June/July 2007

Volunteerism Awards Highlight Maine’s Community Spirit—

By Ramona du Houx

Volunteerism builds community. People visiting the state often remark about how wonderful Maine is in comparison to their home state in the amount of community activities that take place and the warm-hearted reception they receive in Maine. During the Patriot’s Day storm that devastated some coastal areas, people helped one another, putting themselves at risk, because they knew it was the right thing to do. Helping one another is a mainstay of the Maine way of life.

In April Governor John E. Baldacci recognized some of these hard working volunteers during the 2007 Governor’s Service Awards.

“My grandfather used to tell me, ‘Life is like a glass. What you put into it is going to be what you get out of it’,” said Governor Baldacci. “In front of me, I can see that these glasses are overflowing because of what you do on a regular basis. And for that the state is much better off. It’s wonderful to have the kinds of resources in people that we do in Maine. You make our state as great as it is.”

Devastated at the loss of one of her twin daughters in tragic drunk-driving accident, Jane Card decided to take positive action and she formed the Julie Foundation. This unique organization assists parents with the pressures of raising teenagers. The foundation publishes manuals and curricula on coping strategies, procedures, and sensible guidelines for parents. State and local agencies and professionals dealing with youth use the manuals and have strongly endorsed them. Jane Card of Cape Porpoise became the Volunteer of the Year.

“After the accident I went to support groups. Sharing experiences really is important and it got me thinking about the lack of materials that there are for parents of adolescents. Basically, I had so much energy bottled up in me I needed something to do,” said Card modestly about why she started her work that has helped thousands of families. As her foundation grew, more of her time was taken away from home, her husband hired people to help her.

Under her leadership the Julie Foundation has generated over $400,000 in grants and gifts plus $365,000 in in-kind services. “I’ve found a way to heal by helping others.”

Alice White of Baileyville became the Outstanding Public Sector Volunteer for her volunteer work at UMaine Cooperative Extension as a Senior Companion. At 85 many of her clients are older than she, but as she says, “This work keeps me young.”

When Deborah Davenport found herself in a position she never imagined being in, without enough funds for food, help from others got her through her difficulties. “Everyone was amazing and made me feel good again. The community in Naples really helped me when I moved there twenty years ago. So, when I had time, eleven years ago, I decided to give back to the community that was there for me, and I started volunteering.”

The Bridgton Food Pantry that Davenport organizes helps over ninety families. Working with the Salvation Army and others, Davenport puts an extra effort out during the holidays to ensure children and families get gifts, a traditional dinner and items of need. Davenport was named as the Outstanding Public Sector Volunteer.

At a separate afternoon ceremony at the Maine State Museum, more than 350 recipients of the Roll of Honor were recognized by the governor for contributing 500 or more hours of documented service to their communities during the course of 12 months.

“We have volunteers that could be working with anyone; mentors working with children, individuals for special events, and all of them are very devoted people. In fact there were fifteen here today that were here being honored for volunteering over 500 hours,” said Linda Danielson of Brunswick, who was specially honored by being awarded the Governor’s Excellence in Volunteer Administration.

Danielson is the volunteer manager of Sweetser whose mission is to provide quality treatment, support and hope, to children, adults and families through a network of mental health, behavioral health and educational services. Danielson assists in coordinating over 800 volunteers contributing approximately 40,000 volunteer hours a year.

“I really value what the volunteers do, they don’t ask for anything in return,” said Danielson. “Maine is so fortunate to have so many organizations that benefit from so many volunteers. It’s a tribute to Maine and the people who live here. It’s an old fashioned neighbor helping neighbor thing that is still going strong in Maine.”

The Corporate Volunteerism Award went to Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor.

In addition to the five award winners, the governor also awarded four Exemplary Service Awards to nominees who did not receive an award in the category in which they were nominated, but whose service deserved to be highlighted. Those recipients include: Cheryl Rust of Wiscasset, Dr. R. Stephen Drane of Auburn, Rolf Staples of Bangor, and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“You are the gold standard of workers in Maine. What you do reflects what takes place in the state, we’re all very fortunate,” said the governor. “You greatly enhance the reputation of Maine.”

The Governor’s Physical Activity Awards Highlight Ways to Make Mainers Healthier —

Over 60 percent of Maine’s adults are overweight or obese, which reflects the national average. What’s worse is that in a report last year from the Trust for America’s Health, Maine ranked fifth highest for levels of low-income overweight children from ages two to five, and tenth highest for the rate of overweight high school students. The good news is the awareness of the problem has grown and more people have become motivated to turn it around.

Realizing the health-care crisis, the governor started Dirigo Health with the mission to make the state the healthiest in the nation. Part of the way of achieving that goal is to ensure that every Mainer has health-care coverage, which the administration continues to work on. Promoting healthy lifestyles and physical fitness are major tenets of Dirigo Health, which the governor advocates as well as practices. Baldacci jogs regularly and runs in the 10K Portland Trails race, inspired, he commented, by former Olympic Champion, Joan Benoit Samuelson.


