Karen Hatch: Queen of the Swap Shop

Karen Hatch stands outside the Swap Shop at the China Transfer Station. (photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

Walking into the Swap Shop at the China Transfer Station, you may find that you don’t recognize the place anymore. Gone are the disorganized piles of clothes, toys, tools and odds and ends with no apparent plan or place to stand. Instead, the small space has been arranged with a finesse fine enough to make Macy’s blush. Books line the wall as you walk in, arranged by author. A T-shirt with the message “SHOP ‘TIL YA DROP” is pinned to the far wall. Boxes of men’s and women’s clothes crowd the bottom shelves, neatly labeled by size.

The change that has come over China’s Swap Shop is due to the hard work of one woman who saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community and took it. Her name is Karen Hatch, aka “Queen of the Swap Shop.” She’s a member of the China for a Lifetime Committee, a local group dedicated to exploiting volunteering opportunities in China.

The Swap Shop has a wide selection of books, now arranged by author. (photo by Eric Austin)

“The first day was quite overwhelming,” Karen confides. “But day by day I got it organized.”

The Swap Shop was built roughly two years ago, according to China Transfer Station Manager Tim Grotton, who says it’s become a popular destination for local residents. “I bet there’s close to a hundred people that go in there on a Saturday,” says Grotton. “I’m amazed how many people use it. It’s pretty astounding.”

I met with Karen on a frosty Friday afternoon, one of the slower days at the transfer station. While we talked, half a dozen people dropped by. We added a box of brand new attachments for a sleep apnea machine, six jars of slightly rusty nails, a steady-light with camera attachment, and a pair of red suspenders. Everything found a place in the newly-organized Swap Shop. “It’s all about merchandizing,” Karen explains as she hangs the suspenders on a hook she had recently installed.

It’s certainly been a learning process for Karen, who retired in December 2019 after serving 27 years as childcare director for the city of Augusta. When she first embarked on this project at the beginning of January, she made the mistake of setting down her mittens. It was only for a minute, but before you could say, “Karen Hatch, Queen of the Swap Shop,” they had been re-appropriated. A few days later, she brought magic markers and masking tape to make signs for the shelves in the little building. She’d only made a few signs before they too magically disappeared! She tells me all of this with a shrug and a smile. If there’s one rule of the Swap Shop you have to remember, it’s that everything is up for grabs.

To the crew at the China Transfer Station, Karen Hatch is a godsend. With the heavy traffic the shop receives, keeping it organized is nearly an impossible task. “We just don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to the building,” says Grotton. “It gets to the point where [donations are] three feet high – with the clothes and stuff – and we got to go in and clean the whole thing right out.”

That has changed since Karen took over. “We haven’t had to touch it in three weeks,” Grotton says, clearly pleased with the change. And Karen is making it easier for Swap Shop visitors to find something useful. “A lot of residents use that place,” continues Grotton, “and she’s cut their time in half because everything is sorted. Everybody used to go in and pick all through the clothes and throw them on the floor. Now, they can go right to their size – it’s fantastic.”

The newly-organized Swap Shop at the China Transfer Station. (photo by Eric Austin)

An efficient Swap Shop also saves the town money by diverting more items out of the trash stream. “A lot of the stuff that goes out of that building would go into a landfill,” says Grotton. Especially clothing. “We want to keep all the clothing that we can out of the regular hopper.”

To this end, the China Transfer Station has partnered with Apparel Impact, a “textile recovery company” that operates out of New Hampshire. According to their website, clothing makes up close to 10 percent of all trash in local landfills. They have four donation bins located around central Maine, with one of them here at China Transfer Station.

“Last year, we shipped out 6.2 tons of clothing [through Apparel Impact] that would have gone to the landfill,” Grotton says. But he tells me the Swap Shop puts that number to shame. “I’m guessing four times that amount goes through that building there,” he says, nodding toward the Swap Shop. That’s a lot of clothing that isn’t filling up our landfills.

Organizing the clothing as it comes into the Swap Shop increases its efficiency, but even with her organizational superpowers, Karen is just one lady. She’s at the Swap Shop on most afternoons, but she’s eager to find other volunteers, especially someone to monitor the shop in the mornings. If you’re interested in helping her out, send an email to ChinaforaLifetime@gmail.com.

Considering the Swap Shop’s popularity and money-saving success, Station Manager Grotton hopes to apply for a TIF grant that would allow him to add a few building improvements, including running power to the building. Not only would that allow them to install lights in the building, but visitors could then test items that require power before taking them home.

Whatever the future holds for the Swap Shop, Karen Hatch has found a way to make this little corner of China a more pleasant place to visit. Next time you drop by the transfer station, why not check out the Swap Shop and thank her for all her hard work? Maybe you’ll even find something to take home with you, as they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” especially when there’s a woman around to organize it.

