Director of Administration Ann Cox Halkett to retire

Director of Administration Ann Cox Halkett to retire

In 2015, Ann Cox Halkett joined the Mission as its first dedicated human resources professional. During her time as the Director of Administration, she coached staff members, standardized the Mission’s policies, and oversaw the growth in many of the Mission’s core programs. At the end of September, Ann will retire from the Mission. 

“Through transitions, planning, new initiatives, and even a pandemic, Ann emerged as a thought partner I could always count on,” says Mission President John Zavodny. “Through it all, Ann’s commitment to doing the right thing, even when the right thing is also a difficult thing, has been of supreme value for the Mission and those who work here.” 

Colleagues say that Ann will be remembered most for her dedication to staff, her sense of humor, and her door always being open for anyone who needed to ask a question or just chat. When Ann was hired, the Mission’s programs had grown enormously, but administrative support had not. Policy and procedures were more of an oral tradition. When John joined the Mission in 2019, Ann remembers he would often ask, “Do we have a policy for that?”  

Ann brought together her writing background and passion for clear communication to craft thorough policies. She was known for working diligently on each document or employee position until the wording was just right. Ann also played a critical role in the development of a data collection initiative resulting in evaluating program effectiveness as well as documenting the Mission’s impact. In the past year, she also implemented a new system to automate the Mission’s human resources system.  

Ann says what she enjoyed most about her role at the Mission was that it gave her “opportunity to get to know the entire Mission and staff.” And that is no small feat. With staff based in multiple locations—at the administrative offices in Northeast Harbor, the Cherryfield campus, on the Sunbeam, and throughout Washington County schools—the Mission’s service area is vast. And the work of Mission staff is varied and covers everything from healthcare to education. Just in the past few years, Ann has helped hire a new Sunbeam nurse, Downeast Director, and marketing team. She helped create new positions in Mission’s EdGE program to better reflect the work being done around education from elementary school through college. 

Ann says, “It has been an honor and a privilege to work for the Mission. I lived in Cherryfield for 20 years while raising my children, and you could not miss the openness, commitment, love, trust, and respect at the Mission. I am glad to have been a part of it and I know it will continue.” 

Three islands, three nights, one celebration

Three islands, three nights, one celebration

When Director of Island Services Douglas Cornman planned this summer’s trips, he realized that one trip would be special. During a Sunbeam trip in August, each night would be spent on a different island with enough time for an evening event. So, he scheduled a movie night on Isle au Haut, a bonfire on Matinicus, and a pizza party on Frenchboro. Part of the Mission’s work on outer islands includes offering events like these as they give islanders a place where they come together as a community. 

On August 29, the Sunbeam crew set off for Isle au Haut. After a full day on the island, the crew made their way to the town hall with a popcorn maker and a selection of movie theater candy. There they set up a makeshift movie theater and “concession” stand for the 25 island residents who came out. The crew spread bean bags across the floor, filled containers with freshly popped popcorn, and settled in to watch “The Goonies.” Simone Babineaux, Sunbeam Nurse, says islanders were so excited about the candy, eagerly discussing their childhood favorites as if transported back in time. Without a movie theater or grocery store, these experiences, even as simple as having multiple candy to choose from, are few and far between. While the night had been planned as a double feature, everyone started to pack up before Douglas even had time to suggest watching “Jaws.”

On Wednesday, Sunbeam set out to Matinicus for a bonfire on Markey Beach. However, the weather had a different idea. The crew shifted plans with Steward Jillian quickly cooking and assembling a taco bar. Around 15 islanders (about a third of the year-round population) came that night, undeterred by the bad weather to enjoy each others company.  

The next day, the crew set sail for Frenchboro, the last stop on the trip. That night, 30 residents came out to enjoy pizza on the Sunbeam. Jillian and Island Services Program Coordinator Margaret Snell cooked 20 pizzas for residents, with pepperoni being the hit of the night. Kids on the island savored their last days of summer playing games and running around the salon.

With the last two events happening on the Sunbeam, Douglas says that those dinners were a poignant end to the summer. Islanders came aboard to eat but just stayed to chat with each other and the crew. He likened the experience to being in a beloved family member’s home, where everyone gathers to share stories and relax. These events give islanders a reason to come together and many of them look forward to Sunbeam visits as a break from their normal routines.

The Sunbeam will take one more trip later this month before summer officially ends. This fall’s Island Outreach events include attending the Inter-Island Event on Frenchboro. This very popular event brings together students from island schools for three days of fun at the beginning of every school year. Also this fall is the Eldercare Conference. The conference brings together elder care professionals on Maine’s unbridged islands for time to find support, network, and learn. 

Registration open for EdGE afterschool

Registration open for EdGE afterschool

A new school year is starting, which means EdGE afterschool is starting soon! Registration is now open for this year’s program. EdGE offers afterschool programs for students at seven schools in Washington County: Beals Elementary, Cherryfield Elementary, D.W. Merritt Elementary in Addison, Harrington Elementary, Jonesport Elementary, Milbridge Elementary, and Rose M. Gaffney Elementary in Machias. Homeschoolers in these school districts are also welcome to attend. This year’s EdGE afterschool programs will be begin in October and run throughout the school year.  

