Music was Janine Holston’s life passion. The gifted musician, who played the French horn and sang soprano, knew from a young age that she would become a music teacher.
“She was quite an accomplished musician,” said Jim Holston, who along with his wife, Nancy, established the Janine Holston Memorial Music Scholarship Fund to honor his sister’s legacy.
Janine graduated from R.C. Mahar Regional High School in Orange, Mass., and followed her dream, earning a music education degree from Westfield State College.
Fresh out of school, and eager to work with children, she quickly landed a teaching position with the Brookfield Public School district.
The fall of 1979 began like every other school year, with a sense of excitement as new students settled into their classes. But for Janine, the new school year brought a tragic diagnosis of melanoma. She passed away in 1980, at the age of 25, eight short months after her diagnosis.
“We wanted to do something to memorialize Janine,” Jim said. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Jim and his wife had gathered the resources to establish a memorial fund in Janine’s memory. The fund awards scholarships to R.C. Mahar Regional High School seniors who plan to pursue music education, or music-related degrees in college.
“Teachers are such giving people,” Jim said. “We wanted to help students become music teachers, just like Janine did.”
Initially, the fund was established through a private organization, which had some limitations on the type of donations it could accept.
Ironically, Jim learned about the Community Foundation from his financial advisor, while counseling the family of Kyle Flood, also from Orange, who passed away unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of 18.
Jim was telling the family about the lessons he’d learned while setting up a memorial fund.
After seeing how easy it was for the Flood family to establish a fund with the Community Foundation, however, Jim decided to move his sister’s fund from a private foundation to the Community Foundation. “It was so easy to set up the fund, and there were no limitations on the type of gifts the fund could receive,” he said.
As for his other charitable interests, Jim, vice president of operations for Simonds in Fitchburg, Mass., has taken interest in 15-40 Connection, a nonprofit organization based in Worcester, Mass.
It is focused on improving cancer survival rates for people 15 to 40, an age group that, according to the 15-40 Connection web site, has seen no improvement in cancer survival rates in more than 20 years. “We keep our ear to the ground for different causes,” Jim concluded.
For 100 years, Pearl Russell lived in the Townsend family home where she was born.
While she never married, she devoted her creative, nurturing energies to her pupils as a math teacher. She was known to be strict but fair to all, and earned the respect of her principal and students for the 40 years that she taught. During the decade before she retired in 1971, she was head of the Math Department at North Middlesex Regional High School.
Pearl was an alumna of the Townsend schools, valedictorian of her high school class, and a 1931 graduate of Tufts College, with a B.S. in mathematics.
Because she loved math, she established a significant scholarship fund at the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts. It is dedicated to students from North Middlesex Regional High School who further their education in math.
Pearl was active in Congregational Church activities for many years and was influential in Townsend civic matters. She served as co-grand marshal of the 275th Anniversary parade, and led the successful effort to preserve Howard Park from development by the town. She also served on the town’s board of library trustees, as treasurer, for several terms. In addition, through the Historical Society, she established another fund at the Community Foundation to support and preserve the character of Howard Park in Townsend.
Pearl enjoyed bird walks, gardening, the Red Sox and Celtics, wild flowers, astronomy, tutoring individuals after her retirement, traveling and cashews. She was honored with the Boston Post cane as the oldest resident of Townsend. Pearl passed away at home Sept. 24, 2010.
Catelynn Melus of Townsend received the first scholarship from the recently established Pearl A. Russell Mathematics Fund, designed to encourage graduating seniors to follow a career in mathematics.
The recent North Middlesex Regional High School graduate is attending Rivier College in Nashua, N.H., to pursue a career as a high school algebra teacher.
Pearl Russell of Townsend, a math teacher for many years at North Middlesex Regional High School, created a permanent scholarship fund through the Foundation to benefit graduating seniors from the school. One of the fund's unique features is that the recipient can apply for subsequent scholarships while in college, providing potentially $70,000 in financial assistance.
Because of a grant The Trustees of Reservations received from the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts’ General Endowment Fund, it was able to launch its North Central Youth Conservation Corps initiative. Here is what some of their members are saying…
"Let me say thank you for helping make the North Central Youth Conservation Corps a reality (through a Community Foundation grant). It is something that has been in the works for a while, and to see all of the pieces come together this summer has been very exciting.”
