Kennebec County retired educators support the classroom

The Kennebec Retired Educators Association (KREA) awards two $150 grants to two educators in Kennebec County for classroom use. The grants will supplement expenses for student-centered, inter-disciplinary projects and may be expended for materials used in the classroom, speakers’ fees, project development expenses, etc.

Grant description and applications have been disseminated to every principal in all 60 elementary, middle, and high schools in 31 cities and towns in Kennebec County. The principals have made them available to the classroom teachers.

“Students and teachers remain our primary focus long after we leave our classrooms,” says George Davis, of Skowhegan, chairman of the Innovative Classroom Grant Committee and retired principal of Winslow High School.

Grant applications are to be submitted by October 31. The winning applicants will be notified in early November and will receive the grant money at that time.

St. Anthony Soup Kitchen continues to creatively serve community

Volunteers prepare meals at the St. Anthony Soup Kitchen, in Skowhegan. These photos were taken prior to the pandemic. (contributed photos)

The cars continue to line up and roll through, while others walk up wearing masks.

The images of this weekly labor of love look different than they did just eight months ago, but it’s Thursday night, which means a free dinner is available to all who need one thanks to the volunteers at St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen, in Skowhegan.

“It’s going well. Our numbers increase every week,” said Aldea LeBlanc, coordinator of the kitchen.

St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen located in the parish hall of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church on Water Street, offered a free, sit-down, hot meal for anyone in need every Thursday night prior to the start of the pandemic in March. The ministry is entirely volunteer run.

“The meals were suspended until early June when the soup kitchen resumed again,” said Nora Natale, office manager at Christ the King Parish, of which the soup kitchen is a part. “Most of the crew was more than ready to see our guests again.”

“The need is so great here,” said Fr. James Nadeau, pastor of Christ the King Parish.

The diners are currently not allowed in the parish hall due to the pandemic, but nobody involved was willing to give up this important ministry that has helped thousands of community members through the years.

Now, volunteers wear masks and practice social distancing, the meals are served in a drive-thru format in the parking lot of the church and other recipients participate through take-out service.

While the delivery methods have changed, what has not is the appeal of the meals, which have included pork chops, barbecue chicken, and many other delectable choices.

“We also provide a vegetable and fruit of some kind, as well as donated desserts and bread,” said Aldea. “The meals are served from 4:30 to 5 p.m. to anyone who comes.”

Established in 1991, the soup kitchen shut down briefly in 2017 while the parish sought funding and someone to lead it.

Aldea stepped forward, along with Steve Watrous, and the kitchen began serving meals again in November 2018.

Patrons not only come from Skowhegan but from surrounding communities such as Athens, Bingham, and Canaan.

The soup kitchen is funded through several source, including donors as well as partners like the Good Shepherd Food Bank, in Auburn, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Additionally, Walmart provides a $50 gift card each month, which is used to buy food or supplies, and Hannaford donates food for the meals, as well as bread for the guests to take home.

“If there is any food left over, it gets donated to a homeless shelter in Skowhegan,” said Aldea.

Like many ministries, St. Anthony’s has been diligently planning for the colder months ahead.

“There are two separate doors to the kitchen. One of our ideas is to have people come one at a time to pick up their food from one door and exit the other door,” said Aldea. “They could tell the volunteers what items they want so they wouldn’t need to touch any of the food items. Anyone who cannot pick up this way, we will bring the food to their car like we are doing now.”

Organizers look forward to the day when they can once again offer sit-down service and the in-person community it helps build.

In the meantime, regardless of the protocols they will have to adhere to, you can bet this dedicated group of volunteers will find a way to ensure the doors are open each Thursday.

“We welcome anyone,” said Aldea. “And we’ll always thank them for coming.”

For more information about the St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen or to learn how you can help, contact the parish at (207) 474-2039.

Skowhegan chicken BBQ slated

Join the on Saturday, September 19, and enjoy the famous, better than ever chicken barbecue. This event will be curb side pickup only.

Meal includes deliciously prepared half chicken (half breast, full leg, thigh) basted with their signature sauce. Along with the chicken they will provide a roll and butter, potato chips, Steve Snack’s Whoopie pie, and Boston Market cole slaw. All of this for $14 per meal. Pick up is at the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce parking lot between 4 – 6 p.m. Please indicate your time for pickup.

Payment for dinner can be made through Eventbrite website at the link below. Or, send your check for payment to Skowhegan Lions Club BBQ, PO Box 916, Norridgewock, ME 04957.

Local scouts rally in attempt to save Camp Bomazeen

(left to right) Dalton Curtis, Zachary LeHay and Connor Keimel

Submitted by Chuck Mahalaris

Scouts from across the area are busy working on a new and difficult project. If they are successful, there is no merit badge for them to receive but something even better. They hope to save their beloved Scout Camp – Camp Bomazeen.

