NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – Through Facebook, phone calls, and word of mouth, Sharon Daley, RN, notified island communities of the Mission’s recent island COVID-19 booster vaccination clinics. As the Mission’s Director of Island Health, she focused efforts on residents age 50-plus as well as residents with suppressed immune systems.
Between handling the vaccine and navigating the course to Maine’s outer islands, the planning of such clinics requires excellent organization and perfect timing. Sharon explained the demanding schedule, Sharon detailed, “Monday, April 18, I drove to the MDI Hospital pharmacy, picked up the vaccine, then transferred it immediately to the Sunbeam‘s medical refrigerator.”
Because of the Sunbeam‘s size, there are places around Great Cranberry Isles it can’t navigate. “Tuesday morning, Island Outreach Director Douglas Cornman, Maureen Giffin, RN, and I caught the mail boat to Islesford,” Sharon said.
Sunbeam Capt. Mike Johnson and Engineer Storey King then used the skiff to transport Sharon, Maureen, and Douglas to Great Cranberry from Islesford.
“We did the vaccine clinic on Great Cranberry, and returned to the Sunbeam. We then traveled to Frenchboro to administer vaccines,” continued Sharon. From Frenchboro, the Mission clinic crew hosted two clinics on Isle au Haut. “From there,” said Sharon, “we traveled to Matinicus.”
Island hopping didn’t cease there. On Thursday, April 21, the Sunbeam and crew returned to Northeast Harbor and Sharon stayed on the boat. The next day she drove the vaccine two hours to Pen Bay Hospital’s medical refrigerator in Rockport. That was in preparation for a Monday, April 25 trip to Monhegan Island with Administrative Assistant Margaret Snell, and Nurse Practitioner Peggy Akers. Aiming to catch the mail boat at Port Clyde to go to Monhegan Island, Sharon and her team had just 30 minutes to travel there from Pen Bay Hospital. “They held the mail boat for us.”
In one final push, Sharon, Margaret, and Peggy returned to Northeast Harbor where they spent the night aboard the Sunbeam. The next morning, they caught the ferry for the final booster clinic on Swan’s Island.
For an initiative as vital and time-sensitive as Covid-19 boosters and vaccinations, island communities sprang into action to assist the Mission in providing the clinics. Starting in 2020, island communities and island health workers were concerned about the virus infecting and spreading across the islands. In 2021 alone, the Mission:
Administered 928 Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters
Conducted 28 visits in four months
Visited seven islands including Great Cranberry, Islesford, Frenchboro, Monhegan, Matinicus, Swans’ Island, and Isle au Haut
At least 10 media outlets covered the 2021 vaccination effort
In 2022, the second round of booster clinics are for individuals over 50 occurred on the same seven islands. Small geographically and in population, each island’s inhabitants depend on one another and form tight communities. “Because there are so many people on the islands in the summer,” Sharon explained. “People want to be as protected as they can be.”
To earn more about Sharon Daley’s work, visit the Island Health web page.
For Sharon Daley, RN, telemedicine enables everything she does for the Mission’s Island Health program. From scheduling and coordinating care, lab draws, and flu vaccines to meeting with the eldercare partner network and holding her own patient appointments, connecting virtually is essential. “It allows for a wide range of health services, including primary care, medical specialties, behavioral health, and substance abuse,” she says.
Islanders can stay in their communities obtain medical services and stay in touch with loved ones, which is something everyone deserves.
– Sharon Daley, Director of Island Health
While regions of Maine struggle for reliable internet connectivity, islands tend to fare better. “I think that’s why islanders responded so positively and quickly to telemedicine. It’s hard to get off the island for services,” remarked Sharon. “It’s not just a one-hour session with a provider. Islanders must factor in water crossings by mail boats or ferries as well as additional commuting by vehicle. During this time of year, weather affects boat schedules, which in turn means canceling and rescheduling health appointments.” With a decrease in staffing at many provider sites, it takes more time to rebook those appointments.
