Maine Conservation Corps Puts Citizenship & Service in Action
The Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) led a diverse group of volunteers to add donated warm winter clothing within the Augusta Community Warming Center (AWC) to be distributed through Addie’s Attic. United in volunteer service to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, on January 16th MCC’s volunteers were joined by hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the country on this national day of service.
AWC, an initiative of United Way of Kennebec Valley, is housed as part of a community resources hub within St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Almost completely volunteer driven, an ongoing collaboration of several programs offers hygiene products, a food bank of both fresh and nonperishable items, clothing for all ages as well as a safe space for coffee and conversation, all under one roof. The essence of volunteerism keeps a cycle of giving present, as these essentials are continuously collected and connected with those in need.
The MLK Day of Service hosted by MCC enhanced the importance of providing warm winter clothing through AWC as well as Addie’s Attic, a year-round program within the resource hub, run solely on donated clothing items. MLK Day donations were collected from community placed boxes at Camden National Bank, CMP, Doc Hollandaise Restaurant, Penney Memorial Church, Hannaford as well as the MCC main office in support of this effort.
Volunteerism is a constant within the walls of St. Mark’s, and was heightened with the presence of MCC serving in an array of roles. As a day of reflection, connection and gratitude, MCC also offered a chance for those receiving warm clothing to hand-write a thank you card to any of the various organizations or volunteers involved. With neighbors helping neighbors and the presence of collaboration, it was both a heart-warming and overall warming experience, on the MLK Day of Service.
“Today we answer Dr. King’s call to serve and are making a difference in the lives of those in need,” said Jo Orlando the Director of MCC “A resourceful way to meet local needs, volunteer service is a powerful tool that unites us around a common purpose and builds strong communities. We are putting the core American principles of citizenship and service into action.”
Volunteers varied from High School Students, Veterans, Community Members, Families and MCC Alumni, who spent the Day of Service collecting community-wide donations, sorting, organizing and creating accessibility to warm winter wear in Maine. With over 500 articles of clothing made available for individuals and families, there were 160 winter hats, 75 jackets of varying sizes and 72 pairs of new warm socks. Through these collaborative contributions of donated items and volunteerism, we were reminded how service for others can bring us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved and connected community.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that leads the annual MLK Day of Service. National Days of Service provide Americans with an opportunity to join neighbors and local leaders to tackle community challenges and strengthen the nation.
For more information, visit NationalService.gov or contact Heather Rose for upcoming Volunteer opportunities within MCC at MConsCorps.VOC@maine.gov
Maine Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps initiative, is part of a nation-wide effort to bring volunteerism and positive impact to communities throughout the US. When taking on a Term of Service, dedicated individuals who are 18+ dedicate anywhere from 300-1700 hours of volunteer capacity to identified areas of need. Once someone begins their Term of Service, the ever expanding network of Alumni continues to make valuable connections and grow.
While serving, the Alumni network is available and teeming with interest to get involved in current opportunities. Directly after completing your term, the Alumni network offers support and guidance for translating acquired skills into your next steps toward an applicable career. Lingering over the many years after your term of service, you have an open invitation to continue to be involved with palpable, positive change as a member of the AmeriCorps Alumni.
We would like to spotlight Paul St. Pierre for his volunteer efforts with our Field Team! Paul’s daughter Autumn is a MCC Field Team member, and Paul decided to spend Fathers Day with Autumn’s team in the Moosehead Lake Region. The team had nothing but great things to say about him! He even brought food to share, which is always appreciated!
Here is what Paul had to say about his experience:
What was your favorite part about volunteering with our Field Team? There were so many things that I got to see, learn and be involved in. If I were to pick my favorite it would be how all the people are so different, in so many ways, yet they functioned as one unit. Each having their own tasks, yet helping others when they saw it was needed.
What project were you helping with? I had the opportunity to assist Autumn with building a retaining wall. Many, many tasks were involved in completing this project. From finding the correct sized and shaped rocks, to locating mineral soil and transporting it back to the trail with the use of just some hand tools and some old dirt bags. The duty of crushing the rocks with a mash hammer was by far the most time consuming part of building the retaining wall which gave me a greater appreciation for the many trails I have hiked in the State of Maine. I also had the opportunity to remove large rocks from the path and clear the corridor by pulling stumps with the team.
Why do you think the work MCC does is important? Maine has many beauties and MCC is allowing more people to be able to explore and see what our great state has to offer. Not only the work that MCC does with the trails is important but the team building and broadening the minds of the team members/volunteers will make our state a better place. The experience provides members with life lessons that otherwise might never be learned.
How do you feel about Autumn serving in AmeriCorps with MCC? I could not be more proud, this is a great organization and I think Autumn is great for AmeriCorps with MCC. The skills that she is learning this summer will help her for the rest of her life and will be shared for generations. She has built quite a fan base among our friends and family, always questioning how she is doing, how far they have made it on their trail and always wanting to know more about MCC.
Thank you Paul for all of your help! We appreciate your support, and couldn’t be happier to have Autumn on our team!
This past April, students from the Coastal Studies for Girls, took a trip to Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to volunteer with the Maine Conservation Corps AmeriCorps Environmental Stewards, Katelyn Buttler and Emily Greene.
