Serving the Maine Communities of Franklin County, Livermore & Livermore Falls

Stories & Testimonials

 

Clearwater Food Pantry

"Assuming confidentiality, I could tell a story about a former Sunday school student of mine, who after two deployments to Iraq is serving a long sentence in Maine State Prison. My wife and I maintain contact with him by mail and much of his writing is about his concern for his mother. Some of this story is based on assumptions but it is essentially factual. The mother is a widow in her late seventies who lives alone and to the best of my knowledge doesn’t drive. Her son and others have contacted me to get food delivered to her home but the women at the food pantry don’t like to do it because of her coarse manners and foul language. Recently her son asked us to help or get someone to help her get her fire wood in. We have helped in the past but really didn’t have time to help this year. When we made inquiries about the wood we found out that someone from the food pantry had found out about the wood when delivering food and arranged for an out of state work group to help and the wood was in. 

"I don’t think this situation is unique as I watch people in this county as they care for one another and I believe it speaks to the importance of the many connections between those of us who serve."

"The Clearwater Food Bank has made a tremendous difference in my life. My husband and I went together. We met friendly and respectful staff. We continued going together until he became terminally ill. The food bank asked me to help them, which allowed me to get away and help others. The staff became "family" and gave me emotional support when I needed it. My husband died in March and I still volunteer with my 'family'." 

Community Dental 

Oral health, once considered a minor subset of health care disciplines, is now acknowledged as being fully integrated into a person’s comprehensive overall health matrix. Within the past year the Center experienced an event with a patient that brought this concept to a reality.

A woman living in the local area, age approximately 30, went to the Franklin Memorial Hospital Emergency Department with severe pain from mouth and throat infection. She was given pain medication and antibiotics, however her throat was so swollen she was unable to swallow the antibiotics. She returned to the ED and was referred next door to our Farmington Center.

On arrival she was seated as a walk-in emergency patient. By that time she had difficulty speaking, was in tears and stating she was afraid for her life. Dr. Cook examined her briefly and diagnosed a severely infected tooth, and upon observing the condition of her mouth, throat and severely swollen neck, asked members of our staff to escort her back to the hospital and not leave until she was admitted. The patient was placed on IV antibiotics and transported by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland. There she was attended to by an Oral Surgeon and Ears, Nose & Throat Specialist.

Dr. Cook DMD received a call from one of the attending Maine Med physicians to report that the actions taken by her and our staff in all likelihood saved this young woman’s life. The staff received a heartfelt letter from the patient’s Mother which is posted in the staff room. “Our entire family thanks you, the Doctor and staff, for all your help. Thank you so much for helping my daughter! You are my Hero, and her Angel!!”

The Dental Center Supervisor and staff have additionally provided the following experiences from patients who have been enrolled in the United Way funded program:

A very nice young man had been diagnosed with cancer. Before starting treatment, it was necessary to assure that his oral health was stable and no disease present. This is standard practice before beginning chemo or radiation therapy. He had not been working due to his illness and had very little money. He gave the Center what he could to pay for fillings and extractions, the staff made sure he was seen as quickly as possible and what he could not pay for was covered by the Patient Assistance Fund.

An older man who was in the middle of a big treatment plan due to periodontal disease, was laid off from his job earlier this year and lost his dental insurance. He was able to sign up for C-Scale pricing to complete his treatment.

A 73 year old woman was recently widowed and her income was drastically reduced. She was in pain due to several teeth that were so infected they were not able to be saved. Between reduced pricing on the C-Scale and the PA Fund the extractions were completed and she is now pain free and eating healthy meals.

Farmington Area Ecumenical Ministry -ECU HEAT

Nobody likes to be cold. But, all around our county are homes in which the next fuel delivery must wait for a Social Security check to arrive; in those homes people have only the oven to keep them warm. People who have not experienced such deprivation may not understand why this happens. For most neighbors living on fixed incomes, there is barely enough money in any given month to cover the rent and utilities, food and medicine – never mind heat! I sometimes get asked why people need help buying fuel in November, when “the price is so low and it isn’t that cold yet?” If the oil tank has been empty since May and there hasn’t even been any hot water, then waiting for the LIHEAP benefit to arrive in December is not going to work … especially if you are old, or disabled, or have a baby in the house. In order to call the oil company and ask for a delivery, the customer must be able to pay cash for 100 gallons. ECU HEAT meets those in need halfway by sharing in the cost of a 50-gallon delivery. For neighbors with limited resources, that 50-gallon delivery can be a real blessing...and a reminder that their community cares.