- “Overall, the first week was good. I think it was a little more physical than I expected, but I like it. I like it because I really like nature and being away from all the noise of man-made things really brings me peace.” - Jared McDonald
- “My first week was very exciting and tiring; I had fun doing my job with cool people. It was a total new experience for me.” – Elwin Rutayomba
- “My first week landscaping for The Trustees was very different; it wasn’t what I expected, but I must say it was a great experience. Besides the bugs, it was fun adventuring, cutting trees and working together.” - Nate Perkins
Outreach and Education Coordinator
The Trustees of Reservations
"At Bemis, investing in the community is a key strategic goal. The Community Foundation continues to be a great partner in ensuring the funds we invest help strengthen the community. A strong community is absolutely essential to our continued success as a business.”
Bemis Associates, Inc.
Brittany Loring hasn’t let tragedy shut her off from living and sharing with the world.
She’s giving back, in recognition of the help she received.
The Ayer resident, severely injured in the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013, spent long weeks and months with doctors, physical therapists and family as she worked to regain strength and mobility. She has since refused to allow the tragedy to define her.
Because so many people reached out to help Brittany recover, contributing funds along with well wishes, she has turned around to help those like herself. Anyone struggling to recover from marathon injuries, damage suffered in another terrorist attack or other traumatic events is eligible for assistance with long-term medical or psychological recovery costs through the Community Foundation’s Brittany Fund for Trauma and Recovery.
“They could need help with rent, medical devices, therapy, a lot of different things,” she said. Also eligible for assistance, she says: “Good samaritans and first responders who were injured trying to help someone. Families who lose a member to these events and incur losses may also receive help.” Brittany, a graduate of Bromfield School in Harvard, continued with her education. She graduated from Boston College in 2013 with a dual degree in law and business, and is now working in the field of international taxation. She married after her recovery as well, though she still receives physical therapy to help her gain strength. “I’m doing great,” she said. “Overall, I’m back to my normal life, working, living. I want to give back to people and try to help them with their recovery, because I was given so much with mine.”
Established in 2012, the Alan McCulloch Fund will benefit musical programs in the Leominster area, on an ongoing basis. The fund is generally aimed at the student level. Mr. McCulloch, a Leominster computer consultant, died April 7, 2010, after a heart attack.
As his designated executor and trustee, Henri Frye, CPA, set up the approximately $750,000 fund in memory of his client of 25 years. “He was a very frugal guy, and he loved music,” said Mr. Frye. “He gave away a lot of CDs and records to nonprofit radio stations.”
Mr. McCulloch, who was unmarried, also loved to travel, and the Fryes enjoyed speaking with him about various Caribbean islands he’d visited. “He was also a big fan of Bob Marley,” he said. He was a graduate of the Leominster High School Class of 1970, and attended several class reunions. “His will designated that nearly three-quarters of a million dollars would be given away to charity, and we felt we should do something locally, with his love of music. It will be a endowed designated fund, so it can be an ongoing gift,” Mr. Frye said. School music and similar programs are the most likely recipients.
At Robert C. Alario Certified Public Accountants, P.C. we work closely with our clients to help them achieve their financial goals. For many, in addition to creating a comfortable retirement and passing their assets to their heirs, there is a great interest in leaving a lasting legacy.
We believe there are significant advantages to working through the Community Foundation – regardless of the donor’s interest or passion.
- Virtually any type of charitable fund can be established, so it is extremely flexible.
- It accepts a wide variety of assets, and can facilitate even the most complex forms of giving.
- The Foundation is a local organization with deep roots in the community. In addition, the staff has broad expertise regarding community issues and needs.
Several of my clients who have used the Foundation, have told me they value the “safeguarding” feature the Foundation provides. It ensures their gift will live in perpetuity.
The Foundation is an ideal vehicle to facilitate our clients charitable giving – it’s local, cost-effective and most of all, easy to establish and manage.
“The Foundation is an important asset to the community. Not only is it making critical grants that benefit the community, but it has become an extremely important resource for nonprofit agencies so they can easily set up endowments, which helps create a permanent source of funding,”
Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster
The conservationist spirit of Johnny Appleseed is close to what guides the North County Land Trust.
Its goal is simple: to preserve, protect, and promote the natural resources of north central Massachusetts.
John Chapman did it with apple seeds. NCLT is doing it with seed funds.
