Goldberg fund to Permanent Endowment
Agreement with Seaman's Friend Society ends years of negotiations
After more than two years of negotiations, the Boston Seaman's Friend Society Inc. and the Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha's Vineyard have reached an agreement to transfer management and control of approximately $1.2 million, or 75 percent, of the assets of the Harriet Norris Goldberg Fund to the Permanent Endowment Fund. The terms of the transfer, announced yesterday by Deborah Hale, chairman of the Endowment Fund, must first be approved by Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly and then by the Dukes County Probate Court.
The Seaman's Friend Society and the Endowment Fund agreed that the purpose of the Goldberg Fund to be held by the Permanent Endowment Fund is to "meet the unmet spiritual, social and emotional needs of seafarers of demonstrative need working in the waters off Martha's Vineyard and to provide educational financial assistance to seafarers or other persons of demonstrative need from Martha's Vineyard... in the pursuit of educational programs in furtherance of maritime careers."
Ms. Hale said yesterday that the agreement makes it possible for the Endowment Fund to look for opportunities, perhaps in the form of scholarships or marine training programs such a Coast Guard licensing program for seafarers offered by Sail Martha's Vineyard, to put approximately $40,000 of annual income from the Goldberg fund to work serving Martha's Vineyard mariners. "This is a big deal for the Island," she said.
Ms. Hale credited Ron Rappaport, the Edgartown attorney and a member of the Endowment Fund's board, with doing much of the negotiating that led to the agreement announced this week. She said that the agreement calls for the Endowment Fund to report on its activities to Seaman's Friend Society officials and to return undistributed income to the Society. She said that the agreement also provided for funding administrative costs, which will allow the Endowment Fund to pursue funding opportunities that conform to the agreed purpose of Goldberg fund income.
Loring Carpenter, executive director of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society Inc. will be on hand Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Endowment Fund annual meeting, at the Grange in West Tisbury, at 5 pm. The meeting is open to the public.
If approved by the Probate Court and the attorney general, the Goldberg Fund will be the single largest contribution to the Permanent Endowment Fund since its inception in 1984, according to a statement released by Ms. Hale.
A native Islander, Harriet Norris Goldberg left one-third of her residuary estate as a permanent fund to benefit the ongoing operations of the Seaman's Bethel in Vineyard Haven. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Vineyard Sound was one of the busiest commercial shipping lanes in the world, and the Bethel provided support for mariners in Island waters.
The Boston Seaman's Friend Society was founded in 1827, at the Rev. Lyman Beecher's Hanover Street Church, by a small group of Christian laymen, to be an independent branch of The American Seaman's Friend Society. Two years later, the Society was incorporated by the Massachusetts Mariners' Church. In 1889, on behalf of The Boston Seaman's Friend Society, Madison Edwards of Falmouth began a new ministry on the Vineyard. Thousands of ships, many of them sailing freighters, passed annually through Vineyard Sound then and often stopped in Vineyard Haven, which was known as Holmes Hole. Mr. Edwards held services in vessels at Woods Hole and opened an on-shore reading room there.
In October 1893, a chapel and sailor's reading room were opened at the head of steamship wharf on the Vineyard, and the rooms soon became known to Islanders and seafarers alike as the Seaman's Bethel. The Bethel was located roughly where the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal is now. After the Steamship Authority bought the Bethel building and then planned to replace it with the current ticket office, the Bethel chapel was moved to serve as a chapel at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital. Also, in 1893, the bethel boat Helen May was launched, for use in bringing a personal welcome to seafarers and to "bring sailor lads of Vineyard Sound ashore to Bethel services."
In 1998, the Boston Seaman's Friend Society Inc. changed its name to Seafarer's Friend, whose web site describes itself this way:
"Seafarer's Friend is an industrial ministry to persons who work on the seas. It continues the ministry of the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, founded in 1827 by a group of Congregational ministers meeting in the vestry of a Boston church. The Society's new name, Seafarer's Friend, and logo were adopted in 1998 to more accurately reflect its ministry to all the men and women in the maritime industry. Although the new name and logo are used for all operational activities and publications, the society retains its historic legal name."
The Bethel was historically one of many centers operated in coastal areas by the Boston Seaman's Friend Society, but the Bethel was used infrequently in recent years as commercial ship traffic in the Martha's Vineyard area essentially ended. Seafarer's Friend focused on carrying out its mission in ports where there were more seafarers to serve, while continuing to make funds available under the Goldberg Trust to serve Martha's Vineyard seafarers.
The Permanent Endowment Fund already manages approximately $5 million in trust funds to benefit the Vineyard community. While some of its funds (like the Goldberg Fund) are designated for very specific purposes, approximately $1 million is held in its discretionary fund. The Permanent Endowment Fund's board is made up of a cross section of Islanders, and include appointments by the judges of the Dukes County District Court and the Dukes County Probate Court, the All-Island Selectmen's Association, the county commissioners, and the fund's trustee, the Dukes County Savings Bank.
"We will follow Mrs. Goldberg's lead," Ms. Hale said Tuesday. "We are Islanders helping other Islanders. We look forward to providing assistance to our neighbors who make a living at sea, whether they are commercial fishermen, members of the Coast Guard or Merchant Marine, or wish to pursue educational opportunities pertaining to commercial seafaring operations."
Mr. Carpenter said, in the press statement released Tuesday, "While the need for an ongoing presence in the Bethel has disappeared, we believe our assistance on the Vineyard through the Goldberg Fund will allow Seafarer's Friend and the Permanent Endowment Fund to serve the needs of seafarers and of individuals pursuing commercial maritime life. We believe that the Permanent Endowment Fund does an excellent job, and have total confidence in their ability to oversee the fund in the future."