A father with three small children writes, “I lost my job a few weeks ago and we had nothing in savings to help us. Both my wife and I have been looking everywhere for a job but cannot find anything. What we really need right now is for our children to be warm and we have no money to purchase any oil. This program was like a miracle to us and we hope someday to be able to repay this. It is such a relief to know the children will be warm tonight. Thank you.”

A young single man writes, “Things were not too bad when I had a roommate to share expenses with, but he has moved out without notice and I just can’t make it by myself. I am working, but all I could find is a part-time job and my rent is pretty high, plus I have to buy my own fuel. I sometimes have to decide if I need to eat or to be warm. My family helps when they can, but they are struggling too. I am so grateful that this fund is available to help me. Without it, I don’t know what I would have done.”

A middle-aged, single, working woman writes, “This fund takes the scare away from winter. There is only one income in my home and it is very difficult to meet all the needs. Winter is the scariest time for me. I keep checking the fuel gauge. I wonder how cold it is going to be tonight and how long the oil in my tank will last. I make just a little too much to qualify for federal programs. This fund takes care of those of us who fall through the cracks.”

An older disabled gentleman writes, “This oil delivery means everything to me. It is the difference between freezing and being warm. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

These testimonies come from those helped by ECU HEAT prior to the “50 for $50” program. As you can see, the program helps people at all stages of life. Once the “50 for $50” program began, we learned that many people who could certainly have benefited from an ECU HEAT delivery, had simply not been willing to accept one. Why? Because they believed it was a “handout” and they were too proud to need one. They would suffer through the cold before accepting a handout. WMCA sold the new program to many seniors in Franklin County by explaining that they could now pay $50 for the fuel that would be delivered. She handed out applications, when meeting with proud Mainers to take their HEAP applications. She explained that when it was time to turn on the heat in the fall, their HEAP benefit would not be available yet. ECU HEAT would gladly send a 50-gallon delivery, if they wanted to fill in the application and pay a $50 share toward the cost. Being able to pay for the oil made all the difference for people struggling financially, but still proud of their independence. More and more take part every year. Many who receive HEAP benefits also apply for “50 for $50,” because they need a fuel delivery to make it through October and November.

One of my favorite stories is from an elderly lady who made out her “50 for $50” application early and paid her $50 share. WMCA had already processed her application and sent it on to the fuel vendor to plan a delivery. She knew the truck would be coming on November 7, but she also knew the needle on her outdoor oil tank was already in the red. By November 6, it was clearly in the danger zone. She fully expected the oil to run out overnight, but November 7 dawned and there was still heat, miraculously. She turned the thermostat down and lit her oven instead. While baking to keep warm, the fuel delivery truck arrived with her promised 50 gallons…just in time! The furnace did not need to be restarted, and the 50 gallons kept her warm until her HEAP benefit arrived in December.

Franklin County Children’s Task Force

“I would recommend this class due to the amount of info given in detail in each lesson. I’ve learned so much doing these classes I feel more knowledgeable and confident." -Matt G., Farmington

“I will remember this class because of the information I learned on how to take care of a child and learned not what to do to a child."
-Michaela St. Jean, Farmington

“I loved this class, the people that attended were very supportive. Stacie was a great teacher and supporter. I learned a lot and improved on a lot that I already knew." -Alyssa Giberson, Rumford

“I learned a lot from this class that I already knew but learned so much more- I loved this class. I would definitely take it again and recommend this to others." 
-Stacia, Farmington

“It was nice to hear a little bit about everyone’s troubles with kids. I’m not the only one.” -Anonymous Class Participant, Wilton (Dad)

“I would attend another workshop because I’m learning how to control not only myself but my child as well.” -Anonymous Class Participant, Farmington (Mom)

“One thing I liked about today’s class was that it got me to break out of my anxiety and do a group activity. I was scared but it felt good to be a part of the group. I love the people here.” -Anonymous Class Participant, Strong (Mom)

“I learned that spanking can leave more than just marks and cause separation between the parent and child.” -Anonymous Class Participant, Farmington (Dad)

“The program is very user-friendly and straightforward. The counting and timer have been the best tools for me and my son.” -Anonymous Class Participant, Livermore Falls (Mom)

