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Foundation for MetroWest awards $228k in grants to various communities

December 16, 2013 02:03 PM

Representatives from the Foundation for MetroWest announced last week that the foundation has awarded $228,000 in grants to organizations in various communities west of Boston.

The announcement was part of an event held last week at The Center for the Arts in Natick.

The 2013 distributions were focused on three key service areas: arts and culture, environment, and family support. This year's grant recipients will use the money to fund a variety of programs along the lines of these themes, including support for families at-risk of becoming homeless; workforce training and job placement programs; improving access to the arts for underserved populations; the removal of invasive species from local watersheds; and resources to the elderly and victims of domestic abuse.

“During this time of unprecedented financial need, Foundation for MetroWest is proud to support organizations throughout the region,” said Judith Salerno, the foundation's executive director. “By distributing these much needed funds, we are doing our part to ensure that the MetroWest region remains vital and strong.”

A complete list of grant recipients in each category is as follows:

Family Support

  • Advocates, Inc., Framingham
  • Bethany Hill School, FraminghamCOMPASS for Kids, Lexington
  • Cooperative Elder Services, Inc. Lexington
  • Employment Options, Inc., Marlborough
  • Framingham Adult ESL, Natick
  • Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts, Acton
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Waltham
  • Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Framingham
  • LVM Literacy Unlimited, Framingham
  • MetroWest Legal Services, Inc., Framingham
  • MetroWest Mediation Services, Framingham
  • Minuteman Senior Services, Bedford
  • Natick Service Council, Inc., Natick
  • New Hope, Inc., Attleboro
  • Newton Community Service Center, West Newton
  • REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Waltham
  • SMOC - Voices Against Violence, Framingham
  • Waltham Partnership for Youth, Waltham
  • WATCH, Inc., Waltham

Arts and Culture

  • Assabet Valley Mastersingers, Inc., Northborough
  • The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN), Natick
  • Danforth Art, Museum\School, Framingham
  • Framingham History Center, Framingham
  • Gore Place, Waltham
  • Medway Friends of Elders, Medway
  • Music Access Group, Dedham
  • New Repertory Theatre, Watertown
  • North Hill, Needham
  • Plugged In, Needham


  • Charles River Watershed Association, Weston
  • Lake Cochituate Watershed Council, Inc., Natick
  • Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions, Belmont
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln
  • OARS, Concord
  • Waltham Land Trust, Waltham

The foundation has distributed over $8 million in grants to the local community since its inception in 1995.

For more information, visit the foundation's official website.

Milford casino defeat fuels call for repeal of state's gambling law

November 20, 2013 06:39 PM

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s overwhelming defeat of a proposed casino in Milford and a string of losses statewide, a group of local officials are calling on Governor Deval Patrick and the legislature to rethink the future of casino gambling in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, an anti-casino group says it has the signatures necessary to put a referendum on the ballot repealing the law.

Members of the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition -- made up of selectmen from Hopkinton, Holliston, Medway and Ashland -- see the defeat of Foxwoods’ plans to build a $1 billion casino at Route 16 and Interstate 495 as just another sign that casinos may not be the right fit for Massachusetts.

“How do you reconcile the legislation that allows this with wave after wave of rejection?” Selectman Jay Marsden of Holliston asked.

“I don’t know how the legislation gets matched up with the fact that basically no one wants to take the plunge and take everything that goes along with saying yes to one of these things,” he said.

The governor, however, has no second thoughts.

Speaking Wednesday to reporters at the State House, Patrick said the law is working exactly as it’s supposed to.

“I think this is something we can do well if we do it the right way. I think the framework of the legislation is the right framework. This has never been central to our economic growth strategy; it’s, for most people, harmless,” he said, according to a transcript provided by Deputy Press Secretary Bonnie McGilpin.

State Representative Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Democrat who has been a vocal opponent of casino gambling statewide and the Foxwoods proposal in particular, said she sees voters saying the cost of casinos is too high.

“It seems that towns considering casino projects are paying close attention to the details, weighing the economic potential against the costs to residents’ quality of life, and deciding that the costs are just too high,” she wrote in an email to the Globe.

