Local municipal offices set to re-open

Vassalboro town office

ALBION

The Albion Town Office is open regular business hours. Monday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Thursday 12 p.m – 6 p.m. Limit 2 customers in the building.

BENTON

The Benton Town Office is currently open to the public Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Limit two customers in office at a time.

CHINA

The China Town Office is currently open for walk-up service Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

FAIRFIELD

The Fairfield Town Office will be re-opening to the public on Tuesday, May 26. We will be limiting members of the public allowed in the building to no more than two at a time. The hours will be shortened to 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Masks, gloves and own pens required. Residents may call for an appointment or curb side service if they are unable to meet the PPE requirements. The Lawrence Public Library is working on a plan to re-open on June 1. This plan is still being finalized but may entail no public in the building, pre-ordered books, shortened times to sign out new releases, curbside pick-up, and seven-day quarantine of returned materials.

PALERMO

The Town of Palermo is discussing plans to re-open but nothing has been finalized.

VASSALBORO

The Vassalboro Town Office will re-open to the public on Monday, June 1, at 8 a.m., with a few restrictions.

All town office visitors will be asked to wear a face mask and that no more than two customers enter the lobby at the same time, all while practicing social distancing. If possible, do not bring friends or family members with you. It is understood that some will need to have children with them. Hand sanitizers have been installed and residents are encouraged to use them when entering the building. Plexiglas has been installed at work stations and people are asked to bring their own pens.

Remember that most transactions can be done online by visiting Vassalboro.net, scroll to the bottom and click on the purple house. The public restroom will be closed until further notice.

WATERVILLE

All departments at City Hall, in Waterville, will re-open on Monday, June 1, at 8 a.m., with social distancing requirements in place.

UPDATE: This story has been updated for additional town office information.

Despite fewer volunteers, longer hours, local food pantries soldier on

Volunteers Captain Gombojav, left, and Lucas Gombojav, right, prepare food boxes before the opening at China Community Food Pantry. (photo by Ann Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

Pervasive in my discussions with local food pantries is a sense of profound gratefulness.

“We have been receiving monetary and food donations from many residents,” says Vassalboro Food Station director Cindy Ferland. “The community support has been tremendous.”

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

Food pantries in China, Winslow, Albion and Palermo expressed similar sentiments.

“There are very generous and thoughtful people in our community,” writes June Foshay, manager of Palermo’s food pantry, in an email response to my inquiry.

“It’s gratifying to receive so much community support,” says Ann Austin, director of China Community Food Pantry.

When Maine declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic, local food pantries were on the front lines.

Winslow’s Community Cupboard was forced to move up their plans to launch because of the crisis. “Our intent was to open a local food pantry in September 2020,” assistant operations manager Anna Quattrucci recalls. “The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic hastened our journey along! We were encouraged by Good Shepherd Food Bank to accelerate our opening…and we did! Talk about hustle. We went from having no ready space, no food, and no organized plan, to being fully set up, stocked and ‘open for business’ in a few short weeks.”

Area food banks have scrambled to adjust to the new conditions created by the pandemic and have worked to help new clients suddenly in need because of the economic shutdown. “We have had families who have previously used food pantries to help with food insecurity,” says Quattrucci, “but have seen many for whom this is a first-ever experience due to job loss or non-essential business closings.”

The greatest challenge for local pantries has been the operational changes forced on them by the new social distancing safety rules.

“We had to change our operating process [from] letting clients come in and select the food they wanted to pre-filling boxes to place in their cars as they drive by,” says Vassalboro’s Cindy Ferland.

Other pantries, like Albion’s Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, have opted for a “minimal contact” approach by severely limiting how many people can enter the pantry. Manager Russ Hamm says it’s added significantly to the time it takes to serve everyone.

“We’re going to have to take a longer time to supply people with their food needs,” he says. “Rather than doing it in two hours, it looks like it may take three or four.”