"Having a difficult story to tell is hard. When I went to the Children's Task Force for help I wasn't expecting for them to walk me through the experience of protecting my son from his father, not only did they connect me with victims services, they taught me that I am capable of parenting when he told me I wasn't. They worked with me and my son to get us into college, get good daycare and be able to be safe by making sure my son's father couldn't flee with him again. My nightmare is almost over and it's all because of them." -Mother of 2 year old, Domestic Violence survivor

"Last year my husband went to prison after my daughter told me she had been touched inappropriately. The hell we went through was unbearable. I found my whole world turned upside down. I was forced to move into a subsidized apartment with 5 children, receive support from the state which I had never done and pick up the pieces of my and my children's lives. The Children's Task Force helped me by making sure I had the food I needed when things were rough. They provide help and support to my children after school and their sexual abuse prevention program is helping mine and others children to understand how to keep themselves safe." -Mom of 5

Healthy Community Coalition

Mobile Health Unit staff encouraged follow up visits for individuals who utilized the MHU. Recurring visits allow staff to provide ongoing health coaching for individuals in goal setting and achieving goals. A gentleman from northern Franklin County presented in early June and received a health risk assessment including blood pressure, cholesterol screening and body composition analysis. His body composition showed an excess of body fat compared to lean mass, was considered obese using BMI guidelines and had an unhealthy cholesterol level. He acknowledged a poor diet that consisted mostly of processed low-nutritional food. He expressed concern about his health status and shared with staff that he wanted to make changes to improve his health. Staff spent time discussing low-cost healthy nutrition choices with him, let him set a small goal, and arranged for him to return to the next MHU visit in the northern part of the county. He presented on the MHU whenever it was in the Phillips/Rangeley/Eustis area. Over the course of the summer, using small achievable goals and ongoing health coaching he was able to meet goals, began establishing healthier eating habits and choices and reduced his cholesterol level to a healthier level.

The trend on the Mobile Health Unit is that staff are finding a lot of individuals who are seeking care have hypertension that is untreated, undertreated, and/or undiagnosed. These individuals are educated about the seriousness of hypertension and strongly encouraged to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Depending on the preference of the client these individuals are assisted with accessing medical care either by staff calling the medical care provider directly and scheduling an appointment of by staff giving names and phone numbers of providers and information about financial assistance.

One specific example of this is an elderly gentleman who was seen in Eustis who had very high blood pressure and was out of medication. He received counseling regarding ways to lower his blood pressure including the need to call his primary care doctor immediately for medication which he did. His doctor refilled his prescription and this individual followed up with his provider through appointments and the blood pressure issue was resolved.

This individual later followed up with staff to thank them for the care he received and informed staff that because of his isolation and lack of transportation he had not scheduled an appointment with his provider. He said he was very grateful for HCC staff’s counseling and assistance as he didn’t think he would have followed through with his medical care without their help.

LEAP

It is hard to pick a favorite adventure because of the combination of United Ways generous grant and the Franchetti recreation fund; we have had a lot of fun this year! D.R.E.A.M has been to the Sea Dogs game in Portland, Fun town U.S.A., Reeds State Park and many other places. We spent a perfect summer day at Dew Animal Kingdom. Great weather and a fun group of people helped to make for a wonderful day. Everyone had their favorite animal that they wanted to see, and no one was disappointed. There were lions and tigers and bears, “oh my,” plus many others. The owner gave us a guided tour of the park. He had a lot of interesting information and answered our many questions. He also provided an up close and personal encounter with the camel to the delight of all. There was a chance to feed some of the friendlier animals. Everyone enjoyed the show that the monkeys provided. After a fun and informative day with our furry friends we enjoyed a picnic in the park and headed home. Everyone wants to do this trip again next year! With your kind support I hope to be able to provide lots of fun and adventure next year to a very special and deserving group of people. We all want to thank the United Way for the amazing times you made possible for us this past year!!

