This fall, copies of TheBulletin made their way across the country and into the mailboxes of Mission supporters. This issue of The Bulletin focused on the concept of engagement. John Zavodny, Mission President, wrote in his message, “As we learn to live with Covid and emerge from our hidey holes, this fall feels like a time of reengagement and, even though we’re still being careful, reengagement feels good. In these pages you will find stories of engagement and reengagement.”
The main story featured a look at the Mission’s Community and Family Engagement program which brings together many of our programs on the Downeast Campus under one umbrella. This program supports community members in a multifaceted and comprehensive way and looks at how to best meet their needs.
The Bulletin also included stories on the Mission’s work on unbridged islands. The Mount Desert Island Hospital chose the Mission as their 2022 Healthcare Partner of the Year for our work setting up vaccination clinics and telemedicine programs during the pandemic. Douglas Cornman, Director of Island Outreach, highlighted the Mission’s work bringing Christmas presents to island residents.
Another piece introduced the Downeast Exploration Fund started by Gigi Georges, author of Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, and her husband Jeff Oxman. The Fund provides financial support to children in Washington County who wish to explore their passions and pursue experiences not otherwise available to them.
There was also a peek into the Mission’s past with a look at our archives. The article originally was published in the Ellsworth American
On Sunday, December 11, the Mission will host its very first Christmas Celebration Downeast! Across our 63-acre campus, enjoy refreshments and a festive atmosphere full of holiday cheer. There will be family-friendly activities for all ages!
● 2-5pm: Craft activities and photo booth
● 3-5pm: Visits with Santa Claus (and his Christmas sheep)
Join us on Saturday, December 3 as we celebrate the holidays at our Christmas Open House during the Northeast Harbor Christmas Festival! We’ll host a bunch of activities and offer a warm place to warm up between town festivities.
● 2-3pm: craft a jingle bell “noisemaker” to welcome Santa and Mrs. Claus off the Sunbeam!
● 3-3:30pm: the Mission boat, the Sunbeam, delivers Santa and Mrs. Claus to Northeast Harbor marina. Don’t miss it! Bring your singing voices to join with the carolers!
● 5-7pm: warm up with hot cider, doughnuts, and other refreshments. Santa will visit and families can craft greeting cards.
“I learned to play the electric guitar, but I also learned how to be confident.” That’s how Hannah, a student in the Mission’s EdGE afterschool program, describes her experience of studying music with Maine Academy of Modern Music (MAMM) during EdGE. This innovative, 14-year partnership between the Mission and MAMM allows students to take music lessons without financial burden. With a longstanding commitment to bring music to Washington County kids, MAMM selected the Mission for the 2022 Community Partner Award.
When the pandemic forced learning online, Isaac Marnik, EdGE Program Director, worked with MAMM to open the Mission’s Downeast campus to students so they could continue taking classes virtually. Something that Hannah is very thankful for. “My instructor (Cody Phipps) spent quite a bit of time helping me with concepts I struggled with, never making me feel bad for not understanding, and always encouraging me to keep trying. So, to him I am extremely grateful. The lessons truly meant a lot to me because now I can express myself through music and I was able to help my friends learn how to as well.”
MAMM’s courses allow students who are interested in music the space to explore their options during weekly lessons in a small group. Kids could take lessons on a variety of musical instruments, and it gave students an opportunity to work with adults who share their passion for music.
“It is meaningful to partner with an organization who shares common ground around programming. MAMM has a talented musical staff across the state and connecting those individuals to the students in our programs provides a richer experience for young learners.” said Marnik, EdGE Program Director for Maine Seacoast Mission. “We would not have been able to offer the quality of music programming without the MAMM support.”
“We’re so proud to be counted as part of MAMM’s amazing band of rock stars.” said John Zavodny, the Mission’s President. “The Maine Seacoast Mission is thrilled to partner with MAMM to help give music to kids so they can enjoy a lifetime of confidence, creativity, collaboration, and wellness. Music can change lives. It changed mine. Shout out to Rob, David, and Tim, my first bandmates in Nuclear Mudd & the Dirt Bomz, circa 1980!”
Marnik adds, “It is honor to receive an award for being a community partner with MAMM. This strong partnership has allowed more students in Downeast Maine to have an opportunity to experience music.”
