Best of Maine: Community

Community Enrichment
Sweet Tree Arts

Regular readers of Down East know how much we admire the town of Hope. The artists, craftspeople, and young professionals who have moved into this little Camden Hills town over the past 15 years are intent on growing a close-knit, supportive community. The latest addition to this happy mission is Sweet Tree Arts at Hope Corner, where young and old alike learn to paint with watercolors, play the bagpipes (founder Lindsay Pinchbeck’s husband Chris is a bagpipe maker), and even make life drawings of elephants, courtesy of Sweet Tree’s neighbor, the Hope Elephants rehabilitation facility. Sweet Tree Arts, 4 Church St., Hope. 207-763-2770.

Curbside Composting
Garbage to Garden

Small city yards make it difficult for homeowners and apartment dwellers to compost their kitchen and yard waste. That’s where Garbage to Garden comes in. Launched two years ago by Tyler Frank, Sable Sanborn, Cory Fletcher, and Caitlin Milliken, the Portland service picks up buckets of food scraps and yard waste bins that customers place curbside and leaves behind a clean bucket for them to use the next week. The waste is hauled to a Gorham dairy farm where it’s heated and cured for months, then sifted to become rich, usable compost, which subscribers (who pay $14 a month for the service) can have delivered to their gardens. 207-332-0277.

Plan for the Future
Harold Alfond College Challenge

When the Harold Alfond Foundation announced in 2009 that it would make a $500 college scholarship available to each and every Maine newborn, it was an act of unparalleled generosity. Established and named for the late founder of the Dexter Shoe Company, the foundation went one step further this spring (on what would have been Alfond’s 100th birthday), nixing a requirement that parents enroll their children in a special state-run investment plan in order to receive the grant. Starting this year, all Maine resident babies will automatically receive the scholarship upon turning 18 and enrolling in higher ed — no paperwork required. The foundation anticipates investing $6 million a year for about 12,000 babies. Here’s to the class of 2036! 207-623-3263.

Business Advocate
Red Barn

Laura Benedict never intended to become a cause célèbre. The owner of Augusta’s venerable mom-and-pop chicken-and-seafood shed just wanted to give back to her community. That’s why she started hosting $5 all-you-can-eat fundraising feeds in 2009, donating food and turning over door and raffle earnings to various causes and non-profits. When the state attorney general’s office notified her last year that Red Barn was running afoul of charity licensing requirements, Benedict worked with Representative Lori Fowle to craft the so-called “Red Barn bill,” cutting administrative red tape for unpaid fundraisers holding small charitable events. The bill passed unanimously in April, meaning more small businesses can now fundraise like Red Barn, even if they can’t replicate that seafood stew. 455 Riverside Dr., Augusta. 207-623-9485.

Reinvention of an Event
Pop for Change

After six years hosting Rockport’s glittery Pop the Cork fundraising gala, Cellardoor Winery owner Bettina Doulton and Megunticook Market chef/owner Lani Stiles made two big changes this year. First, the event became Pop the Cause, with a renewed focus on giving and a $160,000 donation divvied up among United Mid-Coast Charities, MCH Meals on Wheels, Coastal Opportunities, and Hospitality House. Next, Doulton and Stiles put out a call for 400 volunteers to each lend four hours to these organizations, and they planned a second party to say thanks — Pop for Change, complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a performance by ’80s chanteuse Belinda Carlisle. The initiative exceeded expectations: more than 500 volunteers, ahem, popped up. 207-236-2654.

Greenhouses with a Cause
Morrison Center

Greater Portland gardeners eagerly await the spring sale at Morrison Center, where they snap up vegetables, herbs, geraniums, begonias, and other annuals for house and garden. Not only do shoppers take home robust, healthy plants, they also receive cheerful and enthusiastic service from the very people who planted the seeds and nurtured the sprouts. The Morrison Center’s nurserymen and nurserywomen are among the hundreds of individuals who have been served over the past six decades by this highly regarded nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, support, and help find employment for people with physical and developmental disabilities. In the greenhouses, which are open to the public year-round, the resident green thumbs not only learn horticultural and retail skills, but also get a stipend each time one of their plants is sold. 60 Chamberlain Rd, Scarborough. 207-883-6680