I talk with providers all the time about the impacts of the DREAM Program, and making sure that we are keeping the activities engaging enough for the individuals and also to check in with them to see if the program is meeting their needs. One mother of an adult male, who takes care of her son in shared living, shared with me the difficulty that she experiences getting someone to provide a respite day for her, so she can take care of simple things on her "to do list." She said this, "being a shared living provider can be lonely and the responsibility is unending. I love my son and will do anything for him but when you are the only one, there isn't much time to take care of things or yourself. Last week, while my son was at DREAM, I was able to catch up on 2 chores that had been on my mind for weeks, and then I sat and read a book for the first time in 3 months. I know it sounds silly but I was free to take care of myself for a little while, and that felt good." During this conversation, she also said, "I also really like that he is going out and doing things that I don't have the energy to do. He is spending time with people other then me, and having fun. He always comes back with a story to tell and it shows me that he feels safe, and reassures me that he is with good people." For this person, having the peace of mind that he is with someone that understands him and can communicate with him (because he has limited verbal skills) is just as important as the break that she gets.

Literacy Volunteers

One of our students who is a female in her fifties runs a small farm in our area. She has been a student with Literacy Volunteers for five years. This year she has made some large gains in her reading skills. She has come up two grade levels this year alone. She attributes her success to getting the right tutor. Her current tutor is a retired school teacher. She broke the larger words into smaller parts and showed her how root words work along with prefixes and suffixes. Her tutor will listen to her read aloud and if she gets stuck the tutor reads back the part of the sentence. They discuss the meaning and then she re-reads aloud the sentence to her tutor. This is helpful because she is then able to understand the material. If she doesn’t get a vocabulary word, they work on it separately using it in different sentences and sounding it out. She then practices these words during the week. There have been several immediate benefits to her increased abilities in reading. She says "I can now read the directions in the cook book and am really enjoying being able to try out new recipes. I also can read the road signs so there is much less chance of getting lost while driving. Of course it is also great to be able to read signs in stores, shopping is made so much easier." She has also been able to approach other agencies for help with her farm which she was too intimidated to do previously.

Nina is a business owner who has been learning English with her tutor for 1.5 years. Nina has increased her ability to communicate with her customers. Now, she can understand what her customers want. Her accent is prominent, but she can be understood, if she slows herself down and sometimes repeats it. How wonderful to see how much progress she has made from her shyly spoken words and short phrases to proud, beaming sentences !! Nina feels like she has gained a lot of confidence and that helps her take risks with speaking in English. She says the more she speaks, the more she learns, and the better people understand her. She showed me her homework-beautifully written (both in script, and in style), poetic paragraphs; self originated. She set two new goals: 1. Be able to communicate with her son's doctor about his health needs. 2. attending parent teacher conferences, which is something only her husband (fluent in English) now does. Nina smiled radiantly and spoke of how her 8 year old son corrects her English. He, of course, is fluent because he is going to school. Nina's tutor spoke of how much she enjoys the mutual learning relationship and is learning about a very different culture.

Rural Community Action Ministry 

 A senior citizen who has never asked for anything in his life found himself in need. Each year, for decades, he cut and stacked his own wood. This year, due to some physical limitations, he was unable to do it. After a neighbor (also a senior) encouraged him to call RCAM, he finally did. It was difficult for him to ask. RCAM was able to send out some volunteers who cut and stacked his wood. He says he will be "forever grateful".

Two families in our service area were burned out of their homes this past summer. One was a man with a 5 year old son. Dad called RCAM to request assistance with getting the electricity connected to his utility pole so that he could get his camper set up with power. The other was a woman with a pre-teen son and a teenage daughter. They were renting a home. RCAM, along with the Red Cross, provided funds for several nights in a motel. RCAM also worked with her town office to find landlords in the area and, as a result, she was able to move her family into a new home within a week of the fire.

Safe Voices

This past year our advocate worked with an elderly woman named Nancy. Nancy had been married for 52 years and her husband had been verbally abusive during the entire marriage. About 10 years ago he started becoming physically abusive and extremely threatening towards her. On two occasions he held a loaded shotgun to her head and threatened to kill her. As his behaviors began to escalate and become erratic and unpredictable, Nancy lived in constant fear for her life. As a homebound senior in a rural part of Northern Franklin County she was very isolated and dependent on him. When the Franklin County advocate began to work with her Nancy struggled with the idea of leaving her husband and felt that after 52 years of marriage she could not leave him. The advocate helped her to understand the cycle of domestic violence and slowly she became empowered and ultimately chose to leave the relationship. The advocate helped her file for a protection from abuse order and assisted her in entering the Safe Voices shelter. Nancy stayed in the shelter for over a month before transitioning out into independent, long- term safe housing. She has continued to work with our transitional services/elder abuse specialist advocate on rebuilding her life.

