China Selectboard accepts LaVerdiere’s resignation: MacFarland opposes decision

by Mary Grow

Three of the four China selectmen at the Oct. 28 board meeting accepted with regret Jeff LaVerdiere’s written resignation from the board, confirming his oral resignation at the Oct. 15 meeting (see The Town Line, Oct. 24, 2019).

Retiring board chairman Robert MacFarland voted against the motion to accept the resignation. “I didn’t want him to resign, so I’m not gonna accept his resignation,” MacFarland said.

LaVerdiere wrote on Oct. 28 that he was resigning because “I have not had any impact on reducing spending and I am not needed to make ill informed decisions.”

The current issue that “I cannot be part of is the wording of the F/D [fire department] MOU [memorandum of understanding] which the town manager wrote and S/B [selectboard] members support. It is written in a negative tone in my opinion.”

He continued by saying that to promote residents’ best interest, town officials should “be working in good faith toward a positive outcome for our town. All I see is a power struggle!”

Since state law lets municipalities that fund nonprofit organizations review related financial records, he considers the MOU redundant.

LaVerdiere’s letter ends, “I pray for you all to have a good year and work through the ongoing strife.”

The MOU sets out the duties of the fire chiefs and town officials in keeping records of the departments’ use of town funds. Town Manager Dennis Heath said the fire chiefs agreed to the MOU in July, but have not yet signed it. When they do, their checks are at the town office ready to be handed over, he said.

The motion to accept LaVerdiere’s resignation included direction to Heath to schedule a special election for a new board member as soon as possible.

[See also: Breton rebutts candidates’ statements]

In preparation for the regular state and local elections Nov. 5, selectmen signed an ordinance prohibiting vehicles parking or standing on either side of Lakeview Drive within 500 feet of the town office driveway on Election Day. The Nov. 5 temporary parking ban, like the temporary closure of the driveway (see the map in The Town Line, Oct. 24, p. 10) is intended to reduce the chances of traffic accidents.

China’s polls will be open Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the portable building behind the town office.

Selectmen were presented with two questions from residents during the Oct. 23 meeting. They could answer only one on the spot.

Resident Tom Michaud said someone asked him why several Oakland policemen were parked in front of China Middle School one day. MacFarland replied that Regional School Unit (RSU) #18 sent officers to present the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

Michaud reported that work is complete on one of the fire roads being improved partly with China’s TIF (Tax Increment Finance) fund, created by taxes paid by Central Maine Power Co. Selectman Ronald Breton asked whether spending local tax money entitled all taxpayers to use the private fire road. Heath said he will ask the Maine Municipal Association legal staff for an answer.

The manager said the new RFID (radio-frequency identification) placards for entrance to the transfer station are being tested by Transfer Station Committee members and a few other people. Two public meetings to explain the new system are scheduled: Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m., at the China town office and Thursday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m., at the Palermo town office.

Selectman Irene Belanger said the China for a Lifetime Committee is looking for volunteers to shovel sidewalks for elderly residents this winter. Teenagers as well as adults are welcome to get in touch with her or with Eric Austin for more information or to volunteer.

MacFarland announced four Halloween trunk ‘r treat programs Oct. 31, at the China Village fire station, the town office, the China Church of the Nazarene on Route 3 and Erskine Academy.

(According to the website of Central Church, also on Route 3, that church holds its first Great Pumpkin Bash Halloween evening, providing “a safe place for kids and families to celebrate” with activities and refreshments.)

The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Nov. 12, instead of the usual Monday, because Monday, Nov. 11, is the Veterans Day holiday. The town office will be closed Nov. 11.

China’s comprehensive planning committee wrapping up duties

by Mary Grow

On Oct. 23, China Comprehensive Plan Committee members held what might be their final meeting until they review a draft revised comprehensive plan early in 2020.

The Oct. 23 topics were natural resources, farmland and forestry. Two chapters in the 2008 plan remain to be reviewed, those dealing with public facilities and recreation.

Committee members agreed that Kennebec Valley Council of Governments consultant Joel Greenwood should review the final chapters and if he recommends major changes, bring them to a Dec. 4 meeting. If events in the last 11 years don’t justify significant rewording, committee members asked Greenwood to add the chapters to the previously-reviewed sections to complete a draft plan.

