Sheepscot Lake Fish & Game Association: Nonprofit Spotlight

(photo by Roland D. Hallee)

Central Maine non-profit organizations: Their Mission, Their Goals

by Martha Sullivan
Back in the early 1940s, a group of young men in Palermo, who often fished and hunted in the area, talked about how they wanted to form a fish and game club, and build a clubhouse. But, Pearl Harbor was bombed and soon these men went off to war. When they returned, their families came first, but soon that clubhouse dream was back.
On April 5, 1953, these met at the Branch Mills Grange Hall and formed their club. By the next meeting, in May, they had people offer to donate their trees and a local sawmill volunteered to cut and deliver the lumber. Other local people offered to donate time and materials. They found a great spot on Sheepscot Lake and the land owner, Charlie Hannon, offered them a 99-year lease. The Sheepscot Lake Fish and Game Association, Inc., was formed.
On April 24, Lawrence Glidden presented the by-laws, which, except for a few minor changes, remain the same today.
On May 8, Arthur Tyler, Clair Bradstreet, Millard Saban and Wilbur Jewett were appointed to look for a site to build a clubhouse. Until the new clubhouse was built, meetings were held alternately at Branch Mills Grange and Sheepscot Lake Grange.
In three years the building was completed. In 1969 they purchased an adjoining lot for parking.
The mission of this club is to encourage projects to teach sportsmanship, and to promote and save hunting and fishing, protect the lake, and to instruct the youth on improving our environment and safety in hunting and fishing.
In the 1950s they had regular monthly meetings, held an ice fishing derby (which is still held to this day), held Beano games, and field days. They paid for students to go to Boys and Girls State and gave camp and school scholarships. They also held regular dinners and dances to raise money.
They still do many of these things and also give a scholarship to a Palermo resident at Erskine Academy to continue their education in the field of conservation or related area study.
The clubhouse is available to organizations and private parties. Some of them have been the snowmobile club, ATV club, Palermo Athletic Group, senior citizens, extension homemakers, Boy Scouts, fire department gatherings, family reunions, parties for birthdays, wedding, etc. Many classes are held there including hunter’s safety course, trapping class, Sportsmen Alliance of Maine and swimming classes.
Around 1960, the Dirigo Boys Baseball League was formed. Needing money to function, the fish and game club donated to that cause.
In the early ‘70s, Charlie Hannan passed away, and club members Gordon Ballantyne and Walter Banton were appointed and offered to purchased the land from Frances Boynton, Charlie’s daughter. She agreed to sell the property for $3,000.
In recent years they have held a fishing derby in February and a big two-day yard sale in September as fundraisers.
Currently, the association is working with the state to improve the boat landing and re-arranging the driveway, along with paving the parking lot.
The organization is currently seeking new members with new ideas and a willingness to keep the club active. The meetings are held on the second Friday of each month at 6:30 p.m., when a potluck supper is held. The meetings are open to the public. For more information, contact Rodney, Jane or Elizabeth Glidden, 993-2625, Marty Holzer, 993-2270 or Martha Sullivan, 993-2349.
CORRECTION: The byline of this article has been updated.

China Community Food Pantry: Nonprofit Spotlight

The China Food Pantry at 1320 Lakeview Drive in China. (photo by Eric Austin)

Central Maine non-profit organizations: Their Mission, Their Goals

by Eric W. Austin

Nearly 30 years ago, Lee and Ann Austin founded the China Community Food Pantry with one goal in mind: to help reduce food insecurity in central Maine. The couple had owned and operated the Willow Beach Camps Resort on China Lake for more than a decade, and after closing the establishment, they were looking for a way to give back to a community that had been so supportive of them over the years. Lee Austin was a China native, growing up in South China and attending Erskine Academy, while Ann had grown up in Whittier, California, and was teaching kindergarten at China Elementary School.

Volunteer Dale Peabody sets up food boxes on the front porch of China Community Food Pantry. (photo by Ann Austin)

Although Lee passed away in 2016 after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife, Ann, continues to pursue their vision to reduce food insecurity in Maine, hosting the food pantry in what was once the dining room and kitchen for Willow Beach Camps Resort, and is now the upstairs floor of her home in China.