When you think of the North County Land Trust, think Gateway Park in Fitchburg or Sumner Farm's Scripture Hill. Think Quabbin Reservoir to Wachusett Mountain Forest Legacy Project, a 3,400-acre land/water conservation project funded by the Federal Forest Legacy Program to conserve land in the watershed that supplies drinking water for the greater Boston metropolitan area. Think again, of Fitchburg's northern and southern water supply watersheds, where the Trust has facilitated the protection of nearly 500 acres of land. Think of 122 acres of conservation land on the Otter River in Gardner. All of this land has been conserved because of NCLT’s work.
The Community Foundation has awarded two CFNCM Organizational Fund for Non-Profits grants, to help increase the Trust's organizational capacity. These grants funded the development of a fundraising plan and the hiring of a part-time development director. Recently, an NCLT Endowment Fund was established at the Community Foundation, to help secure the future of the NCLT organization.
This non-profit land conservation organization was founded in 1992 by Bigelow Crocker Jr., Carolyn Winslow and Rosemary Kemp, all members of the Crocker family, who also donated the 150-acre Crocker Conservation Area in Fitchburg.
NCLT, based in Leominster, owns and manages six public access conservation areas—in Ashburnham, Gardner, Fitchburg, Templeton, Hubbardston and Princeton—and holds 7 conservation restrictions (which protect land by eliminating development rights) in four communities. For an extensive look at its activities, see its website (www.northcountylandtrust.org). "We work with landowners and municipal boards within our 14-community focus area to identify and prioritize open space for conservation. We obtain funding from state and federal grant programs to pay landowners to conserve their land. We also accept donations of conservation land,” said Janet Morrison, executive director since 2001. It's a huge undertaking, with many land conservation projects requiring several years to complete. NCLT frequently works in partnership with other land conservation organizations, municipalities and state agencies to complete landscape-scale projects involving thousands of acres in several communities.
"NCLT conserves farms and farmland, which is so important to the viability of local agriculture," she said. " NCLT also helped to establish a new buy local initiative, Central Mass. Grown, which connects local farmers to local markets, and allows consumers to choose local products at participating retailers and restaurants. As chair of the Fitchburg Greenway Committee, NCLT is working with the City to develop trails connecting its riverfront parks.
Through its membership in the Twin Cities Rail Trail Association, NCLT is also working to create a rail trail between the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster. "Much of our work in conserving land and creating parks is facilitating projects for communities. This work allows communities to benefit from projects they would otherwise lack the capacity to undertake. Our work on these projects includes everything from A to Z—grant writing to mapping to the due diligence required before closing," said Morrison, who is also a lawyer. "We offer greatly needed professional land conservation services to landowners and communities in North Central Mass.” NCLT relies on memberships and contributions to fund the organization, paying for staff, overhead, equipment, supplies and the like; state and federal grant programs provide funding for land conservation, and the Community Foundation grants have helped NCLT increase its capacity to conserve land in the region. “Working with the Community Foundation has been very productive. They have shown confidence in our organization and in our work," she said. "And they have made it easy to create our new NCLT Endowment Fund. They’re very accessible and very helpful. They have made a real effort to understand what we do and what we need.”
Stratton Players, one of the earliest community theaters in the country, is one of Fitchburg's gems. Now in its 91st season, the Players have continued through war and economic depression. John Williams, treasurer of the Stratton Players' board of directors—and often an actor on stage— said, "We've put on shows every year since 1925."
A solid core of 90 to 100 people supports Stratton Players, not counting season subscribers. Three shows are scheduled this season: "All Play and No Work," a comedy performed on two weekends in October; several short plays, "Stocking Stuffers," Dec. 4-6, and "Dracula," in April.
In the wake of successive swats of very bad luck, the theater company has initiated a Community Foundation fund—the Stratton Players Rebuilding Fund—for its future, with a matching funds deadline coming up soon.
High school English teacher Helen Stratton directed the theater's first presentation, A.A. Milne's comic "Mr. Pim Passes By" in 1925. At her death, in 1929, Fay Crocker stepped in to lead the group; she donated a playhouse at 60 Wallace Ave. to the Players. Owning its own place was a huge factor in Stratton Players' continuance; it remained there for many decades, until a 2011 fire destroyed the building and the group could not afford to rebuild. The group then moved temporarily into quarters at the Unitarian Universalist church overlooking Fitchburg's Upper Common. That, too, came to an end when ice dams formed during the heavy winter of 2014-15, causing major flooding in the church. The group had to cancel its Spring season and seek a new location.
