For many kids in Washington County, the Mission’s EdGE programming is ubiquitous. EdGE is the place they go after school and where they spend their summers. It’s a safe space where they can learn, explore and have fun. But have you ever wondered why the program is spelled EdGE not EDGE or Edge? It’s because EdGE is named after a person, Ed Greaves.
When he became the Mission’s Board President, Ed, and Gary DeLong, the Mission’s President, met with stakeholders Downeast started to have conversations about the challenges facing the Downeast communities. Based on these conversations and Ed’s concern and dedication to the children living Downeast, the beginnings of an educational program, then named the “Greaves Education Initiative” started to take shape.
Soon after, Ed became gravely ill with cancer, but his dedication to creating a program to support children Downeast never wavered. As his last act as board president, he led the board in a vote to approve an education program. His widow Connie Greaves Bates would later say, “he was so eloquent with the board and advocating for this project—I was so proud of him. He worked hard to make his feelings known.”
He died shortly after and while he never saw his dream become a reality, his dedication was the spark that was needed to create the program. Through his and Connie’s connections, Downeast residents including Les Coleman and Nancy Rankin soon joined and the program was officially funded soon after his death.
In 2002, the program officially launched at three schools under a new name “The EdGE.” EdGE has provided opportunities for two generations of children to challenge themselves, engage with their communities, explore the outdoors, and gain social and leadership skills to build personal, career, and post-secondary education aspirations.
Now in its 21st year, more than 900 students are attending EdGE programming, including afterschool programs, summer camps, and more, at 7 schools in Washington County.
For the Wild Blueberry Heritage Center, a smaller nonprofit that only added staff members in 2022, “Having the Maine Seacoast Mission as a resource during these iterative stages of organizational growth is crucial to our success” says Kaysie Logan, an AmeriCorps Vista member who works at the Center. The organization has used Weald Bethel Community Center to hold a few meetings over the winter. In April, a group of AmeriCorps NCCC who were working at the center stayed at Weald Bethel Community Center for three weeks. The group was there to help build the Wild Blueberry Heritage Center’s educational outdoor walkway and garden. “Without the Maine Seacoast Mission, we would not be able to properly support the volunteer-staff members that are integral to our organizational growth and community embeddedness,” Kaysie adds.
Zabet NeuCollins, the Assistant Director of WHRL, agrees that having a large space with a full kitchen has beneficial to her organization and the community as a whole. WHRL has a kitchen in their building in Milbridge but has held their monthly Harvest Table Cooking classes at Weald Bethel Community Center. “We did one of the kitchen classes in our space. It is not the same, we have a much smaller space, and we did not have a nice open kitchen to spread out in,” she says. WHRL has also used Weald Bethel Community Center for board retreats and NeuCollins has been grateful for the partnership that it has fostered. “We are really grateful for the community space,” she adds.
In addition to offering the space to community groups, Weald Bethel Community Center is a hub for Mission programs as well. During the summer, volunteers for the Mission’s Housing Improvement program stay in the building. In winter that same space turns into the North Pole for the Mission’s Christmas Program. Weald Bethel Community Center also hosts weekly yoga classes in the fall and spring as well as open mic nights and the Downeast Table of Plenty year-round.
The Maine Seacoast Mission’s Sunbeam joined a fleet of boats circling Little Cranberry’s Bunker Cove in a somber goodbye to Ashley Bryan as his ashes were scattered into the sea. Ashley was known to the world as an award-winning author, illustrator, and artist. But too many people gathered, he was more than that: he was a friend, neighbor, and resident of a tightly knit community that called Islesford home.
Earlier that day, the Sunbeam delivered Mission staff members to Little Cranberry for a celebration of Ashley’s life. On Wednesday, July 13, on what would have been Byran’s 99th birthday, friends, family, and community members came together to honor Ashley. The Mission provided a livestream of the service for those who could not be in attendance and more than 1,300 people watched the event. During the memorial, family members and friends remembered Ashley’s community spirit, his love for the children growing up in Islesford, his famous grilled cheese sandwiches, and his ability to make everyone feel like family.
While Ashley’s impact was worldwide, his relationship with the people who lived and worked in this small sliver of Maine was truly special. To the people of Islesford, he was a loving neighbor who would help shovel driveways and pick up groceries on the mailboat. Reflecting on Ashley’s passing earlier this year, Douglas Cornman, Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain, wrote, “Ashley was the most human and humble of people. He wore his talents, recognition, wisdom, and intellect as casually as he wore his cardigan. I would be remiss if I ended without mentioning just one more of Ashley’s qualities that I admire. Upon reflection, perhaps, it is the one I admire most of all. Perhaps, Ashley’s most virtuous virtue and his most precious gift was his modeling for us that being authentically kind and giving and selfless and loving is obtainable.” A longer remembrance by Cornman, as well as a reflection by Director of Island Health Sharon Daley, can be found here.
He was an islander until the end, and it was truly fitting for the Sunbeam to see him off. Ashley’s work continues to be shown across the country with a show featuring Ashley’s paintings alongside the poetry of Langston Hughes at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City, a show at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, as well as a permanent exhibit at the Children’s Museum + Theatre of Maine in Portland.