Over the years, many dozens of local people have donated their time and financial support to make the food pantry successful. “We would be nothing without our volunteers,” Ann says. “They are the heart and soul of the food pantry and I couldn’t do this without their help.”

Volunteers work on Fridays and Saturdays when the food pantry is open from 12 to 1 p.m., but many volunteers arrive as early as eight o’clock to start getting ready. Food needs to be sorted and marked. Floors must be swept and counters cleaned. Boxes must be broken down and taken to the transfer station for recycling. Since the start of the pandemic, bundles of food are made up ahead of time for differently-sized households because patrons can no longer browse through the pantry in person.

But that’s not all. Food deliveries need to be made too. Last year, the food pantry was able to purchase a used cargo van, funded entirely through donations. This vehicle is driven by volunteers to local grocery stores, and then back to the China Food Pantry multiple times each week. Food deliveries happen on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Many local farms also donate surplus food to the effort.

Volunteers Lucas Gombojav, left, and Donna Loveland, right, demonstrate how food boxes are delivered to clients while maintaining social distancing at China Food Pantry. (photo by Ann Austin)

On an average week, the food pantry serves 40-50 families. Although some food provided through federal programs can only be given to China residents, much of the rest is available to patrons coming from other towns in central Maine and no one is ever turned away.

The work is never-ending. Volunteers show up every week, week after week. Their rewards are the words of thanks they receive from patrons. Many of those patrons later become volunteers as a way to repay the kindness they once received. “Pay it forward” is a good phrase to describe the China Food Pantry. It’s a continuous cycle of giving that has worked for almost three decades.

Ann Austin is now in her 70s, with nine grandchildren, and retired from teaching, but she continues to manage the food pantry. She leads a group of determined volunteers that share her giving spirit. Together they are working to make the world a little bit better, one community at a time.

If anyone is interested in joining the effort to reduce food insecurity in central Maine, Ann can be reached at 968-2421 or by mail at PO Box 6012, China Village, 04926.

The food pantry is located at 1320 Lakeview Drive in China just south of the Lakeview Lumber hardware store. The pantry’s hours of operation are Friday and Saturday from 12 – 1 p.m.

The Town Line will continue with a series on local nonprofit groups and their work in their respective communities. To include your group, contact The Town Line at

Palermo Community Foundation: Nonprofit Spotlight

Palermo Community Foundation (photo by Connie Bellet)

Central Maine non-profit organizations: Their Mission, Their Goals

Submitted by Connie Bellet

Originally known as the Palermo Community Foundation, the organization was chartered in 1996 by a group of friends led by John Potter, Jim Osier, Dennis Sturgis, Ted Bigos, Mike McCarty, Eben Bradstreet, and Herb Flint. Their plan was to serve the needs of the community by providing a building for local groups to meet, learn, share ideas and talent, and to create a more sustainable community.

Mr. Potter had some land and a rudimentary building available, which he later donated to the new organization. Several ideas about uses for this asset were floated. These included a health clinic, a library, an art and technology teaching center, and an internet service provider. The health clinic and library didn’t work out, but Palermo Online, the area’s first ISP, moved in upstairs. The main floor became a meeting room, performance area, dining room, art studio, kitchenette, and now a weekly Food Pantry. Mr. Sturgis taught people how to use computers, while Jim Osier and others refurbished outdated and damaged computers. Eventually over 300 of these computers were donated to elderly shut-ins and low-income students in several counties.

Phil White Hawk watering the garden. (photo by Connie Bellet)

In 2001, the PCF officially received its 501(c)3 designation as a nonprofit Charitable Foundation. All Board Members and Executives have always served as volunteers. The Chairman of the Board is Larry Grant, with Connie Bellet serving as President, Tom Thornton as Vice President, Melody Sherrick as Secretary, Ted Bigos as Treasurer, Phil White Hawk as CFO, Mike Dunn as Parliamentarian, and Dennis Sullivan as Building and Grounds Chairman.

By 2004, the PCF had outgrown its initial scope, and now serves at least five counties. So, it adopted a d.b.a., and is operating as the Living Communities Foundation. The organization sponsored events like the “Palermo World’s Fair,” several live multimedia concerts by Phil White Hawk and Connie Bellet, and now hosts the Great ThunderChicken Drum, a pan-tribal Native teaching Drum. There have been two weddings in the Palermo Community Center and the Grape Arbor in the Palermo Community Garden. For nine years, the LCF sponsored free monthly potluck “Dinner and a Movie” nights, featuring films about various aspects of sustainability. However, those were curtailed by the pandemic. But, as a sign of hope and abundance, Alex Bradstreet has installed a couple of colonies of honeybees in the Community Garden, and they have made a big difference in local fruit production.

