The Mission welcomed Silverio (Ace) Barrera as the new Davis Maine Scholarship program Director earlier this winter. Ace comes to the Mission with 18 years of experience in college admissions, transition and orientation programs, and student advising.
In his role, Ace will provide support for Davis Maine Scholars to ensure a smooth transition to and success in college. The Davis Maine Scholarship is a partnership between Maine Seacoast Mission and the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. The program offers full, renewable, four-year scholarships at three partner colleges for first-generation students from eastern Hancock and Washington Counties. Students in the program can attend Clark University, University of New England, or Wheaton College.
“The Davis Maine Scholarship provides life-changing opportunities for students in Downeast Maine,” says Andrew Davis of the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund. “I am confident that Ace will find working with these remarkable students and their families very rewarding.”
“We are excited to welcome Ace to the Mission. With his knowledge of student success and his perspective as a first-generation college student himself, we knew he was the right person to work directly with first-generation students from Downeast Maine through the Davis Maine Scholarship,” says Mission President John Zavodny.
The first cohort of six Davis Maine Scholars will complete the first year of college this spring. The second cohort of Scholars will graduate high school this June and applied to their colleges of choice. They will select their colleges by May. The Mission is currently recruiting its third cohort who will graduate high school in 2024.
“I am very happy and excited to serve as the new Davis Maine Scholarship Program Director. I view this role as a continuation of my personal and professional passion to assist students and their families in their transition to higher education,” Barrera says. “It is also a great honor for me to serve our Downeast communities as a member of the Maine Seacoast Mission.”
Last month, 21 new families signed up to use the Mission’s food pantry. That is almost twice as many as had signed up in January and four times as many new households that signed up in December. The number of new families accessing the pantry has not been this high since the beginning of the pandemic according to Megan Smith, Food Security Program Coordinator.
Megan chats with every new visitor and many have told her they came to the pantry because their benefits were cut. The pandemic-era increase Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that supported many families ended on March 1. In Maine the average recipient saw their benefits cut by at least $190. And every recipient is receiving at least $95 less a month. Those who receive the minimum SNAP benefits will see the steepest decrease from $281 to just $23. With food prices up 10% compared to the same time last year, many families and individuals are coming to the pantry to make ends meet.
Downeast Director Jenny Jones spoke about the changes in a recent interview with News Center Maine. “We’re starting to see more families who relied very heavily on increased financial support through the SNAP program. They have lost a large portion of those funds and need assistance from other sources including our food security programming,” says Jenny.
In addition to new clients, visits by existing pantry users also increased. 160 households visited the pantry at least once last month, 39 more than the month prior. For those coming to the pantry more than once a month, that number went from 203 to 253. Some families who had visited maybe once a month are visiting four or more times.
The Mission works to empower visitors to the pantry by offering expanded hours and a grocery store experience. People can come in and chat with Megan, talk about their days, and peruse the shelves. They can also take exactly what they want and need, without limits or questions.
Simone Babineaux has worked in public health in Los Angeles, was a staff nurse at a medical clinic in Moscow, Russia, and was a first responder during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Now, she has joined the Mission as the Sunbeam nurse to provide care on Maine’s outer islands and help connect island residents with doctors and specialists.
“Simone is a welcome addition to the Mission and the Sunbeam,” says Mission President John Zavodny. “I am confident that Simone’s unique personal and professional history has prepared her well to work within our island communities.”
As a member of the Island Services team, Simone will operate the telehealth program and make home visits. She will also provide direct care including flu and Covid shot clinics and wellness visits. Simone also facilitates the island elder care network. The eldercare network offers support, education opportunities, and connections for healthcare workers and others who are helping islanders age-in-place.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime. To provide health care as a part of an institution so steeped in island community and history is a dream come true,” Simone says. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the Mission in its work on unbridged, outer islands and with health partners across the state.”
Babineaux has been a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner for more than 25 years. Most recently she provided home health assessments with individuals with multiple complex health care needs.
“Simone has an incredible track record in her professional work,” says Director of Island Services Douglas Cornman. “It’s obvious that she really cares about people and is looking forward to getting to know islanders. It’s a bonus that she is comfortable with boats and being on the water. She is going to make a great addition to the Sunbeam’s crew.”