The Mission will receive the award at MAMM’s Chords for Kids Scholarship Gala on Saturday, November 19 in Portland. Obtain your tickets at at MAMM’s website. To Learn more about the EdGE program and the initiatives it offers or to enroll a child.
While kids are still sorting through their candy haul from Halloween, the Mission’s Downeast Campus is already ready for another holiday: Christmas. Weald Bethel Community Center becomes the DeFacto North Pole when the calendar flips to November, with the elves sorting and packaging presents that will go to recipients throughout Washington and Hancock Counties.
In 2021, the Mission’s elves, led by Stephanie Moores, Community and Family Engagement Program Manager, distributed more than 7,000 presents to 1,264 people living in the Mission’s service area. Presents range from crossword puzzle books for older adults to toys and jackets for children. The Mission’s Christmas Program began as a way to provide gifts to the children of lighthouse keepers on remote islands. The Mission still delivers presents to children and seniors on unbridged islands as well as up and down the coast to children, families, and seniors by partnering with childcare centers, nursing homes, and prisons to provide presents to those who might not have them. Families can also register for the Mission’s Christmas Program and come to the Downeast campus to shop for their own children.
The elves serve two different purposes. First, they sort, pick, and wrap presents for individuals that cannot come to the Downeast Campus. For these presents, facilities—like a nursing home—send requests for recipients and the elves do their magic handpicking items that will fill those wish lists. Elders in nursing homes are gifted clothing, crossword puzzles, knitted blankets, toiletries as well as baby dolls and stuffed animals. Children in daycare centers receive small gifts and toys. Once items are picked, the elves then package and wrap each gift to send them to the recipients.
The elves also help fulfill the requests of seniors and children living on the outer islands. Working directly with Douglas Cornman, Director of Island Outreach, they strategize what to give each islander served by the Christmas program. These presents are brought to the Sunbeam to make the trip to their island destination. Finally, the elves also help families shop for presents for their children. Families who sign up for the program are given time slots to visit the “North Pole” where they select presents for their children. The room is set up with presents for all ages from babies to teens with toys, books, clothing, and toiletries set up for families to peruse. The elves offer suggestions, and when families are done their shopping, they help wrap them.
For many of the elves, helping bring Christmas to families is a labor of love and something that they have done year after year.
Health care providers and residents of islands stretching from Cliff Island to Frenchboro walked through the door of the Southern Harbor House on North Haven, took off their shoes, grabbed a cup of tea and sat around a table to share their successes and struggles while learning from each other and experts in their field. The attendees, at this yearly retreat, are all part of the Mission’s Island Eldercare Network, which is a group that has come together to support island residents who wish to age in place.
This group has been instrumental for many of the attendees, Cheryl Crowley, who lives on Cliff Island says, “Because of this network, the islands have each embellished their services to elders or created services that never existed. It’s the sharing of ideas and encouragement that we give to one another that have made these differences.”
During the retreat they discuss issues that affect them and their residents, learn more from experts, and most importantly, network with others that understand the work they are doing. The group meets monthly on Zoom, but this time together in-person allows them to make deeper connections.
Maura Michael, the Administrator of Islesboro’s Boardman Cottage says the retreat is “a chance for a group of us in the same business—eldercare—to meet and share experiences. We talk about what is working and not working and to share ideas with each other.” She adds, “Some of us learn new things and some of us ask for ideas and opinions on how to manage different situations.”
Metcalf discussed the 4Ms of the Age-Friendly Movement and how participants could implement them to help their neighbors age in place. Dr. Viswanathan, who works directly with the Mission’s Director of Island Health, Sharon Daley, and does remote neurological work, gave updates on Covid. He also talked about the importance of telehealth, which while newly adopted by many during the pandemic, has been a lifeline for many islanders who often must travel long distances to receive care. Also, a key part of this retreat is the time providers have to meet one-on-one to have their questions answered by representatives from the State of Maine.
The day also gives the attendees time to regroup, discuss problems, get support, and learn from people who understand their situation. “The best part of the conference is when we get to share stories. Everyone has exceptional stories, some very emotional,” Michael says. “It also is a break away from the everyday and it is nice to know that everyone else has the same issues in eldercare. I come away very refreshed.”