In June of 2016, Sally reached out to Safe Voices because she had been in a very physically and verbally abusive relationship for about 15 years and at that time she had a temporary protection order against her abuser. Sally and the advocate met to discuss her relationship and to explain the PFA process and how to prepare for the hearing. At that time Sally and her 3 children had fled their home and were living in a camper at a camping ground in Farmington. During conversations with the advocate, Sally disclosed having been strangled by her partner to the point of unconsciousness as well as being threatened by him with a firearm. As a result of these high risk factors, we conducted a High-Risk Response Team Meeting with Safe Voices staff and local law enforcement and we were able to create a safety plan for Sally while she and her children were living in a vulnerable housing situation. Through working with the Franklin County Safe Voices advocate, Sally was able to access our food pantry, connect with a home visitor from the Franklin County Children’s Task Force, receive backpacks for her kids to go back to school from the United Way’s Packs for Progress program, find safe and confidential housing, and obtain a permanent protection order. The family continues to flourish in a new school system, through accessing community support services, and are still in contact with the Franklin County Safe Voices advocate.

SeniorsPlus

Several years ago, Tina was in an accident that resulted in a head injury. Recently, she had a knee replaced. Coupled with gout, she has poor walking ability and relies on a walker. She has a hard time getting to and from places because she cannot walk around well. Her grandson helps her when he can. Tina has been a Meals on Wheels (MOW) consumer since 2011. She resides in the Tri-Valley in a small house, which she rarely leaves. Most of the time she sits in the same chair all day and looks forward to her MOW delivery – both the meals and the visit by her MOW delivery driver. She doesn't do any cooking, as her balance is bad and she fears falling. She also cannot get into the kitchen well and cannot stand and manage things with her hands. She is having problems with her hearing and vision as well as gout and chronic pain. She said she sometimes gets depressed over her declining health. At the suggestion of her MOW delivery driver, Tina applied for an eligibility assessment for services at home. As a result, she now has a person for two-hours twice a week to help with personal care and some simple cleaning. She also expressed guilt over putting her husband in the nursing home, because she no longer could care for him. She wasn’t able to visit him often, because she didn’t drive and was unable to get out alone. SeniorsPlus provided her with the number to Community Concepts for transportation and Catholic Charities for in home services or errands to see if they could help in any way.

Paul and his wife Maria live alone in a small, crowded house. Maria is confined to a wheelchair and has difficulty getting around. Due to a stroke, she is weak and also suffers from memory loss. Paul has high blood pressure, is a diabetic and has paralysis on one arm due to polio. Paul is able to do things around the house, but has a hard time using only one hand. He does drive, occasionally, to take them to doctor appointments. He also takes care of all the groceries, medications, appointments, and bills. The couple has home care by a local homecare agency coming in three times a week to help with Maria's bathing and light housekeeping. But for the most part, Paul is caring for Maria, as well as for himself. He has low endurance and has found he is unable to stand long enough to prepare a well-balanced meal for the two of them. Feeling overwhelmed, he contacted SeniorsPlus and signed up for Meals on Wheels. Paul told his MOW driver that if it was not for SeniorsPlus and MOW, he did not know what he would do. Taking off the load of meal preparation is a great relief to him.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services

"Stating the importance of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services (SAPARS) is almost difficult because as an organization, they have been an incredibly important part of my healing process. The help that they have given me has helped me every day since I began seeing them. The help that they have given has been a process that the people at SAPARS have cared about and helped me go through slowly, at my own pace.

"When I first arrived at SAPARS, I was confused about my experience and my situation. I am incredibly grateful that the people at SAPARS met me where I was in that moment--adopting the language that I wanted to use to describe my experience and other seemingly small things that made a huge impact on me at the time as well as now. As I began to have regular weekly meetings with a SAPARS advocate, I was able to look at and talk about my own experience differently, and SAPARS has been willing to listen and to validate how I am feeling at the time, even if it changes. This has been a very important part of my experience because there is level of understanding that SAPARS has that is unfortunately absent in many other aspects of daily life. This understanding and willingness to think about different aspects of my experience has been a crucial part of my experience and I am truly grateful for everything that the SAPARS organization has done for me."