EdGE afterschool programs offer educational, social, and outdoor experiences for students who can participate in experiential, creative, thought-provoking activities with their peers. Students also receive homework support. The EdGE program also supports food security and healthy eating habits by providing nutritious snacks. During the 2022-2023 school year, 485 students in Washington County attended at least one EdGE afterschool session.  

The Mission’s EdGE Youth Development Coordinators manage afterschool programs, which are also staffed by school district teachers, outdoor coordinators, artists, college, and high school students. EdGE Primary Program Director Isaac Marnik says, “Staff are currently preparing for afterschool programming and are excited to start working with students at each of the schools. We look forward to offering a variety of activities and opportunities for students to enjoy.” 

Parents or guardians at these seven schools can register online. For help with registration, please call (207) 546-4466. Registration is open throughout the school year.  

Meeting housing needs, one nail at a time

Meeting housing needs, one nail at a time

On a humid summer day on a side road in Downeast Maine, volunteers level a ramp outside of a small home. Inside, more volunteers were painting the bathroom. In the living room, the owners—an older couple—proudly gesture to their already fixed bedroom while they watch the commotion around them. This house has been their home for more than forty years, they moved in as newlyweds and raised a family there. As time wore on, repairs stacked up. The house also became less accessible as they aged. They needed help to stay in the home they loved. That’s where the Mission’s Housing Improvement program came in.

Each year, the Housing Improvement program brings volunteer groups from around New England, and as far away as Ohio, to update homes in eastern Hancock and Washington counties. Homeowners apply for the program in the spring. In partnership with Downeast Community Partners (DCP), the Mission identifies projects that can benefit from both the Mission’s repairs as well as DCP’s weatherization program. “Each season we select homes from over 50 applications,” explains Jenny Jones, Downeast Director. “These applications are screened for many different requirements, such as income level, repairs that fit the skill level of our volunteer groups and improvements or repairs that aid in accessibility and weatherization.”

Then the work begins. This summer, the Mission welcomed eight volunteer groups across eight weeks to improve homes. Altogether, 111 volunteers worked on ten different homes across Cherryfield, Milbridge, Franklin, Gouldsboro, and Steuben. The majority of the work done by volunteers includes making homes safer, accessible, and more energy efficient.

For the couple mentioned earlier, that meant new doors, new drywall, and most importantly an expanded deck. Last year, a large ramp had been added to the front of the house, but the deck was too small for a wheelchair to turn around. This year, the volunteers shored up the ramp and expanded the deck, so it was now wheelchair accessible. These seemingly small changes made a world of difference for the couple who no longer have to worry about getting around both inside and outside their home.

For other homeowners repairs include replacing decks and stairs for safer access to the home, installing new drywall and trim, replacing roofing, adding in more energy efficient windows and doors, building a ramp for wheelchair access, and replacing the skirting on a mobile home.

Learn more about the Housing Improvement program and the work completed for homeowners. To learn more about the Mission’s volunteering opportunities, please visit our Volunteer page.

Journeying through summer

Journeying through summer

A group of students standing in front of a sign that says University of New England

Touring a college campus in Bar Harbor, seventh grade students glimpsed what their futures could be. On Swan’s Island, seniors reminisced about the six years they have spent together as peers while planning their futures. A few weeks later, on the same island, eighth graders learned about the history of the island and tried their hand at watercolor painting. 

These trips are all part of the Mission’s Journey program. Journey provides Downeast students with six years of deep mentoring with professional staff, community members, and older peers. Each group, called a cohort, focuses on a theme or aspect of their “journey” and the trips are the capstone to this yearlong process. The trips allow time for fun and bonding but also include college visits, community service, time for reflection, and insight into what the future could hold for them.  

A group of students kneeling and doing work on stones at the side of the road

The first trip each Journey student goes on is their seventh-grade trip to Acadia National Park. Students in their first year of Journey work on learning more about themselves and each other, focusing on their strengths. During this trip students camp in Acadia, visit the campus of College of the Atlantic, participate in a community service project in the Park, and explore Mount Desert Island. As a group, they have to learn to set up camp, cook on a campfire, and create bonds that will last them the next six years.  

Eighth grade students focus on learning more about and exploring their own communities. They travel to Swan’s Island to learn more about how the community is similar and different from their own. During the trip, the group met with a local resident who lived on the island her whole life. Listening to her, they got a glimpse into what life was like in this island community. They learned to watercolor paint, and each saw the different ways they all interpreted the same scene.  

Three students doing water color painting

In ninth grade, students identify ways to succeed throughout four years of high school. This year’s ninth grade trip was canceled but each year, the group stays at Baxter State Park and visits a local technical college. The tenth-grade trip is earlier in the spring, where they learn more about history and other cultures.  