“It’s hard to look at the results of the recent local votes and not question whether casinos can or should be part of Massachusetts’ future,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign says it has collected and filed more than 90,000 signatures from across the state in its effort to put a question repealing the casino law on the 2014 statewide election ballot, according to the group’s spokesman David Guarino.

The group is optimistic the signatures filed by Wednesday’s deadline with local election officials will result in the certification of the necessary 68,911 needed to put the measure before voters. The signatures certified by local communities must be filed with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by Dec. 4.

The campaign gained momentum after votes defeating casino proposals in East Boston and Palmer earlier this month and built through the final days of the Milford campaign, according to Guarino.

“This has been a huge grassroots effort,” he said. “After the East Boston and Palmer votes, hundreds of new volunteers signed up, and donations started to come in so we were able to pay some people to gather signatures.”

Tables were set-up to gather signatures outside polling places in Milford on Tuesday, and volunteers worked right up until Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, he said.

“We’re very hopeful the necessary number of signatures will be certified allowing us to jump this next hurdle,” Guarino said.

In addition to gathering the signatures, Repeal the Casino Deal has also filed a court challenge of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision not to allow residents to vote to overturn the state’s casino law. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court allowed the signature drive to continue pending a hearing on the appeal.

Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is leading the appeal effort.

“This is a truly remarkable statewide, grassroots citizen movement,” he said, according to a press release from the group.

“This is still an uphill battle but we get stronger every day with more and more support around this great state for ending this bad idea. Our hats go off to the citizen leaders in community-after-community who are standing up to big money with grassroots might.”

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at

Regional planners outline potential impact of Milford casino project

November 15, 2013 05:05 PM

The impacts on the entire region from the proposed Foxwoods casino in Milford are really no different than any other very large development that creates a lot of jobs and attracts a lot of patrons, according to Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

Over the past several months, the council and the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission have been working with area towns to identify the likely impact of the proposed $1 billion casino off Interstate 495 and Route 16 on issues such as traffic, public safety, and water.

And while there would be some significant positive impacts, including jobs and economic benefits, if the complex proposed for Milford wins a state gaming license, the planners primarily focused on identifying and commenting on the negatives, Draisen said.

A 183-page draft report paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission suggests ways to minimize or mitigate those negatives on a number of nearby towns, including Ashland, Bellingham, Franklin, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medway, Millis and Upton.

The draft report does not take a position on whether a casino would benefit the region, or how it would change the region’s character.

“We try to stick to the numbers,” Draisen said. “Every large-scale development changes the community it’s located in and those communities surrounding it; this is no different.”

Draisen said his agency’s charge was to focus on the communities around Milford to identify potential impacts that may need to be mitigated, so that they could be covered by the formal “surrounding community’’ agreements required by the state’s new gaming law.

But first, Milford voters will have two chances to decide whether there may even be a need for those negotiations.

A special election Tuesday will serve as a binding referendum on the Foxwoods proposal; a majority vote against the community hosting the casino would end the developer’s bid.

If Milford’s voters approve the project, the plan can move forward. Special Town Meeting is slated to convene next month to decide on a request to rezone the casino site, which requires a two-thirds majority.

The draft report by the regional agencies is being reviewed by local officials, and a final version is expected to be completed early next month.

Traffic has been a major concern for Milford and surrounding communities since the casino proposal first surfaced, and the regional planners also have questions about Foxwoods’ proposed mitigation plans.

The plans call for extra lanes, known as connector/distributor roads, to be built in each direction along Interstate 495 between the Routes 109 and 85 exits, and a connector that would provide access to the 187-acre site and Route 16.

“We think that will go a long way toward alleviating traffic along that stretch,” Draisen said.

But, he said, the draft report raises concern about backups north of the new lanes at I-495 and the Mass. Pike.

In addition, Draisen said, there wasn’t enough consideration given to casino employees who are more likely to use local roads when driving to and from work.

The draft report agrees with Foxwoods’ assumption that residents of neighborhoods along East Main Street (Route 16) in Milford, between I-495 and the Holliston town line, will see the most traffic impact from the casino, but it also identifies other potential problem areas.