"While serving in the National Guard in a part-time/full-time capacity throughout the years in support of the war efforts, I didn't have health insurance. Early in my career, I was a victim of sex crimes that ended in guilty verdicts. Although I was empowered by what I felt was an act of justice, the response from others was not at all what I expected. I was met with disdain, disbelief, anger, and professional retaliation from those in leadership positions and some of my peers. I was devastated by their actions despite the accused being found guilty. Their responses minimized the seriousness of the crimes & negatively impacted my mental health. Yet the National Guard had no resources to offer me at that time. I was desperate for help. I reached out to the local rape crisis center during the investigation. They offered group support, emotional support, and referred me to a counselor who specialized in trauma. This free support is what pulled me through the most difficult time in my life.

"Now here I am twenty years later after the first attack and I am still struggling with the aftermath of those crimes. Throughout my fifteen year career, I turned to local rape crisis centers for support because I had nowhere else to turn. After September 11th, we were put on orders and either shipped overseas or asked to provide base support stateside. We were in high ops tempo and it was difficult to get any time off. Thanks to the 24/7 hotline support provided by local rape crisis centers, I had a number to call and someone on the other end to tell me I am going to be okay. I still turn to them to this day because they give me the emotional regulation I need after learning to be distrustful of everyone. I am feeling safe in my community again thanks to SAPARS. They are helping me adjust to civilian life and encouraging me to thrive despite the struggles with Post Traumatic Stress. I am thankful for this resource and refer other victims of sex crimes and their families to local rape crisis centers because of what they have done and continue to do for me."

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services/Children's Advocacy Program

The ACAC worked with a child who has a cognitive impairment. The child had been making disclosures about being "touched" inappropriately. Due to the child's impairment, the school and the parents were unsure of what was happening. The parent, greatly concerned given the child's disability, was very protective and worried about the system causing more trauma. The child had a forensic interview at the ACAC at which time information was obtained substantiating that she had been sexually violated on numerous occasions. The interview not only gathered the information from the child, but also helped the mother to see that her child was not helpless and could speak for herself. The interview of the child also was valuable in showing law enforcement and prosecution that although the child had a cognitive impairment - she could also be a credible and accurate historical reporter.

"I am employed as a Detective with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, with primary responsibility for investigating crimes involving victims of sexual assault, physical violence, and other offenses. I am also trained as a Forensic Interviewer of Children. Over the last few years, my agency had become increasingly involved with the Androscoggin Children’s Advocacy Center (ACAC) which has since developed into the Children’s Advocacy Center of Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford (CAC-AFO). CAC-AFO has grown and adapted to the increasing need for advocacy, support, and healing of our youngest victims in our area.

"CAC-AFO has enhanced its program by creating physical space in Franklin County for service provision and development of a multi-disciplinary team including Child Protective Services, District Attorney’s Office, Law Enforcement, Medical, Mental Health, and other professionals committed to best practice for victim healing, support for non-offending caregivers, and sound criminal prosecution of offenders.

"During the past year, in the midst of one particularly complex and detailed investigation of reported child abuse, CAC-AFO and the Franklin County Multi-Disciplinary Team convened a “Super Team” to address the concerns. Bringing together those various agencies with professional concern for the two young victims, findings were made in a timely manner for the well-being of the children. The following comment was provided to me at the conclusion of the investigation:

“ '(The Pediatrician) and I have never had that many players come together for a team meeting before, and it shows how much more successful we can be in helping children when we do collaborate. It was the most productive multi-disciplinary team meeting I’ve ever participated in, and I really think that it is going to make a difference in the safety of the children now that everybody is on the same page with information and goal setting.' – Licensed Clinical Social Worker

"Time and time again, I am impressed at the results working with Children’s Advocacy Center of Androscoggin, Franklin, and Oxford counties. Thank you in advance for your consideration."

 

United Methodist Economic Ministry

This Thanksgiving, we were gifted with 50+ unexpected Thanksgiving meals. We have not been able provide Thanksgiving meals for several years. In working with the Food Cupboard records of participants, our list of those who had sought heating help or help for medication expenses, the school nurses and guidance offices, local fire departments and town offices, we were able to distribute this unexpected gift.

One of the best gifts the UMEM received, though, in this process of distributing 50+ Thanksgiving meals on the Tuesday, was from a call made to family who had sought help due to loss of a job from a disabling injury. We had, as we have for many, helped with medications or an electric bill for this family. When offered the dinner we received the response, "My disability just came through. We don't need the dinner, but I know a family that does but wouldn't ask. I could deliver it for you. Oh, and by the way, I don't need help with my water bill now. Can you stop the payment?" Our response was to agree to his delivering the meal and the news that there was no way we could stop the process of the Salvation Army assistance for the water bill. It had already been paid and we were glad we had a way to help.

