A Letter from Mission President John Zavodny

A Letter from Mission President John Zavodny

Logo for Maine Seacoast Mission
Color of photo of two white children wearing helmets on the high ropes course

Dear Friend,

Through our programs and people, we create belonging every day. And we believe that our Downeast Campus, buildings, and program areas should be just as welcoming, work just as hard, and serve just as thoughtfully. These communities deserve nothing less. I know you feel the same way.

For over a century, our work in Maine’s easternmost areas has demonstrated a hard-working, resourceful, and compassionate Mission heart to match the spirit of those we work with. The people of Downeast Maine are resilient and resourceful. They love their families as well as the land and sea that are as rugged and beautiful as they are. But life Downeast is a challenge for many.

The region lags the rest of the state and nation in almost every measure of socio-economic well-being, including median household income, childhood poverty, number of single-parent families, and vulnerability of older adults. But what the area lacks in economic opportunity, it makes up for in neighborliness, grit, and good humor.

Everywhere you go in Downeast Maine, you hear Mission stories: food in a time of need, a home repaired, two generations of EdGE students, thousands of scholarships, those signature Christmas presents wrapped in white paper and red string.

Together, we can provide spaces on the Downeast Campus that enrich our work while showing our respect, compassion, and commitment to the people of Maine’s easternmost areas. With your help, we can make the Downeast Campus a place that matches our shared spirit.

A color photo of a man smiling

John Zavodny, Mission President

Davis Maine Scholars Reflect on their First Semesters

Davis Maine Scholars Reflect on their First Semesters

Attending classes, finding the best study spots, facing homesickness, learning study skills, and making new friends. These are just some of things that the six first-generation college students in the Davis Maine Scholarship program did during their first semester at college. They headed to the beach and the library, attended fun activities, challenged their expectations of themselves, and learned a lot along the way. But it was not easy, some struggled with living away from home for the first time. Others had to break bad study habits and learn how to meet their professors’ expectations. Our Davis Maine Scholars faced hardships and celebrated successes.  

At the end of their first semester, we asked each student to reflect on their time at college. They shared both their wins and struggles and both they are displayed in a few different ways to try to encapsulate their first semester.  

First Semester Courage Poem  

-Lines written by ’22 Davis Maine Scholars 

(arranged by Christina Griffith) 

January 2023 

You could find me on Freddy Beach 

At the gym 

In the library 

Out with my friends to get a coffee 

In the Commons, especially watching the sunset 

At times, I felt alone 

It was very hard for me to be away from home 

I missed all my loved ones very dearly 

I had to take it one day at a time 

I persevered through  




I tried my best and revised assignments that I didn’t do well on 

My professors were nothing but kind and very helpful 

I got close with my First Year Experience class professors 

I learned  

I don’t need to have the highest grade to be proud of the work I accomplished 

To go to office hours 

How to live more on my own 

I learned  

I am much more extraverted than I give myself credit for 

I am way more introverted than I thought 

I am often too hard on myself 

I learned 

My study habits needed a change 

 It’s okay to ask for help 

My family is extremely important to me 

I learned  

The value of patience 

Some things go well and others don’t 

Coming to college, I underestimated how well I would be able to adapt 

I am proud of how my classes went 

I am still learning 

Home will always be here in Maine 

What the Scholars Learned 

Mya Abbott, Wheaton College 

This semester I learned about some of the good and bad learning habits I have developed and how to ensure success by adapting and fixing the issues I was experiencing. I did very well in my first class that counted as a credit towards the major I am hoping to pursue. 

Lisett Anderson, University of New England 

I learned from my first semester of college that I am much more extroverted than I give myself credit for. I have created amazing friends and have gone to more events than I ever thought I would. I have also found myself much more organized. Coming to college, I underestimated how well I would be able to adapt and live on my own. 

Rachel Colby, University of New England 

I have learned that I don’t need to have the highest grade in a class to be proud of the work I have accomplished and spend countless hours on. One positive academic highlight of this semester was my perseverance through chemistry. After I received the score of my first chemistry exam, I realized that my study habits needed a change. By the end of the semester, I ended up redeeming myself and turning around my chemistry grade. The countless hours of studying, notetaking, and reviewing exams paid off, along with teaching myself many new strategies that will help me in future courses. 