The report cites routes 109 and 85, which was identified as likely having more traffic than Foxwoods’ predicts; the intersection of Route 16 and Route 126 (Summer Street); the intersection of Route 16 and Highland Street; Route 16 at South Street and Courtland Street, an intersection that currently has no traffic signals; as well as 11 intersections in Holliston, Medway and Millis.

Crime also is considered by the regional planners.

“It is hard to predict, but there will be an increase in call volume to the police and fire departments, and towns have to be prepared,” Draisen said.

The draft report suggests additional information is needed to determine whether things like additional holding cells, training for responding to emergencies in high-rise buildings, and long-term crime investigators would be needed in surrounding towns, and whether existing mutual aid agreements with Milford need to be restructured.

Drunken-driving arrests and “a variety of other motor vehicle related issues, including speeding, stop sign violations, accidents, and mechanical breakdowns,” will also go up in surrounding communities, according to the draft report.

Water concerns are also addressed.

“There are questions about peak days, and the effect on other future developments,” Draisen said.

The draft report raises questions about Foxwoods’ plans to provide adequate water capacity in the future, and concerns raised by Hopedale and Mendon, which rely on the Milford Water Co. for their supplies.

“Those questions have not adequately been answered yet, but presumably they will be,” Draisen said.

Foxwoods is competing for the lone casino license that will be issued in Greater Boston. A project proposed by Steve Wynn in Everett has been endorsed by the city’s voters. A Suffolk Downs proposal for a casino straddling the East Boston-Revere line is in jeopardy after East Boston voters rejected the plan. Suffolk Downs is attempting to put its complex entirely in Revere, where voters embraced its proposal.

Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at

State Police seize club drug at Logan, arrest Medway man at delivery

November 10, 2013 08:19 PM

A 23-year-old Medway man has been arrested after a package containing approximately one pound of the club drug known as “Molly” was seized at Logan International Airport, according to a State Police statement on Sunday.

The package of MDMA, an illegal stimulant that is a form of ecstasy, had originated in China and was intercepted by authorities at Logan Wednesday, State Police said. A state trooper posing as a FedEx driver then took the package to its delivery address in Milford, police said.

The recipient identified the owner, who was arrested when he came to pick it up, police said. David Sheehan of Medway was charged with possession of a class “C” substance and conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @HavenTaylor.

Electric Youth debuts in England and France on 10th European Tour

September 13, 2013 12:35 PM

EY 2013 Arundel Festival.jpg

Courtesy of Electric Youth
Pictured, left to right, are Franklin’s Ali Funkhouser and Madi Asgeirsson during an Electric Youth performance at England’s Arundel Festival in August..

Electric Youth, an ensemble featuring singer-dancers trained at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts, made its debut in England and France last month, during the group's 10th European tour.

The singing, dancing and acting ensemble performs choreographed covers of classic rock and contemporary songs. This year's group included Madison Asgeirsson, 15, Kendra Dombroski, 14, Ali Funkhouser, 17, Graham Hancock, 16, Jocelyn Jones, 14, and Shaina McGillis, 14, from Franklin; Michael Fajardo, 15, of Hopkinton; Maddy Williams, 14, of Medway; and Jenna McDermott, 14, of Wrentham.

During the two-and-a-half week tour of Europe, the group performed four shows at Dineyland Paris and one show along the coast of Normandy in Barfleur. They also sang and danced their way through shows at the Arundel Festival and Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in England, in addition to other shows in Bristol, London, Wimborne and Windsor, according to a press release.

It wasn't all work for the ensemble, however, as they had time to enjoy tours of the regions they visited, including the Eiffel Tower and Omaha Beach in France and Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon in England.

Auditions for the 2014 Electric Youth Ensemble will be held on Sept. 26 at the Franklin School for the Performing Arts. An informational meeting will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. To learn more, call FSPA at (508) 528-8668 or visit

Shandana Mufti can be reached at

Ride through Middlesex, Norfolk counties to support injured soldiers’ families

August 29, 2013 03:18 PM

Motorcyclists in Middlesex and Norfolk counties are invited to participate in a fundraiser to benefit the families of wounded and recovering soldiers on Sept. 14 in Millis.

