Notable non-profits, volunteer groups, charities on MDI …

Housing trust for island workers ..

Island Housing Trust subdivision off Beech Hill Road

SOMESVILLE, May 15, 2020 -The world of nonprofits and charities on MDI is substantial. It’s a world opening up to me as I blog. As a summer person, I supported the Southwest Harbor library, Common Good Soup Kitchen and other organizations in my narrow sphere of contact.

Some of the nonprofits attempt to solve problems unique to the island, such as the Island Housing Trust, which builds affordable houses for families which otherwise cannot afford to live on MDI. Since 2000 median housing prices have doubled while median income is half that. Three quarters of new construction are for seasonal residents, and 54 percent of island workers commute from off island.

There is also the problem of workers moving twice a year, shuttling from winter rentals to summer homes which may consist of camps, off-island housing or moving in with family.

The trust has built or acquired 33 homes in 18 years for sale to folks who meet a means test. The trust holds a secondary mortgage deed which allows banks to loan the money, according to Executive Director Marla O’Byrne.

What surprised me is the “long tail” support of IHT, with the largest gift ever being $100,000. The average donation is about $1,000 with many coming in below that, O’Byrne said. Consider that the Summer Residents Association of Mount Desert raised more than $500,000 in a few weeks when it pledged to support local business during the pandemic.

IHT’s latest project is a 30-acre tract, bordered by another 30 acres of wetland acquired by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, on Rt. 3 near the head of the island called Jones Marsh. O’Byrne said IHT is focusing on the most readily buildable seven acres off Rte. 3, holding the remaining 23 acres for future determination.

Here is the link to IHT’s donation page:

Caring for those struggling with addiction, mental health …

Acadia Family Center at 1 Fernald Point Road, Southwest Harbor, across from the Causeway Club

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, May 13, 2020 – The cankered alchemy of the pandemic is difficult to manage even for healthy, well-adjusted members of society, but when you have a substance abuse problem, the isolation and loss of income – particular on a island – can be overwhelming.

Since early March, MDI’s licensed facility for outpatient treatment of addiction and other mental health afflictions such as depression, grief and anxiety – Acadia Family Center in Southwest Harbor – has seen a 25 percent increase in new cases, according to director Stephanie Joy Muscat. “We’re also seeing existing clients more often,” she said.

Since March 19 the center has been conducting virtual counseling through “teletherapy,” Muscat said, and the transition has been a smooth one despite the increased demand. Muscat said the center has eliminated “co-pay” for clients during the pandemic.

“In 1978, a group of concerned citizens from Mount Desert Island (MDI) and the Cranberry Isles decided they needed to do something about the increase in alcohol and other drug-related problems in their communities,” according to the center’s online brochure. “That led to the formation of the MDI Alcohol and Drug Abuse Group, which became an extension of the MDI Hospital’s Chemical Dependency Unit and funded educational programs in the hospital and our local schools.”

In 1988, the Acadia Family Center opened as the group’s treatment branch in Southwest Harbor. In 2006, AFC moved to its current location at One Fernald Point Road.

For privacy reasons, data is not readily available about addiction on Mount Desert Island. But last year’s Hancock County Health report offered some insights.

There were 380 drug-related deaths in Maine last year, nine in Hancock County six of which were opioid deaths. Opioid poisoning reported by emergency rooms in the county is on the increase compared with the rest of the state – 4.5 per 10,000 residents compared with 3.6/10,000 statewide, according to the latest data.

You don’t need a medical degree to discern that 2020 could be a difficult year, especially on MDI. Here is the center’s donate page if you would like to contribute:

MDI Hospital honors outgoing CEO, chair, employees of the year ..

SOMESVILLE, Sept. 4, 2020 – I joined the annual meeting of our island hospital on Zoom. The event was essentially a passing of the torch from one leadership team to another. Both CEO Arthur J. Blank and Chairman James R. Bright are stepping down. Blank was the top executive for 20 years. MDI Hospital is the envy of independent community hospitals all over the country. Chrissi Maguire, whom I interviewed (see below), takes over as the new CEO.

A special shoutout goes to the two employees of the year:

Barbara MacPike, the hospital’s quality and safety guru, and Jenny Michaud of Birch Bay Retirement Center.