Peter Nerber and other volunteers are setting up the Palermo Food Pantry. (photo by Connie Bellet)

In 2014, June Foshay approached the Foundation about opening a food pantry in the Community Center. The weekly Palermo Food Pantry is an agency of the Good Shepherd Food Bank. For the last seven years, Ms. Foshay, as Pantry Director, has kept the pantry open every Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to noon. Although weekly attendance varies, approximately 40 households are signed up at the Pantry. Hannaford Supermarkets graciously supplies meats, vegetables, dairy, and canned goods, while local farmers, as well as the Palermo Community Garden, provide fresh, organic greens, vegetables, and fruits for the Pantry. For more information about the Pantry, please contact June Foshay at 993-2225.

The Living Communities Foundation is funded exclusively by private and business donations, as well as by sales of Vidalia onions in the spring and Florida citrus in the winter. Until the pandemic, peaches were also a big fundraiser, but are no longer available. There have also been bake sales, bottle drives, raffles, and wine tastings. Since the Foundation is not endowed at this time, grant writing will likely loom large in the future. In the meantime, donations are always appreciated to keep the freezers running and the utilities going. See below for more info!

Looking toward the future, the Living Communities Foundation foresees more responses to community needs as the age demographics inch upwards and social structures are reorganized. Now that Covid restrictions are being lifted, families are once again welcome to schedule visits to the Community Garden to learn gardening techniques from Master Gardener Connie Bellet and take home freshly-picked produce after doing a bit of weeding. Call Connie at 993-2294 to schedule a volunteer session or other event. Groups can meet in the Grape Arbor for afternoon iced tea, and the Community Center will once again be available for meetings, seminars, discussion groups, and small parties. Perhaps the “Dinner and a Movie” nights will be reinstated. Stay tuned for Open Garden Day!

Since both White Hawk and Bellet have a history of disaster response training, one future goal is to install a transfer switch and automatic generator at the Community Center so it can be used as a community water source and warming center case of power outage in the winter. This project will cost about $10,000. A 400 foot well was drilled in 2017, and donations plus partnership with Habitat for Humanity enabled the construction of a disability ramp in 2018. The Board of Directors is considering the use of the Community Center as a Senior Center as well. It can be a place to play cards, board games, quilting, or do craft projects. With proper funding, and with the right technology, establi­shing a WiFi hotspot may become a possibility. Mobile hot­spots could be available to loan to people without internet service.

From left to right, Laura Sullivan, Cindy Keller, Katrina Cates, Orin Anderson and Pauline York gather around the fire pit at the annual volunteers’ BBQ. (photo by Connie Bellet)

Anyone can become a member of the LCF for $10.00 per person per year or $25.00 per family of any size. There are no restrictions and no discrimination. Membership applications can be obtained by calling 993-2294 or emailing The street address is 22 Veterans Way, Palermo, just off Turner Ridge Rd. across from the ball field. Donations are greatly appreciated and are the lifeblood of the Foundation. Please make out checks to LCF and send them to P.O. Box 151, Palermo, ME 04354.

Adults who want to join the LCF and serve the needs of the community are welcome as volunteers or potential Board members. During warmer months, volunteers are needed for garden work, yard and building maintenance. Snow removal services will be needed for hire during the winter months, especially for the safety of Food Pantry clients. Interested plowers and shovelers should call Phil White Hawk at 993-2294. Thank you for your interest and involvement!

The Town Line will continue with a series on local nonprofit groups and their work in their respective communities. To include your group, contact The Town Line at

The South China Public Library: Central ME Nonprofit Spotlight

photo courtesy of South China Library

by Bob Bennett

As I believe most of we humans are aware, especially in these difficult times, change is inevitable. For the most part, the results of these events are positive, at least in the long run, and we look back with gratitude and acceptance. The South China Public Library is undergoing change to a great degree at this moment and those of us associated with this special organization are certain that ultimately, we will have an entity that will continue to provide the services to our community for which our library has been noted for nearly two centuries.

