SKILLS, INC employee honored as Direct Support Professional of the Year at MACSP annual meeting

Front row, seated, from left to right, Kerryn Morin, DSP/Award recipient, Lori Lefferts, Director of Human Resources, Kristin Overton, executive director. Standing, Cindy Shaw, Community Support Program Manager, Jai Morin (Kerryn’s spouse), Pam Erskine, Director of Program Services, Rachel Fuller, Residential Program Manager, Patrick Bagley, LC Dill Community Support Program Team Leader. (photo by Sharyn Peavey Photography)

On December 9, 2022, Kerryn Morin, of Clinton, was honored by the Maine Association of Community Service Providers (MACSP) as a Direct Support Professional of the Year. Morin works for SKILLS, a St. Albans-based organization with programs and support services for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals in several communities across central Maine. Morin has worked at SKILLS for 18 years.

Morin was one of 15 direct support professionals from across the state recognized during MACSP’s annual meeting for their leadership, collaborative spirit, and commitment to high-quality services for people with intellectual disabilities, autism, and brain injuries.

Several members of the SKILLS team as well as members of Morin’s family attended the event that was held at the Harraseeket Inn, in Freeport.

Free federal and state income tax preparation offered to qualifying individuals

The AARP Tax-Aide program provides free federal and state income tax preparation and electronic filing to low-and moderate-income individuals. Returns are prepared by IRS-certified volunteers. The program is funded by the AARP Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization, and the IRS.

Counselors will help individuals navigate the 2022 federal and Maine income tax returns. You do not need to be an AARP member to use this service. Assistance is available by appointment only at the following sites from January 31st to April 19th.

If you were told that you didn’t have to file a tax return, and as a result you didn’t; you may be leaving money on the table. The majority of low income Mainers qualify for $130 (or more) of Property Tax Fairness Credit (PTFC) and/or Sales Tax Fairness Credit (STFC) from the State of Maine. However, in order to get the credits, they must file a Maine tax return. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide will file your tax return for free.

Please remember that our appointment makers are all volunteers and respect them and their time when calling for an appointment.

AUGUSTA: Buker Community Center, 22 Armory St.: 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m., Mondays and Fridays. Call 582-3053 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ONLY to make an appointment.

MADISON: Crossroads Bible Church, 705 White Schoolhouse Road: 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Mondays. Call 431-4933 Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ONLY to make an appointment.

Erskine Academy presents 2022 Renaissance awards

Erskine Academy seniors of the trimester, for the first trimester, from left to right, Kayla Peaslee, Mackenzie Toner, and Lillian Dorval. (pontributed photo)

On Friday, December 16, 2022, Erskine Academy held a Renaissance assembly to recognize first trimester award recipients.

Recognition awards were presented to Mia Hersom, Brody Worth, Elsa Redmond, Gavyn Paradis, Adrianna Vernesoni, Nolan Burgess, and Jesseca Eastup.

Three seniors received Senior of the Trimester Awards: Lillian Dorval, daughter of Jillian and Christopher Carey, of Vassalboro; Kayla Peaslee, daughter of Stephanie and Edward Peaslee, of China; and Mackenzie Toner, daughter of Thomas Toner, of Windsor, and Chrystal Toner, of Augusta. Seniors of the Trimester are recognized as individuals who have gone above and beyond in all aspects of their high school careers.

In addition, tenure awards were also presented to seven faculty members: Holly Tripp and John Clark for 15 years of service; Mike Choate and Jim Johnson for 20 years of service; Ryan Nored and Michael McQuarrie for 25 years of service; and to Mark Bailey for 30 years of service.

In appreciation of their dedication and service to Erskine Academy, Faculty of the Trimester awards were also presented to Elizabeth Lawrence, Spanish instructor; and Abby Everleth, science instructor.

China Window Dressers workshop goes off without a hitch…almost!

Heidi Daigle, left, with unidentified helper. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

It was never a sure thing, but in the end, they pulled it off and accomplished a tremendous success. The China for a Lifetime Committee, a local town-sponsored group that seeks out projects with the goal of improving the lives of China residents, first planned a Window Dressers workshop for the fall of 2020. Well, we all know how that year went.

Window Dressers is a nonprofit based in Rockport that works with towns across the state to organize community workshops to build low-cost window inserts to eliminate drafts and help people reduce their heating costs. Vassalboro has led several workshops, most recently in 2019, and the idea was for volunteers in China to coordinate with volunteers in Vassalboro to lead workshops on alternate years and give residents of area towns a yearly option to have inserts built or repaired.

Dee and Gesika L’Heureux. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

COVID threw a wrench into that strategy, and although tentative plans were made for the following year, in 2021, those plans were again scrapped as the pandemic was still raging and uncertainty about its direction led the committee to delay the workshop for another year. At the start of 2022, however, committee members were determined to make it work.

Planning began in January, and in the following months members of the China for a Lifetime Committee attended several seminars and Zoom tutorials to better understand how the process worked. They learned how to properly measure windows to a perfect precision (the most important part of the process), how the online measuring application functioned (and what to do when it didn’t), and how the inserts were put together and built. They created flyers and other promotional materials and disseminated them to local churches, town offices, post offices and community groups. They reached out to area organizations to ask them to spread the word and help with the effort. They met monthly to report their progress and plan for the months ahead.