Eric W. Austin writes about issues important to central Maine exclusively for The Town Line. He can be reached at ericwaustin@townline.org.

2019 State champion

Kaleb Brown, a brown belt, of Palermo, earned State Championship titles for both Kata (forms) and Kumite (fighting) on December 7, 2019. This prestigious award is given to only the first place winners. It is an honor to hold such a title as it represents hard work, determination and commitment to the art. (contributed photo)

Erskine Renaissance Awards presented for December 2019

Seniors of the Trimester, front row, from left to right, Julia Basham and Summer Hotham. Back row, Lucy Allen, Jacob Sutter, Ben Reed and Dominic Smith. (contributed photo)

On Friday, December 13, Erskine Academy students and staff attended a Renaissance Assembly to honor their peers with Renaissance Awards.

Left, Faculty of the Trimester, Jennifer Tibbetts, left, and Eileen McNeff. (contributed photo)

Recognition Awards were presented to the following students: Jack Allen, Lily Bray, Nathan Million, Sydni Plummer, Hanna Spitzer, Benjamin Lavoie, Alyssha Gil, and Eleena Lee.

In addition to Recognition Awards, Senior of the Trimester Awards were also presented to six members of the senior class: Lucy Allen, daughter of Patrick and Shirley Allen, of Windsor; Julia Basham, daughter of Tim and Catherine Basham, of China; Dominic Smith, son of Katrina and Dan Jackson, of Whitefield; Ben Reed, son of Kevin and Jennifer Reed, of Vassalboro; Summer Hotham, daughter of Charles and Heide Hotham, of Palmero; and Jacob Sutter, son of Richard and Jenny Sutter, of Palermo. Seniors of the Trimester are recognized as individuals who have gone above and beyond in all aspects of their high school careers.

In appreciation of their dedication and service to Erskine Academy, Faculty of the Trimester awards were also presented to Jennifer Tibbetts, mathematics instructor; and Eileen McNeff, business office bookkeeper.

Sheepscot chorus to perform in Boothbay Harbor

Sheepscot Valley Chorus celebrates its 39th season with a “Christmas Pops!” concert on Sunday, December 8, at 3 p.m., at the Boothbay Harbor Congregational Church. Led by artistic director Linda Blanchard and accompanist Sean Fleming, the concert will feature Felix Mendelssohn’s brilliant Magnificat setting, the Magnificat in D. The concert will also include several jazzy arrangements of hit tunes such as “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and more! The vocal talents of soprano Mary Sullivan, alto Jazmin DeRice, tenors Jesse Wakeman and David Myers, Jr., and bass John David Adams will be featured in solos, duets, and trios, and a jazz combo will accompany the chorus on several numbers.

In the spirit of Christmas giving, Sheepscot Chorus asks concert attendees to bring a canned or boxed food item and/or a monetary donation for the Boothbay Region Food Pantry.

Palermo Community Center in search of seed money to upgrade community garden

The Palermo Community Garden is going for a SeedMoney FlashFund Challenge Grant. They are looking to revamp and raise some of the cedar log garden beds to provide comfortable seating for seniors and the disabled, so they can enjoy the organic veggie beds, the friendly hummingbirds, and getting their hands in the soil. They also want to purchase roll-around garden seats with toll racks, to save wear and tear on knees.

The Palermo Community Garden provides over 450 pounds a season of extremely fresh salad greens, vegetables, herbs and fruit to the Palermo Food Pantry. Any volunteers can pick whatever their family needs from the garden from asparagus to zinnias.

The goal is to raise $600 before December 15. You can help. Just go to https://donate.seedmoney.org/3621/palermo-community-garden, and push the orange DONATE button. There is already over $200 in the kitty, so any amount of your generosity will be hugely appreciated.

For more information, contact Connie Bellet at 993-2294 or pwwhitehawk@fairpoint.net.

Whitefield Lions announce peace poster contest winners

First place posters that will move on to the state competition, from left to right, Addison Turner (Palermo), Jade McCollette (Chelsea), Donovan Thompson (Whitefield), and Barry Tibbetts on behalf of Lillian Brooks (Jefferson). (Contributed photo)

The Whitefield Lions club took part in judging Peace Posters from four different schools – Jefferson, Whitefield, Chelsea, Palermo. The contest asked the students to draw the Journey to Peace. At the Thursday meeting, the winners from the contest came to the Whitefield Lions club to receive recognition and awards. The first place winners will move on to the next round of competition. the Lions are an international service group and this competition will eventually display the final winning posters at the United Nations Lions Day.

