By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — A fund drive to renovate Searles School and Chapel is already paying off.
“We raised enough to put windows in,” Margaret Case said yesterday.
Voters at Town Meeting rejected a $100,000 renovation plan.
Case, a former selectman, and her husband, Tom, knew the property needed work and delay would only add to the bills later.
They personally put up nearly $5,000 to get the campaign going this spring and asked concerned townspeople to donate to the cause.
The drive has collected about $18,000 thus far.
“I’m very pleased,” Case said of the response from residents.
She said individual donations have averaged about $50 to $100.
Replacing windows will cost $7,000. That project is expected to take place in a few weeks.
But more work is needed. Plans call for reinforcing the flooring in the bell tower.
“We have other projects,” Case said.
The Tudor-style building is located just south of Route 111. It has a large tower, arched doorways, cypress paneling and stained glass.
The town acquired the property in a deal with Edward F. Searles in 1909. He built Searles Castle on nearby Searles Road.
The town lets people rent Searles School and Chapel. It also has been used for community meetings through the years.
Sister Josette Parisi, who oversees Searles Castle, said both the castle and school properties are important to Windham.
“They are landmarks,” she said. “They have a lot of character.”
Town officials have commended the Cases for their fund drive efforts.
Selectmen’s Chairman Phil LoChiatto in April characterized their donation as “a very generous gift,” from two people who have given the town much through the years.
Voters are again expected to be asked to support renovating Searles School and Chapel at Town Meeting.
An amount has yet to be determined. The Cases have said the number could be affected by the success of the fund drive.
To help the fund drive: Town of Windham Searles Fund, attention: Margaret Case, P.O. Box 120, Windham, 03087. Call the Cases at 893-8425 for more information.
Donations are tax deductible.