Eleventh grade focuses on pathways after high school. On the summer excursion, students visit two colleges, the University of New England and University of Southern Maine. Journey students with a 3.0 GPA or higher are granted automatic admission to the University of Maine system, so this trip offers students an opportunity to see one of the colleges they can attend. The trip also brings students to Six Flags New England for a day of fun and thrills where they can adventure on their own.  

A group of students spread out on the rocks overlooking the ocean

The senior trip is a retreat, and the group of students finished the Journey program this year decided to spend their last trip together on Swan’s Island, echoing an eventful trip they had as eighth graders. They reminisced about how they had grown and changed over the six years. They also started planning for their futures, learning more about budgeting, cooking simple meals they could recreate in their dorm rooms, and hearing from mentors about their post-high school choices.  

Each trip allows students to learn more about themselves, their cohort, and the communities they visit. For some of the students, these trips give them their first opportunity to spend time away from home, visit a college campus, go camping, ride a roller coaster, or cook a meal for themselves. They push their boundaries, see what they are capable of, and begin to think about their futures. Which is what the Journey program is all about.  

Learn more about the Journey program and if you are interested in offering support and mentoring to Journey students, the program is accepting mentors.  

Remembering Reverend Ted Hoskins

Remembering Reverend Ted Hoskins

Reverend Theodore “Ted” Hoskins, who worked for the Mission for 16 years, passed away on Saturday, August 5. Ted joined the Mission as the Minister of the Outer Islands in 1993 and in 2002, he became the Minister to Coastal Communities and Fisheries. He retired in 2009.

When hired, he spent the first few weeks visiting each island. He had said at the time, “Ministry, local church ministry is what my life is all about. I shall preach and teach, visit and counsel, baptize and marry, comfort and bury. I will work for the well-being of the island residents in every way possible.” And from the time he stepped on Sunbeam IV to his retirement, he continued to advocate for the people he served. Colleagues remember him as a dedicated and caring pastor, who was every bit as comfortable dressed in a clerical robe standing behind a pulpit as he was traveling with a group of fishermen, preparing to meet with legislators to talk about the challenges they faced on the coast.

An older white gentleman chats with young children.

Prior to joining the Mission, Ted had been the summer pastor on Isle au Haut for thirty years. His picture still hangs in the Town Hall, a reflection on his lasting impact on the community. And while he called Isle au Haut home, he was equally dedicated to all the people and islands he served. Ted might have explained it best when quoted in Down East magazine, “They’re not mine at all. I’m theirs…I belong to them.”

photo courtesy of Greig Cranna

Shortly after Sunbeam V launched, Ted set out on a lofty quest to visit five islands (Monhegan, Matinicus, Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, and Great Cranberry) on Easter Sunday. The first year, boat troubles kept them from making the trip. The next year, he successfully made it to four islands though the Annual Report explains one Easter Lily was crushed in transit. Rob Benson, who became the Minister of the Outer Islands after Ted, says this commitment is what makes Ted so beloved on the islands even today. “He took the time to be with people. He was authentic and people knew that.”

Gary DeLong, Mission President from 1999 to 2010, remembers a night he spent with Ted early in his tenure. “One day Ted called and asked if I would like to go with him to a meeting,” he recalls. “Some fishermen’s wives wanted to help find some way to become more financially secure. Lobstering and other fisheries were hard to get into. It was hard to make enough to live. Ted was there to pass on information and encouragement. As the discussion ended and pie and tea were served, there was a feeling that something good was happening. I learned a lot that night about how Ted listened.” Gary says that the way Ted would bring together people, as well as how he listened, would inform his work going forward. The beginnings of programs like EdGE and telehealth, were couched in this idea of bringing people together for informal discussions where the Mission could just listen to people’s concerns.

In 2002, Ted Hoskins transitioned into the role of Minister to Coastal Communities and Fisheries. Through his work as a pastor, Ted had seen the challenges that fisherman faced and wanted to help them maintain their way of life.

The 2003 Annual Report explains, “The Mission is in a unique position to be able to bring the parties together. It has been active on the islands and coastal communities for almost a hundred years and has achieved great credibility during this time. Ted, as the boat minister on the Sunbeam quickly established his bona fides with the islanders and with others involved in the dialogue.”

Photo courtesy of the Island Institute

During this time, Ted worked with numerous organizations including the Nature Conservancy, Island Institute, New England Fishery Management Council, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Lobster Advisory Council. For many years, he also moderated the University of Maine Lobster Institute Canadian/American Lobsterman’s Town Meeting. “He was devoted to the lives of fishermen. Ted had a deep interest and passion for the work he did with fisheries,” Rob says.

Even after his retirement, he continued to advocate and care for the coastal communities he called home. And his caring made a difference, Gary says. “Regardless of which role Ted was embracing in any given moment his presence and demeanor always brought comfort and hope to those most in need.”

To learn more about the work Reverend Ted Hoskins contributed to, please visit the Island Outreach program page.

A full obituary can be found here.

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