's $500 short of the current request.

David Swain suggested the lower amount. Another entity might seek funding, such as the Council on Aging, he said, or selectmen might get a request from someone in need who did not wish to go to the CAC for help.

Chairman Kendra Dumont said that with $4,268 in trust fund interest available for grants right now, she was reluctant to hand it all out at once and prefers keeping a reserve.

CAC member Frank Esielionis objected, arguing that his organization is the right go-to in the latter instance.

Esielionis said that anyone who came to the selectmen seeking Winslow Trust funding could be referred to the CAC, which has a network to handle such requests, from confidential applicant screening to linking needs to available services and resources.

Indicating that the CAC counts on the full $5,000 to fund its budget, Esielionis said the worry would be running out of money, especially if an emergency came up.

Swain said in that case they could bring an emergency request to selectmen, any time.

Besides, there will be a second grant application round in July, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin pointed out. Selectmen recently voted to move the grant process to align with the fiscal year, she said.