Barbara, who is charged with infection prevention, has seen it all throughout the years. She remained determined and compassionate throughout the pandemic, selflessly taking on any challenge that she is handed. Michaud has provided all of the residents at Birch Bay Village a clean and comfortable environment to live in, and helped assure no resident would contract Covid-19. I have a soft spot for such public servants.






Search, rescue, rinse, repeat …

NORTHEAST HARBOR – Lili Pew engages volunteerism as if it were a contact sport. So do the 40 some other members of MDI Search and Rescue. Already this year, MDI SAR has responded to 19 requests for assistance from the park service at Acadia and others, Pew said. MDISAR also assists the Maine Warden Service in other parts of the state.

As we sat on her porch overlooking Northeast Harbor, Pew said she tells her clients that if her pager goes off during a meeting, she will be flying out of there.

Flying at top speed seems to be Pew’s only gear. In addition to a career as a broker at The Knowles Company, Pew is on the boards of Friends of Acadia, College of the Atlantic and the Ellsworth Business Economic Corp. But none of the other volunteer work require the physical wherewithal and strength of search and rescue.

Like many MDI organizations affected by the pandemic, MDI SAR has had to postpone its in-person training of new members.

“After several months in which we did not allow any new members to join our team due to COVID-19, MDISAR is ready to begin welcoming new members again in the net few weeks. If you are interested in joining the team and have not yet reached out to us, please get in touch ASAP. You can message us on facebook or email us a to express interest or if you have any questions.”

The groups hold three or four training sessions a month.

On June 28, around 4:30 a.m., MDISAR responded to a multi-agency callout for a technical rescue at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust – MDI Cooksey Drive Overlook. “We worked in cooperation with Acadia National Park and the Mount Desert Fire Department to raise the subject approximately 30 feet up the cliff face and then carried him in a litter up the trail to the parking area,” the group said on its FB page

Started in 1982, MDI SAR is an all-volunteer 501c3 organization and relies on donations. Click on its website to view a great video featuring core team members Steve Hudson, Davin O’Connell, Mary Krevans … (I couldn’t decipher the other names on the video …)

Golfing on MDI …

NORTHEAST HARBOR, May 15, 2020 – I started playing golf at Age 47 in 1997 at the nine-hole Causeway Club where even a hacker like me can’t do any serious damage. My 75-year-old father sat in the cart while I toured the course trying to learn the game.

“Hit the ball straight, Linc! Hit the ball straight!” my dad intoned as if I had any control over where the little orb was heading.

But as anyone who’s played the game may attest, it’s addictive. That summer I tried to play Kebo, the massive tract carved out of Acadia’s majestic mountains where there is a hole – the 17th – which legend has it that President William Taft took 27 shots to get out of that sand trap which resembles a gravel pit on the side of a hill. I’m sure it’s apocryphal but the locals love the lore. Plus it’s good marketing.

My most memorable moment at Kebo was when I stepped on a mound of fire ants looking for my ball on the 12th hole. Those buggers are hard to shake off, and they sting like crazy.

Kebo gets a lot of attention among the Mayflower class for its founding date, 1888, which legitimizes the silly and annualized debate over which are the oldest golf clubs in the country. The Dorset in Vermont, 1886, lays claim. But there are many caveats. When did the course actually open? Was there a club before a golf course, etc.

For me, the tract on the island which challenges the imagination and has its own lore is the Northeast Harbor Golf Club. That is a course where golf balls go to die. In the late Nineties, I actually had a boy who sold me back the same ball I hit into the woods in the front nine on the back nine. The ball had a distinctive logo.

NHGC is mystical and an alluring place with a dab of secrecy like Skull and Bones. They seem to change the rules every year. One year there was a facile two-week membership for summer people. Next year they revoked that. This year there is no public play, owing to the pandemic, a reasonable response from a club which seems to have its own business model.

Me, I’m just grateful for an off-season membership which dis-invites me in July and August. But that’s okay. I haven’t played golf for five years. I’ve enjoyed the turtle soup at Pine Valley, the horrendously long Par 4s at Winged Foot and the hilly Olympic in San Francisco.

But it’s Northeast Harbor Golf Club where the memories run deep and the echo of the mountains are resonant when a ball caroms off a granite ledge into the abyss like no other place on earth …