SHIRLEY -- Established by the estate of Grace Winslow to assist elderly nursing home residents, the Winslow Trust Fund sat idle for more than 60 years. Untouchable, in fact. There were no such facilities in Shirley and that didn't change over the years.
Last year, the cash-strapped town sought to free up the fund. Selectmen asked Treasurer Kevin Johnston to look into it. He filed the necessary paperwork, asking the state to waive regulations so that the trust fund could be repurposed to fund assistance programs for elderly town residents and others in need.
At first, the request was rejected. But Johnston, at the selectmen's urging, persisted and eventually succeeded.
The Attorney General's office issued a "pro se" ruling that set new rules for use of the Winslow Trust Fund. Reluctant to become fund administrators, selectmen turned to the Shirley Charitable Foundation for help.
At Monday night's meeting, SCF member Ron Marchetti and Johnston presented their plan.
The group can't take over the fund, which would not fit the criteria called for in the ruling, they told the selectmen. But SCF can provide management services, such as keeping track of the fund balance and filing state required reports each year.
Short of doing it for them, Marchetti suggested a protocol for selectmen to easily and consistently dole out Winslow trust fund money. To ensure "complete compliance with the ruling, we can't administer" the fund, he explained. "So we're proposing an annual grant process."
He brought a draft of the proposed setup, with application forms for organizations seeking Winslow Trust Fund grants. But it's still selectmen's decision, he said.
To make the fund "sustainable," grants will tap only the interest, leaving the principal intact.
Chairman Andy Deveau asked if the SCF would vet the requests.
Not exactly. But SCF will act as a "pass through" for funds the selectmen decided to grant in February each year, based on applications submitted in January.
The form tells applicants "exactly what they have to do," and selectmen will know "exactly how much money is available," Marchetti said, sketching SCF's part of the process.
The first request for a Winslow Trust Fund grant came from the Community Assistance Collaborative, a small group whose mission began with assisting the town's frail, homebound or needy elderly and expanded to include families and individuals of any age with fuel grants, food and other needs.
Marchetti explained the procedural map, with every dollar accounted for, but Selectman Kendra Dumont asked if there was a mechanism for emergencies" and money set aside to fund them.
Johnston explained that the state ruling called for the selectmen to meet "at least annually" and in the meantime, the fund continues to accrue interest. For the last three quarters, for example, the fund earned $4,000, he said.
The selectmen can convene at other times during the year to consider emergency requests, Marchetti said.
"This is only our recommendation," he continued. But in the scenario presented, Johnston would know by the end of each fiscal year how much money is available for awarding grants.
Like the $5,000 grant they gave the CAC, which has snowballed into matching funds and other grants from the SCF and the Greater Lowell Foundation that help the community's needy. The Winslow Fund grant helped them further their mission, Marchetti said.
"We can manage their funds," he said of the CAC, which continues to seek out the "truly needy" through other community organizations such as the Council on Aging.
"This is a great use of this (Winslow Trust Fund) money," and other grant funds the CAC has brought in, he said.