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Winning Home Inc. announces $130,000 in grants


Woburn - The latest round of grants from Winning Home Inc. have been announced with $130,000 going to four local charities through a new application policy as the agency transforms into its new role as a charitable trust.


The Woburn Boys & Girls Club, targeting the new "Teen Center" and also the ability to tap into a matching grant discovered during the application process, received $85,000 this year.


Other grants this year included the Woburn Council of Social Concern receiving $25,000, the Mission of Deeds receiving $15,000, and CMARC receiving $5,000. This year's round of grants brings Winning Home Inc.'s donations to more than $500,000 since deciding to sell the 155-acre farm, invest the funds, and instead donating to worthy causes, with an emphasis on local groups, on an annual basis.


This year's round of grants were issued after those interested complied with a detailed application process that gives the Winning Home Inc. Board of Directors a great deal more information about the agencies and its requests.


As a result of the new application process, during review of the Woburn Boys & Girls Club, Winning Home Inc. Director Albert "Chip" Curran noted it was discovered that there is a firm that matches all donations to the club's building fund. So in addition to the grant targeting the new Teen Center, Winning Home Inc. also made grant money available to the building program, where the club can now apply for the matching funds, Curran said.


The Board of Directors issue grants each year in accordance with Winning Home Inc.'s mission statement to offer "services and support to children who are economically, socially, physically, emotionally or mentally handicapped or disadvantaged and their families."


Curran noted the emphasis is on organizations in the three towns involved including Woburn, Winchester and Lexington and surrounding communities.


A grant will go to a group from outside this area if it is a "fabulous program" but he noted there are plenty of worthy organizations benefiting deserving children and their families in the immediate area. Though the parcels in Winchester and Lexington have been sold, the largest part of the farm is in Woburn where appeals have bogged down the proposal for 147-townhouse units and the sale of the land to Burlington developers Gary Ruping and Robert Murray is on hold.


Curran said he sees at least another year of appeals as he sees the state approving a superseding order of conditions to the Conservation Commission permit which was appealed, but said he sees the superseding order being appealed as well. "We just have to be patient," Curran said, noting many of the state agencies involved have seen reductions in staff, furthering delaying the time it takes to adjudicate the appeals. "We thought we would have been further along," Curran said.


"We thought six years later we would have been done (with the sale of the land.)" (Neighbors have appealed plans for the assisted living facility in Winchester, but the sale of the land has been complete as the town of Winchester decided to purchase the parcel in its town, and the appeals now involve the neighbors and the town. The Lexington parcel was developed with single-family homes.)


One challenge for the board over the past few years has been coming to an agreement with the two developers on a way to keep the $4 million original offer for the land by Murray and Ruping in line with today's higher land prices. One such method has been semi-annual interest payments from the two developers as well as extension fees.


And, as the appeals drag on, it means more in legal fees for Winning Home Inc., which though the appeals mainly involve the developers, Winning Home Inc. must protect its interests as well.


Curran said Winning Home officials have been in touch with state officials, like State Sen. Robert Havern, D-Arlington, who represents this area, to see if there is anything that can be done to move the appeals along.


Through the sale of the Winchester and Lexington parcels, and the funds collected to date on the Woburn parcel, the trust is currently working off an endowment of about $1.6 million, Curran said. Curran also noted that it may take awhile but at some point the Woburn land will be sold and the Winning Home Inc. Board of Directors would then have to complete its transformation into its new role.


Currently, there are 12 members of the Winning Home Inc. Board of Directors with bylaws calling for 10 to 20.


Over the past year, Curran reiterated, the board worked extensively on coming up with the new grant application guidelines which provide "a set of guidelines that apply to everyone" and is "fair to everyone and remains true to the trust," Curran said.


The grant application, as well as additional information on Winning Home Inc., is available at www.winninghome.org.


Among the information sought in the grant application from nonprofit tax-exempt organizations is detailed information and an itemized budget for the proposed project, as well as lists of major contributors and summary budgets for the organization. The 155 acres were established as a charitable trust per the will of William Henry Winning in 1898 to establish an orphanage and children's home at Winning Farm.


In 1996, Winning Home Inc. Board of Directors, determined that the farm wasn't being used fully per the original will and determined it would be best to sell the land, invest the funds, and make annual grants to organizations that actively services the needs of children and their families. A special zoning designation was that then developed for the Woburn parcel that allowed for a higher density residential use, the townhouses, if half were deeded back to the city as open space.