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)

Like Vassalboro, the China Community Food Pantry has also shifted to a drive-thru format. The new procedures keep volunteers and clients separated and maintains social distancing, but since food boxes must be prepared in advance, it means more work for volunteers.

And that’s been a challenge, as many of the dedicated volunteers food pantries used to count on are now in high risk categories.

Albion’s Russ Hamm says, “I normally have a team of six women, and four or five men to carry the bags and boxes [of food] under normal circumstances.” Now, though, he’s down to just four people – and that includes himself.

Vassalboro’s Cindy Ferland relates a similar experience: “The pantry has many elderly volunteers that are much more vulnerable and understandably have decided to stay away from the pantry,” she says. “Fortunately, we have a few VCS teachers that have some time and are willing to step in and help our operation weekly.” She adds, “Our challenge is finding volunteers to go to stores to shop for the pantry, given the restricted access and limited products available in stores.”

Volunteer Cathy Bourque fills food boxes at the China Community Food Pantry. (photo by Ann Austin)

China’s food pantry has been faced with a similar challenge. To comply with the new restrictions, they have focused on grouping volunteers in family units. “We have a husband and wife team that drives the van to pick up food,” says Ann Austin, pantry director, “and two boys from a local family do most of the heavy lifting.”

Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, pantries look forward to beefing up their volunteer base again. “When we eventually return to a ‘normal’ routine,” says Anna Quattrucci, of Winslow’s Com­munity Cupboard, “we will expand our volunteer team, as many have asked to be part of the work.”

Even with longer hours and fewer volunteers, most pantries do not report feeling overwhelmed – yet. However, this could change if the current crisis stretches from weeks into months.

“Overall the pantry is seeing a slight decrease in people coming in,” says Vassalboro Food Station manager Cindy Ferland. “The mix [of people] has changed, with new people that are self-employed and out of work coming in as they are not yet eligible for unemployment relief benefits. There has been a decrease in clients that receive SNAP benefits. The combination of dramatically increased SNAP benefits and the federal economic relief payments apparently has lessened their need for supplemental food.”

Russ Hamm, director of Albion’s Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, agrees. “As far as the amount of people — that has fluctuated remarkably, in the sense that we’re not seeing quite as many people as we normally would, and I have a suspicion that everybody got their stimulus check. I think that has made a little bit of difference.”

All of this is good news, and it’s the result of the amazing generosity shown by local communities in this time of crisis and the dedicated work of pantry volunteers. However, if current economic conditions continue in the downward direction of recent weeks, local food pantries could be facing a rough road ahead, and continued support of these important resources will be essential.

To see a list of local community food pantries, their hours of operation and contact information, please visit this page.

Eric W. Austin writes about local community issues and can be reached at ericaustin@townline.org.

ALBION: Trash, recyclables should be placed at curbside for weekly pick up

Albion town office. (photo source: Town of Albion Facebook page)

Compiled by Roland Hallee

Jerry Sullivan, owner of Sullivan’s Solid Waste, had been scheduled to give a presentation on trash and recyclables at the February 10 Albion Selectmen’s meeting, but was unable to attend due to illness. However, in a telephone conversation with his son, Jared Sullivan, he informed the board of selectmen that all trash, including recyclables, should now be put in the roadside trash for weekly pick up. The new Coastal Resources facility, in Hampden, now sorts recyclables once the trash reaches them. The last recycle pick up in Albion occurred on March 14.

Albion Fire Chief Andy Clark reported that he has applied for several grants for items needed by the fire department, including a new tank truck and fire hose. When the department receives these grants, said Croft, “it is a great financial benefit to the town and helps to keep taxes down.”

The board also dealt with the following:

  • The selectmen voted to contract with Technology Solutions of Maine, at a cost of $3,500 per year, for IT services for the town office.
  • They set the date for this year’s Albion Clean-up Day for Saturday, May 16. The collection place will be at Lee Brothers lot, at 93 Unity Road, again this year.
  • The selectmen set the budget request meeting for February 11.
  • They moved to pay Codes Enforcement Officer Brian Croft’s mileage in the coming fiscal year.