Having done so, its board of directors is working to secure its future in a newly chosen location. "Our long-term goal is to move into a new building we purchased from the Fay Club—a carriage house behind the club that you can see from both Main and Boulder streets. It's affectionately known as Lucy's Barn," Williams said. The group bought the building and has begun major renovations to make it safe and transform it into a 120-seat theater. "This is going to be our new home, where we'll put it all together—rehearsals and performances, he said. "It has a rustic feel to it, similar to the old playhouse."
In the interim, Stratton Players is performing in Applewild School's Alumni Center for the Performing Arts at 98 Prospect St.. "What a wonderful, wonderful facility," says Rachel D'onfro, SP chairman. Both credit the late Janet Craigin's efforts, and her teaching connection to Applewild, for the changed venue. "They have a brand new headmaster, Christie Stover, who just loved the idea and it all happened," D'Onfro said. The group is excited to be there while work moves forward behind the Fay Club. "The people at Applewild are so amazing. It's a state-of-the-art facility and stage," she said.
But they look forward to their own home. "Lucy's Barn is just so perfect," Williams said; "it's really our home and we really want to get in there."
There is no timetable, however: rebuilding is dependent on the pace of donations. June is the deadline for a large matching funds donation. "We would like to match the full $200,000," D'Onfro said.
The new location was close to being torn down, Williams said; its heavy slate roof was collapsing, a north-facing wall was falling in because of the roof. Williams says architects' estimates call for $800,000 to $1 million to fully renovate the location. "We have already put in $200,000 from fire insurance and initial fundraising. We have to raise enough money to match a grant from Massachusetts Cultural Commission with another $200,000, and then we'll need to raise another $400,000 or so."
That's where the Community Foundation comes in. "We recognized that putting our money into a bank at low interest wouldn't cut it," Williams said. "Linda Mack approached us and explained to us what we could do. We could get on their radar—meet people, network, get our name out there, be listed in promotional materials.
"From that, we've already received another grant, from the Montachusett Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings, that's directly related to our relationship with the Community Foundation."
Setting up the fund, he said, was "very easy. We got an application for an account, filled it out, got signatures—that's really all there was to it."
Nine area churches have linked arms and resources to help provide a place for homeless families with children to call home—at least until they find something permanent. The Montachusett Interfaith Hospitality Network started in 2002, when the churches' representatives created a plan to address regional homelessness.
The house they've established is not enough, says the network's Executive Director Dr. Jon Hogue, but it's a good start. "There's a need for additional state funding to replicate our model over and over again," he said. "There are not enough programs like ours out there. Hundreds and hundreds of families are being housed at hotels in the Leominster area." Hundreds, he reiterates.
"When the country went through the recession, it hit people really hard. There weren't jobs—or what jobs were there were fairly minimum wage, and you can't raise a family on that anymore," said Dr. Hogue, director since January and an adjunct professor at Fitchburg State University. "They have rent, utilities, insurance if they even have a car, food. People can't afford all that on minimum wage."
Originally, the network operated a facility in a rented apartment building in Fitchburg, maintaining separate offices in the basement of Faith United Church. That was before a fund holder with the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts made it possible for them to buy and retrofit a building at 758 Main St., Leominster. Both offices and living quarters for five families are being moved there. An Open House, held Oct. 18, preceded occupancy by a few weeks.
The fund's key supporter approached Phil Grzewinski, president of the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, after Dr. Hogue made a contribution request. The donor gave $350,000 to the network, enabling it to buy the building (previously a single-family home). The network has since established a permanent endowment fund to keep it going, as the initial donor requested. That fund's goal is $300,000.
"We've set up a new fund for capital needs, to make sure the building is kept up correctly, to ensure it will be here into the future. When we need a new roof, a new driveway, other big-ticket items our budget normally couldn't handle, we'll have that," Dr. Hogue said. "We started raising the funds in April. People can donate through the Community Foundation or on our website (www.mihnetwork.com), or call me directly."
"An endowment is a powerful tool that helps nonprofits with sustainability,” Grzewinski said. “What impresses me is that it’s the only nonprofit in the region providing transitional housing to families with children. In addition, they have a great track record of quickly helping families become self-sufficient. The cadre of volunteers and their networks, that make this program work, is also quite impressive.”