When he picked up the dinner, he came with news that he went to the water company anyway and paid someone else's bill who was in danger of having the water shut off. His witness is about what change a hand up brings to those in need.

B & L are the homeless couple currently being sheltered at the UMEM. They have been working with the case worker from Catholic Charities assigned to work with the rural homeless since June 1st when they were evicted from a rent. They had fallen $800 behind over the course of the winter. They have one income. B has applied for disability due to several health issues. He was denied and did not appeal. Most people in his situation are discouraged by denial and quit the process. All summer, they have looked for a rent with a Section 8 voucher. They could no longer stay in the borrowed camper or no longer stay with a family member in senior housing. We were there last option when turned down on a housing application. Two landlords in 20 years and the only landlord contacted was the eviction. The case worker helped them ask for a hearing with the housing management company. With support of staff and the case worker, they could attend the hearing in response to the denial letter. Within two days of the hearing, their application process was re-opened. They still await the final word on a low-income apartment. What makes difference for them: Available support. Acceptance. No judgement. Self-worth increases. Recognized for their gifts.

WMCA (Western Maine Community Action)

This is a new initiative for WMCA, and as such, we do not have a testimonial at this point. We will be happy to provide at least one testimonial a few months into the project, if funded. The following information could be used as appropriate. 

Franklin County’s network of food pantry volunteers report that they are serving families with more highly critical needs than they have in the past. Individuals served by the pantries include families with young children with acute medical needs, as well as individuals who are elderly and frail. Pantry volunteers also report that many of the individuals seeking help are younger and many younger men are in need of assistance as there are fewer jobs available. Young families who may have been surviving on limited incomes have lost their jobs and are now without any source of income. Verso’s announcement that they will have a permanent layoff of 300 workers will make a significant impact on ability of many Franklin County families to put healthy food on their tables. The need for food is critical and we feel concentrated efforts to improve the system of data collection will give us a more accurate picture of those served by the food pantries. Once we clearly define the need we will be able to develop a more comprehensive volunteer base as well as develop a Community Food Security Improvement Plan. This plan will support future efforts to leverage additional funds to support our pantries. This increased capacity will allow us to serve more individuals in need.

Three years ago a couple took in a young grandchild to raise. There was no support for the child. The grandfather worked, which was the only income in the household. The grandmother came in to do their fuel assistance application. While they were there explaining the addition of the grandchild, they mentioned there were medical issues with the child. We helped them get Maine Care for the child. We also helped get the child into Head Start. We also connected them with the Children's Task Force who provided them with a home visitor. We also connected them with Operation Santa Claus for Christmas that year. They needed the local funds, as well as Fuel Assistance and ECIP (the MH emergency program), to help get them through that first winter they had their grandchild.

We kept in contact with the family and assisted where we could and referred them to other resources when needed. Then the grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. There were many doctors' visits and hospital stays. We helped the grandfather apply for Social Security Disability. We helped with the appeal after the first, standard, denial. He was then granted his SSD.

The grandfather has had a surgery and is still undergoing treatment for cancer. He is gaining weight and feeling better than he has in some time. The grandchild is now in school full time. When the grandmother came in this year to do their fuel assistance applications, she told us she didn't know what she would have done in the past few years without us. She has had fuel assistance for 5 years and she never knew how many resources we had or were connected to. She said she really didn't know what they would have done or where they would be now, if not for us and the people we put them in touch with. Not that we want to have these cancer situations again, although we will, this family is one of the reasons we do what we do!