The verification of this “old age” is that the South China Public Library is the oldest continuously operating public library in the state of Maine. It was established in 1830 and its founders included members of the Jones family and other Quaker families. The library is also one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in the state, incorporated in 1912. The building presently in use by the library had its main section constructed in 1900 and the addition now housing the children’s room was built by volunteers in 1980.

Our historic, treasured building does not have bathroom facilities and we are not able to expand at the current site. Our central location has always made the library very accessible for the residents of South China and for its numerous summer visitors and seasonal residents. In addition, the library’s site directly across from the South China Community Church has allowed us to coordinate our annual fundraisers (until this year) such as the library’s book and pie sale and the church’s chicken barbecue and summer sale. This is a tradition we hope to continue, even with our relocation “around the corner.” These community interactions have always been at the heart of our existence.

The programs the library offers are in many ways our most vital services, and our children’s programs may best reflect this. Every summer for a number of years, we have offered a kid-oriented series of get-togethers, usually on Wednesday mornings, that spotlight local resources and presenters focusing on young people. These range from Mr. Drew and his amazing animals (he “zoomed” with our young patrons recently), to local fire departments stressing the importance of safety, and ice cream trucks, offering a “taste of the good life.”

These foxes were seen recently at the South China Public Library. Perhaps they are interested in reading up on ancestors. (photo by Bob Bennett)

These presentations, starting in late June after schools close and extending into the middle of August, are intended to bring young people together and to encourage reading and learning in the summer. Traditionally, the children’s room is packed as Mr. Drew’s unique critters crawl over willing listeners while he describes their lifestyles or fairy house builders present their construction techniques. We also occasionally host adult-oriented speakers and encourage public interaction and, of course, circulate many books, movies, and audiobooks and provide 24/7wireless internet access. In addition, reflecting our rather unique heritage, all of these activities are provided totally by volunteers supported by a board of directors consisting of local residents. All financial donations go to support the South China Library and its services. And in the last several years, much of those funds have been directed toward the new library.

Having outgrown our present site, the South China Library purchased the Rufus M. Jones House and property that rests largely between the Jones Road and Lakeview Drive, in South China. The ground breaking ceremony for new construction was held on August 6, 2018, and work has continued at a relatively slow pace since then. The portable classroom purchased from the town of China for $1 has been added to the new building as well. This new location will give us more and better organized interior space and will have the amenities that will allow our patrons and volunteer staff to be more comfortable year round. In the future we plan to develop the Jones house as an attractive historic venue. Fundraising for this still-evolving change in the library’s life is ongoing, and the results will ultimately continue our mission and efforts for a long time to come.

In conclusion, the South China Public Library is a vital, useful and compassionate presence in our town and the surrounding area. We have been in existence for 191 years and during that time have provided a multitude of services to untold numbers of loyal receivers. Change is inevitable, and we look forward to the future.

Please support your local library.

The Town Line will continue with a series on local nonprofit groups and their work in their respective communities. To include your group, contact The Town Line at

China Lake Association; Protecting the Lake and Land Owners: Nonprofit Spotlight

Some of the attendees at the Invasive Plant 101 workshop, held in China on August 24, were, from left to right, Sonny Pierce, of Rangeley Lake Heritage Trust, Peter Caldwell and Marie Michaud, China Lake Association, and Spencer Harriman, of Lake Stewards of Maine. (contributed photo)

by Steve Ball

“The quality of China Lake has improved noticeably over the past five years. I can remember algae so thick on the surface that when I ran my boat I would leave a wake of algae behind me.”

Larry Sikora, China Lake property owner

Imagine the impact a polluted lake would have on the town of China and its residents. There was a day, in the late 1980s, when there was justifiable concern with the cleanliness of the lake. Many China residents likely remember the algae blooms resulting in low fish counts, few lake birds, limited lakeside wildlife, and sparse or distorted shore plant life. All these are indications that the health of the lake is failing.

The results of this condition can be devastating for a community like China and its surrounding towns that rely so heavily on its lake for its drinking water and attracting tourism and recreation, and, thus, growing economic activity.

