MACHIAS, ME – Ada Raye sent these photos from the Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School EdGE after-school program. Ada said “Snowshoeing and building snowmen were a hit for this group of first graders. They asked if we could do it again next week. Yes we can! What a wonderful way to spend a day!”
CHERRYFIELD, ME – Maine’s Downeast coast is exceptionally beautiful. But winter winds there can be brutal. Last week, for example, winds collapsed a roof at Narraguagus Bay Health Home in Milbridge, at the mouth of the Narraguagus River.
As of this writing, all the Milbridge facility’s residents have returned. NEWS CENTER Maine reported that when the roof first collapsed, help arrived from many communities, and 41 nursing home residents were evacuated to other nursing care facilities. There were no reported injuries.
Megan Smith, the Mission’s Food Security and Sustainability Programs Coordinator delivered to the residents an initial 41 blankets, with crochet blankets, lap blankets, and other amenities to follow.
“I am so happy to hear that the residents are back. They must be so happy to be in familiar surroundings,” said Megan.
CHERRYFIELD, ME – Downeast youth participating in EdGE Journey explore the outdoors and their communities to develop the tools needed to successfully transition to high school and through higher education and career pathways. Journey Program Manager Dakin Hewlett shared what’s coming up for the students’ cohorts, grades 7-12 as well as invites volunteers to serve as Adult Mentors.
Journey’s Winter Plans
This winter, students went bowling to strengthen personal relationships with one another. During winter break later this month, each cohort will go to the trampoline park in Bangor. This is a chance for cohorts to get outside, engage in some athletic activity, and of course, have fun together.
11th grade students will also participate in a series of three Healthy Acadia workshops focused on youth restorative justice practices in which individuals learn how to reestablish relationships with one another. Once students complete the workshops, we intend to provide space for them to teach what they have learned to younger cohorts. Also in March, 11th grade students will visit Husson University. They will tour the campus, learn about the school’s programs, and discover post-secondary opportunities.
Dakin adds, “Each Journey cohort participates in about two core meetings a month to further their group and individual goals, continue to build relationships with each other and staff, plan future trips, and develop leadership skills through hands-on activities. These core meetings will be the adult mentors’ most consistent monthly opportunity to engage the students.”
Cohort dinners at the Weald Bethel Community Center provide opportunities for the group to cook and share meals together, and strengthen and build community within Journey.
Calling Adult Mentors
The Mission currently seeks Adult Mentors to volunteer in the Journey program on the Cherryfield campus. Adult mentors help students build a positive, personal network amongst their peers and in the community. Adult role models also help Journey youth create the tools for a successful transition to high school, higher education, and careers.
Beginning in 7th grade, the EdGE Journey program provides Downeast students six years of mentoring with professional staff, community members, and older peers. While on local and distant adventures, Journey’s volunteer adults foster healthy relationships with students, helping them to grow and access opportunities sometimes unavailable to them. As role models, adults can demonstrate how to build life skills and establish a support network.
Interested in joining Journey? Adult Mentors show a willingness to learn, have good listening skills, and are open to cultural differences. They also exhibit patience, a sense of humor, and commitment.
To learn more, contact Journey Program Manager Dakin Hewlett at [email protected] or (207) 598-1048. To become an Adult Mentor, apply now via the Mission volunteer form.
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.
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.'”