Western Maine Homeless Outreach

Bella arrived at the shelter in tears, hopeless and scared to death. She was a young Mom that was struggling to maintain mental stability after DHHS had removed her children from her care. She felt as though her world was crumbling around her. She met with the shelter manager for about an hour and half that first night. She stood at the end of that meeting and said "you have given me more hope that I've had in a long, long time". Since that night this summer Bella hasn't stopped working. She worked on her goals constantly and when she was feeling overwhelmed she reached out to supports- counselors, family, friends and shelter staff. When she was about to give up and afraid of what her future held she sat with us and cried, processed and problem solved. Bella's children were returned to her last week! I watched them run around laughing and her parenting them. I realized we are making a difference. We made a difference for Bella and her children. They are moving into their own apartment this week and are very excited to begin the next chapter in their lives. We talked tonight about her time at the shelter and she said she felt that she has grown as an individual while at the shelter. She said it wasn't always fun but she remained focused on her children and what needed to happen. She reflected that she "faced fears every day and I learned how to cope". She gained personal skills around asking for help, looking at possibilities and ways to self-regulate. She continues to struggle at times but knows it’s okay to ask for help now. She said she has become a "stronger and wiser person". When asked about staff and volunteers at the shelter Bella stated "staff and volunteers were awesome and helped me in more ways than many people know. I love all the staff and volunteers. If I hadn't come to the shelter, I wouldn't have gotten my children back".

"I recently lived at Western Maine Homeless Shelter with my 3 children. I was displaced after separating from my husband. I went to another shelter first because I was unaware that there was even a shelter here in Farmington. Moving to WMHO made it so I was able to keep my kids in the same school and so I didn't have to travel 2 hours a day to get to and from apartments and to the area I know as home. I was very apprehensive to go to WMHO because my family had been through so much. When I got there things were calm and quite. Something my family hadn't had in months. We were able to sit and read together and have a family dinner conversation. I was treated like a person not like I was an inmate in jail or like I did something to deserve being there. The staff was helpful and understanding. They made my transition smooth and a lot of people worked hard to help me get into a place asap. Being in another shelter, I will say it is unfortunate that there aren't more classes and meetings available at WMHO for the guests to participate in. In general my experience was life changing to say the least. If I come across a question or need help Tricia has continued to help me even after being in my new place.

"Thank You for all your help." -Kara

Western  Maine Transportation Services, Inc.

The first of 2016's two most memorable stories about the Community Rides program was about a rehabilitated criminal who needed transportation from a relative's camp they were being lent following their release from prison. The individual did not have access to a vehicle and may not have had a current license. Through Community Rides funding, we were able to provide coordinated transportation for the individual to get to the Career Center, to meetings with their probation officer and to the grocery store. We understand the rider credited us with their being able to get re-established in society and remain in compliance with their release requirements. Our understanding is that the individual was able to secure employment as a traffic flagger. The second story involved a Veteran who needed to get to Togus with very little warning, on two occasions, for urgent tests and appointments to check on a preexisting, life-threatening condition. The DAV van, friends and family members were unable to take the Veteran to the VA Center and it is our understanding the Community Rides-funded trips to these appointments may have prevented the Veteran's premature death.

Another of our favorite Community Rides vignettes has to do with an elderly rider whose spouse had been placed in one of the Farmington area nursing facilities for rehabilitation and physical therapy following an involved medical procedure. The rider had recently given up their license, although the spouse who was recovering still drove. We received a call from the nursing facility asking if there was any way Western Maine Transportation Services could provide affordable transportation for the rider to visit when neither family nor friends were available. Our Customer Service rep worked with the nursing home and the rider and arranged for our bus to pick the rider up at their home, get them to their visits, then back home again. The rider qualified for Community Rides funding because the rider (and their spouse) were both Medicare recipients with Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB/ “quimby”) benefits from MaineCare. We were able to use United Way of the Tri-Valley Area funding to provide the rides, the rides kept the couple in touch, prevented isolation during the spouse’s convalescence and even got the rider to the store. We were told later that the nursing home believed the rider’s visits helped the spouse to recover more quickly.

Work First Inc

John is a 24 year old male. He was born with severe intellectual disabilities that have caused many struggles and road blocks for him and his family. John has always had a very difficult time in school and was in a segregated setting for special needs throughout his school years. John began receiving services at Work First 7 years ago. he has quickly "fit in" to the day to day routine. He now goes into the community to learn shopping and banking skills with his staff assisting. John has a problem with fleeing so the staff need to keep an eye on him at all times. He also works in the Thrift Shop a couple days a week. He needs the constant verbal cues of what he needs to be doing but with this cues and assistance from the staff and peers, John works and does a good job. John is a non-verbal and has balance issues which also complicate the interaction with the public. John is learning the proper social skills and the proper behaviors that are expected when working and participating with activities in the community. He continues to make progress and with the continued support of Work First he will find more and more reward in his activities.

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