In mid-1990s the University of Maine conducted an extended study of the connection between the health of Maine’s lakes, as measured in nutrient and cleanliness levels, and local economic growth. In the 1996 study, “Water Quality Affects Property Prices: A Case Study of Selected Maine Lakes,” the authors found what many lake residents have known for years, there is direct link between healthy waters and good economic viability. Everything from the direct economic impact resulting from lake usage, to the price of lakeside homes and camps and the town’s tax revenue generated from waterfront properties is either positively or negatively impacted by the cleanliness of the local lake. China Lake was one of the 34 lakes in Maine included in the study.

The other reality of addressing the health of lake waters is that remediating, or cleaning up a problem like algae bloom, or an overheated lake is far more expensive than preventing the problem.

It is for these reasons that the China Lake Association was formed in 1987. Their mission is simple: Through education, fund raising and other proper activities, to guard the waters of China Lake against pollution, to preserve the environmental health of the China Lake watershed and to protect and enhance the beauty of the Lake and its adjacent area.

The CLA has made a difference in this community through active and persistent action to help keep China Lake the clean, fresh lake that people in this community and our visitors have grown to expect. But that work needs people committed to rolling up their sleeves and doing everything from replanting lakeside vegetation to help minimize the effects of erosion and runoff, to managing the Boat Inspection Program, to studying the ways the lake is polluted and finding solutions, to educating youth and adults about the importance of having a clean and healthy lake.

Several people since the organization’s founding have helped to make this organization effective. Scott Pierz, the current president of the CLA is not only an avid champion for China Lake, he has become a student of what it takes to steward a healthy lake in Maine. Pierz, the former Codes Enforcement Officer for China, knows the area well and appreciates the impact China Lake has on nearly every household in the community.

A revegetation project China Lake Association supports working with fifth grade students in both Vassalboro and China schools. This project is organized by Matt Streeter from the Alewife Restoration Project. Nate Gray, from the Department of Marine Resources, is always present and Anita Smith, of China, presents the information on native plants. (contributed photo)

Of all the things CLA is involved in, the education aspect is one that seems to appeal to Pierz’s talents. He believes that if we can educate our middle schoolers about the value of keeping a clean and healthy lake our future is bright. The CLA has taught classes on loons, how a lake becomes polluted, and they’ve hosted a poster contest. In Pierz’s mind, “We are building a youth of informed citizens” who will know what it means to have a clean lake and, more specifically, what it means to the town of China to have a clean lake.

In addition to education and the Boat Inspection Program, the CLA has been actively involved in the China Lake Alewife Restoration Initiative, ARI. Knowing the value of a natural alewife population on cleansing fresh waters, the CLA has been a part of a program to restore passage for 950,000 alewives migrating from the Sebasticook River to China Lake. With the goal to remove obsolete dams that had obstructed the passage of alewives and construct fishways where necessary, the ARI has successfully restored an alewife population to China Lake. The results to the lake’s waters have been remarkable; noticeably cleaner water, higher bird counts and more lake plant life. The fish count is harder to determine, but some attest the fishing has been better.

Another undertaking started by the CLA has been the Gravel Road Rehabilitation Program. This was the brainchild of Pierz who saw that runoff from some gravel roads surrounding the lake was bringing damaging pollutants into the water. The project involves getting an engineering plan and then bringing together the manpower to assist with either diverting the runoff, or planting buffer plants, or re-grading of the roads; whatever it takes to prevent damaging runoff from entering the lake.

In addition, the CLA assists the state of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection in running the Lake Smart Program for China Lake property owners. Lake Smart, an education and reward program, provides assistance to lakefront homeowners to better manage landscapes in ways that protect water quality. Through the program property owners can receive a technical inspection with a proposed improvement plan by a DEP certified Soil and Water Conservation Engineer that can ultimately be enacted through CLA help and volunteer labor.

All of these programs and initiatives have two goals in mind; improve the quality of China Lake’s water and build a sustainable system to assure its quality in years to come. It is this relentless commitment to finding and carrying out ways to keep China Lake clean and healthy that has come to define the China Lake Association. The community may not see everything they do, and some residents may not remember what it was like when the lake was suffering from damaging algae blooms, but everyone should appreciate there is a nonprofit working in the community for the benefit of every citizen.

The Town Line will continue with a series on local nonprofit groups and their work in their respective communities. To include your group, contact The Town Line at