Gigi Georges and Jeff Oxman launch the Downeast Exploration Fund

Gigi Georges and Jeff Oxman launch the Downeast Exploration Fund

Nationally-acclaimed author Gigi Georges has created the Downeast Exploration Fund to support rural, Downeast youth. In 2021, Ms. Georges published the non-fiction book, Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America with publisher Harper Collins. Following the first edition printing, Ms. Georges expressed interest in establishing a scholarship with Maine Seacoast Mission to honor the continued strength and resilience residing in the young populations of the Downeast region of the state. Beginning in spring 2022, the Fund will provide financial support to eligible applicants who wish to explore their own passions and pursue experiences not otherwise available to them.

Any student in grades 6 through 12 within the Mission’s service area, including rising 6th graders and just graduated seniors, may apply. The Downeast Exploration Fund will pay for awardees’ participation in camps, outdoor learning experiences, and lessons in music, art, sports, or equestrian pursuits. Additionally, the scholarship covers registration fees for enrichment activities or programs as well as materials, equipment, or supplies. Accepting applications on a rolling basis, the Fund will award up to $5,000 annually. 

Mission President John Zavodny said, “The Downeast Exploration Fund is a result of Gigi’s generosity of spirit and her continued recognition of the aspirations Downeast youth harbor. We’re excited to hear about and fuel their interests and activities. The Mission’s existing work in this area as well as education make the Fund a perfect fit.”

The Fund was created in honor of the book’s five young women. “They played a central role in developing the fund’s objective and defining its scope: to help expand opportunities beyond the classroom for other Downeast kids.”

Color photo of Lanie Perry on her lobster boat holding a lobster up for the camera.

Lanie Perry, depicted under the pseudonym McKenna Holt in the book, explained, “We recognized that there are so many kids who want to pursue their dreams are set back by financial issues as well as by other issues. Through the Fund, we wanted to see Downeast youth push for their dreams and start out on the right foot. I hope people living Downeast stay determined and don’t give up on who they are or who they want to be. There are always ways around the obstacles you face. You can do what you want to do by being consistent and keep pushing forward.”

Color photo of Kelli Kennedy on a basketball court gripping a ball. She stands at an angle to the camera, her brown hair tied back and wears a jersey uniform.

Kelli Kennedy is portrayed as Audrey Barton in Downeast. When asked about the anticipated impact of the Fund, she said, “I guess it’s no secret that there are children and teens and people Downeast who struggle with financial well-being. I was very fortunate in what I was able to do as a child. My family could support me to play basketball year-round and that set me up for so many things in life including life lessons. My hope is that others can experience the same. This scholarship can help push them toward that. My hope is that everyone can find something to drive them.”

Color photo of Sophia DeSchiffart smiling at the camera. She wears a soft pink short-sleeved blouse and has shoulder-length blonde hair.

Sophia DeSchiffart, depicted as Josie Dekker, grew up attending EdGE summer camps. She also served as an EdGE mentor during her teenage years. She shared, “I hope the Fund allows young people to try new things or pursue something they haven’t had the financial ability to pursue. Expression through art is important, but it can be expensive. Playing on a traveling sports team also has a lot of associated costs. I grew up in a privileged position by visiting extended family in Canada. My 8th grade class went to Boston and it was the first time for many to leave the state. I would like the Fund to expand their attraction to the world. I hope the Fund continues to grow and the public feels compelled to contribute to it.”

The Downeast Exploration Fund is available for anyone to donate to. “The Fund will honor the leadership, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and passion for a range of pursuits exemplified by the five remarkable young women portrayed in the book,” explained Ms. Georges. “What I discovered in Downeast Maine runs counter to the conventional narrative about rural hopelessness and that young people must flee to succeed. Yes, there are significant challenges, but there is also much to celebrate.”

Maine Seacoast Mission accepts applications for the Downeast Exploration Fund on a rolling basis. Interested applicants ages 11-18 in may apply through this website or a school guidance counselor. Eligible students are grades 6-12 including just-graduated seniors and must live in the Mission’s service area of Hancock and Washington Counties as well as the outer islands. Applications will begin the review process on April 1.

To donate to the Fund, donors should click the gold Donate Now button on our Donate page.

To learn more about Ms. Georges and the book Downeast: Five Maine Girls and the Unseen Story of Rural America, or to secure an interview, please visit the author’s website The soft cover edition will release in early June 2022.

