NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – Two weeks into the New Year, Island Health Director Sharon Daley, RN noticed on Facebook a call for help from Terry Staples at Swan’s Island Bread of Life Food Pantry. While no one was on duty, the pantry freezer quit. “The end result,” wrote Mr. Staples, “was the loss of several hundred pounds of meat.” It will take time to replace the freezer, said Terry. Meanwhile, “if you are…grocery shopping and…could pickup a couple extra meats for us it would be a great help…,” he said.
Sharon asked Mission President John Zavodny and Downeast Director Mel Adams if the Mission could help the Swan’s Island food pantry. The answer was: Yes.
Mission Food Security and Sustainability Programs Coordinator Megan Smith partnered with Downeast Campus Facilities Manager Scott Shaw. They identified ten frozen turkeys and 210 pounds of additional frozen meats which Scott Shaw delivered 45-miles from Cherryfield to Northeast Harbor.
Meanwhile, Terry Staples told Sharon Daley the mail boat to Swan’s Island from Bass Harbor would transport the meat one hour over the water if the Mission could get the meat to the ferry by 11:00 am Monday, January 24.
On the 24th, Sharon Daley and Mel Adams received an email from Megan Smith. She said, “The frozen meat and turkeys are on the ferry heading to Swans Island…. I am so glad that we could help Terry and the Swans Island pantry.”
It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout-out of Mission love goes to Lorraine Martin and Diane Bennekamper for keeping Downeast Maine kids warm.
In December 2021, Lorraine and Diane rallied a winter coat donation for the Mission. The two women from the Portland area sent appeal letters to family, friends, and fellow Congregational Church in Cumberland UCC parishioners. In response, 50 southern Maine donors collected 233 coats for Downeast youth.
These coats are especially welcome this year. We know in Downeast Washington County too many kids lack suitable winter gear. Donations of new or gently used kids winter coats are in very short supply.
So, thank you Lorraine Martin, Diane Bennekamper, and everyone who responded to their winter coat appeal.
This is what community looks like.
If you would like to donate coats to the Mission, please contact Downeast Campus and EdGE Administrative Assistant Maria Wight for details at 207.546.4466. You can learn more about our community and family support efforts by browsing our program.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – One remarkable outcome of Island Health Director Sharon Daley’s work among Maine islands is the dedicated, ongoing network of eldercare workers from ten unbridged islands. The group meets virtually throughout the year via Zoom or conference calls to share on-the-job information, answer questions, and offer professional camaraderie.
Each year the Mission hosts an ElderCare Conference at which the network eldercare health workers meet for two days to talk shop, learn from guest speakers, and to socialize in-person.
This year’s ElderCare Conference, originally planned for January at Nebo Lodge, an island inn and restaurant on North Haven island, is being rescheduled. The new itinerary will be announced though the Mission’s social media as soon as possible. The original itinerary included plenty of time for ElderCare workers to relax and recharge.
“One of the really important things we do,” Sharon Daley said of the network, is meeting frequently with Maine State government administrators about regulations affecting island ElderCare Homes. Designed to provide island elderly a way to spend their final years on the islands, near family and friends, these homes “don’t fit in the box the State has kind of made,” said Sharon.
The conference is “a chance for the home administrators to work with the State people on helping regulations make sense,” she said.
Other guest speakers on tap for the 2022 ElderCare Conference are:
Tammy Usher – Provider Relations Specialist at State of Maine.
Susan Wehry, MD – Chief of Geriatrics at the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Director of AgingME, Maine’s Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program.
Anand Viswanathan, MD, PhD – Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Director, Mass General Brigham Telestroke Program.
In addition, said Sharon, in the wake of a very challenging Covid-19 year, “We hope to have an occupational or massage therapist and do yoga. We’re going to spend time on self-care; kind of spoil the people who have been doing the [island elderly] care.”
CHERRYFIELD, ME – Imagine not having steady access to food in order to live a healthy, active life. That’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls “food insecurity.” According to the nation’s “largest hunger relief organization,” Feeding America, 12.4% of Maine’s population is food insecure. In Washington County, home to the Mission’s food pantry, the reported 5,200 food insecure people constitute 16.5% of the county population.
In Spring 2020, Covid regulations forced an almost complete reinvention of how the Mission food pantry functioned. Patrons placed their orders by phone, driving to the pantry where Mission staff and volunteers loaded the pre-boxed orders into car trunks and truck beds. Staff and volunteers home delivered pantry orders to patrons living too far away, or who didn’t feel safe leaving their homes.
At that time the Mission began new or expanded partnerships. with area nonprofits such as Mano en Mano. Working with a $10,000 grant from Good Shepherd Food Bank, the food center helped distribute culturally-specific food for local families and migrant workers. Together, Mano en Mano, Vazquez Mexican Takeout Restaurant, and Downeast Community Partners used the Mission food pantry to distribute 165 boxes of food to 347 people.
As the food pantry grew in new directions, adjusting for ever-changing Covid-19 regulations, the Mission started making plans to grow food security services. Today, Food Security and Sustainability Programs Coordinator Megan Smith and Family and Community Resource Coordinator Stephanie Moores, are overseeing the creation of the Mission Food Center.
For example, after an interior/exterior building makeover this year, the pantry is running more like a grocery store.
“People just love that they get to come in, walk around, pick the items they want,” explains Megan. “The feedback has been tremendous. Pantry staff get to talk to have conversations with these people. It gives patrons more dignity and a place to feel comfortable.”
In addition, Megan says, “We don’t have limits on how many times people can come in, or on what they can take. Patrons can pick their own meat, produce, and shelf staples.”
That policy, says Megan, works toward the Mission’s goal for the food center as “a place for people to get food, and a place where people feel welcome.” With a welcoming “grocery store” atmosphere, Megan went on, “we can talk with shoppers.”
That’s important particularly when food insecurity is not the only issue a patron is trying to resolve. “It might not just be food insecurities patrons are wrestling with. It might be heating oil or some other issue,” reminds Megan. “And if these things come up we can help them. They don’t have to go someplace else to find another resource. It’s all at this one place,” she says.
With Washington County’s huge meal gap in mind, Megan says, “There’s always opportunity to let more people know about the resource. We’d love to grow, to be a mobile food pantry for communities without them. I hope we can show other pantries in the area how to become low-barrier pantries,” she says.
The food pantry is blessed with its long-term food supply partnerships with Good Shepherd Food Bank, Walmart (Ellsworth), Shaw’s (Ellsworth), Bayside Shop ‘n Save (Milbridge), and Folklore Farm (Cherryfield).
Megan agrees, but says that goodwill extends to the community. “People calling us and asking, ‘What do you need at the pantry that you don’t have? Especially for items people don’t think about. Like coffee and tea. They’re a huge part of people’s lives. We can’t always buy those and they’re not always donated,” she says.
In sum, says Megan, “The whole community is a huge partner.” And that bodes very well for the food pantry’s prospects for year 2022. To learn more or become involved, visit our Food Security Program.
CHERRYFIELD, ME – Mission Family and Community Resource Coordinator Stephanie Moores thought the school children she works with through the Mission EdGE Program might enjoy making Christmas Cards for elderly neighbors living nearby in the Narraguagus Nursing Home. So, Stephanie invited the children, and their families, to make Christmas cards as December’s Family Engagement project.
The results? Stephanie said, “I delivered over 50 cards to the nursing home. Some made during EdGE school programs, and some by EdGE families.” In photo included here, said Stephanie, EdGE student, Alan, “is filling out his Christmas cards. He said he ‘enjoyed spending time with my family, thinking about good wishes for people.'”