Starfish Program links three nonprofits to send kids to camp

Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 15, 2019 and Island Ad-Vantages, August 15, 2019

Starfish Program links three nonprofits to send kids to camp

by Anne Berleant

Summer camp is considered a rite of passage by many parents and children, and a necessity by many working parents. But not all parents are able to send their children to camp. Enter the Starfish Program, a partnership between Nichols Day Camps and peninsula nonprofit Community Compass, in collaboration with The Hatch Community Youth Fund in Castine.

The Starfish Program has provided the opportunity for 37 local children to experience archery, soccer, swimming, kayaking and other water sports, theater, arts and crafts and the friendships that form between children, from all walks of life and geographic locations, at summer camp.

The Starfish Program began with Gil Tenney of Castine, a former Community Compass and current Hatch Fund board member, “to send kids to summer camp who might not have the opportunity to go,” said Community Compass’ Executive Director Scott Hamann. Seated at a picnic table at the Sedgwick camp, with shouts and laughter floating by from a group of soccer-playing campers, he and camp director River Plouffe-Vogel talked about the program and its benefits.

While Nichols Day Camps has long offered “camperships,” to cover full or partial camp tuition and transportation, the Starfish Program has more than doubled the number of scholarships. What is unique is the mentorship embedded in the program that helps identify children in each of the nine towns Community Compass serves—Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Deer Isle, Penobscot, Sedgwick, Stonington and Surry—and help them apply and make sure the children are “camp ready,” with swim suit, food for packed lunches and the like. 

“The mentorship is at the core of the program,” Hamann said.”We really want wraparound services.”

The Blue Hill Society for Aid to Children, the nonprofit organization that operates Nichols Day Camps, gave 20 full and 10 partial camperships this summer at a cost of approximately $10,475, plus transportation costs. Community Compass funded 17 more campers, and worked with Andrea Hatch of The Hatch Community Youth Fund to provide an additional 22 camperships, some through Community Compass and some through direct application to The Hatch Fund, at a total cost of about $15,500. Campers come from each of the nine peninsula towns, with the Hatch Fund specifically aimed at families in Castine, Brooksville and Penobscot but also funding camperships in Sedgwick and for children living at H.O.M.E. in Orland.

“The great thing that happened this year is that Community Compass, through its mentorship program, identified nine or 10 kids in Penobscot and Brooksville who would probably not have been able to go to camp without the funding,” Hatch said. “We were able to supplement the Starfish funding so that we could support all these kids, which was really great.”

More than double the number of Community Compass and The Hatch Fund camperships were available this summer compared to 2018.

“This was the first year we were really able to work off established relationships and grow the program,” Hamann said, which found funding through “some of our major donors who wanted to see this succeed.” In addition, a number of local organizations gave an additional 10 camperships, he noted.

The total enrollment at Nichols Day Camps this summer was 291, with campers from as nearby as down the street to as far as Sweden and Germany. The cost of a two-week session is $418 for in-state and $625 for out-of-state campers, with $155,000 of revenue coming in from tuition and $120,000 from investments filling the organization’s $277,400 operating budget for 2019, according to general manager Marti Brill. 

“It’s unique,” Plouffe-Vogel said, noting that from 30 to 40 percent of campers come from out of state each summer. “Camp is the first place a lot of these kids are getting to meet kids from other towns, and from across incomes. We kind of get to [be] a bridge between the two communities. It’s a really unique setting that allows it to happen.”

Community Compass:

Nichols Day Camp:

Hatch Community Youth Fund:

Community Compass Board of Directors welcomes Elaine Hewes!

Community Compass’s Board of Directors is thrilled to welcome Elaine Hewes. Elaine joins Community Compass with a lifetime of experience that will inform our mission. She was a long time early childhood teacher at Sedgwick Elementary school, and is a retired minister from Bangor Lutheran church as well as St Brendan’s church. Elaine and her husband Michael Hewes are longtime residents of Sedgwick.

Community Compass’s Starfish Mentorship Program Sends 35 Maine Kids to Summer Camp!

In partnership with Nichols Day Camp, and with the support of the The Hatch Community Youth Fund, Community Compass’s Starfish Mentorship program pairs kids in the community with mentors to foster an enriching summer camp experience. Camp tuition is paid for through “camperships,” with 16 coming from Community Compass, and 19 from the Hatch Fund. 

“We’re just so thrilled to be able to send so many kids to camp this year,” said Community Compass Director Scott Hamann. “We worked with mentors in every community in our region, and couldn’t be more proud of their work to identify kids in every town in our service area.” 

Community Compass serves the towns of Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Deer Isle, Orland, Penobscot, Sedgwick, Stonington, and Surry. Each town will be represented with a Starfish Camper. 

“Nichols Day Camps is proud to be collaborating alongside Community Compass and the Hatch Fund.” said River Plouffe Vogel, camp Executive Director. “The Starfish Mentorship program has allowed NDC to achieve our mission of instilling area youth with a passion for the outdoors, and to be a place where everyone can learn and grow together.”

“We truly appreciate Nichols Day Camp’s support for this initiative,” said Community Compass Board President Bob Holmberg. “The staff and board have worked overtime to help our campers register and understand what they need to prepare for camp.” 

The Hatch Community Youth Fund is “a fund to honor Frank Hatch and Harold Hatch through support for youth sports and recreation.” MORE

As River Vogel said, “When community organizations work together, real and meaningful change happens.“

LEARN MORE about Nichols Day Camp. 