Director of Island Outreach Reflects on Mindfulness

Director of Island Outreach Reflects on Mindfulness

From the desk of Douglas Cornman, MA, BC-DMT, Director of Island Outreach

A few years ago, someone dear to my heart, introduced me to a creative way of measuring emotional energy. I had never heard of this particular method for gauging how a person is feeling, but, once I did, it dramatically helped me understand where their emotional barometer was at any given moment. They measured their daily allotment of energy with “spoons” much in the same way a baker measures dry ingredients for a cake. In response to my asking, “How was your day?” They might answer, “Today was rough. It took most of my spoons. I am not in the mood to talk about anything of consequence at the moment.” Conversely, doing something they enjoyed, replenished spoons. “I spent the morning painting,” they once told me. “My drawer is filled with spoons. I’m so glad that I made some time to do that.” Spoons work in both directions. We use them, but we can also get them back. I have my own set of emotional measuring spoons now. I use them to gauge how much energy I have in reserve and how much energy I think I might need to do any given task. Measuring helps me to know when to take a break and when I can keep moving along.

Being, simply put, is the active practice of not doing.

– Douglas Cornman, MA, BC-DMT

I sense that most of us are using a lot of spoons lately. Winter can sap our emotional energy in ordinary times. Facing into cold temperatures, the inability to get outside, and the lack of sunshine use up spoons that we usually need for things like getting along with others or doing the dishes. And as well we know, these are not ordinary times. I am loath to remind us, that March marks the beginning of our third year living with COVID-19. Remember back at the beginning, when we said that the pandemic would be a marathon and not a sprint. How about a double marathon, or even a triple? Continued social distancing, mask wearing, not hugging our friends, and never-ending Zooming gatherings often require our full set of spoons and then some, leaving us wondering where we are going to find the spoons needed to get us through the everyday grind.  

Last week, I met with Dr. Dan Johnson, a clinical psychologist, with whom I chat on a regular basis. Dan is an advocate for using mindfulness and meditation practices as effective ways of adding spoons to one’s collection. He mentioned the concepts of “doing” and “being” during our talk. Doing is just like it sounds. It is the act of completing a task. Doing is essential to functioning because it gets things done. We fundamentally know that we don’t function as our best selves unless we accomplish things, like attending to work or our families. We often feel better once we tick a few things off our to-do lists. Being, simply put, is the active practice of not doing. Being is spending time with our body, mind, and spirit. It is sitting with one or more aspects of ourselves and remaining present with wherever we are, at that moment in time. Being is equally essential to functioning because it allows space for clarity, which, in turn, provides us an opportunity to adjust how we behave and interact with everything around us. For better or worse, most of us are better at doing than being. Being can sometimes be seen as frivolous. It can also be scary. Given time, however, the practice of being does evolve and our feelings change. It is possible to become companions with our fears, and also ourselves. I am in no way saying that it is an easy practice. Neither am I saying that it will always be a comfortable practice. All I am saying is that it is possible.  

If, like many of us, you seem to be lacking enough spoons to make it through your day without feeling completely exhausted, try spending a small portion of it just “being.” Find a comfortable place to sit, stand, or lay down (I like sitting in the sun if its shining) and breathe. Really, that is all you have to do – just sit and breathe. Try not to think about what you are making for dinner or the Zoom call you have later in the day – just sit and breathe. Focus your attention on your breath or a bird chirping or the sound of the breeze, if you cannot clear your mind of racing thoughts. Sit and breathe. Try not to force clarity and peace and replenishing your spoon drawer. If your practice is anything like mine, those things will come in their own time. All you need to do is sit and breathe. Peace and love, my friends. May your drawer always hold enough spoons to get you through your day.

To learn more about Douglas Cornman and his programmatic work, please visit the Mission’s Island Outreach program.

Aboard the Sunbeam

Aboard the Sunbeam

Aboard the Sunbeam, Mission programs often take center stage. Yet crew members always have fascinating stories and interesting reflections to share. This month, we plumbed the minds of Captain Mike Johnson and Steward Jillian for some of their ruminations on life and work aboard our beloved Sunbeam.

From the pilothouse with Captain Mike Johnson

In extreme weather, the Sunbeam is occasionally asked to break sea ice in protected harbors. This can be as simple as helping a single lobster boat out of an icebound shipyard, or as major as freeing the Isle au Haut Thoroughfare to allow the ferry to continue her runs. The Maine Seacoast Mission has a long history of this service. Beginning with Sunbeam III in 1939, the design of the hull was adapted to include sheathing to protect the wooden hull from ice damage. The decision to switch to a steel hull on Sunbeam IV and V was undoubtably influenced by the need to operate in ice.

I came into my position on the Sunbeam as an experienced warmer weather captain, and I give full credit to former captain David Allen for teaching me the artistry of controlling a vessel in these conditions. First of all it is LOUD! – disconcertingly loud. Furthermore, the boat has limits with ice depth, and serious changes in maneuverability that are sometimes only apparent after the fact. Do I charge full steam ahead to punch through the eight inches, or do I subtly let the bow rise onto the ice sheet to allow the weight of the vessel to sink down? It is a nervous moment when I choose the latter and it takes thirty seconds for the bow to crunch down through. Drama aside, there is no threat to the safety of the boat or crew, only a loss of pride if we were to get stuck and eat Jillian’s cookies until the Coast Guard breaks us out!