The draft would be re-reviewed by the committee and shared with residents. Next, Greenwood said, several state agencies look at the plan before it comes back to the committee to approve a final version to be submitted to town voters.

Topics discussed Oct. 23 included China Lake and other water bodies, deer yards, critical natural areas, farmland, forestry, invasive species (on land and in the water) and regional cooperation to protect natural resources. The China Region Lakes Alliance was cited as an example of regional cooperation.

Committee members Carlaine Bovio and Jeannette Smith said regulations protecting China Lake should be better explained and better enforced. “Some things have been a little bit lenient, and we need to look at that leniency,” Bovio said.

Several topics came back to a point made in earlier meetings: the easiest way to treat different areas differently, when appropriate, would be zoning, but China voters have a reputation for opposing anything involving “the z word.” Other Maine towns have created zones to protect natural resources, residential centers, farmland, forests and other areas where voters think proposed changes need to meet specific standards.

There is still plenty of life – and afterlife – in the North Vassalboro Olde Mill

Building Two of the Olde Mill on Main Street in Vassalboro. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

Roof repairs are not the only thing that haunt the Main Street landmark

by Sandy Isaac

When asked, “What do you like most about the mill?” Ray Breton was not able to answer. In fact, he looked at me like I was crazy.

“The architecture, the history, the old writing on the windowsills. The Mill was the center of town for so many years, and still is. We have weddings and birthday parties, flea markets and craft fairs. Being around all the people, watching them have fun and smiling at these events…it’s all my favorite.” It’s safe to say that Ray Breton loves this Mill, and with all this activity, both physical and spiritual, you can understand why.

“The Tower” at the Olde Mill. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

The Olde Mill, located on Main Street, in Vassalboro, was originally called the American Woolen Mill. It was built in approximately 1850 with wings added for each year that coincided with a war: 1850, 1917 and 1943. It was the largest mill in New England. At the height of production, the mill employed over 500 people and won awards for the cashmere that it produced. At one point it housed an actual steam engine that helped power the equipment. The steam engine currently located in Owls Head Transportation Museum is said to be identical in size to the one used in the mill.

The mill ceased operations in 1955, displacing 400 employees. The mill continued to remain active with various companies, such as the Ladd Paper Company and Kenne­bec Bean Company, purchasing parts of the mill to house their own products. Over 15 other companies, including Midstate Machine and Duratherm Windows, started their businesses in the mill before moving into their own facilities. Other companies, including Marden’s and John Julia, called this Olde Mill home at one time or another.

When it finally came up for auction in 2010, Breton was in attendance. The sale price was just under $35,000 for four acres and three buildings. However, after acquiring it, Breton had to spend over $100,000 just fixing up the first building. Maintenance of the buildings is the biggest challenge. Building One houses over 33,000 square feet per floor and has three floors, while Building Two boasts 10,000 square feet per floor and has five floors for a total of over 250,000 square feet.

During the hurricane force rain and wind storm in October 2017, the roof sustained heavy damage. Wind gusts hit the south side of Building One and peeled the front edge of the roof up. Building Two lost over 90 percent of the roofing, including fascia boards and decking. Afterwards, they were able to lay tarps down, but tarps are only made for temporary use and have to be replaced. They have sealed up the areas that they can, but with every storm, they have to chase the leaks, dump endless buckets of water and recover interior surfaces with poly-plastic covers and tape. The estimated cost to repair the roof ranges from $300,000 – $400,000, and increases as time passes. Despite all of the damage, the mill remains very active, and we’re not just talking about ghosts. Recently, the mill hosted Parafest Maine, a convention of sorts for paranormal and unexplained phenomena. Hundreds attended the event on October 11 and 12, which offered talks by professionals and vendors selling everything from T-shirts and books to equipment used for paranormal research. Some participants even braved staying overnight at the Olde Mill for a guided ghost hunt.

During the late night hours, those who bought tickets were split up into groups and sent to different areas throughout the mill. They set up to do research, record information and find evidence of ghosts.