Dalton Curtis, of Skowhegan, Dawson White, of Sidney, and Zachary LeHay, of Oakland, are some of the Scouts who have begun circulating a petition to save Camp Bomazeen. The Scouts visited leaders during the recent Kennebec Valley District Scouter Recognition Dinner/ Program Kick Off at Camp Bomazeen. They asked them to sign the petition that night and to ask if any Scouts in their Pack and Troop want to help collect more signatures in their area. The petitions will be presented to the Pine Tree Council Executive Board at an upcoming meeting. In July, the council executive board voted to sell the camp this year – its 75th anniversary since opening.

Life Scout Connor Keimel, of Troop #401, Sidney, is one of the Scouts taking part in the petition drive and said, “Bomazeen has been a camp that I have gone to for so many years. I have made so many memories here. It would be such a shame if other Scouts coming forward didn’t have the opportunity to go there.” Eagle Scout Dalton Curtis, of Troop #485, in Skowhegan, said he learned to swim at Bomazeen and he loves all of the aquatics activities. Zachary LeHay, a Second Class Scout, from Oakland, said that he enjoys the camp in all the seasons. He has taken part in winter camping trips there and week-long summer camp experiences. Star Scout Dawson White, of Troop #401, in Sidney, loves the shooting sports program at Camp Bomazeen. “I have never been to another Scout camp. I just love it and would hate to lose it.”

Dalton’s mother, Tammy James, said that he has been working hard on collecting signatures but it has been hard with Covid-19. “Some people aren’t really happy about us going to their doors even with masks on,” she said. “But he is continuing to work on his sheet and will be bringing it to the troop leaders’ meeting. He really has gotten so much from his time at Camp Bomazeen. He would live there if he could.”

Former Camp Bomazeen Director Bruce Rueger, of Waterville, praised the Scouts for their effort. “I was heartened to see the Scouts doing this,” Rueger said. “They clearly have formed a strong bond with the camp. I think that is what happens. You spend so much of your time camping at Bomazeen, taking part in camporees there, working on merit badges there, learning about nature, exploring the world around you and discovering things about yourself as you do – it becomes a part of who you are and you want to preserve it for others. Camp Bomazeen has given to them and generations that have come before them and now they want to give back when Bomazeen needs their help the most. Bomazeen has made a remarkable difference in so many people’s lives since it was given to Scouting by Dr. Averill in 1944. Some of our Scouts went on to serve in the military, help the needy and run large corporations. Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, in Pittsfield, was a Bomazeen Scout in 1959 as was his son and grandson as well. ”

Chris Bernier, of Winslow, runs the Bushcraft Program at Bomazeen which is a living history program designed to teach Scouts skills such as Native lore, blacksmithing, outdoor cooking, muzzle-loading, basket-making, metal working, woodworking, candle making, to hide tanning. The program transports Scouts from today back to the pioneer days of the 1840s. Before joining the staff, Bernier was a Scout at Camp Bomazeen. “I think that the Scouts wish to do this it is a great way for them to practice citizenship,” Bernier said. “They see something wrong and they are peacefully trying to make it better. They wish to see an active change and to do so in this manner is practicing what they learned in their citizenship badges. In this case Citizenship in the Community – the community of Scouting for them and future Scouts.”

Scouts from several communities including Jackman, Skowhegan, Sidney, Oakland, and Augusta are working the petitions that they began circulating on August 12. They hope to convince the Scouting Executive Board to reconsider their vote to sell the camp and, if not, that they hope to convince whatever entity buys the property to allow the Scouts to continue to use it as they have for the past 75 years.

For those who would like to lend their name to the petition but would not like a Scout to visit due to Covid-19 concerns, email FriendsofBomazeen@gmail.com or send a message to the Facebook page Friends of Bomazeen. Be sure to include your name, town and what Bomazeen means to you.

Skowhegan tailgate gathering rescheduled

The Skowhegan High School Class of 1963 Tail Gate Gathering is being canceled due to rain on Saturday, August 29. The event will be held on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at noon on Hilton Hill. Bring your lunches, chairs and masks, drinks and chips provided, and a comfort station will be in place. If any questions call Cindy @ 207-858-0946.

Contest winner

Lucia, 9 years old, of Skowhegan (photo courtesy of Mark Huard)

Somerset Public Health held its third annual Dear Future Me contest and Lucia, 9 years old, of Skowhegan, took first place. She created a video and spoke as though she was talking to her younger self explaining how living a life free of drugs, alcohol and bad influences allowed her to reach all of her goals and lead a life of success and positivity. She received a New Balance gift certificate, Pittsfield Community Movie Theater gift certificates, and a gift certificate to Pop on Over Cafe, in Pittsfield.