Hopefully good weather is right around the corner and we can share these stories together on a nice summer trip to Frenchboro. 

From the galley with Jillian

Although familiar with cookie baking, I had little experience of being on water and using nautical terminology when I applied. I prepared for my job interview with Captain Mike by studying a simple illustration of a ship’s anatomy. Starting at the basics—port, starboard, bow, stern. I said these words along with a handful of others to myself while driving to the beloved Sunbeam for the first time. Bathrooms on a boat are called heads and a kitchen aboard is a galley, it was all new to me. And after eight years it is still new. It has been fun hearing and learning the language of mariners, the words and expressions said in proximity to water. 

For example, I just love the word fo’c’s’le. The fo’c’s’le on the Sunbeam is my pantry. It is forward of the galley beyond Sharon’s office. It has great shelving to keep groceries and cookware stable in rough seas. Fo’c’s’le, I’ve never known a word with three apostrophes before. Fo’c’s’le is even fun to say, the way it moves around the mouth. The apostrophes reflect sailors’ pronunciation of the word. It is short for forecastle and describes the structure at the front of a vessel, used as a shelter for stores or as quarters for sailors. 

The term dates back to the 1300s, when in the early days of ship warfare, ships were built with castles on the front and back. The forecastle and aftcastle initially would house archers protecting the ship. Although the use of the castles changed over time “castling” remained a significant feature on ships for hundreds of years. The Mayflower, a ship most of us can see in our mind’s eye is a good example of a historic ship with prominent castles.

Incidentally, although we still say fo’c’s’le, the term aftcastle has morphed simply to aft to describe the rear of the boat.

Want more about the Sunbeam and its crew? Explore the Sunbeam web page and learn more about our Island Health and Island Outreach programs.

Volunteers Prepare to Rehab Downeast Homes

Volunteers Prepare to Rehab Downeast Homes

Western Washington County is known for its rugged coastline, lobster boats, wild blueberry barrens, farms, and small-town living. As with any small town, Downeast communities have their share of older homes in need of repair. This summer, the Mission’s Housing Rehabilitation program returns to normal, full operations. 

It couldn’t be better timing for Downeast. Since 2003, the program has ensured youth, families, and seniors have warm, safe homes. Improvements vary from installing storm windows to rebuilding rooftops. However, the pandemic forced the program to make some modifications for 2020 and 2021. To protect volunteers and Downeast residents, the Mission supplied materials to locals who could manage their own home repairs. Despite the adaptation, the program maintained a high level of impact. In 2021, the Mission repaired 11 homes across 10 Washington County towns.

For 2022, the aim is to return to a higher number of repaired homes. Housing Rehabilitation Manager Scott Shaw said, “We’re thinking positive this year. We plan to will host volunteer groups on our Cherryfield campus as we did pre-pandemic.”

Housing Color photo of rehab program volunteers work on a red metal roof against a blue sky

Each year, more than 150 volunteers from Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine descend onto the Downeast campus in Cherryfield. Their mission? Rehabilitate and refurbish 14 to 20 homes. ” The whole summer is almost already booked with a dozen groups of volunteers. We’ll have another group of 100 people from Ohio alone,” Scott said. “A group that size takes over the town!”

The program will host some volunteers at Mission Downeast’s Weald Bethel Community Center, which itself was renovated, in part, to welcome such groups. Once Mission volunteers repair homes, owners are eligible for additional state and federal weatherization programs through our partnership with Downeast Community Partners and a Mission-based grant made by a generous foundation.

Homeowners wishing to participate in the program can still apply for housing repair until April 20, 2022. Paper applications are available at Maine Seacoast Mission Downeast in Cherryfield and in town offices from Jonesboro to Gouldsboro.

Improving Health with Technology

Improving Health with Technology

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.

Island Health Director Sharon Daley and two volunteers sit aboard a boat using smart phones

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.

The Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation logo in red with a circle around Farris and followed by Foundation

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.”

A volunteer sits in a building and goes through health paperwork

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.

To learn more about older islanders access to health services, visit Hannah Pingree’s 2016 documentary, Aging On An Island – Voices from North Haven, Maine. 

Thank you Thursday for YWCA MDI

Thank you Thursday for YWCA MDI

It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout out of Mission love goes to the YWCA of Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.

The YWCA MDI’s sweatshirt drive collected 90 pieces of clothing for the Golden Acres Homes, delivering the clothes to the Mission’s Downeast Campus. Mission Family and Community Resource Coordinator Stephanie Moores (shown in photo) sorted the items for distribution to the eight Hancock and Washington County homes.

According to its Facebook page, YWCA MDI, founded in 1904, is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting justice, freedom, and dignity for all. The organization offers safe, affordable accommodations to women and girls on Mount Desert Island. Women of all ages are welcome to participate in the programs.

Thank you, YWCA MDI. This is what community looks like.
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