The UMaine’s Center on Aging Celebrates AmeriCorps Week
The University of Maine’s Center on Aging Celebrates AmeriCorps Week
National service agency dedicates March 12-18 to recognize AmeriCorps members, alumni, and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers for uniting in service every year
Bangor, ME- The University of Maine’s Center on Aging’s Lifelong Maine AmeriCorps Program (LMAP) celebrates the valuable contributions of AmeriCorps members who pledged to “get things done” for our communities as part of the annual AmeriCorps Week. Lifelong Maine AmeriCorps members working in multiple locations across Maine, have undertaken community projects to improve the lives of older residents, helping them live independently, through meal programs, balance training, better living initiatives and more!
On the Blue Hill Peninsula, Pat Saunders and Sonya Bates have exemplified AmeriCorps values. Healthy Peninsula’s Walk-In Cafe opened on April 20, 2022, next to the accessible Murphy Trailhead in the center of Blue Hill. The Cafe was an idea conceived by Anna Wind the Healthy Eating Coordinator at Healthy Peninsula as a way for peninsula residents to meet with friends, share conversation and food, and do so in a Covid safe environment. The AmeriCorps members serving on the Blue Hill Peninsula made that idea reality and it has become a treasured gathering that many attendees say is the highlight of their week. As one guest remarked, “Everyone is so happy to see me.” The Café meets every Wednesday from 10:00 to 11:30 am. Attendees of the Café have come from the 9 towns of the Blue Hill Peninsula, Ellsworth, and Orland, Portland, and even Cranbrook, British Columbia. Fifteen volunteers have put in over 65 hours of service at the Café and it is sponsored by Healthy Peninsula (HP) in partnership with Friends in Action, the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill, and Blue Hill Heritage Trust. During their service, Pat and Sonya have implemented the Matter of Balance program offering training for coaches as well as community classes; assisted with the distribution of the USDA Supplemental Commodity Food Boxes; distributed free vegetables and books through the Magic Food Bus program; provided support for The Simmering Pot, a weekly in-person and home delivery community meal program; assisted in bringing SNAP benefits to the Blue Hill Farmers Market; and have supported Healthy Peninsula’s growing volunteer program through development efforts, support, and celebration of volunteers.
At the end of the Appalachian Trail, Millinocket, a former mill-town with a population just over 4,000, has LMAP members Sarah Jandreau and Barbara Riddle-Dvorak working on numerous regional efforts. Last year, they started a Learn & Grow Garden at the Millinocket Memorial Library where a raised bed model/teaching garden was designed to allow various community partners (Wabanaki Public Health, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Breaking the Cycle- a recovery home for women, and the children’s summer reading program at the library) to demonstrate successful gardening practices. One of their most ambitious projects- to combat local scarcity of fresh food options and to promote community connectedness among all ages- is a planned downtown Millinocket Farmers’ and Artisan Market, with an estimated start date of June 2023. Sarah is also an advocate for Brewer’s Eastern Area Agency on Aging virtual Caregiver Support group for those who care for dementia patients and a new group for cancer patients in partnership with the Dempsey Center of Lewiston and Millinocket’s own Katahdin Area Support group. Barbara’s community projects have included collecting items for a community 10-year time capsule and participating in the Maine Walking College’s 6-month study and community assessment. Through the walking college, a grant was received for adding new ADA icons to current signage on the downtown Michaud Tail.
Up in northern Washington County, the team of Mary MacDonald and Tara Mozdziez have served to assist the Danforth Livable Communities in establishing the first regional community center. Since 2022, the two have led fundraisers and Tara has written grants with site supervisor and Danforth Town Manager Ardis Brown, collectively totaling over $100,000 for center’s ADA and code renovations and programming designed to improve the lives of older residents. Recently, the Breaking Bread With Others Program launched with grant funding from the John T. Gorman Foundation. The program provides 3 breakfasts and one lunch per week at the center and, partnering with a local non-profit residential program, delivers the weekly meal to over 25 50+ aged households in this small, isolated community. The program not only provides food but for those enjoying the meal at the Danforth Livable Community Center, a way to interact with neighbors and learn about the center’s other programming which includes exercise and health activities, arts and crafts, The Clothes Closet (free clothing for those in need), a community resource navigator (Mary aids residents in locating and applying for public assistance programs), a volunteer driver’s program and this spring, the team will welcome a long-awaited raised bed garden to the center. The efforts of the 2 LMAP members have made a difference in this community, Brown says, “Without them, we would have never been able to achieve so much nor in such little time”.
In Chelsea, the AmeriCorps trio of Dot Grady, Wilma Ware and Patti Fredette have been exploring the ways to transform the undeveloped and underused resource of Butternut Park, located on the East bank of the Kennebec River into a community beacon. Collaborating with Age-Friendly Chelsea, the Chelsea Conservation Committee, and the Chelsea Historical Society, the three worked to enhance the park and make it a place for people of all ages to enjoy. In the past year they have built a “River Stage” using natural resources found in the park, reintroduced Butternut trees, created a walking trail, provided picnic tables, and installed signage describing the history of the Chelsea waterfront. Currently, the three are focusing on installing a trailhead kiosk, informational markers for native plants and trees and purchasing benches.
In Saco, AmeriCorps members are working with Age-Friendly Saco on many projects. Their volunteer drivers program started when the group recognized more and more older adults are giving up their keys. With an aging demographic, it was imperative to put in place support necessary to assist older adults to stay in their communities as they age. What the program answered was the need for accessible transportation options to get them to and from their daily activities or medical appointments safely. Since January 2022, Age-Friendly Saco has provided over 300 rides, traveled over 3,200 miles, and more than 1,000 hours have been spent on the roads by a dedicated crew of 10 volunteers.
More than 1.25 million Americans have served their country through AmeriCorps and millions more have served in AmeriCorps Seniors since 1994, leaving a lasting impact on generations of Americans. AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, provides opportunities for Americans to serve their country domestically, address the nation’s most pressing challenges, improve lives and communities, and strengthen civic engagement. Each year, the agency places more than 200,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers in intensive service roles; and empowers millions more to serve as long-term, short-term or one-time volunteers. AmeriCorps offers opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds to be a part of the national service community, grow personally and professionally, and receive benefits for their service. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.