Starting in the spring, they began taking orders and setting up measuring appointments. Traveling to each client home, the teams measured every window requiring inserts and sent the results back to the Window Dressers headquarters for the frames to be cut.

Damaris Mayans. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

It all came together in the second week of November. Camp Directors Stephanie and Rick Hansen, at the China Lake Conference Center, provided space for the workshop, which turned out to be the perfect place. Christopher Hahn, chairman for the China for a Lifetime Committee, coordinated all the logistics required for everything to come together for the successful build event and was on hand to offer advice and encouragement to volunteers as they participated. Hahn was a consistent presence for the entire week and the lynch-pin holding it all together.

In the end, volunteers at the workshop put together over 200 window inserts and repaired another fifty. More than 50 volunteers participated during the week of the build and the initiative was only successful because so many people volunteered their time and energy in this effort to benefit the entire community.

The process did not go off completely without a hitch, of course. Nothing is perfect. Four windows (out of 200) were mis-measured and had to be sent back to be redone. Some of the volunteers who had signed up to work at the build workshop never showed up for their shift, which left the remaining team members short-handed. But these were minor bumps in the road for a first-time effort and, at the postmortem meeting held a few weeks later, committee members agreed that the effort had been a terrific success and a rewarding experience.

Next year, Vassalboro will be hosting a Window Dressers build so anyone who was unable to order inserts this year will be able to do so then.

The China for a Lifetime Committee thanks everyone who participated to make this a successful effort, including the local organizations and churches that helped spread the word, the local town offices for taking orders, and especially the China Lake Conference Center for generously providing the space for the week-long event.

Chanelle Cyr, front, and Zach Cravems. (photo by Eric W. Austin)

For more information about Window Dressers, please visit their website at windowdressers.org. To find out more about the China for a Lifetime Committee, their website is ChinaForALifetime.com. Anyone interested in joining the committee or being a part of future events can email them at ChinaForALifetime@gmail.com.

Erskine Academy announces national merit scholarship student

Malachi Lowery

Erskine Academy has announced that Malachi Lowery, son of Holly Hilton, of Vassalboro, has been named a Commended Student in the 2023 National Merit Scholarship Program. Lowery is among approximately 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation who are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.

Although Lowery will not continue in the 2023 competition for National Merit Scholarships, Commended Students placed among the top 50,000 scorers of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2023 competition by taking the 2021 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Commended students receive a Letter of Commendation from their school and the National Merit Scholarship Program in recognition of this honor.

Vassalboro 2022 Light up the Town contest winners

Congratulations to all who participated in the Vassalboro Business Association’s annual “Light Up the Town” contest!

The winners are:

Laura Jones, at 943 Bog Rd., #1 Best in Town – $200;
Teresa Jerolman/Dan Poulin, at 1321 Cross Hill Rd., #2 Best in Town – $150;
Stephen/Linnea Holmeister, at 18 Lang St., #3 Best in Town – $100.
Mike/Tracy McKenney, 120 Hannaford Hill Rd., #1 Most Creative – $200;
Kat/Kevin Eastman, at 731 Main St., #2 Most Creative – $150;
Rachel/Nick Jacobs, at 113 Priest Hill Rd., #3 Most Creative – $100.

Fairfield Cops Care For Kids program another huge success

The Fairfield Police Department Cops Care for Kids. (contributed photo)

by Mark Huard

The Fairfield Cops Care for Kids Program was created by the late Kingston Paul over 15 years ago. What started as a way to develop a relationship with the youth of Fairfield, grew into something so much more. That first night 15 years ago, three officers and Kingston delivered approximately 35 stuffed animals with a tag attached with all the officers’ names on it, wishing them a Merry Christmas. Fast forward to today and now all the officers from the department participate by going shopping for the presents, wrapping and delivering those presents and donating out of their checks all year long to help fund the program.

This year the Fairfield Police Department did something new and exciting thanks to an idea that the current Chief Thomas Gould came up with a few years ago. As the program grew over the years from a stuffed animal to three small gifts and a stuffed animal, we wanted something fun for the kids to enjoy and remember for a lifetime. So on December 15 and 16, the Fairfield Community Center was transformed into a Christmas Wonderland and was decorated from floor to ceiling with lights, presents, Christmas trees and more. The kids came in and were able to walk through and enjoy all the lights, vote on their favorite Christmas tree and have a chance to win all the toys underneath, enjoy sugar cookies and hot chocolate all while watching a movie and opening their gifts.

The Cops Care for Kids Program will still continue with their tradition of home deliveries to honor Kingston Paul.

None of this would be possible without the dedication of the department, the donations given throughout the year from members of our and surrounding communities and businesses along with the countless hours of hard work that went into making this all happen.

Northern Light Inland Hospital named a top birthing hospital

Northern Light Inland Hospital has been named as one of America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics by the Women’s Choice Award®. The award signifies that Inland Hospital is in the top 7 percent of 4,729 U.S. hospitals offering obstetrics.