MIHN, founded in 2002, is the result of area churches working together to address homelessness in the region.
“We are so grateful for this incredible support, which will allow us to transition up to 25 families annually into their own housing,” said Dr. Hogue.
Hope and good spirits bloomed this year when an anonymous donor sent a check for $110,000 to the Community Foundation, earmarked for the establishment of a scholarship fund for graduates of Fitchburg High School and Goodrich Academy.
The Educational Foundation Scholarship Fund will provide scholarships for post-secondary study. Fund holders expect to generate $4,000 to $7,000 a year from the fund and award its first scholarships during the current school year.
This fund joins a predecessor at the Community Foundation, the Fitchburg Education Foundation—a group working to build a pool of grant money for educators to use in providing supplies and enrichment activities to students. Eventually, Fitchburg Public School teachers and staff members will tap into the grants for classroom enrichment purchases and activities.
The school system developed this fund five years ago, when Sally Craigin, a School Committee member, suggested one. "She was really the power behind it," said Andre Ravenelle, Fitchburg Schools superintendent. "She thought there should be an education foundation like other school districts have. We were really looking to raise money for extra-curricular programs, after-school programs, and the like."
Craigin says she pursued funding because she saw a long-term problem. "My thought in 2008, learning some of the complexities of school budget and state funding inequities, was the following: Why, oh why, did someone not take the time back in 1981 and the passage of Prop 2 ½ to say, 'We are going to be deficient in school funding from now to eternity. Let's start an endowment fund to make up that difference?' "
She suggested a gala (held in May 2015)—which became its first substantial fundraiser.
"It raised about $18,000," Ravenelle said. "We've already scheduled a second gala for April 30, 2016." They expect that one to raise even more for the foundation, since there will be more time to prepare and spread the word. Lots of people, from the superintendent's office to the School Committee, combined to make the first gala a success. "The first time, we didn't know if we'd even get 50, but over 200 came," he said. The next event will coincide with Fitchburg High's 150th graduating class.
The foundation is also pursuing contributions from private and public sources, in partnership with the North Central Massachusetts Community Foundation.
The $110,000 scholarship fund is a restricted fund under the wing of the overall Fitchburg Education Foundation, bringing total funds invested to $181,634.61 as of June 30, 2015.
Supporters hope to raise $1 million or more, ultimately. Robert Jokela, assistant superintendent of finance and operations, oversees the growing fund with Ravenelle. He says the effort has resulted in better consolidation of funding efforts.
"There were more accounts before than there are now," Jokela said. "We met with Linda (Linda Mack, vice president of Development and Donor Relations for the Foundation) and consolidated a lot of accounts."
While there is always a call for assistance, they have not yet decided whether to let any of the funds out, or continue accruing funds toward the higher goal, he said. "The question is whether to let it build—and become something very substantial we can draw on in future years."
"I had experience in starting up a foundation like this, in another district, so I knew it was a good thing," Ravenelle said. "You don't have to reinvent the wheel, and start your own foundation; you can piggyback on the Community Foundation. It automatically gives you some credibility. Additionally, working with the Community Foundation has been fairly seamless, he said. "From my point of view, it's pretty efficient to do." Jokela concurs.
They hope to keep the fund going, and growing, "to infinite and beyond," Ravenelle said. "I think a fund like this depends on two things: the enthusiasm and stamina of the people who organize it, and the charity and dedication of the community. If you have both of those things, you have a good formula—and Fitchburg has a good formula. I tell people this all the time ... People here provide more, in terms of charity, than in many other places."
Good programming gets more people involved in using the library; changing technologies attract young readers who may remain committed to library use all their lives, once introduced. In this case, more is better.
With that in mind, Friends of the Fitchburg Public Library have established a $10,000 Community Foundation fund, dedicated to increasing the amount of programming and materials available at the library—an effort redoubled since the library's 2009 severe funding losses.
Friends Treasurer Mary Willoughby says the group designated $10,000 after concurring that a CD it had banked since the 1990s was not going anywhere at such a low interest rate. "It was basically down to nothing, so we thought we could put the money somewhere else, and make a better investment," she said.
In March, the group set up a fund and is weighing its progress compared to other options. "We're hoping to get a better return on our investment, trying to make more money than you can get from the bank," she said. While Wall Street fluctuations impact the fund, she said, "that's the risk you take when you're doing something like this; you're in the stock market."
