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News & Resources
News and press releases from the Maine Women's Fund
In January and February 2013, the Fund undertook conversations in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties1 to learn more about the needs of women and girls facing challenges to economic security. The meetings focused on poverty indicia and related issues for women and girls by county and statewide compiled by the Fund from various sources, and the perceptions of those attending of the accuracy or inaccuracy of that data. Those meetings resulted in a “Needs Map” which outlines the priority needs articulated in the conversations. More than 100 community members and 15 volunteers were involved in organizing and holding those meetings.
As a continuation of that project, the Fund convened a second series of meetings to examine those priority needs as well as assets perceived as addressing or potentially addressing them. A total of 17 meetings took place in 15 of Maine’s 16 counties2 during the months of October, November and December 2013. Primarily volunteer leaders from the community and from the Fund’s board organized and convened local community members to discuss the needs of women and girls facing challenges to economic security, as well as the assets of their communities to address those needs. Those meetings involved a combined 120 community members as well as 33 volunteers and staff of the Fund as leaders. There was minimal overlap of volunteer participants in the first and second round of meetings.
Leaders were asked to report on the groups’ observations about the extent of unmet priority needs and perceptions about the assets within the community to address them, either in fact or in theory. This information can be useful to the Fund as a grant-maker discerning where unmet need exists, assets in place to address those needs and other resources and dynamics of the community related to them.
Each report was then reviewed by staff of the Fund to identify information most useful for its grant-making and resource-building purposes, specifically:
Several themes emerged in many of the meetings, as well as recurring dynamics helpful to the mission of the Fund, such as:
1. Participants in most cases learned about organizations, programs and individuals addressing needs around economic security about which they were unaware or had only limited knowledge.
2. Participants’ increased awareness of assets to address needs also prompted spontaneous problem-solving ideas and actual plans to immediately address unmet priority needs.
3. Ideas about possible collaborations were spawned, and to varying degrees, plans for implementation were begun.
4. The Fund’s understanding and awareness of issues related to need, as well as potential areas for financial support by the Fund to address needs, was increased.
Additionally, common themes arose among the second county discussions about need when the groups had the opportunity to see what other counties had included. Health and dental care, transportation, aging, aspirations and generational poverty seemed to be common challenges that most groups highlighted if they had not their original discussion.
There was also great pride in community assets which were diverse and generally unique, but frequently included libraries, small business supports, health and education organizations, domestic violence/sexual assault providers, big brother/big sisters or similar mentoring programs, the area agencies on aging, as well as resources the Fund and communities have long identified, and many amazing women identified as mentors and examples.
Please click on the links below for the indicia considered, a map with identified priority needs, and county-by-county summaries.
County-by-County Summaries. More detailed findings available on request.
This project was made possible with generous support from the Sam L. Cohen Foundation, the Emanuel & Pauline A. Lerner Foundation and the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation.
 Franklin and Somerset Counties were not included due to the lack of available volunteer support.
 In Franklin County was it not possible to find a volunteer to assist the Fund. In Oxford and Washington counties, two meetings were held.
Basic needs (food, shelter, transportation, safety) are being addressed to some degree but are not the root causes of poverty. The lack of workforce development programs creates challenges.
Addressing aspirations, at‐risk youth and elderly became a focus of conversation. Involving adults and/or the retired population in mentoring, and providing role models, such as Jr. Achievement. Medicaid expansion for women is seen as crucial in terms of providing adequate access to healthcare. (Meeting held at the offices of Northern Maine Development Corporation, Bangor, Caribou, Houlton.)
Sex trafficking is seen as a major issue for Maine’s largest city. There are many good assets for elderly and immigrant populations.
The county is diverse and not united in its communities; youth and women's leadership programming could have a great impact. A question posed: is it possible for there to be a collaboration between Y’s, daycare, schools and Healthy Communities and Acadia programs? (Meeting held at Maine Community Foundation.)
There are increased obstacles to reproductive healthcare, despite many good agencies. Education around finances and STEM is seen as critical; substance abuse, teen homelessness and sex trafficking all are of concern; a new homeless shelter was seen as an important asset.
Many good services were identified, but transportation remains a challenge, especially for those in rural areas inland and on peninsulas away from the Route 1 corridor. Other issues are teen homelessness and sex trafficking. (Note: there were 14 meeting participants, one of the highest in state.)
Two distinct regions include Boothbay Harbor/Boothbay and Damariscotta/Newcastle up to Waldoboro. Overlap is increasing with the absorption of St. Andrews Hospital (BBH) into Miles (Damariscotta). None of the county towns off of Route 1 have Head Start; Big Brothers Big Sisters is not as prevalent since the organization moved to Knox County.
The “F” grade given to Telstar school proved to be a "wake up call" for the community, drawing attention to education quality. Head Start is seen as having a positive impact on adult leadership and civic engagement skills as well as supporting early childhood. Lack of access to Women, Work and Community is a hindrance to women entrepreneurs, who have to travel a distance to either Lewiston or Farmington in neighboring counties. The county has the lowest health rating and has seen an increase in drug use. Additionally, there is no "aging in place" opportunities for women. There has been a spontaneously formed mentoring program.
Seen as a potential asset: the cross‐generational work to support systemic and social change to improve aspirations and decrease elderly isolation. Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) is interested in collaborating with agencies working with younger populations of women. (EMDC and UMO staff participated.)
Transportation issues are seen as the root of challenges for young and elderly women. There is strong adult education programming and a good nonprofit collaborative environment.
Free preschool is seen as a great asset. The DARE program is perceived as being too late for most kids (it needs to start earlier). The 100 year‐old women’s group, Cosmopolitan Club, ran a shelter for women in the past and is currently trying to rejuvenate. had shelter for women. There is a good group of women entrepreneurs in Bath that serve as mentors and role models for girls.
It was perceived that Somerset County Association of Resource Providers (SCARP) is a good asset.
There is a good dental health clinic program, and perceived great cross‐generational collaborative potential with the Restorative Justice Program, which needs community service opportunities for youth offenders, and other organizations needing volunteers. (Maine Community Foundation and Broadreach Family Services staff participated.)
Mighty Women of Washington County is perceived as a great asset and resource for far‐flung populations; poverty education is missing but seen as important.Aspirational programs like Girl Scouts and 4‐H are critical. (Sunrise Economic Development Council hosted and participated, Cobscook Community Learning, Child and Family Opportunities staff participated.)
St. David’s is studying poverty and plans to hold a volunteer fair for community programs looking for volunteers. MOFGA community gardens is helping with the obesity issue; Hardy Girls Healthy Women is an organization perceived as a high-value adjunct to Girl Scouts and 4‐H; Eliza Chappell of Ramblers Way is looking to hire stitchers and found contacts for skilled labor.