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Maine Seacoast Mission Is a Beacon of Hope for Island Communities

From the decks of Sunbeam to the rural corners of the state’s down east region, the nonprofit provides lifelines to those in need.

M/V Sunbeam is the support vessel for Maine Seacoast Mission
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Marcela Carroll loves living on Isle au Haut, the island five miles off Stonington where she moved with her husband and daughter in 2019. “It’s remote, it’s beautiful, and it’s simple,” she says. She teaches at the school on the island, which has 30 year-round residents. “Your friends are your neighbors and the people you work and play and live with.”

Still, island life has its challenges, and weekly visits from Maine Seacoast Mission’s support vessel, M/V Sunbeam, have been a lifeline. When Carroll was having skin issues, Sharon Daley, Sunbeam’s registered nurse, helped her contact a primary-care doctor who prescribed medication. Douglas Cornman, the Mission’s Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain, has led enrichment activities for Carroll’s students at the island school. And when vaccinations for COVID became available, the Sunbeam crew came to the island to administer them.

“It was just a huge help,” Carroll says.

Carroll is one of thousands of residents of island and coastal communities for whom Maine Seacoast Mission has offered critical support since the organization launched in 1905.

Consulting the map aboard Maine Seacoast Mission’s support vessel, M/V Sunbeam

Many of those services are provided aboard Sunbeam, which stops on six unbridged islands regularly, offering food, fellowship, and health care. Its crew includes captain Mike Johnson; engineer Storey King; steward Jillian, who serves meals; Cornman, who builds community and offers support; and Daley, director of island health, who provides routine health screenings, facilitates telemedicine visits and goes ashore to visit homebound islanders. Daley also helps several island health facilities ensure that elderly residents have the option of aging in place within their communities.

The organization’s services have never been more critical than during the pandemic. The team provided nearly 1,000 vaccinations and booster shots to residents of the unabridged islands and rural down east Maine and cared for those who were grappling with the illness.

Sunbeam is one of an array of services that Northeast Harbor–based Maine Seacoast Mission has offered since its inception. The nonprofit provides wraparound social and education services for residents in Hancock and Washington counties’ coastal villages. ​The Mission operates a food pantry and serves free breakfast and lunch at its summer camp. Every Sunday, the organization hosts free Table of Plenty dinners at its Cherryfield campus, which sometimes include produce from its garden. The Mission’s education initiatives include STEM classes, college-prep, and teen leadership workshops. It also awards approximately 80 annual college scholarships.

In 2021, Maine Seacoast Mission provided

791

meals to crew and guests aboard Sunbeam

693

students with after-school programs, via the organization’s EdGE Program, in Cherryfield

$162,510

supported 80 Mission Scholar college students

12,500

monthly meals to down east families through the Mission’s food pantry

928

COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots to island residents

810

home visits for individuals on islands in need of medical care

7,584

holiday gifts for people residing down east and on Maine islands

Because Maine’s isolated rural communities have so few resources, Mission president John Zavodny says, crises like food insecurity, lack of affordable housing, and limited access to mental-health-care are all heightened there.

The Mission will continue to explore the best ways to serve, whether through education, housing rehabilitation, family services, or other initiatives that hold the potential to have the most positive impact.

“The overriding premise,” Zavodny says, “is that we want individuals and communities to have access to opportunities and resources so that they can have real agency in their own lives and the lives of their communities.”

Learn more at seacoastmission.org.