Inland Hospital is one of only four hospitals in Maine to earn the top obstetrics award. Others include Northern Light Mercy Hospital and Maine Medical Center, in Portland, and Cary Medical Center, in Caribou.

“We are so proud of our Birthing Center and Women’s Health teams!” says Tricia Costigan, president of Inland Hospital. “The quality and safety they deliver is simply outstanding, and the personalized birthing experience makes all the difference to new moms and families.”

The Women’s Choice Award focuses its research on hospitals that provide the highest quality patient experience, especially important for potential labor complications. The methodology for the Best Hospitals for Obstetrics combines national accreditations, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health­care Pro­viders and Systems (HCAHPS) survey res­ults and hospital outcome scores with primary research about wo­men’s healthcare preferences.

The America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics gives consideration to the following specific criteria (all are not required of each hospital).

• The percentage of patients reporting through the HCAHPS survey that they would definitely recommend the hospital
• Patient safety ranking based on 12 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ measures of infection and complication rates
• Low rates of early elective deliveries (between 0-1 percent)

For more information on the America’s Best Hospitals for Obstetrics visit https://womenschoiceaward.com/best-hospitals-for-obstetrics. For more information about Inland Hospital visit northernlighthealth.org/Inland.

Scouts converge at Bomazeen for annual fall camporee

Troop #213 Scouts Eddie Seiders, of South Bristol, Finley Greenleaf and Peter Delonzo, both of Jefferson, Elijah Smith, of Boothbay, and Malachi Donaldson, of Boothbay Harbor, camped overnight in the rain and wind but had a great time. (contributed photo)

by Chuck Mahaleris

More than one hundred Scouts and leaders from Somerset, Kennebec and Lincoln Counties descended on Camp Bomazeen in Belgrade for the annual Fall Camp-O-Ree held on the weekend of October 14 through 16. The theme was “Anything Goes with a Touch of Halloween.”

Each Scout troop that attended not only camped out but ran one of the stations. These ranged from such traditional Scouting activities such as Orienteering, Pioneering, Primitive Fire Building and Shooting Sports to more Spooky-themed events such as Witches Brew Stew Competition, creepy obstacle course, and best Halloween Costumes. Scouts also went trick or treating from station to station collecting candy as they went.

Troop #433, of Winslow, won the gateway competition. (contributed photo)

“Our little spook-o-ree drew in a whole bunch of Scouts who got to go from station to station performing their scout skills for points,” said Chris Bernier, of Winslow, who ran the event. “Huge thank you to all of the staff who came out to lend a hand running events and thank you to the leaders of all the units who came for also running a station. I already miss sharing a campfire with all of you and I can not wait for the Klondike Derby and Spring Camporee.”

Troop #213,, of Damariscotta, opted to set up their campsite on Friday night in the rain and wind. The troop set up a large boat tarp and then set up the individual Scout tents underneath. The Augusta area saw nearly three and half inches of rain that night but no amount of rain could dampen the enthusiasm.

Sunday morning everyone met for the closing ceremony and some great prizes were handed out. There was a new camp stove, a 12-inch Dutch oven, a tripod cooking grill, a water bladder, a fire grill, a portable sink and a plastic bucket as the blanket prizes. The prizes were chosen by the winners based on ranking.

For overall points, Troop #401, Sidney took first place. Troop #485, of Skowhegan, was second place overall.

For Troop Gateway competition, Troop #433, of Winslow, came in first place. Troop #485, of Skowhegan, came in second place, and Troop #401, of Sidney, came in third place.

For the Witches Brew Stew competition, Troop #485, of Skowhegan, took first place.

The Wreaths Across America caravan stops in China

The caravan stops for lunch at Hannaford, in China. (photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

The Hannaford parking lot in South China was unusually crowded on Sunday, December 11, as the Wreaths Across America caravan stopped in China on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia, to lay wreaths during this holiday season on the graves of America’s fallen heroes.

The caravan consisted of semi-trucks loaded with donated wreaths, the police cars, blue lights flashing, to escort them, and the many volunteers that help with the effort. Hannaford provided lunch for the volunteers on this stop in China before they headed to their next stop in Lewiston.

(photo by Eric Austin)

“They say you die twice,” a Gold-Star mother told me in the parking lot. “Once physically and once when people stop saying your name.” Her son had died in the Iraq war, she said, and two of her daughters are currently serving. She pointed to a photo that was part of the display on the side of one of the semi-trucks parked behind us. It showed three U.S. soldiers embarking from a helicopter in full combat gear. One of them, she said, was her son. She explained how the families of veterans who have died in the line of duty lay a wreath on their grave and say their name aloud, because it is important that these brave men and women are never forgotten. They live on in the memories of those who loved them.

The Wreaths Across America effort began in 2006 when the Worcester Wreath Co., in Harrington, Maine, posted a photo of wreaths they had laid at the graves of veterans at the national cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia. The photo went viral and the initiative quickly grew to encompass more than 100 locations across the U.S.

Anyone wishing to sponsor a wreath or find out more about the program can reach out through their website at wreathsacrossamerica.org.