One group used a “spirit box,” a type of radio scanner that allows intelligent energies to utilize radio frequencies to communicate. Members of the group ask questions and receive answers in the form of random words that come over the radio air waves. Photos are taken in a series of three consecutive shots in hopes that one of the photos would show a ghostly image. Electromagnetic frequencies or EMF(s) are also monitored. Spikes in EMF can mean anything from a water source, an electrical source, or another form of energy. During investigations, researchers ask questions to provoke a response. When the monitors spike after a question is asked, it is guessed to be caused by an intelligent energy source.

Many recorded the investigations with video or mini voice recorders. Each recorded session is reviewed for electronic voice phenomena or EVPs. EVPs occur when voices are recorded that are normally not heard during an investigation. Often times the recordings are reviewed later using audio software which separates evidence recorded from the background noise and investigators talking. The results are out of this world…literally. Answers come through to questions asked, often stating names, number of people present, or letting listeners know how they passed away. If you were skeptical before, you won’t be after spending an evening in the mill.

Mill owner Ray Breton has a huge amount of history and resources on events and happenings at the mill. Often, he is able to confirm evidence collected during the investigations. For example, if the name of an employee who passed while working at the mill happens to come through during an investigation, more than likely Breton has information on that person.

The Olde Mill owner Ray Breton, left, and “super volunteer” Samantha Lessard. (photo by Sandy Isaac)

In addition to Parafest, the Mill houses a plethora of other activities, including an indoor yard sale (with all items donated and proceeds go towards the mill), The Clothing Closet (providing items for those in need), an art studio, an indoor baseball and softball training area, an indoor mountain bike course, the Olde Mill Place shops, as well as warehousing items for people. The mill also hosts Halloween events where over 1,300 people come through. Other town-wide events include Vassalboro Days, rubber duck races, community Christmas tree lighting, equipment swap events, fishing derbies, Spring celebrations, and more. Wedding, birthdays, celebration of life events, anniversaries and retirement parties all happen at the Mill year round.

In an effort to continue accommodating all these activities, Breton and (as he puts it) his “super volunteer” Samantha Lessard, work tirelessly on these and other ways to raise money for the roof repair. Lessard helps Brenton schedule outside events, runs The Clothing Closet and Indoor Yard Sale, and is a member of the event committee, which helps to decide on fundraising events for the mill.

Breton is currently working on the paperwork – and there is a lot of paperwork – for the Olde Mill to be considered an historical landmark. They are hoping once this qualification comes through, it will enable Breton to file for grants and other moneys to help with the roof repair efforts. To this date, a little over $45,000 has been raised for the roof, a far cry from the $400,000 mark needed. Breton is not discouraged. Many groups still want to come and be part of the mill and are willing to donate some proceeds to the repair efforts, especially the ghost investigator groups. After all, everyone wants to talk to “the Captain.”

The “Captain?” The Captain can be seen in many photos, psychic sketches and recorded sessions. This photo was taken by Wendy McCusker, of Lincolnville, in 2006. The Maine Adult Education program offered a ghost hunting class taught by K&L Soul Searchers. As part of the class, they spent an evening at the mill where McCusker captured the image. In the photo, you can see a man wearing a cap, half in the shadows and standing on a staircase. There were no other members of the class in that vicinity at the time. This image was captured in the basement of Building Two.

One of the most famous people that often comes through during an investigation is “The Captain,” a seafaring spirit that seems to favor Breton and protecting children. The Captain can be seen in many photos, psychic sketches and recorded sessions.

Breton has been collecting documentation on all the ghost investigations that have come through the mill. At times, Breton has allowed certain groups to investigate his own home across the street from the mill, the Mill Agent House. Breton has had psychics, school groups, professional paranormal investigators and spiritualists alike come through, and often times groups have come back with results. He has copies of photos, recordings, drawings, etc., from many of the visitors, all of whom he requests to sign a guest book. To date, he has over 2,500 signatures in that book.

None of the community or family events are ever marred by the spiritual presences that lurk in the mill. In fact, Breton and Lessard think the spirits may even enjoy the laughter and fun that come from the merry occasions

If you happen to come out for one of Breton’s historic talks, afterwards, you might be brave enough to partake in a paranormal investigation. Maybe ask the Captain for a hello. You won’t be disappointed!

Breton truly loves the mill, and it’s safe to say, the mill loves Breton back. The mill continues to be the center of this town and with the efforts that are being made, it will hopefully come back to its full glory.