They were working at Skillings field in Scarborough which Rachel Carson NWR is using as habitat for New England Cottontails. It turned out to be a very VERY rainy, muddy, and cold day…but that didn’t stop these motivated girls! Katelyn and Emily were extremely impressed by their positive attitudes and determination as they worked through less than desirable conditions. We would like to feature the students of Coastal Studies for Girls in this Volunteer Spotlight!
We reached out to the Coastal Studies for Girls to see what they had to say about the experience:
What did you do at Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge? We planted live stakes of willow trees.
What was favorite part about volunteering at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge? My favorite part was having the people in charge be so passionate about what they think is important and really welcoming us to help them.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? It was raining and cold and super muddy but to make the time go by we joked around and sang songs.
Why do you think it is important to protect our natural environment? It is important to protect our natural environment so that we don’t lose more and more animals.
What did you do at Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge? We planted live stakes in ditches which we dug as well.
What was favorite part about volunteering at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge? How nice and encouraging the three people were who organized the project.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? Staying motivated through the rain. My friends and I decided to sing really loudly.
Why do you think it is important to protect our natural environment? I think many people are unaware of their impact which causes them to leave a negative impact on our natural environment. Our natural environment is crucial for life and happiness and it is something that we need to help because too many people have damaged it.
Coastal Studies for Girls(CSG) is a science and leadership semester school for tenth grade girls. The school brings girls from around the country to the coast of Maine for the fall or spring term of their sophomore year of high school. CSG promotes girls’ aspirations in the sciences, and encourages them to create strong communities and a connected world. For more information, visit their website.
Big shout our to our Environmental Stewards, Katelyn and Emily, for creating such a fun and memorable experience for these girls! Great work!
On Friday April 22nd, thirty volunteers came together to celebrate Earth Day at the Boyd Street Urban Farm in Portland. This event was a collaboration between the Maine Conservation Corps and Cultivating Community. The mission of Cultivating Community is to create and sustain greater access to healthy local foods. Their hope is to empower people to play a role in restoring the local sustainable food system.
Throughout the day, volunteers completed a variety of projects: creating pathways in the garden, mulching, trimming raspberry bushes, cleaning out the tool shed, painting signs, etc. There was plenty to do and luckily the rain held off! See a before and after picture of the garden below.
Kelley Reardon, an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward with the Maine Conservation Corps, coordinated this event with Cultivating Community. “I wanted to do an event with Cultivating Community because I think nutrition and sustainable food sources is crucial for any community. These gardens are a great way to bring people together. We all have something in common- we all need food. “
Starbucks and IDEXX employees were among the volunteer who attended. Kathi Shibles of Starbucks said “Our CEO, Howard Schulte, is amazing and believes giving back is more important than business. April is community service month, and Starbucks employees are attending thousands of community service events across the country. We enjoy taking care of people who take care of us.” June Hamlin of IDEXX said “IDEXX gives employees two give days. It is a great getting the chance to help, and have the support from your company to give back.” Thank you for choosing to spend your day with us!
Lily Chaleff is a Food Corps member serving with Cultivating Community. She focuses on school gardens and connecting youth with healthy food. She explained that the Boyd St Urban Farms supports the Youth Growers program during the summer. Youth Growers are high school students who help run the garden. They harvest the food and deliver it to the surrounding elderly community. She was excited to see so many volunteers come out to help get the garden ready for the season. “So many people have come ready to work. Everyone was invested mentally and ready to make the garden the best version of itself”
The Corporation for National and Community Service’s monthly theme for April is Environmental Stewardship. To Kelley Reardon, “environmental stewardship means helping to cultivate an appreciation of nature and conservation in your community and within yourself. It is working towards creating a more sustainable environment for the future.” After today’s event, we hope people will be inspired to become environmental stewards in their own community.
For the past few months, western states have been battling wildfires. This past June, 167 members of the California Conservation Corps assisted the US Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as they battled wildfires state wide (Novey, 2015). This is not the first time that AmeriCorps members have been involved in firefighting efforts: just last year, 69 AmeriCorps members with the Washington Conservation Corps put in more than 6,000 hours supporting firefighting camps by coordinating and distributing food, supplies, and equipment (Network, 2014).
Maine’s wildfires are pretty mild compared to those out west. According to the EPA the average number of acres each year burned per square mile in Maine was nearly ‘zero’ between 1984 and 2013. By contrast, Idaho has seen an average of 5.52 acres burn each year per square mile in the same time range (Climate Change Indicators in the United States; Wildfires, 2015).
Still wildfires do happen here. In May of this year, Maine firefighters were controlling a blaze in Lubec that burned over 200 acres of land (Hoey, 2015). The great fires of 1947 caused such significant damage that the week of October the 13th was called the “Week that Maine Burned” (Park, n.d.) (Killelea, 2012).