Winners from Palermo Elementary School, from left to right, Brody Worth, Lion Kim Haskell, Addison Turner and Mara Mangin. (Contributed photo)

Winners from Whitefield Elementary School, from left to right, Lion Kim Haskell on behalf of Katie Shaw, Ory Winchenbach and Donavon Thompson. (Contributed photo)

Winners from Jefferson Elementary, from left to right, David Winchenbach and Kaylee Lappen. Absent from photo, Lillian Brooks. (Contributed photo)

Winners from Chelsea Elementary, from left to right, Trinity DeGrenier, Lion Kim Haskell and Alyssa Pullen. Absent from photo, Jade McCollette. (Contributed photo)

Electronic tags to replace stickers at China transfer station

by Larry Sikora and Bob Kurek,
China Transfer Station Committee

The State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded a grant to the China Transfer Station for a Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID). The data from the RFID will help the Transfer Station monitor usage and traffic flows and will assist the state in moving towards its goal of recycling 50 percent of household waste.

The RFID tag will hang from your vehicle’s mirror and replace the current annually-renewed window sticker. A sensor will detect when and by whom the Transfer Station is being used. The technology is similar to the EZ-pass and can easily be moved between vehicles. Effective January 1, 2020, transfer station users will be required to use the new tag.

RFID tags will be issued by China or Palermo town offices. One free tag will be provided to each residence and there will be a charge of $10 to replace a lost or stolen tag. If residents want more than the one free tag, additional tags may be purchased for $10 which is refundable when the purchased tag is returned.

There are three differences between the RFID tag and the sticker currently used. The RFID tag does not have to be renewed annually. Secondly, the tag is not associated with a vehicle license number and therefore can be moved between vehicles. Lastly, the tag must be returned to the town when the property is sold. A $10 refund is given for those tags purchased. Non-return of the initial free tag will result in an assessed fee.

There will be two informational public meetings discussing the introduction of the RFID tag. They are November 13, at 7 p.m., at the China Town Office and November 21, at 6 p.m., at the Palermo Town Office. The November 13 meeting can be watched using the live-stream located at the town of China’s website.

Palermo legion to hold annual craft fair

The Malcolm Glidden American Legion Post #163 craft fair was started by Pauline York in 2013 and has been a huge success over the years. Pauline passed away before the first craft fair event but the family, the legion auxiliary and legion members kept it going in her memory.

This event is held to raise money to send students to Boys/Girls State. In 2019, they were able to send three girls and two boys. Over the years, they have sent a total of 19 students.

They have a raffle with over 30 items, all donations from Pauline’s family. There will be a bake sale with homemade pies, yeast rolls and many desserts.

The legion members will be selling hot dogs for lunch. There will be a variety of crafters, vendors, decorated wreaths, jewelry, cards, bird houses and feeders, wood crafts, sweaters, mittens, sewing and knitted items, pickles, salsa and relishes, and personalized tumblers and cups.

Everyone who attends gets to sign up for a chance at winning door prizes. The legion asks for support for this great event to be held on Saturday, October 26, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., at the Malcolm Glidden American Legion Post #163 home, on the Turner Ridge Road, in Palermo.

Palermo resident presented with Quilt of Valor

From left to right, Clayton York, commander of American Legion Post #163, of Palermo, George and Beverly McKenney, and Mary Haskell, treasurer for American Legion Post #163 Ladies Auxiliary. (Contributed photo)

On September 29, a Quilt of Valor was presented to George McKenney, 89, of Palermo, by Clayton York, commander of American Legion Post #163, of Palermo, and Mary Haskell, treasurer of the Ladies Auxiliary to Post #163.

Darleen Potter made the quilt and Charlene Mosher volunteered to “long arm quilt” the finished quilt.

Several weeks ago, Bryan and Darleen Potter contacted Mary Haskell and asked if she could choose someone from Palermo to deciate a Quilt of Valor. She immediately thought of McKenney, and the work began.

The quilt is dedicated to McKenney as a thank you for his service during the Korean War. Many family members, legion and auxiliary members attended.

The Quilt of Valor Foundation is an organization that began in 2003. The purpose of which is to award quilts to veterans in the United States. These quilts are to say “thank you for their service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation in combat.”

The quilts presented to veterans during this month of September is 1,250; and the total number of quilts awarded to date is 228,767 nationwide.

McKenney’s quilt is the first awarded by Post #163.

Visit the QOVF.org website for more information. McKenney’s quilt is registered with the foundation.

Contributed photo

Students named to the University of Vermont dean’s list

Three area students were named to the dean’s list at the University of Vermont, in Burlington, Vermont. To be named to the dean’s list, students must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better and rank in the top 20 percent of their class in their respective college or school.

Kayla Christopher, of Oakland, Natalie Palmer, of Augusta, and Kaitlyn Sutter, of Palermo.