Former Olympic Champion, Joan Benoit Samuelson talks about the importance of good physical fitness at the Governor’s Physical Fitness Awards. Photo Ramona du Houx

“Encouraging people all across the state to get fit is a passion of mine,” said Benoit Samuelson, who co-chairs the governor’s council on physical activity.

During the council’s 2007 Contest for Communities awards, the governor with Benoit Samuelson recognized schools, businesses, and nonprofits in eight counties for their contribution to increasing physical activity among Maine’s children and adults.

“Good health affects everything we do,” said Governor Baldacci. “Kids who are healthy perform better in school and are better prepared for successful careers; workers who are healthy are more productive, and we all are able to more fully enjoy time with family and friends when we are healthy.”

“Kids have more energy and stay focused longer after a workout,” said Michelle Duprey, winner of the Youth-School Category from the Hartland Consolidated School. Every child in the school must devote ten to twenty minutes during the school day, in addition to recess and physical education class, working out in some supervised way. “They have fun jogging in place, and love dancing to the YMCA song. Once a week the entire school and staff walk around the school for ten minutes, getting fit brings us together.”.

In the Fit for Kids Program in Boothby, Dr. Steven Feder of Miles Medical Group Pediatrics, working with leaders in his community won a Community Access to Child Health Implementation Funds grant to get the program started.

“I love working with kids. I wanted to do more than treat them after they are suffering from preventable illnesses,” said Feder. “Seeing obese children really gets to me, and I had to find a way, working with the community, to try and help.” The project enhances pediatric health by reducing incidence of obesity, establishes an after-school health program, and encourages healthy lifestyles including physical activities provided in a supportive environment, like the Boothby YMCA.

“We needed to engage the Latin community and had three goals: to find ways to help relieve stress minorities feel, improve nutrition, and fitness,” said Kolawaole Bankole, MD, MS, who is an immigrant from Nigeria and a dedicated public servant for the city of Portland. Minorities in Portland tend not to get out and exercise and do not see physicians on a regular basis. “Talking to community members, we realized soccer was the sport that would bring them together. It’s like baseball is here; Latinos love soccer, I love soccer,” said Bankole. The Latino Soccer tournament began in 2004 with the City of Portland’s HIV/AIDS Prevention program as a way to improve Latino health while promoting HIV/AIDS prevention. The tournament has turned into yearlong gatherings to practice the sport. “Once we had a game the same time as church mass; I’m still doing penance,” joked Bankole. “Seriously, we’ve found it’s a great way to help Latinos integrate with the community while becoming physically fit.”

“These women really impress me,” said Benoit Samuelson, referring to the Somerset Sports and Fitness — Fit for Life program. “They are getting up and exercising three times a week as a team. It’s so inspiring and something every community around the state could do. Just an hour out of your day makes a world of a difference. Just imagine if every community in Maine started a program like this. Today the winners are everyone in the state who embrace some of these programs for themselves or their communities.”

Fit for Life exercises reduce cardiovascular disease, aid in bone strength, and increase balance, strength and stability. The activity is televised on local public TV, inviting area residence to participate at home.

“We owe it all to killer Kelly,” said one member, fondly referring to Kelly Coughlin, manager of Operations at Somerset Sports and Fitness. “She keeps us going for one hour straight, with no breaks. She’s such a great motivator.”

“This year we designed a rewards-based challenge that encourages employees to exercise and practice healthy lifestyle habits as they work in teams composed of members from all three areas of the company,” said Dee Roberts of Tom’s of Maine, the winner of the medium business category Healthy Workplace. “It’s been a great way to build community spirit.”

The University of Maine and the Campus Recreation Department received a Lifetime Achievement Category for their twenty miles of forest trails which are some of the finest outdoor recreational trails in the state, used by students and the residents of the Bangor area. “We’re pleased to be able to share our amenities with the community,” said Thad Dwyer of UMO.

Overall this year there were forty-one contestants.

“The awareness and participation have grown,” said Dean Patterson, head of HealthCare Solutions and has worked on the Physical Fitness Council. “It makes a difference how much emphasis a governor puts into it. With Governor King we focused on getting businesses to compete. This governor is very active in promoting physical fitness for the entire state, in every community, it’s wonderful.”

“Whether you’re adding physical activity time during the school day, scheduling a walking series in one of our state’s natural gems, or providing access to a safe, effective and fun workout routine for your community, you’re all contributing to the greater goal of making this a healthier state,” said Baldacci to the award winners. “If each and every one of us spreads the word and enthusiasm about the responsibility for our own health, we will have taken an important step toward making our entire state healthier.”