A recent grant award from the Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation will help Sharon and the Mission diminish those challenges. The Farris Foundation supports projects designed to enable people to help themselves lead successful, inspired, and fulfilling lives. Further, these grants focus on supporting projects that stimulate innovation, strengthen individuals and families, and can demonstrate a sustainable impact.
Sharon explained, “The Farris Foundation grant gives us the ability to furnish islanders with iPads. In addition to placing the technology, it also means providing education on how to use it.”
The option to meet virtually will allow essential health services. For island residents, technology also increases connectivity to family, friends, and ordering supplies like food. This means decreasing isolation. If there’s an older adult in a home, they can connect to family members, friends, and the world off-island. This alleviates the sense of remoteness and improves cognitive and emotional health.
In addition, Sharon’s team is identifying people to use iPads for medical visits, counseling, and to attend meetings like AA. “Telemedicine and technology exists for people to access services they would otherwise obtain on the mainland. It means islanders can stay in their communities obtain medical services and stay in touch with loved ones, which is something everyone deserves.”
For a window into Sharon’s work and the Island Health program, watch In Our Words, presented by Walgreen’s Studios.
Edith P. Drury was a Maine Seacoast Mission staffer for 20 years. The Mission archives include some of Ms. Drury’s “God’s Tugboat” newspaper columns written over many decades for Maine Coast Fisherman and National Fisherman. Through her columns, Edith left us her first-hand account of the Mission’s work (circa 1950-1960) among people and places on the mainland, along the coast, and on islands.
“When the Sunbeam starts out on a trip tomorrow to deliver Christmas gifts, we will be thankful for the gallant little oil burner, pushing heat into the radiators, warming the cabins and offering a chance to thaw icy mittens,” wrote Drury in January 1959. We don’t know precisely when Edith started and stopped writing her “God’s Tugboat” columns. The earliest date we have is 1954. She may have started writing sooner.
Drury writes of the work dangers of fishermen within the island communities. In January ’59 she tells of “the funeral of Llewellyn Lunt who died suddenly while alone in his small fishing boat.” Seven months later she shares news of an Islesford committal service “for the two lobster fishermen…lost in their boat during a March blizzard.”
There are also the hazards she and the Sunbeam III crew encountered. On a September 1960 boat trip to Monhegan Island, “The sun was out, but the sea was in turmoil, and our Sunbeam at times seemed like a cockle shell on the great, rough deep. At Monhegan, we tied up at the wharf, where the surge was so strong that jumping ashore was a gymnastic feat,” Edith said. In October 1960 there was “that day we had more than nine hours of cruising, in dense fog,” with the Sunbeam III arriving home thanks to the boat radar and the Captain’s seamanship.
Not all Edith’s columns are of hard times. She has many stories of good times. We have Edith’s 1959 description of Miss Elizabeth Rich of Isle au Haut. Miss Rich runs the local post office, takes “care of two cats and a dog,” and makes evening visits to neighbors. She also “made most of a large crochet bedspread, six batches of soap (using 36 pounds of fat), 16 baby bibs, 37 dish towels, 50 aprons, and more than 30 pairs of mittens in all sizes and colors,” writes Edith. Her column documented the ways islanders passed the time as well as everyday occurrences in their lives.
She tells us of visits to lighthouse keepers’ families and US Coast Guard station keepers’ families. These families literally kept the home lights burning to help ensure safe travels and havens to sailors, fishermen, and other water travelers. Since Drury’s days with the Mission some of these lights were automated or decommissioned. In 1960, Edith spent time with Ralph and Edith Marie Sunderlin who were living at Seguin Island Light Station with “their puppy Coastie, and their week-old baby gull.” Coastie was feeling ill, so Edith provided worm capsules. “The baby gull’s appetite was excellent,” she writes, “and we saw it gulp down a great quantity of dog food and then contentedly take a bath in the kitchen sink.” In another instance, the Harold Cummings family had three children under three years old and were keepers at Ram Island Light where “things are easier now that the station is electrified.” Edith also visited with the Cliff Meadows family, including “the new baby girl, two months old,” at Cuckolds Light Station. “Anyone who thinks that light keepers don’t have much to keep them busy had better take a paintbrush, paddle out to Cuckolds and stay a while!” she writes.
