Notes From Hartland on Independence Day, 2014

Is there a correlation between the hot weather and the pace of life? It would appear that way today. All my favorite summer patrons are back and it’s so nice to be greeted warmly (no pun intended) time after time, especially when I can grab a book from our new shelf and hand it to them when they gave up waiting for it at the library back home. Not long ago one of my regulars from town told me that when she received a settlement for a job-related injury, she’d give me $500 in appreciation for my help over the years and I could use it to get whatever I wanted for the library. This week she handed me that check and already it’s helped buy two books we couldn’t have gotten with our current budget (High Line: The Inside Story on New York’s Park in the Sky and American Catch: the Fight to Save Our Local Seafood), plus three seasons of the TV show My Name Is Earl.

Winners get their checks

Winners get their checks

Three years ago, I was approached by Richard Randlett who grew up in Hartland and did well investing in the stock market. He wanted to give something back to the community by funding a scholarship for college bound teens from Hartland, Palmyra and St. Albans. The library had been the conduit for one such scholarship before I got here, but working with the donors had been almost impossible, because of their expectations. The form was too long and involved and in the first six years I worked here, it was only awarded once. Based on what I knew wasn’t going to work, I agreed to have the library handle the proposed scholarship under three conditions: It wouldn’t be need-based, it would be guaranteed to be awarded and the form would be simple. Richard agreed that these were all sensible conditions and we worked to get everything in place. The initial two $1000 awards grew to three by the second year and we held a simple award ceremony on the front lawn by the beautiful bench he and his wife bought for the library (an extremely popular spot for our Wi-Fi users when we’re closed).

Yesterday, we awarded three scholarships to teens headed to Husson University, Eastern Maine Community College and the University of Maine at Farmington. Unlike most scholarships, this one gets the money to the recipients before they start their freshman year, allowing them to use it for expenses associated with books, moving, supplies and tuition, an idea that helps decrease what can be a pretty stressful experience for a teen.

Zachary Ramsdell will be studying engineering and has a pretty impressive plan for doing so. He’s attending EMCC for the first two years to get basic courses out of the way at a much less expensive school. He’ll then transfer to the University of Maine to complete his degree. In addition to attending summer school at the University of Maine, he’s captain of the soccer and baseball teams at Nokomis High School.

Savanna Leavitt will study chemistry at Husson University and has a ten year plan that involves a PhD. or a medical degree and doing research in disease prevention. It is evident from the letter of support she included with her application that she’s a natural leader, a hard worker and not afraid to try new challenges, even when they’re scary.

Lindsay Mower will pursue a degree in community health education at UMF. She also has a strong work ethic, having grown up on a dairy farm as well as working on an organic berry farm. She’s volunteered as a musician to brighten the lives of patients at the local hospital as well as being a member of the Nokomis High School Show Chorus, one of the best in Maine.

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As you can see from the accompanying pictures, these three exemplify the definition of the phrase ‘the best and the brightest’ and I’m thrilled to have helped this scholarship become a reality.

We have two other new programs at the library. After listening to Brianna for the last year as she talked about the sense of isolation associated with being a young single mother with no transportation, we set up a Mom’s Coffee Hour every Friday at 11 with refreshments. She was pretty nervous about hosting it, but realized it was a great chance not only to create connections, but add it to her portfolio as a work experience. She can also use it as a topic for a paper in one of her future library classes. We started this last week and when nobody showed by 11:05, she was really nervous. Another mom who is her age and had expressed interest, showed soon after and a third one arrived an hour later. We expected the group might run an hour, but they wrapped things up 3 and a half hours later and were very happy. We’re hoping word spreads so we have more moms joining the group. If if continues to fly, we’re going to bring in some speakers and skill builders. We already have a nice rug and some toys for the kids (we had six for the first session).

The other program is being run in conjunction with the food service staff of RSU 19. Starting next Tuesday, we’ll be offering free lunches to kids 18 and under as an extension of the school nutrition program. Just because school isn’t in session during the summer doesn’t mean kids stop being hungry and this should catch some of the kids in our area who often go 12 hours without eating.

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5 Responses to Notes From Hartland on Independence Day, 2014

  1. MCWriTers says:

    And you have time to write? And garden? What do YOU eat for breakfast?

    This is just amazing.

    Kate

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Happy 4th! And thank you, so much, for what you do (above and beyond the terrific job you do) for Mainers!

  3. Nancy Miller says:

    Being a mom can be so isolating. I’m sure your coffee program will prove helpful. As a young mother I remember going to the League of Women Voters meetings where they had “free baby sitting”. My motive may not have been the best but I did learn something from their speakers. I still remember the talk on sanitary landfills…a subject I knew nothing about and had less interest in learning. It was fascinating. That was about 44 years ago…so a belated “thanks” to the League of Women Voters in Huntington, West Virginia. And best wishes for your program!

  4. Lil Gluckstern says:

    This was inspiring and represents what is best about America. I was lucky enough to live in a small town when I was a young mother, and I brought my little girl to their children’s hour so I could browse while she learned about books and libraries. What a wonderful citizen you are.

  5. Linda Lord says:

    So much impressive information, John. Thanks for sharing.

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