Grant helps historical program thrive

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President of the Naugatuck Historical Society Wendy Murphy, left, talks with President and CEO of Naugatuck Savings Bank Charles Boulier, III after receiving $4,000 from the bank to sponsor their First Thursdays historical program. –RA ARCHIVE
President of the Naugatuck Historical Society Wendy Murphy, left, talks with President and CEO of Naugatuck Savings Bank Charles Boulier, III after receiving $4,000 from the bank to sponsor their First Thursdays historical program. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Until this month, the Naugatuck Historical Society had no budget for its family-friendly “First Thursdays” programs, and could only use donated time and materials.

A $4,000 grant from the Naugatuck Savings Bank Foundation has changed that.

The foundation, which provides grants to local nonprofits, is sponsoring the monthly programs through next February, said Wendy Murphy, president of the historical society. The grant is paying for supplies, speakers’ fees and marketing, Murphy said.

“We’ve already seen an increase in traffic,” Murphy said.

Money from the grant was used to print 3,000 flyers advertising the March 7 program, which featured a short film highlighting the wildlife of the Naugatuck River, and to pay a part-time worker who promoted it on Facebook and Twitter, Murphy said. Between 40 and 50 people came, up from 20 people the month before, Murphy said.

The foundation gives grants three times a year to certified nonprofits that serve the local community, said Charles Boulier III, President and CEO of Naugatuck Savings Bank.

Murphy said the historical society first applied for a grant through the Connecticut Community Foundation, where Boulier is a board member. CCF was looking to fund larger-scale projects, so the application was referred to the savings bank’s foundation.

The grant was approved because the historical society is supported by many volunteers and keeps the community informed of its historical significance, Boulier said.

“They’re doing it with the community in mind,” Boulier said. “We have a resource out the door I think people can be proud of.”

First Thursdays was started based on a request that the historical society’s museum, based at the train station on Water Street, open at night for families, Murphy said. On the first Thursday of every month, the museum holds exhibit openings, performances and presentations. Admission fees go into the society’s general operating budget but do not directly fund the events, Murphy said.

The April 4 program will feature a class from Naugatuck High School that is digitizing the museum’s Civil War resources and a local author, Karl Bacon, who wrote about the war’s citizen soldiers. Grant money will fund a North versus South flag activity, Murphy said.

May’s program will feature a Salem Bridge Clock, made with local materials when the borough’s name was Salem Bridge, Murphy said. Grant money will pay for an expert to come speak about the clocks, once produced locally, and for children to paint transparencies the way the clock’s glass was painted, Murphy said. The historical society spent $100 of the grant money on a custom-made shelf for the clock so it can be wound and displayed, Murphy said.

Murphy said she hopes to sign up enough donating members through First Thursdays that the society will not have to depend on grants.

“The goal is not to have the bank fund First Thursdays forever,” Murphy said. “The goal is to become self-sufficient.”