October 24, 2014
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Johnston Historical Society receives $69K from Champlin
Meg Fraser and John Howell

For some, it means a roof without leaks; for others, it’s radio receivers, updated computers and a pair of mini buses.

The list of what almost $19 million in Champlin Foundations grants will accomplish is long and impressive.

How 201 non-profits will spend the money differs, but it can be said most of the projects wouldn’t get done, or would be accomplished over a much longer period, if it wasn’t for the foresight of a Warwick industrialist and his sisters.

George S. Champlin, who died in 1980 at the age of 98, founded the first of the foundations in 1932 with Florence Champlin Hamilton and Hope Champlin Neaves. Since then, more than 900 charities have received nearly $480 million in grants.

Last week, the foundations announced the annual list of recipients. The agencies and non-profits receiving the awards were notified about two weeks ago, so there has been a level of excitement on the street.

“There were a lot of good applications,” said Keith Lang, executive director of the foundations. He said that there were 404 applications and that generally, Champlin awards are about a third of the total of the requests.

Lang said the foundations look to “make the biggest impact we can.” He said that has become increasingly difficult as matching grant opportunities are disappearing.

Lang placed the Champlin endowments at about $400 million, of which “we are required to give away 5 percent.” The endowment has remained relatively consistent despite market fluctuations.

“Our goal is to be as predictable as we can be,” he said.

Last year, Champlin awarded approximately $19 million in grants – on par with this year’s contributions.

Only one Johnston agency made the list of recipients. The Johnston Historical Society received $69,320 for additions to the museum headquarters’ building.

The addition will be roughly 24 feet by 20 feet, constructed along the side of the museum. It will feature a handicap accessible ramp and smoke alarm upgrades that bring the facility up to code. Contractor Warren Lanphear, who built the original Museum Barn in 2001, will spearhead construction of the addition. The original building was also funded through a Champlin Foundations grant.

“It’ll match the barn; it’ll look just like the existing post and beam inside,” said Society Vice President Dan Brown.

Brown estimates that they will be able to break ground on the project in March.

“We’re going to start meeting after the first regarding preliminaries on it,” he said.

The addition will be the site for Historical Society meetings, which happen monthly, with the exception of a summer hiatus, and feature a variety of guest speakers. Adding on to the existing structure, Brown said, is necessary to meet the demands of the growing group.

“Right now we have outgrown ourselves so much. Since [the museum] was put in, so many more people come to meetings,” he said. “We get a good turnout for meetings, which I think is great. It’s good for the town.”

The addition will free up space in the main building, allowing the Society to expand on displays that are often pushed to the side to make room for the crowd at meetings.

“We’re getting more and more artifacts every day. We’ll be able to put in floor displays that we’ve never been able to do before,” Brown said.

Johnston residents will benefit from Champlin grants in other ways, too. The foundations have long supported libraries and this year 34 libraries will receive nearly $3 million. The money will be used for projects ranging from security systems to building renovations to computer upgrades. Though Mohr Library was not on that list, they will be able to take advantage of the $914,400 grant to Ocean State Libraries consortium for technology needs of its member libraries.

Another statewide agency to benefit is the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. The food bank received $120,495 to purchase a 22-foot refrigerated truck and equip the existing fleet of seven trucks with GPS systems. The new refrigerated truck replaces a vehicle that was beginning to require significant annual repairs. The Food Bank expects the truck to be delivered in early 2013.

“The Champlin Foundation[s] really came through for us with a grant that will help us control our maintenance costs and increase our efficiency,” said Andrew Schiff, CEO of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “Every day, our trucks are out on the road, all over the state, making deliveries to food pantries and meal sites – we put a lot of miles on those vehicles. This grant helps to make sure that we can reliably get the food out to our member agencies, which feed more than 66,000 Rhode Islanders every month.”


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