At their February 24 meeting, selectmen signed the warrants for Albion’s annual town meeting scheduled to be held on March 20-21. Elections will be held on Fri., March 20, 2 – 7 p.m., and the town meeting is set for Saturday, March 21, at 10 a.m. Both will be held at the Besse Building, Drake Room.

Road Commissioner Matt Lee noted he has posted weight limit signs on the roads in Albion, and that he is doing some road patching as needed. Also discussed was road work needed in the coming year.

Selectmen Beverly Bradstreet and Kevin Bradstreet were in attendance at both meetings.

LETTERS: To prevent false rumors

Dr. David Austin

To the editor:

I want to thank all my patients at Lovejoy Health Center who made my return to work there so rewarding. I worked at Lovejoy from 1993 to 2010, and returned last July, happy to reconnect with many of you. As some of you probably know, I am no longer working at the health center. The reasons are not for discussion here, but I do want to mention something which is not a reason, to prevent any false rumors. As many of you know, and as I am happy to share with anyone, I am a recovering alcoholic, a problem that blossomed in my life after my first tenure at Lovejoy. My recovery continues one sweet day at a time without interruption.

I have deeply enjoyed sharing my life and medical skills with you, my patients. You are the reason I followed this calling in the first place. Be well, prosper, and may God bless.

Sincerely,
Dr. David Austin

Local Town Meetings Schedule 2020

Town meetings 2020

ALBION

Town Meeting
Sat., March 21, 10 a.m. Postponed TBA
Besse Building, Drake Room

CHELSEA

Election
Tues., June 9, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Chelsea Elementary School
Town Meeting
Thurs., June 11, 6:30 p.m.
Chelsea Elementary School

CHINA

Town meeting
Tuesday, July 14, 9 a.m.
Written ballot only
Former portable classroom near town office.
7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

FAIRFIELD

Annual town budget meeting
Mon., June 15, 7 p.m.
Fairfield Community Ctr.
61 Water St.

SOLON

Town Meeting
Saturday, March 7, 1:30 p.m.
Solon Elementary School.

VASSALBORO

Town Meeting
Mon., June 22, 6:30 p.m.
Vassalboro Community School
1116 Webber Pond Road
Municipal Election
Tues., June 23, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Town Office
682 Main St.

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To be included in this list, visit our Contact Us page or send an email to The Town Line at townline@townline.org.

Lovejoy Health Center welcomes Brandy LeClair

Brandy LeClair, LCSW

The staff at Lovejoy Health Center will be welcoming Brandy LeClair, clinical social worker, to the practice this winter. With the addition of Brandy to the team, the practice is expanding its counseling services as patients have been pleased with the opportunity to work on issues such as managing a chronic condition and other life stressors and crises right at the health center. Brandy brings experience in outpatient, community and residential social work.

Brandy obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work at the University of Southern Maine. Her areas of expertise include children and adolescent individual and group therapy.

Brandy recently shared, “I have decided to join the team at Lovejoy due to my passion for holistic care. Lovejoy provides an environment to combine medical and social work, which has great benefits for patients.”

Brandy will be joining clinical social worker Deb Daigle as well as physicians Dean Chamberlain and David Austin, physician assistant Bobby Keith, family nurse practitioners Kaitlynn Read and Keiko Kurita, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner Marta Hall.

Dr. David Austin talks about Doctors Without Borders in African countries

Dr. David Austin

by Mary Grow

In a Feb. 5 talk at the Albion Public Library, Dr. David Austin described some of his experiences as a physician in three African countries in 2010 and 2011. He read from his book, Therese’s Dream, a collection of emails he sent to Dr. Paul Forman at the Lovejoy Health Center, and answered audience questions

Under the auspices of Doctors Without Borders (DWB), also known by its French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Austin worked in Darfur, a region in western Sudan; in Ngila, a village in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and in Djibouti Ville, capital of Djibouti. Sudan is the northernmost of the three countries, on Egypt’s southern border. The DRC is a large country in central Africa; Djibouti is a tiny country on the African side of the southern entrance to the Red Sea, the Bab-el-Mandeb strait.