For more information on upcoming events at the mill, check out the Vassalboro Community Events and Announcement page on Facebook. If you are interested in helping out the mill with donations of either money, materials or skilled labor, please contact Samantha Lessard at 207-314-4940 or through email at samanthalessard@yahoo.com.

Please check out this video of the work being done on the Olde Mill:

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Debunking Common Medicare Part D Myths

(NAPSI)—It’s important to evaluate your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan every year. Your plan benefits can change, including your prescription drug coverage, premiums, deductibles and pharmacy benefits. As you do your research, you may run into a few misconceptions. Walgreens vice president of specialty and retail pharmacy operations Rina Shah debunks five common myths about Medicare Part D.

Myth 1: Your Medicare prescriptions cost the same at all pharmacies.

Fact: You often pay less on copays when you fill a Medicare Part D-covered prescription at a preferred pharmacy in your plan’s network. These savings can quickly add up.

Myth 2: Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans can require you to fill prescriptions by mail.

Fact: Medicare prevents plans from requiring patients to use a mail-order pharmacy exclusively.

Myth 3: Once you pick a plan, you don’t need to review it each year.

Fact: Changes in the prescriptions you take, plan design and coverage may cause your existing plan to no longer be right for you. Your insurance provider sends a letter that describes any changes to your plan. It is important to review these changes as they could impact your total cost.

Myth 4: It’s a good idea to pick a plan that a friend recommends.

Fact: While your friends may have good recommendations, their prescriptions and doctors are likely different from yours. Because copays for drugs are an important part of the overall Medicare costs, what works for your friend may not be the right choice for you.

Myth 5: Changing your plan means you must change your pharmacy.

Fact: Getting a new plan doesn’t always result in having to use a new pharmacy. When evaluating your plan options, always consider your preferred pharmacy as an important part of your evaluation.

When you start to research coverage, make sure your pharmacy of choice is in your plan’s preferred network. Walgreens is a preferred network pharmacy with many plans nationwide, which means you can save money on your copays.

For more information on tools to make prescription management easier, visit Walgreens.com/Medicare.

Fall Scouting Camporee brings out adventures, challenges with super hero theme

Scouts Anastasia Ames and Isabelle “Isa” Russell, both members of Troop #695, in Chelsea, and are earning requirements towards their Tender­foot rank.

by Scott Bernier, of Augusta

On a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, Thanos plans to use the artifacts to inflict his twisted will on reality. The fate of the planet and existence itself has never been more uncertain. Only the greatest heroes assembled can stop the mad Titan. Who can stop Thanos from wiping out half of the population? The Scouts can!

Julian Cain, of Sidney, dressed in his Captain America costume.

The 2019 Fall Scouting Camporee was held October 11-13 in Sidney, and the theme was “Marvel Universe Adventure.” Scouts from across the region, if not the galaxy, converged on the at the Silver Spur Riding Club where the three-day event was held and took part in competition and challenges as well as fun and fellowship. Scouts from Jackman, Jay, Palmyra, Randolph, Waterville, Augusta, Gardiner, Oakland, Farmingdale, Skowhegan, and Chelsea attended.

The event was organized by the Scouts and leaders of Sidney Troop #401 who have been planning the event for months. Taylor Hayden, of Skowhegan Troop #485, dressed up as Spiderman. “He’s my favorite superhero,” Hayden said. He is a new Scout and enjoyed the Captain America Scout Skills area the most where Scouts went into the woods to build a survival shelter.

Jeremy Croft, of Sidney, is working on his First Class rank. He was one of the “Silver Surfer Relay Race” during which the Scouts carried a rock on a spoon and raced through an obstacle course. “Its a lot of fun,” Jeremy said, about being able to run a station at 11 years old. Scouts not only compete in activities but it was entirely youth planned and run with adult supervision, said event chairman Eric Handley, who is the official Nick Fury for the event. “I am really proud of these kids,” Handley said. “The entire camporee wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have the Scouts. This was their event. They chose the theme. They chose the stations. They planned each one and then adjusted as things went along. Not everything worked out perfectly but that is how they learn. And everyone had a lot of fun.”