Skowhegan High School class of 1963 “Tail Gate Gathering”

On August 29, 2020 there will be a class get together on Hilton Hill, on the very top of the hill, at noon. Members are asked to bring their lunches, chairs and masks. Beverages and chips will be provided as well as a comfort station! Classmates can drive vehicles to the site, no walking involved. Lovely mowed lawn, 360 degree vistas and usually a breeze. Hope for a nice day, in the event of inclement weather the outing will be canceled. If any questions, call Cindy at 858-0946.

St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen re-opens in Skowhegan

Nora Natale and Aldea LeBlanc, St. Anthony Soup Kitchen volunteers. (contributed photo)

Community members can once again enjoy a hot meal every Thursday thanks to the volunteers at St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen in Skowhegan.

“The soup kitchen is resuming because there is a need in the community, and most of the crew are more than ready to see our guests and meet the need,” said Nora Natale, office manager at Christ the King Parish.

“There is a definite need in this area,” agreed Aldea LeBlanc, coordinator of the soup kitchen. “None of us wanted to close during the pandemic, but it was mandated.”

After shutting down in March due to COVID-19, the soup kitchen began serving meals again on June 4, although with some precautionary measures in place. Volunteers wear masks and practice social distancing, while diners are no longer allowed in the hall of Notre Dame de Lourdes Church, where they used to gather. Instead, the meals are served in a drive-thru format in the parking lot of the church, with recipients remaining in their cars.

While the delivery method has changed, what hasn’t is the appeal of the meals. Macaroni and cheese was on the menu the first week, followed by pork chops the next. Those who drive through on June 18 will be treated to barbecue chicken legs, served with potato salad and corn.

“We will continue to do full meals on Thursdays. We also provide a vegetable and fruit of some kind, as well as donated desserts and bread,” said Aldea. “The meals are served from 4:30 to 5 p.m. ,to anyone who pulls up.”

The soup kitchen is entirely volunteer run, and while not all have immediately felt comfortable returning, those like Aldea plan to be there to cook, serve, and welcome guests with warm smiles, even if they are hidden behind masks.

“I plan to stay on volunteering for the foreseeable future,” she said.

St. Anthony’s Soup Kitchen was first established in 1991, then shut down in 2017 while the parish sought funding and someone to lead it. Aldea stepped forward, along with Steve Watrous, and the kitchen began serving meals again in November 2018. Patrons not only come from Skowhegan but from surrounding communities such as Athens, Bingham, and Canaan.

Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) still on at new venue

In response to social distancing requirements and in the interest of public safety and health, the Maine Film Center (MFC) will present the 2020 Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) in a new, modified format. The 23rd annual MIFF will be held July 7–16 with in-person screenings held exclusively at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater in Skowhe­gan, Maine. The twenty-third annual celebration of Ameri­can independent, international, and classic film will showcase nine feature films, comprised largely of World, North American, and East Coast premieres, as well as a program of Maine Shorts. Additional feature and short films will be made available for ticketed online streaming via the festival website, MIFF.org.

“We’re elated to be able to host a terrific lineup of films this summer, in spite of the difficulties that movie theaters across the country have experienced over the past several months,” said Mike Perreault, Executive Director of MFC. “While the festival may not exhibit the same number of films as in past years, we’re confident that our 2020 MIFF program will reflect the world-class cinema that our patrons and community have come to appreciate. We’re especially grateful that our partners at the Skowhegan Drive-In have agreed to host MIFF23. This all-too-rare kind of venue will be a great place for audiences to have a unique experience and enjoy movies from a safe distance.”

“While we’d love to be able to share with our audiences all the incredible cinematic discoveries we’ve made in working on this year’s festival,” said Ken Eisen, MIFF programming director, “we are truly thrilled to be embarking on what we are sure will be an exciting, safe, and joyful version of MIFF appropriate to the current conditions.”

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with Maine Film Center to maintain the continuity of the Maine International Film Festival in this moment of unprecedented challenge,” said Donald Brown, owner of the Skowhegan Drive In-Theatre. “The Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre is a unique cultural attraction from an earlier era [and] MIFF is a resource for all of Central Maine. Together this summer, they will illuminate the night!”

The complete festival lineup, including titles that will be available for streaming, will be announced in June. Passes for the Festival are available to pre-order at MIFF.org.

Class breakfast canceled

The Skowhegan High School class of 1963 breakfast scheduled for May 16, 2020, at Wentworth’s Restaurant, in Norridgewock, has been canceled until further notice due to the coronavirus. Call 858-0946 with questions.