Austin usually worked with three or four other expats and a larger number of local doctors, nurses, midwives and other personnel. A typical DWB team would include a doctor, nurses, a logistician (the person responsible for supplies of all sorts, like making sure drinkable water was available) and sometimes a psychologist or social worker. The Therese in his book’s title was a local social worker in the DRC.

DWB did not provide cooks, so a good local cook was always welcome, Austin said.

Most of Austin’s patients were infants and children. His emails describe severe malnutrition and a variety of diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis (Djibouti has the world’s highest rate of childhood tuberculosis, he said). Many of the children he wrote about died, in spite of his and his colleagues’ efforts.

He tells the story of driving a family to their home after a child died, something commonly done. The family lived in a slum he left undescribed. While they were there, neighbors asked if they would drive a young woman with appendicitis back to the hospital. Had they not happened to come, Austin said, the woman would have had an hour’s walk to get help.

Despite the deaths, Austin enjoyed his work and the people he worked with. His emails often mention the high spirits, hopefulness and resilience of local people.

The idea of DWB began with people Austin described as “A few crazy Frenchmen who smuggled themselves into Biafra.”

In 1968 the province of Biafra seceded from Nigeria. According to DWB’s website, the International Committee of the Red Cross was asked to help victims of the ensuing civil war, and doctors Max Recamier and Bernard Kouchner led a six-person team. The website explains that seeing results of the Nigerian government attacking and starving the Biafran rebels led the doctors and their followers to publicize what they considered governmental atrocities.

Their reaction spread, and in December 1971 Doctors Without Borders was founded, with 300 volunteer members.

Its website calls DWB an independent, neutral organization that provides medical aid where it’s most needed and speaks out against injustice. It currently operates in more than 70 countries. DWB needs governmental approval to send in personnel, Austin said.

Austin worked with local people and volunteers from all over the world – Americans and Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, Europeans. Asked about becoming a DWB volunteer, he commented that in his opinion it’s “harder than it should be” to get accepted. However, he commended the program, especially its very effective polio and measles vaccination initiatives.

Currently Austin is back on the staff at Lovejoy Health Center, where he worked from 1993 to 2008, with brief stints in Haiti that sparked his interest in third-world countries.

2020 Census meeting in Albion

Albion Public Library

The Albion Public Library will host a Census Day on Monday evening December 23. The United States Census Bureau will be hiring for 2020 census jobs, a great chance to do enjoyable work with paid training and very flexible hours, right in your local community. Albion Public Library will have a member of the census bureau available onsite to help people fill out an application, or to answer any questions about these local job opportunities. The session will be held at the Library, 18 Main Street, on December 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.

If interested, visit www.2020census.gov/jobs for more information or to apply online. For more details on the application assistance session, please contact the Albion Public Library, at 437-2220, or email albion@albion.lib.me.us.

See also: The 2020 Census comes to central Maine

New books at the Albion Public Library

Albion Public Library

Non-Fiction:

A Story of Maine in 112 Objects from Prehistory to Modern Times, by Bernard Fishman, Director Maine State Museum.

The Great Halifax Explosion, A WWI Story of Treachery, Tragedy and Extraordinary Heroism, by John U. Bacon.

A Senator’s Eye, by Sen. Angus S. King, Jr.

Fiction:

The Pioneers, by David McCullough.

The Dead Samaritan, by Emily Westbrooks.

Long Forgotten Tales of Downeast Maine, by Jim Harnedy.

Juvenile:

Call of the Wraith, by Kevin Sands.

The Night Country, by Melissa Albright.

Mckenzie graduates from basic military training

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kenneth R. Mckenzie Jr. graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, Texas.

The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills.

Airmen who complete basic training also earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.

Mckenzie is the son of Julie A. and Kenneth R. Mckenzie, of Albion.