Stations challenged Scouts on traditional Scout knowledge but each tied into a hero or villain in the Marvel Universe. Scouts had fun at Hawkeye’s Archery Range, the Quest for the Infinity Stones Compass Course, and Captain America’s Scout Skills among others..

Harry Bromberg, from Oakland, is a new Scout and this was his first multi-troop camporee. He helped run the Dr Strange’s Puzzle in which Scouts had to tie a complicated knot – a clove hitch – around a stump without being within ten feet of the stump. They had to use sticks and rope but mostly teamwork to solve the puzzle. Harry’s favorite hero is the Incredible Hulk.

Eric Handley, was the official Nick Fury for the event.

Scouts also took part in Tony Stark’s Rocket Launch where they not only built a rocket but assembled the mechanism that launched the rocket. Some rockets flew 200 feet. This was the favorite area of new Scouts Anastasia Ames and Isabelle “Isa” Russell. Both are members of Troop #695, in Chelsea, and are earning requirements towards their Tender­foot rank.

Chris Somerset, of Jackman, assisted an adult at Hawkeye’s Archery Range. The 15-year old said it was fun to help teach younger Scouts how to shoot a bow and arrow safely. “My favo­rite Avenger is Captain America because he is honest and trustworthy,” Chris said.

There was also a re-enactment from the movie “Captain America Civil War” in which the Scouts were divided into two teams in order to capture the other team’s flag, a costume contest, and a community dinner with meals prepared by the Scouts and enjoyed by all. Skowhegan Troop #485 won the Youth Cooking Contest with its “Captain American Chop Suey” and the adult winner was John DeWitt, of Troop #401, with Italian chicken. The evening ended with a traditional Scout campfire.

Scouts received a commemorative patch and two Marvel Comic Books as part of Scouting’s effort to encourage reading.

Nutrient management for high tunnels to be presented

High tunnels provide many benefits to farmers and gardeners but provide challenges for managing soil nutrients. (Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS)

by Hildy Ellis

A presentation on Nutrient Management for High Tunnels will be held Thursday, October 24 from 5 – 6:30 p.m., at Sheepscot General Farm & Store, 98 Town House Road, in Whitefield, the first of two fall programs in the Knox-Lincoln Farmer and Gardener Workshop Series. Bruce Hoskins, University of Maine Soil Testing Program Coordinator, will discuss high tunnel soil testing at the University of Maine and how the lab addresses the specialized management concerns of this unique growing environment.

High tunnels – or unheated hoop houses – provide many benefits to farmers and gardeners in terms of heat gain, season extension and control of foliar diseases. However, these covered growing spaces provide challenges for managing soil nutrients. The combination of high temperatures inside the high tunnel and the need for water to be supplied only by irrigation creates what is essentially an irrigated desert, which over time results in nutrient salt build up and soil stratification.

Hoskins will discuss how to manage nutrients to compensate for these conditions and the much greater nutrient demand on these soils. This free talk is co-sponsored by Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District, Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Midcoast Farmers Alliance.

FMI and to register for this free program contact julie@knox-lincoln.org, 596-2040 or visit www.knox-lincoln.org/farmer-gardener.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: You know you’re a mom…

by Debbie Walker

Sitting here with my latest cute little book, “You Know You’re A Mom…”, I knew I was going to have to share these with you. I hope they give you a chuckle. They each start out with: You Know You’re A Mom ……

You realize you’re the luckiest person in the world – after you get through throwing up.

Your world is rocked by a blessing the size of a blueberry.

Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time causes your heart to skip a beat.

You know you’re the mom of a baby when …. You would pay $1 million for a 15-minute nap.

You realize all the books were helpful, but you would have been better off spending that time sleeping.

You start talking in a whole new language and use words ‘potty’ and ‘bite-bite’ while speaking to other adults.

You realize that to a little baby throwing food is as much fun as eating it.

You trade your designer purse for a diaper bag.

You learn the hard way that boys tend to spray straight up.

You set a schedule for everything; bedtimes, meals and baths. Your baby ignores every one of them.

You can now shower, dress and get made up in 1/10th the time it used to take.

You stuff most of the baby’s nursery in the diaper bag – and then realize you can’t carry it.

You suddenly realize you have that mysterious capability called mothers intuition.

Your baby is dressed better than you.

A tiny laugh from a tiny person can turn around the worst day.

