Once a month, Food Security program volunteers and staff members travel from Steuben to Beals Island delivering commodity boxes to 120 seniors. These boxes contain a variety of shelf-stable foods meant to supplement the food recipients already have. The deliveries are not only helpful for the seniors, but they give the Mission a chance to check in with community members and offer any support and resources they might need.
The boxes are delivered the third week of each month in partnership with Eastern Area Agency on Aging (EAAA) through the USDA Commodity Supplemental Food Program. The food program assigns a Community Action Partnership (CAP) agency to each region, and for Downeast Maine, that CAP agency is EAAA.
“Recipients of the program fall into a certain income bracket and must be 60 years of age or older,” says Megan Smith, Food Security Program Coordinator. “Many of our recipients love seeing their delivery and add special requests.”
The boxes are packaged at the Good Shepherd Food Bank and include a variety of items such as non-fat dry and ultra pasteurized milk, juice, canned meat, poultry or fish, oats and ready-to-eat cereal, rice or pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, and canned fruits or vegetables.
For some, these deliveries can be a social lifeline. Many seniors enjoy chatting with and getting to know the delivery driver, and often are at the door waiting for a delivery. If staff or volunteers notice a person might need extra support, they can build on their already existing relationship to figure out how to best meet the recipient’s needs. If a recipient is not interested in chatting, they still receive information about additional resources from materials slipped into commodity boxes. These can include a pamphlet with information on anything from heating oil assistance to community events, or the Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation program.
“This program ensures our older community members receive enough food because that can be a struggle for those living on fixed incomes,” says Downeast Director Jenny Jones. “Working with Eastern Area Agency on Aging is a valuable partnership that broadens our reach and ensure all community members are receiving care and support.”
Learn more about our Food Security program and the initiatives we offer. The Mission welcomes anyone who wishes to volunteer and make deliveries or to assist in the food pantry. Interested individuals can apply through the Mission’s volunteer form. To learn about commodity boxes, visit the Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
At the Mission’s EdGE Center on any given Saturday in the winter, you can find kids (and adults) strapping on skates for the first time and hitting the ice. Other families warm up while playing board games after spending time snowshoeing. With the skating rink up and enough snow on the ground, families have been traveling to the Mission’s Downeast Campus from as far away as Machias to enjoy the winter activities at the EdGE Center for the first time since 2020.
The Mission has offered winter activities before, but this year for the first time, the Mission’s Community & Family Engagement Program Manager, Stephanie Moores, has been there each weekend to meet with families and let them know about the resources available to them. “I have a table set up for folks to see the programs and resources we have available,” Stephanie says. “We feel it is important to be there to make connections with families face-to-face. Nothing is formal, but if a family does have a need for resources, we set up a private time to meet and discuss. Many tell me they did not know the extent of the programming we offer here at the Mission.” Stephanie has helped a few families sign up their children for the EdGE afterschool program and has offered for others to shop at the food pantry just across Weald Bethel Lane from the winter activities.
Both Stephanie and EdGE Primary Program Director Isaac Marnik say many visitors are excited to have a central place to go with free activities for a range of ages. Families greet and meet each other and stay the whole afternoon. “To have a positive place for families to stop in and have a good time brings people together,” Isaac says. “And we offer plenty of food and plenty of fun to facilitate that.”
Stephanie adds that some families come every weekend showing the need for free activities. Because of the popularity of these Saturday events, during school vacation week there will be similar day programming. The Saturday events will happen through March.
A leaky roof fixed. Drafty windows insulated. Rotting stairs replaced. This is just some of the work that Mission volunteers have done to homes in Washington County as part of the Housing Rehabilitation program. Since 2003, this Mission program has improved homes owned by low-income residents by making the houses safe, energy-efficient, and functional. Washington County residents can now apply for this year’s housing rehabilitation program.
Each summer, hundreds of volunteers come to Downeast Maine to work on 15-20 homes owned by low-income residents in the Mission’s service area. “Our housing rehabilitation program is vital to our residents in Washington county,” says Downeast Director Jenny Jones. “It helps keep community members safely in their homes which allows our communities to continue to thrive.”
Homeowners who qualify to have home repairs done by the Mission help determine needs, assist with repairs if possible, and provide feedback to the program. The Housing Rehabilitation program also connects recipients to other resources available from the Mission through the Community & Family Engagement programming, which offers comprehensive support to individuals and families in Washington County.
In addition to providing repairs, the Mission partners with Downeast Community Partners (DCP) and CF Adams Charitable Trust to identify homes DCP can weatherize after improvements are made. Margaret whose had work done on her house by the Mission and DCP says, “I am so grateful and hopeful for the coming years. This will save me! And thank you again for these wonderful window treatments. I will be warm and comfortable in this old home now.”