Friends earns its funds through monthly book sales in the bookmobile garage site at the library and by running various attention-getting programs geared at raising consciousness among the public. One successful program is the ongoing Nancy Project, named for Ms. Willoughby's mother, an avid reader and library user during her life. Members knit scarves, mittens or baby blankets for sale as Christmas presents. Others have begun contributing bird houses and hand-sewn tote bags. Proceeds all go to the Friends' projects.
"We give money to the director to buy books or run programs for the library," she said. "Magazine subscriptions were down after funds were cut, so we gave money for them to get a lot of those subscriptions back. We give the money for museum passes, so people can visit museums either free or at a discounted price.”
People can contribute by joining the Friends, thereby adding to the funds as a member and, if desired, attending meetings. "Or, they can become involved in our fundraisers," she said.
The Sam Pawlak Community Playground will be built at Coolidge Park in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The playground will have wheelchair accessible and easy transfer equipment. It will also include a variety of sensory experiences for those children with intellectual impairment, autism, and visual limitations.
This playground will be built next to the existing, so that it can be an all inclusive playground; all children can play together and have fun. It will have a fence to kept all children safe from the parking lot.
The idea for this playground was created by two special education employees of Fitchburg Public Schools, Beth LeBlanc and Judy Jollimore. They realized that there was not any specialized equipment in public playgrounds in their community and decided to make that change! That is the reason it is being called a "community playground".
The hope is that children from all surrounding communities, such as Lunenburg, Townsend, Leominster, Ashburnham , Ashby, and beyond will come and enjoy the playground and beautiful Coolidge Park.
The Sam Pawlak Community Playground is being named after Sam Pawlak, an educator from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He received his degree from Fitchburg State College. Sam was a teacher for many years at Natick High School and Nashoba Regional High School before he became the Principal at Nashoba Regional High School. He held that position for a long time, changing the lives of many teens. After retirement, he volunteered at Oakmont Regional High School working with special needs teenagers. He also volunteered at Children's Hospital in Boston, helping children and families in need of care. Sam passed away in May 2015 after being diagnosed with ALS "Lou Gehrig's disease" in 2013. He was a great family man, community leader, and educator. We are honoring him with this playground.
The Proietti Family Fund is a donor-advised fund benefitting Leominster recipients. Laura Proietti decided to establish a $10,000 fund, from savings.
First, though, she became a fund booster. "I've been involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the Doyle Field Foundation, so through that I became aware of the Community Foundation," she said. "At work, I was telling my boss about it (her employer gives an annual scholarship to a Leominster High School senior). I explained that it could go on in perpetuity, rather than having to write a check from the business each year. They did it, and they actually awarded two scholarships last year.
"So then, I told my mother. My brother had passed away in 2000, and she had given a donation to Leominster Library to use for teen programs. The library was so appreciative. I talked to her about a charitable fund, so that every year she could make a donation." Mom wasn't swayed, but she did contribute to Laura's fund, once that had been established: "I got to thinking, maybe it's time I took my own advice," Laura said.
"We (she and her husband, Michael Proietti) came up with $10,000 (setting it up in two installments). This coming January will be first time I get to decide where the earnings will go. Our goal for the fund was to help build 'peace, love and joy.' A roof over your head is peace. Food is love. The arts give joy. So, feed the hungry, help give shelter to the homeless, or give to arts programming."
Since it's a donor-advised fund, benefitting Leominster, she decides how proceeds will be used.
They want it to continue to grow. "We'll keep contributing to the fund," she said. "We want to keep the principal in place, so that it will go on. So far, it's earned around $500, in less than eight months. I figure it will probably generate about $700 by January. Eventually, I'd like to give three $500 annual disbursements."
"It pays it forward."
A friendship started a journey that led to the founding of 15-40 Connection. It started as a business relationship when Jim Coghlin, Sr., a successful business leader and generous philanthropist, met Mark Ungerer.
Jim and Mark quickly became the closest of friends. When Mark watched his son battle leukemia, Jim felt his pain. Mark’s son, David, was 15 when cancer took his life. Mark was motivated to lessen the impact cancer has on families, so he founded a golf tournament in Central Massachusetts to support cancer research and care.
Not only did cancer take David at a young age, but claimed his dad, Mark, in 1995?
