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Town gets legal OK to expand scope of Grace Winslow Trust


SHIRLEY — A trust fund that was out of reach for more than half a century can now be put to good use, thanks to the continued efforts of selectmen and Treasurer Kevin Johnston.

Some time ago, Johnston was tasked with finding a way for the town to gain access to a trust fund set up in 1950 for a purpose that doesn’t exist.

The Grace Winslow Trust was established for “maintenance of a home for the poor.” With no such facility in town, then or now, the selectmen wanted to use the trust to support other worthy causes.

After working on the issue for over a year and a half, Johnston obtained a “cy pres” ruling from the attorney general in December that allows certain “alternative” uses.

The original court order stated that “accumulated income” on the Winslow Trust could be used only for public welfare recipients in charitable institutions or licensed rest homes. But in the recent ruling, the AG said the town can use “part or all” of that income “for the purposes of general welfare” under conditions spelled out in the ruling.

When Johnston asked the board for authorization to retain “legal specialists” to help him, they agreed. As a result, “we got current-day use” of the antique trust fund, he said.

But the town didn’t get carte blanche. The ruling includes strict guidelines, Johnston said, and the AG’s office will keep a close eye on administration.

Set up with $500 from Grace Winslow’s estate, the fund has grown to $250,000, having accrued interest on the untouched balance for more than 60 years.

Now, some of that money can be used to supplement Council on Aging programs that will benefit “needy citizens,” Selectman Andy Deveau said.

It can also be used to provide grants to the Shirley Charitable Foundation or the Shirley Friendship Fund.

Chairman David Swain noted that although one aim was to assist the COA, the “poor or needy” caveat isn’t age-specific. Interest on the fund added about $6,000 to the balance each year.

Swain asked Johnston to review all the town’s trust funds, comparing original intent to current options. And funds can be tapped to cover costs. “We’ve learned through this process that we can use the funds to pay for administrative work,” he said.

A key proponent early on, Deveau was pleased with the outcome and thanked Johnston for his efforts on the town’s behalf. “It’s good for the town, but it (gaining access to the Winslow Trust) also does justice to the true intent of this gift,” he said.

Johnston was satisfied with a job well-done. “A lot of work and effort from many people went into this,” he said.

When he took this job 15 years ago, he vowed never to do anything as treasurer that he wouldn’t be proud to see in the newspaper, Johnston recently told the board. “I’d be pretty proud of this.”

— M.E. Jones

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