You cry during your child’s first haircut.

You know you are the mom of a toddler when…. you wake up with extra people in your bed.

I wrote all the preceding words to prepare you for our family’s news. My granddaughter is turning me into a great-grandmother! That’s right, Tristin and her partner in this crime, Chris, are preparing for my first great-grandchild scheduled to arrive in the spring. Chris’ 10-year-old son, Hunter, is going to be the big brother. They are being told we will meet this child around the end of April to the beginning of May.

In the meantime, while we wait, we are getting reports about our (me and Wandering Nana Dee’s) great-grand baby. We have been told by Momma Tristin our little baby has been the size of a blueberry, the next week a raspberry, shortly after, a Southern Pecan, next a Kumquat and most recently a Brussel Sprout. Do you suppose this child will have a complex about being compared to a fruit or vegetable? (She gets this information on some sort of maternity website)

In the meantime, I came up with something I think will be fun. Baby books are in stores so parents can have a guide to recording the baby’s “firsts.” I have decided to start a book to record the family’s (mom, dad, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) remarks, pre-birth gifts and maybe some pictures, etc. I’ll let you know how this works out.

I am just curious what wisdom and advice you would be willing to share with us. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Contact me at dwdaffy@yahoo.com with all questions and comments. Thanks for reading and have a happy, healthy week!

P.S. Just got this information tonight! Part of the mystery of childbirth is over for us. The parents shared with us today that the baby is a girl and her name is Addison Grace, nicknamed Addi. Can’t wait to hold her!

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Elizabeth Coatsworth

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Elizabeth Coatsworth

“Outwardly I am 83, but inwardly I am every age, with the emotions and experiences of each period.”

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Born in Buffalo, New York, the writers Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986) and her husband, Henry Beston (1888-1968), lived in an early 19th century farmhouse, Chimney Farm, alongside Damariscotta Lake, in Nobleboro, Maine. She wrote over 90 books but her most famous one was the children’s novel, The Cat Who Went to Heaven, which won the 1930 Newbery Medal. I am most familiar with her 1976 autobiography, Personal Geography, in which she shares her experiences such as living on the farm with her husband and her world travels during her youth. Her writings, whether for children or adults, celebrate the majesty and mystery of life, especially in Maine, and very compassionately about cats and other similar creatures caught in a storm in her poem, This Is a Night, here in its entirety:

This is a night on which to pity cats
hunting through dripping hedgerows,
making wet way
through grasses heavy with rain,
Their delicate stepping
tense with distaste,
their soft and supple coats
sodden, for all their care.
This is a night
to pity cats which have no house to go to,
no stove, no saucer of milk, no lowered hand
sleeking a head, no voice to say, “Poor kitty.”
This is a night
on which to weep for outcasts, for all those
who know the rain but do not know the shelter.

Henry Beston was a mentor to my late Uncle Paul Cates and they all visited back and forth between Chimney Farm, in Nobleboro, and the Cates’ one, in East Vassalboro. I met them twice, 1960 and ’65, and was charmed by their kindness and warmth. Being then a record collector, I asked them if they had records and a record player. Elizabeth replied with such effusive happiness that they had acoustic 78s and a player they cranked and, quoting her, “it has a wonderful simplicity.” Her expression of those words has always stayed in my memory.

More about them in later columns.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: Oh, those lovely loyalty programs

Growing your businessby Dan Beaulieu
Business consultant

There is a scene in Seinfeld where Elaine loses her little punch card from a sandwich shop. The card has only one more star to punch and she will get a free sub. And now she is angry and disappointed because she lost it. When Jerry asks her “Why” she is so upset since she had told him she didn’t even like the sandwiches there. She whines, “But it was free Jerry….free!” Doesn’t that reflect the way we all feel about loyalty programs? Often, like Elaine, we don’t even like the product or service, but we will keep going six, or 10 or even 12 times to get our little card punched because we will get something for nothing.

Now just think if we are in a loyalty program where we will get a product, we actually love…and get it for free. Let’s face it, everyone loves getting rewarded as long as it is something they like, and they don’t have to jump through hoops to get it.

Loyalty programs are good, if they are fair and honest and the customer is really getting something he likes well enough to play.