Ms. Drury was dedicated to all areas of the Mission’s work. A 1987 Mission Resolution honoring her said, in part, “For over twenty years, Edith shared her faith with the people of Down East Maine. She visited over fifty mainland schools and twenty island schools, working with the children, devising contests, recreational activities, and reading programs. She distributed garden seeds and plants in the schools and encouraged the children to plant gardens.”
“Her enthusiasm for the work could be felt when reading the God’s Tugboat column…. Edith’s name and the memory of her caring ministry have been the subject of many conversations in the little homes of coastal Maine and will continue so for some time to come.”
That is still true in 2022.
The Mission boat and its crew is still active today, now aboard the Sunbeam V.Learn moreabout their work and our iconic boat.
Postscript – March 9, 2022
Following the publication of this piece in our monthly eNewsletter, Gary DeLong wrote to us about Edith. Gary served as Maine Seacoast Mission president from 1999 to 2010 and grew up along Maine’s rocky shores in the Downeast region. The stories he tells provide another small window into Edith’s life. His words share how she impacted the Mission as well as the people around her. As for any organization who has existed as long as the Mission has, history shapes identity. The Mission’s work, people, and communities it takes part in—from 1905 to now—inform the organization’s heritage as well as its spirit. Please enjoy Gary DeLong’s recollections.
I write just to pass on a couple of tidbits Edith Drury. I enjoyed the recent newsletter which even included a photo of Edith. It was fun and appropriate to see Edith being remembered. In her role at the Mission she came to the school on Beals—where I grew up—talking about the importance of fresh vegetables. She handed out seeds and advice about starting a garden all of which made a big impression on kids. I can’t recall her visiting when I was in the eighth grade, which was my first year on the island although my friends remember her and her ruddy complexion. She was the daughter of a highly regarded headmaster at the legendary Prep School, St. Paul’s in Concord, N.H. Samuel Drury. He was an Episcopalian rector who had been offered some even more prestigious positions but turned them down to spend his career at St. Paul’s.
One of the Mission’s great fans and benefactors was Patricia “Trishy” Schull who lived along the Somes Sound Road and was a close friend and supporter of Edith. When we were trying to recast the role and profile of the Mission, Trishy hosted a couple of cocktail parties and invited all her friends. I mention Trishy because she loved hanging out with Edith on the Sunbeam. The two of them as young women would dive off the cabin of the boat. Trishy’s husband, David, was a businessman and entrepreneur. In support of the Mission’s downeast presence, he started two companies in Jonesport: one was a restaurant and the other sardine factory. They both employed a number of people for several years. It’s fun to recall people like that. Looking at the Mission’s website they would not believe the scope of the Mission today but they need to be remembered because people like Edith and her friend Trishy paved the way.
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.”
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.”
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN no sooner completed a multi-island run aboard the Sunbeam administering flu shots, when the Mission received a CDC green light to administer Covid vaccination boosters among certain island communities.
Sharon and fellow Sunbeam crew member, Director of Island Outreach & Chaplain Douglas Cornman, are members of the Mission Covid Vaccination Team. In three months, starting in February 2021, that team Covid vaccinated 343 people on seven islands.
On November 1, Douglas said, “Last week, in less than 48-hours, Sharon, Administrative Assistant Margaret Snell, and I, scheduled Covid booster shot trips to seven islands. We secured vaccine. We put fliers together announcing the vaccine booster is available, and posted them on the islands,” Douglas said.
The response from island communities was instantaneous.
“Over the weekend we had over 50 people contact me requesting their booster. In two weeks we’ll be doing boosters on those seven islands. We will have given everyone their booster before their Thanksgiving holiday,” said Douglas.