It did and of course it was devastating.
While Mark was being treated, he asked you to run the tournament he started in memory of his son?
Mark said there was a great likelihood that he would die before me and he asked me to continue the tournament if that should happen.
How did 15-40 Connection grow out of an annual golf tournament?
As the 10th anniversary of Mark’s death approached in 2005, I decided that I wanted a more permanent reminder of Mark. I met with leaders at a large academic cancer center and decided to establish a fellowship in Mark’s name to address an issue that needed attention and develop future leaders in an area of cancer care and research.
What did you learn from your research?
That cancer survival rates for 15 to 40 year olds had barely improved since 1975, I could not believe it. Later learning that delayed diagnosis played a critical role in this statistic was equally shocking. It’s a problem impacting people of all ages. These are facts my family and I could not ignore.
15-40 Connection’s mission is to improve survival rates through the power of early detection?
It is. Everyone can help improve cancer survival rates by changing the cancer conversation and empowering earlier detection. If it is to be, it is up to us!
How are you doing that?
We are starting a new cancer conversation in schools, workplaces and online. 15-40 Connection is empowering the lifesaving advantage of early cancer detection by teaching people what the most common cancer symptom is and three steps they can use to detect it early.
Why did you decide to open a fund with the Community Foundation?
We want to create a permanent source of income for the important work we are doing. In particular, we are impressed with the Foundation’s investment process, which gives us a great deal of confidence. Finally, it helps us spread the work of 15-40 to North Central Massachusetts.
Harold F. Root's son, Michael, recalls his father as "a very hard worker. He enjoyed it; he was successful in business," Michael said. His father, an undertaker, operated Smith Funeral Home, across from St. Bernard's School in Fitchburg. (John R. Smith founded the company in 1890. Harold Root took over in 1935. Michael Root assumed ownership after his father's death, selling the business in 1981 to Henry J. Masciarelli and his son, John F. Masciarelli.
Harold Root established the scholarship fund privately, during the 1950s, wanting to help Fitchburg students advance their educations. "He believed in giving back to the community, and education was important to him," Michael said. "So he set up the foundation with my mother (Elsie F. Root). She was a teacher."
They established the fund through St. Bernard's parish, but Mr. Root expanded it, ultimately giving annual scholarships to seniors at St. Bernard's and Fitchburg High School. "Before he died, he had given quite a bit of the money away to ... students who were going to college," said Michael Root, also a mortician.
In the early days, Michael recalls, his father sat with several educators to select recipients. Now, the schools handle the selection. "Before he died, he'd asked me if I'd continue it on.
I did, until I heard about the Community Foundation." This was three years ago. Michael himself had retired by then. "I figured that the foundation would be perfect; they could handle everything. I turned the whole thing over to them, and they are responsible for giving out a scholarship to someone from each school.
Usually it's $1,000. That will change according to the fund's status, giving more if it's possible. "It's growing; that's what we want," he said.
What began with a few families getting together to discuss their need for information and assistance with special needs has blossomed over four decades into a larger organization, serving more than 100 families. It's a small group with a big name: Greater Athol Area Advocates for Families with Special Needs (fondly known as GAAAFSN).
Kathy Coles leads the group, with Peter George of Petersham as co-chairman, serving nine Quabbin-area communities. Because it lacks 501-K designation, the group has a host agency— The United Arc of Turners Falls, a chapter of The Arc of Massachusetts. Needs differ as clients age; the association responds to them all. Clients may have autism or disabilities, intellectual or physical. "Some families have more than one individual needing assistance; some are parents themselves. GAAAFSN links them to supportive agencies in the region," she said. "We have a seven-member family board. The majority of them have individuals with special needs; two members represent area community members." Four years ago, when they discovered they had around $122,000 in accrued donations, The United Arc’s Executive Director Lynne Bielecki pointed them toward Linda Mack at the Community Foundation.
"The relationship has evolved since then," Coles said. "Linda's availability is boundless. She's always there for questions or help with direction. She has been so forthcoming." There's a scholarship program now, for special needs applicants, or those who have special needs in the family considering a career in some form of human services. GAAAFSN recognizes innovation and community partnership too. Linda Mack from the Community Foundation received an award for partnership at the most recent annual meeting, and, for innovation, Winfield Brown, CEO of Heywood Hospital—for a planned Petersham retreat center aimed at addressing mental health and addiction problems.