The New Northeast

tracking the Spirit in the Episcopal Diocese of Maine

Two (two!) UTO grants awarded to Maine focus on children

uto-final-logo-for-websiteThe diocesan office received great news this week with the notice that not one but both of the United Thank Offering (UTO) grants submitted by Maine congregations will be awarded funding in 2013. St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, and St. Philip’s, Wiscasset, will receive $13,625 to support “Food for Thought: Feeding Students in Lincoln County.” The Cathedral Church of St. Luke will receive $30,000 to build a school for its parish partner in Duny, Haiti, St. Simon and St. Jude.

Each diocese in The Episcopal Church is permitted to submit one domestic application and one international partner application per year.

“Food for Thought: Feeding Students in Lincoln County”  a program initiated by members of  St. Andrew’s, Newcastle, in partnership with members of St. Philip’s, Wiscasset, will receive $13,625. This program will allow St. Philip’s and community partners, including Feed Our Scholars, to continue a program developed in Wiscasset in 2013 that offers students at risk of going hungry weekend backpacks during the school year that are stocked with nutritious food.

A second component of the grant will allow the congregations to work with the comunity public health organization, Healthy Lincoln County, in expanding a summer food program to help children and families in Wiscasset, Waldoboro, and Damarscotta – areas in which more than 50% of children qualify for free or reduced lunches. Summer is a particularly important time to make food available to children since the support of a weekday school lunch program is unavailable.

By helping to provide food in backpacks during the school year and community meal sites in the summer, similar programs have helped to improve nutrition and academic performance, reduce absenteeism and behavior problems, allay children’s anxieties and build their sense of self-worth.

Brenda Hamilton of St. Andrew’s explains why they are supporting this program, “Rather than waiting for our neighbors to come through our doors, we are reaching out into the community with our faith-based energy and funding to collaborate with other organizations to make the utmost impact on hunger and malnutrition in the midcoast.”

She continues, “For example, we boost our rural economy by sourcing food locally when possible and by engaging low-income kids in our teen agricultural training program and the Morris Farm to grow food for us. Inmates of Two Bridges Jail will receive food bank shipments, prep and fill backpacks. Meal sites provide safe places to play and be physically active, for parents and kids to socialize and to find a place where people genuinely care about them. When we address hunger, we begin to address all the things that go along with poverty and hunger: drug abuse, domestic violence, corruption and crime, a collapsed economy with few opportunities. It’s not just about sandwiches. It’s about putting the Kingdom of God in a lunch bag.”

Members of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland didn’t let being turned down by the UTO granting committee in 2012 stand in their way of trying again. This time their grant request of $30,000 to build a school for their partner parish, St. Simon and St. Jude in Duny, Haiti, was approved. The grant accounts for about two-thirds of the amount needed to complete construction.

Building a new school for St. Simon and St. Jude will mean a new kindergarten through 6th grade building for the community. What is now a 25’ by 50’ shed with a rusty corrugated metal roof nailed to wooden poles will be replaced by a weatherproof cement building. The open shed which allows rain to turn the dirt floor to mud and the wind to scatter papers will be transformed into seven classrooms, a teacher’s room, a director’s room, and a kitchen area.

Since 300 children cannot fit into the present 25’ by 50’ unpartitioned space, students attend school in a four hour morning session and then another group attends in the afternoon. A new school will provide adequate space for the current number of students in the morning, and it will allow for an increased number of students in the afternoon session. With ample space for students and learning materials, it will substantially raise the quality of teaching and learning.

A new school will function even during inclement weather. A five-day school week for all of the children will ensure better education and will offer more children of Duny the opportunity to attend school. In the future, there may even be an opportunity for secondary students to use the building for evening classes.

In addition to providing the additional one-third of funds required to complete construction, St. Luke’s will continue raise $5,000 a year to pay for school lunches as it has for several years. In 2011 members of St. Luke’s raised funds to build a secure food storage building.

Congratulations to all three congregations and those they serve!

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