The 2022 Island ElderCare Conference

The 2022 Island ElderCare Conference

Mission Island Health personnel, island ElderCare workers, and guests at a previous Mission Island ElderCare Conference.

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.” 

Stay tuned for details. Meanwhile, learn more about the Mission’s Island Health work.

Sunbeam delivers Wednesday Spinners to Matinicus

Sunbeam delivers Wednesday Spinners to Matinicus

The Sunbeam delivered the Wednesday Spinners to Matinicus where they were greeted by residents at the Matinicus Island School.
(Wednesday Spinners members with Matinicus Island residents at the Matinicus Island School. (Photo courtesy Susan Merrill.)

NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – On November 10, the Wednesday Spinners traveled aboard the Sunbeam to share their passion for spinning with an island community. It was their second island trip in three years. For almost a half-century, the Spinners use old-fashioned wooden spinning wheels, to turn the woolly covering of sheep—called fleece—into yarn.

Some group members gift or sell their handspun yarn. Others make clothing to sell. But the six Spinners who joined with the Sunbeam gave residents of Matinicus an opportunity to observe spinning and to interact with the group. Set up at Matinicus Island School, original member Cynthia Thayer recalled, “We taught and later enjoyed an evening with people who came with their knitting. They talked about the island and told us stories. A couple of people came with their wheels and we helped to get those operational.”

A Wednesday Spinner stands on the shore with the Sunbeam behind her.

The next day—a holiday—children visited and were introduced to the craft. “We get together because we love spinning. If we find people who are really interested in it, we share it,” Cynthia continued. The trip was planned by Island Outreach Director, Douglas Cornman, MA, BC-DMT. He and the Sunbeam crew brought the Spinners to Isle Au Haut in 2019. He shared, “They spin and weave magic. They are kind, they are wise, they are generous. They are grateful. People gravitate to them and enjoy watching what they do, even if they have no particular interest in spinning, weaving, or knitting. There’s something intriguing and entrancing about

their work. It was wonderful to see islanders get excited about a craft that they may not typically engage with or be aware of. It was a positive experience all around and that is why the Mission puts so much effort into these outreach trips.”

For the Matinicus visit, the Spinners were once again excited to see life on an island, talk to people, and witness the day-to-day. “It’s very special to see the Mission’s guests get as much out of the trip as the islanders. I sat there and felt the energy generated in the room between island residents and the Spinners. It is hard to articulate how powerful that energy is, and it is that energy that helps me realize—that reminds me—that there is something in this universe beyond ourselves. I think the islanders felt it.”

Following the Sunbeam's arrival, 3 Matinicus children and a black labrador stand on the dock.

During the trip, a Spinner said Wednesday  is their spiritual home. It is a time they come together as a community. One particular Matinicus student, age 9,  became captivated by their craft. He parted his own wool and the Spinners helped him spin it into yarn. In less than 24 hours, he had turned raw wool into yarn. “You could see him indulge in the process,” remarked Douglas.

“The Sunbeam crew was just fantastic,” said Cynthia, “Of course Jillian is amazing with the food she puts out. She’s always so cheery and happy. The whole experience was extremely positive. I hope we’ll go out again soon.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, Covid-19 precautions moved the Wednesday Spinners away from their regular mid-week meetings in each other’s homes. “These days,” explains Cynthia, “we’re spinning down at Hammond Hall in Winter Harbor. It’s a big hall and we can spread out.” The group’s sessions have a specific purpose. “What we don’t do is have people come to our group, so they can learn how to spin. We’re there to spin our own work. Many of us teach for pay. Once a person knows how to spin, we see if we have room in the group and ask them to come,” she said.

Visit the Wednesday Spinners, their work, or to get in touch about a lesson via their Facebook page. Want to learn more about Island Outreach? Explore the News or visit the program.

Island Covid Booster Shots Follow Flu Shots

Island Covid Booster Shots Follow Flu Shots

L-R: Director of Island Outreach Douglas Cornman, Director of Island Health Services Sharon Daley, RN, Nurse Peggy Akers, and Assistant to the Island Health Services Director Margaret Snell enroute aboard a mail boat to give Covid booster shots on Maine islands.

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.

WPost Cites Mission in Telehealth Report

WPost Cites Mission in Telehealth Report

Sharon Daley, director of Maine Seacoast Mission’s Island Health Services, walks toward the Sunbeam, the Maine Seacoast Mission’s service boat, in Northeast Harbor, Maine, in August. (Ellie Markovitch/for The Washington Post)
Patients and doctors who embraced telehealth during the pandemic fear it will become harder to access

By Frances Stead SellersSeptember 10, 2021 at 11:53 p.m. EDT

The most remote island communities have long relied on the nonprofit Maine Seacoast Mission to show up in its 75-foot steel-hulled floating clinic, the Sunbeam V.

The mission’s nurse, Sharon Daley, coordinates with mainland doctors, sometimes consulting with out-of-state specialists like vascular neurologist Anand Viswanathan of Massachusetts General Hospital, who accompanied her on a recent trip to meet patients he usually sees online.