Community Response to the Opioid Crisis | Connected Community Forum

Community Compass’s May Connected Community Forum focused on the opioid crisis: “Community Response to the Opioid Crisis.” A panel of speakers included Charlie Osborn and Roger Bergen (Opiate Free Island), Debra Matteson (Healthy Acadia), Barbara Royal (Open Door Recovery Center), Denise Black (Healthy Acadia), and Gordon Smith (Director of Opioid Response, Governor Mills Office). 

As Ellsworth American reported, “Prevention is the missing piece in the fight against opiate abuse.” Notes Gordon Smith, “We wouldn’t need to put as much into treatment if we could keep our sons and daughters from trying substances when they are 9, 10, 11 years old.” 

Overdose rates in Maine declined slightly last year, however we are still higher than the national and regional average with a life lost nearly every day. “An average of 900 babies in Maine each year are born addicted to opiates.” (Ellsworth American) 

Gordon Smith describes his approach to the opioid crisis: “Opiate addiction should be treated like a public health issue. We need to put significant attention with lowering stigma — not just with the public but in the medical community and law enforcement.” 

Affordable & Workforce Housing | Connected Community Forum

Blue Hill | March 26, 2019 | Community Compass held its Connected Community Forum on Affordable Housing. Speakers included housing experts and concerned volunteers from around the state, presenting a broad range of perspectives on the problem. 

Keynote speaker Cullen Ryan (Executive Director, Community Housing of Maine) noted the significant unmet need throughout the state, and spoke about various challenges and opportunities Maine could pursue to address the issue. 

Duane Bartlett (Executive Director, MDI & Ellsworth Housing Authority) spoke about their focus on workforce housing, noting that the cost of housing now exceeds the ability of many year round workers, including shop keepers, trades people, teachers, and law enforcement to find affordable housing. Their goal is to develop workforce housing. MDIHA is working with conservation trusts which often acquire conservation lands that include some of the developable land appropriate for workforce housing. 

Rosa Moore (Board Member, Covenant Community Land Trust) talked about the use of Land Trust model to create affordable housing. CCLT owns land in Dedham, Sedgwick, Bucksport, Orland, and Franklin, which is devoted to affordable housing. 

Erica Veazie (Attorney, Pine Tree Legal) talked about services they provide for clients. Much of their real estate work relates to landlord-tenant issues, particularly representing clients who are being evicted from apartments for non-payment of rent.

Tim Tunney (Bar Harbor Bank and Trust) spoke of the challenges of creating new housing units. With higher costs of building materials, it is increasingly difficult to create new housing that generates suitable return for builders. He also spoke of the interest of lenders to invest in communities and their general receptiveness to working with developers to create new housing units. 

Michael Wood (Island Workforce Housing) echoed many of the housing affordability concerns that pertain to Mount Desert Island. The price of real estate has become so high that participants in the local workforce are challenged to find properties to buy or rent. The Island Workforce Housing is working on a survey of housing needs and resources with the hope of increasing the supply of affordable housing for the DIS workforce. 

The Affordable Housing Forum underscored the fact that affordable housing is an issue throughout the state, not just in our region. Bipartisan legislation currently pending in Augusta would “create over 1,000 additional affordable homes over four years, doubling Maine’s current rate of production.” 

Community Compass Awarded Opportunity Fund Grant

Community Compass was awarded a $15,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine Opportunity Fund, which recognizes the social justice work of local organizations.  

This grant comes on the heels of a successful annual appeal where the organization exceeded its goal.

Grassroots community support, combined with the Opportunity Fund grant, will allow Community Compass to continue its work in the region, helping families in need access resources to lift themselves out of poverty.

Affordable Housing in Our Region | Connected Community Forum

Community Compass will host its second Connected Community Forum of 2019 on Tuesday March 26th from 4-6 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Blue Hill (22 Tenney Hill, Blue Hill). RSVP HERE

This month’s topic is Affordable and Workforce Housing in our region. Community Housing of Maine (CHOM) Director Cullen Ryan will deliver the keynote, followed by a panel and audience Q&A. Panelists include Duane Bartlett (MDI and Ellsworth Housing Authority), Rosa Moore (H.O.M.E.), Erica Veazey (Pine Tree Legal), Jack Frost (Bar Harbor Bank and Trust), Marla Obyrne (Island Housing Trust), Michael Wood (Deer Isle Stonington Workforce Housing). The Forum will be moderated by Community Compass board member Charles “Kim” Coit.

“Affordable housing is such an important topic,” Community Compass Executive Director Scott Hamann said, “and these panelists will help us cover a lot of ground. We’ll learn about affordable housing construction, the state’s housing voucher system, renter’s rights, housing loans, and workforce housing.”

This event is free and open to the public. Please feel free to RSVP here.

Pssst, we're on WERU!

Sue Mackey Andrews of The Maine Resiliency Building Network asked Community Compass to join the conversation with her on Family Corner, on WERU. Listen to what our Neighborhood Navigators have to say about poverty in our region. 



Basic Needs Not Enough

Kristin Miale, President of Good Shepherd Food Bank, speaks plainly about poverty blamed on the poor, the importance of connecting those in need to our community and reminds us that it's our neighbors that live in poverty. 


Parent/Infant Interactions Key for Healthy Development

Our Parents Are Leaders program (PALs) is based on research showing healthy interaction between parent and their infant is crucial to developing social emotional skills. These skills prepare children to be successful in school and beyond. This video is an example of how parent interaction can affect infant behavior.

Poor Kids (video): Frontline


Originally aired on PBS, November, 2012.

"FRONTLINE spent months following three young girls who are growing up against the backdrop of their families’ struggles against financial ruin. At a time when one in five American kids lives below the poverty line, Poor Kids is an is an intimate portrait of the economic crisis as it’s rarely seen, through the eyes of children."

Watch the trailer and entire episode on PBS.