Learn more about the health services the Mission provides through the Island Health program and the work of the Sunbeam.
Leading a hike through the woods. Helping sort donations and stock shelves at the pantry. Scanning and organizing documents to add to the archives. These are just some of the things volunteers at the Mission can do. The Mission is currently seeking volunteers to support its education, community, and food security programs on the Downeast campus in Cherryfield as well as at the headquarters in Northeast Harbor. Integral to the Mission’s work, volunteers can assist on a recurring or as-needed basis that works for their schedules.
The greatest need for volunteers is on Saturdays in Cherryfield, when the Mission holds family-friendly activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers help guide outdoor or indoor activities alongside a staff lead. “Saturday winter activity days on the Downeast campus have been a great success. With volunteers’ help, we hope to continue to offer a place for families to go throughout the spring,” says Downeast Director Jenny Jones. “The variety of programming would not be available without our dedicated volunteers who are an integral part of the community.” This is a great volunteer opportunity for teens and adults looking to complete volunteer requirements.
Volunteers can also choose to support the Mission’s food pantry every Monday morning or every other Friday on the Cherryfield campus. On Mondays, a volunteer assists a staff member with food pickups in Ellsworth. On the second and fourth Fridays of each month, Good Shepherd Food Bank delivers to the pantry. Volunteers then help unload the truck, sort the delivery, and stock shelves.
For those interested in helping students, there are short-term and long-term volunteering opportunities. For the EdGE afterschool program, volunteers can teach children in kindergarten through 8th grade a specific skill, activity, or craft. The Journey program welcomes mentors to help support and guide students in 7th through 12th grade. These mentors foster healthy relationships with students, helping them to grow and access opportunities sometimes unavailable to them. Volunteers are also welcome on Wednesday afternoons when Journey students help different community organizations like the ARK Animal Shelter.
Groups are also needed to help on Sundays with the Downeast Table of Plenty (DETOP). Families, businesses, groups, or organizations sponsor a 60-person meal for the community. $100 is reimbursed for the cost of ingredients and the group is recognized on the sign in the entry way.
At the Colket Center in Northeast Harbor, assistance is needed with the archives, specifically scanning and organizing documents.
Anyone interested in volunteering can apply by filling out this form. For the safety of our community, all volunteers are subject to completing an application and background check.
Every few weeks, no matter the weather, the marquee sign outside of the Narraguagus Post 8 of the American Legion in Cherryfield has something to tell you. Inspirational in nature, it is usually a quote from an author or musician, though it could be a funny quip. Other times the marquee shared important information about voting, town deadlines, or the next yard sale. Each message is unique and they are all the work of Jillian, the Sunbeam’s Steward. Since 2017, she has made sure to change the marquee and share a message with anyone driving by.
During the month of February, Jillian displayed 150 pictures of the marquee at the Northeast Harbor Library. Its messages are meant to be thought-provoking, bridge-building, affirming, and poetic. For many, the sign has become a welcome sight on their way home. “Folks tell me how much they look forward to reading the latest sign,” Jillian says. “I’ve been told that my sign has been a deciding factor for people considering a move to our sweet, little town. It is my punk rock pulpit of good in approximately 16 words or less.”
Traveling from Bangor, Director of Marketing Kierie Piccininni often pulls over to snap a picture of Jillian’s messages. “Prior to joining the Mission, I’d bump along Route 193, excited to see the marquee’s little dose of wisdom. Now I experience it on a weekly basis during my commute to our Cherryfield campus. It was a delight to learn this living, ever-changing art comes from Jillian.”
Aboard the Sunbeam, select pictures of the marquee grace the refrigerator. Sandwiched between photos of friends and residents of outer islands, those mingling in or around Jillian’s galley can’t miss them. The messages inspire a brief, pleasant pause to reflect.
If you missed the show at the library, do not despair. Jillian shared a few of the messages she displayed, including one by a familiar face at the Mission.
When passing the American Legion in Cherryfield, be sure to look for the marquee. It is on Route 193, on the left as you come into sweet Cherryfield. You may get lucky and spot Jillian and her dog Banana along the way.