The Warrior Thunder Motorcycle Ride starts at Millis AMVETS Post 495, at 404 Village St. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., the ride starts at 11:30 a.m. Police will escort riders through 50 miles of Norfolk/Middlesex County roads and back to the Millis AMVETS post, where registered riders are invited to take part in a barbecue.

The ride will pass through Medfield, Dover, Needham, Wellesley, Natick, Holliston, Milford, and Medway.

The event is being hosted by the Warrior Thunder Foundation, which is made up of veterans, their families, and supporters. Its mission is to raise public awareness and charitable donations for the needs of veterans, particularly injured service men and women and their families.

All proceeds go to The Fisher House of Boston, located in West Roxbury, which provides a place for families of severely injured soldiers a place to stay as the soldiers recover.

This will be the fourth annual ride, according to foundation president Darren Bean, a veteran who now works at Natick Soldiers System Center.

Last year’s ride raised $9,000 for the Fisher House, and the goal this year is to raised twice that, Bean said.

“Recovery and rehab is more than just going in for treatment,” Bean said. “It’s really about their families being there for emotional support, and helping make [recovery] a 24 hour job, and that increases a likelihood that a soldier will recover.”

The cost to participate is $20 for riders, $15 for passengers or those who would like to walk. Advanced registration is available at Those who in active military service can participate for free.

“Motorcycle riders are some of the most patriotic, loyal people you'll ever meet,” Bean said. “Every weekend, you’ll find to eight charity rides, because they’re all giving people.”

Participants are asked to bring a nonperishable, non-alcoholic, unwrapped item that can be sent in a care package to a soldier serving overseas.

For more information, send an email to

Contact John Swinconeck at Follow @johnswinc on Twitter.

Massachusetts woman eliminated from 'America's Got Talent'

July 26, 2013 12:15 PM

Donna Purnell, a local escape artist, was eliminated last Wednesday during the quarterfinals of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” program.

Purnell, a Dedham native and Medway resident, performs under the name Alexanderia the Great. She managed to wriggle free of a straightjacket in a tank of water in 70 seconds, a stunt her idol Harry Houdini had not performed.

“Now I know why Houdini didn’t do this escape,” Purnell said once she had emerged from the water. “That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Judges seemed split following her performance, with Melanie "Mel B" Brown and Howie Mandel offering tepid praise. Heidi Klum, on the other hand, said the performance kept her on the edge of her seat.

Purnell’s greatest supporter at the judges’ table came from the most unexpected person – radio personality Howard Stern.

The escape artist had previously said she was afraid to go on the show because of Stern’s reputation. A middle-aged woman, she thought that he would belittle her physical appearance.

Instead, he praised her performance.

“Houdini is your hero; Houdini would be proud of you,” Stern said after the performance. “I think you did a great job.”

But the votes did not come through for Purnell. As the results came in, Stern said he felt bad for her

“Her dream was coming true,” he said. “She really deserved a spot in the semifinals.”

Local escape artist 'Alexanderia the Great' moves on to next stage at America's Got Talent

July 17, 2013 01:32 PM

Donnal Purnell, a Dedham native and current resident of Medway, will compete live on NBC's "America’s Got Talent" program next Tuesday to try to make it to the next level.

Purnell, who's competing under the name of Alexanderia the Great, displayed her talent as an escape artist on the Las Vegas edition of the program on Tuesday.

Now she moves on to New York City, where she will compete again.

Unlike previous segments, the voting of viewers will determine whether Purnell advances.

“We perform live next Tuesday night and then America will decide our fate on Wednesday night,” said Bill Purnell, Donna’s coach and husband.

Donna Purnell has been an escape artist since the age of 16, but kept the talent hidden for many years. Now 51, she has been performing for four years.

Medway female escape artist to appear on America's Got Talent

July 15, 2013 06:29 PM

Alexanderia the Great at WROR studio

Four years ago, Dedham native Donna “Alex” Purnell took the plunge and pursued her lifelong interest in becoming a female escape artist.

