LONGTIME VOLUNTEERS Karen Nascembeni (left) and Karen Hathaway will be tasked with bringing the Country Store fundraiser back to the Meeting House this December. (Dan Tomasello Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — It’s back.
While the holiday season is still three-and-a-half months away, the Historical Commission recently voted to bring back the popular Country Store this December. The beloved fundraiser transforms the Meeting House into a festive holiday store that sells seasonal items such as wreaths and swags as well as food. The Country Store also gives local children the opportunity to have their pictures taken with Santa Claus. The event raises funds for the Meeting House.
Historical Commission Chairman Kirk Mansfield recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Lynnfield Historical Society to cancel last year’s Country Store. He said a number of residents have asked the commission about the state of the fundraiser because the town has suspended its relationship with the Historical Society due to the nonprofit organization’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status getting revoked in September 2011. The Historical Society’s nonprofit status was revoked because society officials did not file a Form 990-series return form for three consecutive years. Society officials are working toward getting the nonprofit status reinstated.
“People have been asking the Historical Commission about the Country Store because we are now overseeing the Meeting House,” said Mansfield. “I think it’s very important that we carry on the tradition because it has been going on forever, but I don’t think it’s something that the full commission can take on because there is too much to do.”
Mansfield proposed that the Historical Commission form a subcommittee led by longtime Country Store Committee Co-Chair Karen Nascembeni in order to bring back the fundraiser. She and her late husband, Steven Richard, oversaw the popular holiday tradition for several years. Steven’s parents, Edie and Earl, also oversaw the Country Store for a number of years.
“Karen knows how to make the Country Store a success,” said Mansfield.
Mansfield noted that a number of community groups in town expressed interest in taking over the Country Store.
“The reason why I am proposing that the commission take it over is because the proceeds will be used for the Meeting House,” said Mansfield. “It will not go into the commission’s budget. It will strictly go into the Meeting House.”
Nascembeni expressed her support for leading the subcommittee and bringing the Country Store back.
“I think it’s important that the tradition is maintained,” said Nascembeni. “It is a huge labor of love. I think the proceeds from it should go toward the Meeting House. I don’t feel comfortable with outside organizations taking it over. I think upholding the tradition is more important than who is running it.”
Lynnfield Historical Society Treasurer Bob Gillon opposed Mansfield’s proposal.
“The Historical Society has run the Country Store for 57 years,” said Gillon. “I am not sure the Historical Society is willing to give up the Country Store. This has been the society’s event and not the town’s event. I strongly object to the commission taking on this project.”
Gillon said Mansfield should have unveiled the proposal to the Historical Society’s board of directors before he did so to the entire commission.
“It is a fundraising event for the Historical Society,” said Gillon. “We chose to put that money into the Meeting House. If the commission takes away our fundraising event, they are basically saying goodbye to the society and are throwing the society out of this town.”
With the town’s relationship with the Historical Society currently “influx,” Nascembeni said, “The most important thing is this event goes on.”
In response to a question from Gillon, Mansfield said Town Administrator Rob Dolan emailed the treasurer’s wife, Historical Society President Linda Gillon, that inquired whether the society was interested in holding the Country Store this year.
“He never got a response,” said Mansfield. “I told him I was coming forward with this. The town wants to make sure the tradition gets carried on. It’s not political. It doesn’t matter who is running it.”
Gillon said his wife never told him about Dolan’s email. He also accused Nascembeni of not informing the Historical Society about Mansfield’s proposal.
“I think the town took it as Linda not responding was that there was no interest,” said Nascembeni.
Gillon requested that the Country Store proposal be tabled to a future meeting. After the discussion, the Historical Commission voted to create a subcommittee tasked with bringing the Country Store back this December.
The subcommittee currently consists of Nascembeni, Mansfield, Historical Commission member John Michalski and Village Home and Garden Club member Karen Hathaway. Nascembeni said society members will be allowed to serve on the subcommittee.