Homeowners can apply online or pick up a paper copy of the application at their town office. Homeowner candidates who have inquiries about the program, should contact Housing Rehabilitation Program Manager Scott Shaw at [email protected] or call (207) 546-4466. Volunteer groups can also apply online.
We invite members of the Downeast community to learn more about the Mission Downeast capital campaign and construction project during an informational event on our Cherryfield campus on Thursday, March 16 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
During this event, the public can learn more about how the project will transform the Cherryfield property into a more welcoming and useful space for the community.The heart of the project is the renovation of the existing administrative and food pantry building and the addition of a new wing which will house a new food pantry.
Tours will be conducted of the existing space and Mission staff will be on-hand to talk about the addition, building updates, and other planned improvements to the campus. Renderings of the project will be on display and food will be served during the event. Families are also encouraged to attend, and the Mission’s EdGE education staff will host games and activities for children.
“We invite everyone to join us on March 16 to learn about this investment and the positive impact it will have on the region and for Downeast community members,” says Mission President John Zavodny, “Through our programs and people, we create belonging every day. We believe our Downeast campus, buildings, and program areas should be just as welcoming, work just as hard, and serve just as thoughtfully.”
The Mission’s Cherryfield campus has been a source of comfort, support, and community for generations of Maine residents in Washington and eastern Hancock Counties.TheMission Downeastcapitalcampaignwill create awelcomingDowneast Engagement Center at the head of campus and thoughtfully integrate program spaces for youth development, community building, workshops, play, and overnight retreats.
Mission Scholars come from communities stretching from Deer Isle to Calais and they attend colleges in Maine and beyond. 77 Mission Scholars received a combined $208,625 in scholarships in 2022. The Mission is now accepting applications for the Scholarships program for the 2023-2024 school. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 17.
Mission Scholarships are open to individuals who graduate from an accredited public and independent high school and live in Hancock or Washington counties or on the outer islands we serve. Each year, 20 to 25 scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors in the Mission’s service area. Some of the Mission’s scholarships include the EdGE Scholarship, which is awarded to students who have participated in the Mission’s EdGE program for at least five years and have served as a volunteer and/or high school staff member for EdGE, and the Angus MacDonald Scholarship, which is awarded to an exceptional high school graduate demonstrating superior academic achievement, leadership skills, integrity, and commitment to the community.
In addition, Mission Scholars receive continued support throughout their college careers. The Mission hosts gatherings for scholarship recipients, sends care packages, and more.
Post-Secondary Education Director Dakin Hewlett shares, “Mission Scholarships supports post-secondary aspirations of students interested in attending a trade, technical, two-, or four-year colleges. The program uniquely honors the multitude of pathways an individual can take to achieve their dreams.”
More information about the Scholarships program and application can be found on our Scholarships page. For inquiries about Scholarships, email Scholarships Program Coordinator Wendy Harrington at [email protected] or call (207) 546-5870.
For nine years, Douglas Cornman has been a consistent presence on Maine’s outer islands as the Mission’s Director of Island Outreach. He has taught improv, dance, and movement classes for island children. He has hosted church services, presided over weddings, and conducted funerals. He has also been a compassionate sounding board and confidant for island residents.
As of January 1, Douglas has taken on the role as Director of Island Services in which he will bring together the Mission’s island-based programming. This change allows the Mission to take a more integrated and comprehensive approach to the initiatives offered to island residents and provide greater continuity of care.
“Douglas’s commitment to the islanders served by the Mission is clear. He has been an unwavering community supporter and we are glad that he will now play an even larger role in our work with island residents,” says Mission President John Zavodny.
“I am excited and equally inspired to play a part in creating the space for this work. Maine Seacoast Mission has always wanted island and coastal communities to thrive,” Douglas says. “This shift is yet another step in ensuring that our mission endures.” Douglas stresses that this will not change the access island residents have to either the services that Douglas or the new nurse will provide. It just means that Douglas now coordinates programming offered by the Mission via the Sunbeam. While Douglas will head up Island Services programs, the Sunbeam boat crew will continue to report to Captain Mike Johnson.
“Consolidating the administrative sides of the Island Health and Island Outreach programs makes sense,” Douglas adds. “One reason for doing this is to free up space for me and the next Sunbeam Nurse to spend even more time with islanders, island communities, and the various mainland partners who work with them. This change provides us with additional opportunities to understand what the islands want and need such as access to healthcare. As life on the islands changes, Mission services will continue to evolve alongside it.”
Douglas is working on bringing back programs that were temporarily halted because of Covid. The Sunbeam will continue to do its regular healthcare and outreach trips. “We are also planning a couple of trips to help islands collect beach trash and a few that will allow islanders opportunities to visit islands other than their own,” Douglas says. “Stay tuned. It is going to be an exciting season on the Sunbeam.”