Ana Rosa Valencia Jungo, Wheaton College 

This semester, I learned that my family is extremely important to me, but I had my roommate who I’ve known forever, and this helped. A highlight of my semester was how close I got with my First Year Experience Class professors, and how well they all thought I did in my final performance in the class.

Emilee Hutchins, University of New England 

From my first semester of college, I have learned about time management and how to live more on my own. During some harder courses I attended office hours and used my professors as resources. I found that my professors really enjoyed it when I came and asked them for extra help.  

Mali Smith, University of New England 

For my first semester, I learned the value of patience and time management. I learned it’s okay to ask for help. I learned to be more independent. Readjusting to a whole new environment is hard. I had to take it one day at a time. Even remembering everything is hard. That’s what my Post-It notes are for! 

Barrett Foundation Awards $20,000 to Children’s Backpack and Summer Literacy Programs 

Barrett Foundation Awards $20,000 to Children’s Backpack and Summer Literacy Programs 

The Mission was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the Evelyn S. and K.E. Barrett Foundation that will support initiatives out of the Mission’s Downeast Campus in Cherryfield. The grant will be shared between two Mission programs, the Backpack program which provides food to children and the EdGE Summer Literacy program.  

Mission President John Zavodny shares, “Food security and early literacy programs are both linked to increased success at school. By addressing these supports for learning, the Mission hopes students will be able to excel. We are grateful to the Barrett Foundation for their support of our Backpack and Summer Literacy programs.” 

The Backpack program, part of the Mission’s Food Security program, provides food for more than 100 families at five elementary schools in Washington County. The area has one of the highest food insecurity levels in Maine with one in four children labeled as food insecure. The backpacks, which are given out each weekend and before holiday breaks, include child-friendly, non-perishable food. There is enough food for one dinner and two breakfasts, along with snacks. Along with food, there are simple recipes families can make together using easily accessible ingredients.  

The literacy program is an integral part of EdGE summer camps which serves more than 250 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at three locations in Washington County. Through the program, children attending summer camps receive books they can keep and age-appropriate literary support during the summer. The camps include group readings and discussions for older kids as well as book-related engagement programs for younger children. The program works to develop campers’ reading abilities and meet learning milestones including building vocabulary, reading compression and proficiency, and recalling information.  

About both programs, EdGE Program Director Isaac Marnik says, “This grant will make a tremendous impact on the quality of programming that we are able to offer. Over the years, when we have been able to provide new books to students, it is wonderful to see the excitement and joy that the students have when they received them. This grant will help bring that happiness to the students we work with.  

“List” – Sunbeam Steward Jillian Shares Nautical Terminology 

“List” – Sunbeam Steward Jillian Shares Nautical Terminology 

A color photo of the Sunbeam at low-tide at Matinicus harbor, listing towards the dock
The Sunbeam listing towards the dock in Matinicus

List is another word that expanded in meaning once I started working on the water. Sure, I make grocery lists and I list cookie recipes to try in 2023. But now also there is another list that I am familiar with aboard the Sunbeam

When a boat leans port or starboard (left or right) in the water it is said to be listing. A boat lists when it has uneven weight distribution aboard. This can happen when the cargo shifts in rough seas or when a boat takes on water. Either of these situations could spell danger for a boat out to sea and could lead to capsizing if the list is too great. The list on the Sunbeam I’m talking about is slight, safe, and intentional.  

We visit Matinicus coming and going on high tides because where we dock, the water recedes completely at low tide. The dock we tie up to is big and sturdy, made of steel, giant pilings, and concrete. Good thing too because we lean on it. At low tide we are left sitting on the beach with the Sunbeam’s hull completely exposed. There we stay for approximately 6 hours until the water returns. After arriving on Matinicus and tying up, Storey our engineer makes our side closest to the dock heavier than the other by transferring more water to the starboard side tank. Hence giving Sunbeam a slight list. This ensures we lean starboard towards the dock when the tide goes out, instead of the other way. Depending how the wind blows at the exact moment the water stops supporting our boat determines how much further we list. Sometimes it is more exaggerated than others.  