Now 51 and living in Medway, Purnell has landed a spot on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” under her stage name “Alexanderia the Great.”

She cannot reveal her next escape, but her audition was getting out of handcuffs and about 30 feet of chain while holding her breath underwater. She's back on the show this Tuesday or Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Getting to the point where she could do that so-called “leap of faith” on national television required moving forward with a more personal leap of faith in 2009.

“Leading up to all of this, my husband had spent so many years trying to convince me to do this since I was 16,” Purnell said of her longtime partner and now trainer, Bill Purnell. “I didn’t think the world was ready for this – a female escape artist. There are only a handful of us in the whole world actually doing escapes and I kept saying I just don’t think anybody would watch this.”

Watch her audition here.

Alexanderia the Great did her first public escape at a pool in Dedham on Oct. 24, 2009, for the Worldwide Escape Artist Relay, and local newspapers covered her participation. When Purnell got back into work the following Monday as a substitute teacher at the Medway Public Schools, her coworkers celebrated her achievement, much to Purnell’s surprise.

“She was worried it was going to hurt her teaching, but she was getting called in to sub for the rest of October, November, and December,” Bill Purnell said of his wife.

Purnell and her husband were invited on the 105.7 WROR “Loren and Wally Morning Show” and eventually on the “Today Show.” Producers for “America’s Got Talent” saw her on the Today Show and invited her to try out.

The scariest part of being on the show, however, was not the death-defying escapes she would have to perform, it was being seen by one of the judges: edgy radio personality Howard Stern.

Purnell worried her compact, muscular body or her strange choice of hobby would be the subject of ridicule.

“Howard Stern was a new judge and I thought I’ve worked too hard; I can’t risk having something happen to destroy my confidence,” she said.

As it turned out, Stern was encouraging during her audition.

“He was nothing but gracious,” said Purnell’s husband. “He’s a heck of a judge, hard and honest, but he values talent.”

Though she had trained since the age of 16, Purnell said she had to fight the thought that she would not be able to be successful because she was a woman. Now it is one of the reasons she continues to perform.

“I’m a girl and I have two girls of my own,” she said. “We put ourselves in boxes. I thought I was the wrong gender, that because I wasn’t a guy I couldn’t do this, or that I wasn’t the right size and nobody is going to want to look at me.”

Age was a factor as well, she added.

But as with her escapes out of handcuffs and chains, Purnell wanted to escape the box she had placed herself in. Having lost her job and faced bankruptcy with her husband also inspired her to reinvent herself.

“With my two keys, and everyone has them – the head and the heart – I can get out of any situation,” Purnell said.

In a return appearance to the Loren and Wally Morning Show on Monday to promote her spot on America’s Got Talent, Purnell bested a former world record she herself had set. She escaped from a straightjacket and chain in under one minute 59 seconds, obliterating her previous record of two minutes 37 seconds. Upon completing the escape, she smiled at her husband and hugged one of the hosts.

“One thing about the public, they don’t believe it if they don’t see it,” Purnell said in an interview with the Globe a half hour after her escape. “They want to see the struggle.”

Purnell said she has struggled her whole life, but like a sword, she believes getting beaten and burned has made her stronger and sharper.

“I’ve tried to take all the negative things in my life and use them to become strong and I feel so much stronger now,” she said.

And she is hoping to pass on the lessons she has learned as a spokeswoman for Girls Inc., speaking out against bullying and cyberbullying.

Purnell, her husband, and the rest of the viewing public will find out whether she will progress to the next round when the show airs Tuesday and Wednesday.

Buses to replace train service along part of Franklin commuter rail line on Saturday

July 12, 2013 12:55 PM

Buses will replace train service between the two westernmost stops of the Franklin commuter rail line on Saturday, officials for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad company said.

Due to needed track work, service between Forge Park/495 and Franklin/Dean College stations will be provided by shuttle only on Saturday, July 13, the company said in an e-mail to riders Friday.

Delays of up to 30 minutes should be expected, officials said.

“We apologize for any inconvenience as a result of this project and wish to thank you for your patience during this disruption in the service,” the company said.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at
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