by Larry Buell

Throughout this season of disruptions, First Parish has risen inspiringly to the challenge of reaching out to our vulnerable neighbors near home and in the greater Boston area.  The Outreach Committee is delighted to report that thanks to the combination of our record-breaking Easter offering and remaining funds available to our committee, within the last month our church has been able to donate more than $20,000 in emergency grants to partner organizations working on the front lines to ensure food security, essential medical services, and shelter to those in need both in Lincoln and in hard-hit neighboring communities from Roxbury to Waltham to Framingham with large minority and immigrant populations disproportionately afflicted by the pandemic.  What’s more, a similar amount remains available for additional grants through the end of June, thanks to the Parish Committee’s approval of our request to set aside one-third of Outreach’s 2019-20 allocation from the Jean Wood Preston Endowment ($25,000) for grants for emergency relief.

Building on Outreach’s close ties with our partner organizations both as financial donors and as sponsor of ongoing volunteer efforts, but extending far beyond what our committee could accomplish alone, has been the outstandingly proactive work of FPL’s new Community Engagement Task Force.  

Meanwhile, Outreach’s pursuit of our usual top priority between March and May—evaluation of candidates for the Jean Wood Preston grants ($5000 – $25,000 for capital improvement or transformative innovation)—has continued in a form that has also allowed us to respond robustly to the needs of the COVID crisis as noted above.    We’ve deferred until next year finalists whose projects we judged could be postponed with little inconvenience to their overall programs and forged ahead with follow-up inquiries and site-visits via Zoom with the two contenders applying for projects whose urgency seems to demand decisions now.  We expect to announce the decisions by mid-June if not before.