Daley’s experience with everything from unreliable Internet access to physicians’ state-based licensing arrangements is central to a today’s debates in Washington. But day-to-day, her focus is less on policy than on integrating the tools of technology with the traditions of good care — a challenge that all practitioners face as they adapt to telehealth.

Full report

Walgreens Presents – In Our Words

Walgreens Presents – In Our Words

NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – We invite you to watch this video portrait of the Mission medical team’s Covid vaccination work on remote Maine islands earlier this year. This video is part of a Walgreens public service announcement series depicting Covid-19 responses in different parts of the nation.

This story features Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN – who co-led the Mission’s Covid-19 medical response team, with Douglas Cornman, Island Outreach Director and Chaplain – and supporting nurse, Maureen Griffin.

Profoundness of Sunbeam Funerals

Profoundness of Sunbeam Funerals

Mission Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain Douglas Cornman.

In 2016, when I was first introduced to the Sunbeam, Island Outreach Director and Chaplain Douglas Cornman, the only crew member aboard, gave me a tour of the boat. I remember walking from the wheelhouse onto the top deck. Douglas explained to me that the two white cylindrical hard-shell cases affixed to the roof held life rafts. If the cases ever hit the water, Douglas said, they open, and the rafts inflate, automatically.
Also affixed to the deck, near the cases, were stainless steel tie downs. Those, Douglas said, secured coffins when the
Sunbeam traveled to or from funerals.
Funerals? Yes, funerals are an unsung service provided by the
Sunbeam crew for islanders. Here, for the first time, Douglas Cornman, the Sunbeam crew member who officiates funerals, talks about what he says is “one of the most profound aspects of my work.”


NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME – I have officiated over 11 funerals on the Sunbeam or on island since I started with the Mission in 2014. Now, these are only the funerals for which I’ve officiated the service. The boat has participated in other funerals since I joined the crew.
Who is eligible for a Sunbeam funeral? Islanders are eligible. There are no hard rules around this. The funerals I’ve officiated, or the Sunbeam has participated in, in some capacity have been for islanders from islands frequently visited by the Sunbeam.
The majority of funerals I’ve officiated have been on Matinicus where the Sunbeam plays a significant role in the life of the island. Matinicus doesn’t have a minister living on the island. It’s also a challenging island to get to because of it’s distance from the main land. I’m the island’s chaplain which is why most of my work officiating funerals is on this island.
In 2014-15, when I was still an interim Mission employee, Mission President Rev. Scott Planting asked me to do a fairly comprehensive assessment with islanders regarding what kind of Sunbeam crew member was needed to succeed Rob Benson, who had moved to the Bar Harbor Congregational Church as their minister.
I learned islanders want to know who’s going to marry them, and who’s going to bury them.
So I’m asked to officiate funerals for families where the Sunbeam or her crew, including the chaplain, has played a significant role in the families’ life. The islands that ask me or the Sunbeam to be involved typically do not have a year ‘round clergy presence.
The islands we serve all have active cemeteries, really sacred spaces on islands. No one desecrates an island cemetery.
There are people on Matinicus who, every summer, go to the cemetery and clean the grave markers so the lichen doesn’t cover up the names and destroy the markers. People really respect these places. They’re extremely important.
With a burial on land there’s a permanence because, whether it’s a full body burial, or a cremation; an urn with cremated remains, you know the essence of that person is permanently placed there. And a marker will always remind people that the person is there.
I’ve only dispersed ashes during burials at sea, never a body. I watch the ashes disperse. I watch them touch the water and the waves just carry them out into the sea where even the remains of the ashes, the shape they create, disappears, and once again becomes clear water. It’s as if the spirit of the person is truly released into the water, rejoining the universe. Because you just watch the ashes fade into the water and become part of the sea.
The Sunbeam crew gets involved in all kinds of ways. The boat can get involved in helping people grieve and transition when a family member has passed.
I think we all need to grieve in our own ways. But grieving doesn’t necessarily equate to sadness. People assume they should feel sad when a loved one dies. But I don’t know that sadness is the emotion that’s always felt.
Grief, if grief is an emotion, I think grief is the emotion that’s felt. I’ve been a part of funerals where there has just been so much laughter and joy. And that’s the emotion that is expressed through the grieving process.
Something that surprised me. I officiate over weddings and funerals. When I started this work, I thought I would find weddings to be more profound than funerals, but it’s the other way around.
I find officiating a funeral or a celebration of life really to be one of the most profound aspects of my work. I really get to know families. I listen to their stories, their grief, their memories. Then we come together. The time we take is really powerful. There’s something really special about walking alongside a family honoring the death of a loved one.
Even if I don’t intimately know the person who’s died, I find myself joining in the family’s grief. I think it’s the depth of emotion that families share with me that’s really profound. It’s a gift and I feel fortunate to receive it.

Learn more about the Sunbeam crew’s work.