Here are some things to consider when developing a loyalty program:

  • Of course, make sure your product or service or food is great. What good is a loyalty program if your product is so lousy that no one wants it?
  • Make sure the program is fair and honest, and most of all, a good deal for not only you but the customer.
  • Avoid the loopholes. Nobody likes a loyalty program where they have to have a lawyer read the fine print. I once got a notice in the mail that because of my loyalty to a certain local pizza place I was entitled to a free pizza! All I had to do is bring in the flyer and, presto, I would have a free pizza. Since these guys had great pizza I was really pumped. But when I got there and ordered my free pizza the person taking my order showed me that the fine print, and I mean really fine print on the flyer, said that I could get a free pizza if I bought two other pizzas! Please no fine print deals, it tends make the customer angry. They would have been better off not so have sent the flyer in the first place.
  • Focus the program on pushing a product or service that you want to sell. It might be to get customers to try a new product, or to promote a service that is a good deal for both you and the customer.
  • And finally, any business can have a loyalty program. If you provide anything from cleaning services to oil changes, to dry cleaning, to pizzas and subs, you can create a loyalty program that will boost your business and keep those customers coming back.

And that’s how you grow your business.

AARP OUTREACH: We may be the oldest state but we’re primed to lead the way

by Japhet Els

There’s opportunity in Maine, though it’s not often in plain sight. We believe that communities often have the best solutions baked into them already so what’s needed isn’t big investments from shiny-shoed bankers but instead the bootstraps many of us were born with here in Central Maine.

Nearly every day it seems we Mainers are reminded we are the oldest state. But what follows this statement? In fact, what follows this constant reminder is silence. Or perhaps acceptance. What should follow this reminder, if we were truly “leading the way,” are examples of how Maine is the best place in the nation to age-in-place, or how Maine is tops in how it makes healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable for older Mainers. Or, perhaps how Maine prioritizes more ways for today’s workers to save for retirement through their employer, whether they work for themselves or one of the thousands of local, small businesses. We should be leading the way, nationally, on issues impacting older Mainers.

But we’re not.

Maine isn’t leading the way when it comes to helping its rural citizens age-in-place, in the very communities they helped build. Maine is not leading the way in developing low-cost, affordable, senior housing helping older residents live closer to their doctor, pharmacy, and grocery store. Maine is not leading the way in advancing better options for workers to save for retirement. Currently, more than 30 percent of Mainers 65+ have no source of income other than their Social Security check which, on average, is only $1,100 a month. For many, that barely covers life’s necessities such as food, heating fuel, medications and housing costs.

There’s work to be done. And Mainers have never shied away from hard work.

We’ve created monthly community events around Maine to begin this work. They are part of a first step in a long-term effort to change the way we build communities, and more importantly, change the way we talk to each other. The goal is to give anyone an excuse to come out and talk about some of the issues impacting older Mainers and their families. If we can’t get together to talk about them, how can we possibly begin to solve them?

So far, more than 150 local community members have attended four community coffees at the Miller’s Table in Skowhegan, gatherings covering topics from healthcare to education to supporting small businesses. We may not fix all the challenges our communities face, but we learn more about these issues and each other. That’s the most important part of our engagement work here in Maine: expanding our social networks in person so we can begin to tackle some of the problems we face, in person.

AARP’s Age-Friendly initiative is another way we’re empowering local communities to begin upgrading how they develop, build, and modernize for the future. Each Age-Friendly Community, of which there are more than 60 statewide, is led by their own local citizens. The Age-Friendly effort is truly grassroots and a partnership that is laying the groundwork for stronger communities, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, county by county. In fact, right here in Somerset County three communities have banded together to begin developing their own age-friendly campaigns – Skowhegan, Madison and Jackman.

We may be the oldest state but we’re primed to lead the way on the most important issues facing this aging nation. We owe it to those who’ve helped shape the Maine of today through hard work and grit, to continue to develop and build the Maine of tomorrow. I hope you’ll come out for a cup of coffee and start the conversation.

Japhet Els is Outreach Director for AARP Maine and, with the help of volunteers Pamela Patridge, June Hovey, and Deborah Poulin, he leads the monthly Skowhegan Coffee Talk at The Miller’s Table. The next coffee is scheduled for Wednesday, October 30, at 9:30 a.m. All are welcome.