Party for Rev. Dawn

Rev. Dawn Garrett-Larsen and her husband, Jay, stand beside a sign announcing the community picnic being held in her honor on the lawn of the Nelson Congregational Church in August 2019.

NELSON — A social-justice fund honoring a minister who oversaw a local church for nearly 20 years is accepting applications for its first round of funding.

Members of the Nelson Congregational Church created the Garrett-Larsen Social Justice Fund in August 2019 as a gift to their departing minister, the Rev. Dawn Garrett-Larsen, and her husband, Jay.

Both were active members of the community and committed to making the world a more just and kind place, a recent news release from the fund’s steering committee states.

The fund is intended for individuals or nonprofit groups with strong ties to the Monadnock Region engaged in projects and causes focusing on equality, respect and fairness, according to the fund’s guidelines. The group’s or person’s work can be local, national or international, and can also include environmental justice.

Dawn Garrett-Larsen had been minister of the church since 2000 and had a transformative effect on the congregation, Susan Peery, a member of the fund’s steering committee, said Monday. Garrett-Larsen and her family were dedicated to social-justice causes, and in her work for the church, she set an example not only in her actions, but also in what she said, Peery said.

That included broadening the perspective of the congregation, she noted. “She just turned the congregation outward,” Peery said.

Despite Nelson Congregational’s being a small, rural church, Garrett-Larsen shared her belief that it could have an impact in the world, Peery said. That approach brought more people to the church from the surrounding towns and more energy to the congregation, she explained.

This was especially true when it came to youth and adult mission trips; through Garrett-Larsen, members gained more awareness about the world and its injustices, Peery said.

Garrett-Larsen left the Nelson Congregational Church to become minister of a 400-member church in Canandaigua, N.Y.

Besides Peery, members of the fund’s steering committee are Steve Cady, Avery Hurley, Betsy Street, Judy Waterston and Deanna Zilske.

More than $8,000 has been raised for the fund, and over the next five years, the money will be distributed in its entirety in chunks of about $1,600 a year, Peery said.

The application deadline is Aug. 1.

Peery said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and protests about racial inequality reinforce the fund’s importance: “We are at a critical time for advancing justice and equality in our world.”

Any individuals or groups interested in applying for the fund can do so by contacting the Nelson Congregational Church by email at or by calling the church office at 847-3280.