The port side of the boat ends up being noticeably higher and crew and guests adapt. Visitors feel it immediately as they enter the salon from the stern deck and head to the coffee station. Kids love it. Feels like a slanted fun house. Makes them want to run to the toy cupboard. It can make pencils roll off tables. If I bake a cake while the tide is out, I prop the lower side of the baking pan up with tinfoil wedges. Otherwise, one side can come out 1” deep with the other 2 1/2” thick. Cheese on a pizza will slide to the starboard side in the oven. Frying anything on the stove is a challenge because all the hot oil puddles on one side. Fried eggs end up shaped like half-moons.  

Storey and Douglas have their staterooms on the port side. At times they prop up their mattresses with pillows so they don’t roll out of their bunks. Conversely, me, in my stateroom across the hall starboard, is cradled in my bunk because the list makes us lean into the boat’s hull.  

All in a day’s work. And just like magic, the water comes back and we float again. 

A color photo of the Sunbeam at low-tide at Matinicus harbor, listing towards the dock
A Mission 2022 Best-Of List from Mission President John Zavodny

A Mission 2022 Best-Of List from Mission President John Zavodny

As one year ends and the next begins, there is a proliferation of best-of lists. On TV and social media, they range from the mundane (best plumbing hacks of 2022) to the titillating (no example needed). 

Looking back, I am in awe of the amazing things we accomplish when we work together in community. Here are just some Mission highlights from 2022 that may inspire an even better ’23. 

Working Together. We couldn’t have the impact we do without our partners. From the Housing Rehabilitation work we do in collaboration with Downeast Community Partners, to coordination of services through Community Caring Collaborative; from our island education work with the Island Institute to regular programs with Mano en Mano, we are grateful for all our partners. 

Downeast Exploration. In collaboration with the young women profiled in her bestselling book Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, author Gigi Georges and husband Jeff Oxman established our new Downeast Exploration Fund. The fund helps young people from Downeast Maine access opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. 

Honoring EdGE Partners at the Gala. As we celebrated twenty years of the EdGE program, the 2022 Sunbeam Gala Award Gala recognized Downeast education leaders Les Coleman, and our ten partner schools in Washington County, including superintendent Ron Ramsay. The Gala stage was full of leaders committed to the education and growth of a generation of young people. 

Color photo of the Downeast Education Partners, nine in all, stand on stage with their awards in hand. President John Zavodny and retired Executive Director Gary DeLong stand on either side of the group.

It’s All Academic. This fall, the first cohort of six Scholars went to college on life-changing Davis Maine Scholarships. In addition to these transformative opportunities made possible by the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund, the Mission also provided scholarships to more than 75 students in Hancock and Washington Counties. 

Journey’s Journeys. Over the summer, 7th through 12th grade students in the Journey program engaged in fifteen age-appropriate overnight expeditions. From close to home camping in Acadia to cultural excursions in Boston and college visits, overnight trips give students a chance to stretch their boundaries both literally and figuratively. 

An Award-Winning Team. This year, two different organizations recognized our partnership. MDI Hospital selected the Mission as their Healthcare Partner of the Year. Maine Academy of Modern Music (MAMM) picked us as their Community Partner of the Year as well. Stop in to see the gold record from MAMM when visiting the Downeast Campus in Cherryfield. 

Sharon’s Farewell Tour. Last month, Sharon Daley embarked on her farewell island tour after 22 years of providing health care as the Sunbeam Nurse. The search has already begun for the next Sunbeam Nurse, but Sharon will be missed. 

Mission Christmas. The Mission has been helping folks celebrate Christmas since 1905. Between October and December of 2022, Mission volunteers (29 of them!) prepared and delivered 11,277 white-paper-red-string wrapped presents for 1,533 children and seniors on the islands and Downeast. What a beautiful way to end the year. 

Helping a neighbor find money for heat as the temperatures turn, giving that EdGE kid a snack and a hug, or making the vaccination rounds (again) may not always show up in a highlight reel. But we know that behind every award, partnership, photograph, or celebration is over a century of the Mission just being there. Where we are needed. When it matters. However we can. 

Below is a short video featuring these and more Mission highlights of 2022 that was originally posted on our Instagram page.

Thank you for your partnership and support in ’22. Here’s to an amazing 2023! 

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