Deborah Fellela and John Carnevale have several things in common.
For starters, they are both members of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Fellela is the personal secretary to the principal at Robert F. Kennedy School in Providence. She is a member of the House Committee on Labor and vice chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. Carnevale, a former Providence Police officer, is retired and is a member of the House Finance Committee.
And they both believe in the work of the Johnston Historical Society (JHS).
The pair of representatives combined their efforts recently to land two $500 legislative grants for the Society.
“We were talking about what a tremendous organization we have in the Johnston Historical Society,” Fellela said, adding that the group does “great work in the community.”
Fellela and Carnevale were especially impressed with how many JHS members and guests volunteered their time on Saturdays and Sundays to clean up the dozens of historical cemeteries in Johnston.
Thus, Fellela and Carnevale co-submitted the grant, requesting that the JHS get $500 from each state representative. It was the first time either official sought out funds for the Historical Society.
“The Johnston Historical Society does a lot in this town,” Fellela said. “I personally never knew how much interest there is for this group. It’s special and we’re honored to be able to reward all these volunteers for their outstanding contributions to the community. And we certainly wish them well in all their future endeavors.”
Last Thursday evening, Fellela and Carnevale were at the JHS Museum Barn for a presentation of the $1,000 grant check.
The officials met with JHS President Louis McGowan, Vice President Dan Brown, Secretary Elise Carlson and Treasurer Joe Jamroz prior to the scheduled monthly meeting and handed over the check. McGowan announced the good news to the membership at the meeting that followed, and was met with applause from the packed house.
“We are very, very happy to receive this grant,” McGowan said. “It will indeed come in handy and certainly be put to good use.”
The Historical Society already has a plan for the funds.
“We have two parts for use of the grant. The first is going to our cemetery committee and will be used to purchase a big lawnmower. Our committee is in the process of cleaning and restoring over 90 cemeteries we have in town and they’ve been using a used, $50 machine,” he explained.
A larger, more rugged cutter is needed, especially for cutting low vegetation at most of the cemeteries.
“You need a powerful machine to handle that chore,” McGowan added.
The remaining portion of the grant will be used for construction of an acid-free storage system for all the organization’s records.
“We are in the process of organizing and inventorying our records and putting them in folders,” McGowan said. “We want to store them properly; to do so, we need shelving units to put acid-free boxes with acid-free folders for old manuscript records ... we don’t want them stuck in the back room in totes.”