On the far left of the fireplace, near the door, is a bronze plaque that honors Helen Robinson Wright, who was a longtime member and supporter of First Parish. Her father, G. Frederick Robinson, was one of the authors of “Great Little Watertown,” a Watertown history published in 1930 at the 300th anniversary of the founding of Watertown.
Mrs. Wright served as Treasurer of the parish for many years. She not only made many generous contributions to First Parish, but frequently helped individuals. She had a standing arrangement with a local fuel dealer to provide fuel to needy families at her expense.
When she died she not only left a generous bequest to First Parish, but also left her house to an unspecified charitable organization. After much discussion the house was offered to First Parish.
The First Parish already had a parsonage, so it tried to sell the house to an organization that would use it appropriately. There were no takers. Finally, it was decided to sell the house on the open market with appropriate preservation covenants. It was eventually sold and converted for offices and condominiums. The house is the Miles Pratt House at 106 Mt. Auburn St. Its preservation is supervised by SPNEA.
The proceeds of the sale were used to endow the Helen Robinson Wright Charitable Trust. (former Trustee John Lathrop deserves much of the credit for the idea that the proceeds be put into a charitable trust rather than simply added to the existing endowments).
There is an annual income of $8000 – $12000. This income is disbursed by a committee appointed by the Parish Committee. The guidelines are that the donations be local and not to well-financed “commercial” charities. Over the years, the fund has helped both local charitable organizations and needy individuals.
When the Project Literacy, a program of the Watertown Public Library, was about to go under for lack of funds, Helen Robinson Wright Charitable Trust made a donation of $2500 plus a matching grant of $2500 to put it back on its feet. The fund has supported the Watertown Food Pantry and Bristol Lodge, a homeless shelter. Guidance counselors and school nurses in the Watertown Public Schools have been provided with a discretionary fund to pay for medical exams, eyeglasses, and even winter coats for children.
And yes, through local oil companies, fuel assistance is still provided. The generous spirit of Helen Robinson Wright lives on.
In recent years as individual needs have increased in an economy where there is greater disparity between rich and poor, the Fund has made most of its grants to individuals and families who are considered “the most vulnerable.” These requests are usually for fuel oil, electric bills, rental assistance, food, medical expenses and other personal needs. In 2012-13, the Fund received several grants from community organizations, especially the Watertown Community Foundation. This allowed the Fund to disperse nearly $18,000. If you would like to make a donation to the Fund to help a Watertown family in need, please send it to: Helen Robinson Wright Fund, 35 Church Street, Watertown, MA 02472. Nancy Dutton is the administrator of the Fund.