Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm awarded Cummings grant

Nathan “Cowboy” Tidwell recently showed his appreciation for the Cummings grant Ironstone Farm received.

ANDOVER – Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm has received a three-year grant from the Cummings Foundation that will help the Andover nonprofit this difficult year while allowing it to continue offering educational programs to Head Start preschoolers.

Challenge Unlimited at Ironstone Farm is one of 130 Massachusetts nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $20 Million Grant Program. The Andover nonprofit – which serves children with special needs, veterans and others from more than 90 communities in the Merrimack Valley and Boston area – was chosen from a total of 738 applicants during a competitive review process.

“We are indescribably grateful for the support of the Cummings Foundation, particularly during this unusual year,” said Deedee O’Brien, the executive director of Challenge Unlimited since its incorporation in 1983. “Our program supporting Head Start preschoolers has been a success and we hope to grow it to support young learners in additional cities with this grant.”

In addition to offering crucial 2020 support, the Cummings Grant will allow Ironstone Farm to continue offering nature programs to Head Start preschoolers in partnership with Community Teamwork Inc. of Lowell.

Ironstone Farm is interested in expanding the program to support Head Start preschoolers from other cities in Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties

The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“We have been impressed, but not surprised, by the myriad ways in which these 130 grant winners are serving their communities, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s executive director. “Their ability to adapt and work with their constituents in new and meaningful ways has an enormous impact in the communities where our colleagues and leasing clients live and work.”

Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $280 million to greater Boston nonprofits.

Social distancing requirements prevented Foundation and grant winner representatives from convening for a reception at TradeCenter 128 in Woburn, as planned, to celebrate the $20 million infusion into greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. Instead, representatives from Ironstone Farm joined more than 500 nonprofit employees virtually for a modified celebration on June 11.

The Cummings $20 Million Grant Program resulted from a merger of the Foundation’s two flagship grant programs, $100K for 100 and sustaining grants.

The Foundation and its volunteers first identified 130 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners are first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that have previously received Cummings Foundation grants. A limited number of this latter group of repeat recipients will be invited to make in-person presentations in the fall, when public health related circumstances allow, proposing that their grants be elevated to long-term awards. Thirty such requests will be granted in the form of 10-year awards ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 each.

This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 40 different cities and towns, and most will receive their grants over two to five years.

The complete list of 130 grant winners is available at

A great deal more information about Cummings Foundation is detailed in Bill Cummings’ self-written business book, “Starting Small and Making It Big: Hands-On Lessons in Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.” The brand-new, and significantly updated, sixth edition is available on Amazon or