Exactly fifty years ago today, (August 4th, 2015) the Eric Kelley Peat Bog in Centerville, Maine, became the site of one of the largest fires in Maine’s history, burning over 12,000 acres of land (Cleaves, 1995). At the time the Eric Kelley Peat Bog was the site of peat hauling and harvesting. Workers used bulldozers, trucks, and other heavy machinery to harvest peat, which can be sold as a commodity and has several uses in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing (Bastin & David, 1909) .
On August 4th the peat on the surface of the bog had dried into a dust due to the hot weather and lack of precipitation. It was the perfect condition for a fire to start and spread (Decoster, 1965). All it took was a spark from the exhaust of one of the “Bog Buggies” to ignite the peat dust. The vehicle lacked a muffler and “back-fired” while hauling peat (Cleaves, 1995). Like the fires of 1947, the Centerville Forest Fire preceded legislation aimed at protecting public safety. In weeks following the blaze, the State of Maine passed a new regulation requiring that power equipment not be operated in the woods unless equipped with mufflers and spark arresters (Decoster, 1965).
The workers at the bog first noticed the fire around 10:30 am, and called for assistance from the the fire-tower watchman at Mitten Mountain. The tower watchmen referred the call to Forest Rangers David Grant and Luther Davis of Cherryfield. Grant arrived with Indian Fire Pumps which workers used to try to control the fire. (Decoster, 1965)
The fire spread rapidly due to the dry conditions and 18 mph winds. What had been 2.5 acres at 2pm reached 300-400 acres by nightfall. The Centerville forest fire spread for approximately five days, jumping the Machias River, and a section of Route 192 between the towns of Weaslely and Machias. The number of men involved in the firefighting operation reached over 700 individuals by August 7th. From the beginning there was a scarcity of trained firefighters. Groups from Bucks Harbor, Dow Air Force Base, and Maine Maritime Academy, the Outward Bound School as well as “floods of individual volunteers” joined the effort. These volunteers were a diverse group, which included white collar office workers and experienced woodsmen (Decoster, 1965).
The coordination and cooperation in response to this fire was due in no small part to the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission (About the NFFPC, n.d.). This commission was established by the United States Congress in 1949 and was originally composed of Maine and six other New England States (Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, n.d.). Governor John H. Reed attributed this act to an idea that was first conceived of by New England Governors in response to the great forest fires of 1947.(Decoster, 1965)
Several agencies collaborated with the Forest Service to control the Centerville Forest Fire. Robert Wright of the St. Regis Paper Company joined the effort as a sector boss on the fire lines. His efforts enlisted the Maine Central Rail Road Company’s assistance in transporting firefighters. (Cleaves, 1995)
The Washington County branch of US Civil Defense supported the effort by setting up a mobile feeding station to provide meals to firefighters. The unit was staffed by Mrs. Sara Wilson, the Washington County Home Demonstration Agent. Lodging was also handled by Civil Defense which provided cots and blankets. (Decoster, 1965)
Other agencies joined the effort by supporting the firefighting operation with services and supplies. The State Police cooperated in the requirements of moving permits, escorting heavy equipment and blocking roads leading to the fire. The Maine Highway Commission provided $15,000 in free services and forestry companies provided heavy equipment free of charge (Decoster, 1965).
Fire fighters created a 34 mile long perimeter free of combustible materials called a “fire line.” Fire lines help to contain fires by creating a gap that a fire must jump across in order to spread. Along the perimeter men suppressed the fire with pumps, tank trucks, and hose . Building the fire line required the use of bulldozers and other heavy machinery, which proved difficult to transport across the uneven terrain. Centerville is known not just for bogs but also large boulders and steep ledge, all of which posed challenge to moving heavy equipment (Decoster, 1965).
Five different airplanes were employed to control the Centerville Forest fire. Canadian Casos planes with 940 gallon drop tanks flew in from Quebec and were used to drop water on the fire from above. Two small “Beaver” float planes with 125 gallon tanks were used to douse spot fires caused by windblown embers. If these little second fires had grown out of control the firefighting effort could have been considerably bigger and more costly. (Decoster, 1965). The participation of Canadian pilots and planes preceded the membership of Quebec in the North Eastern Forest Fire Compact (About the NFFPC: History n.d.).
By the end of the 4th day, August 7th, the Organized Towns involved in the effort were running out of spare equipment and city fire departments began contributing their own supplies to the effort. This was the turning point where firefighters began to gain the upper hand. The fire’s once rapid spread had begun to slow as it started spreading into wetter areas. On August 8th crews had completely enclosed the area with fire lines and by the next day the fire was under control. From August 9th onward the weather cooled and the risk of the fire reigniting was low due to fog and precipitation. On Friday, August 13th, demobilization began. Mopping up after the fire was a lengthy process, lasting well into September. Forest Rangers and 14 men continued to patrol the area for weeks and the last smoke was reported on October 3rd. (Decoster, 1965)
In the aftermath of the fire a board of review was assembled by the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission. The board’s purpose was summed up in a statement by Ed Peltier of the U.S. Forest Service; “We have to be especially critical on a board of review, comparing human endeavor and human efforts with an ideal, striving to improve the practices.” (Decoster, 1965) A report was prepared by Lester A. DeCoster, the assistant to the information and education supervisor of the Maine Forest Service. The report contained maps, day by day accounts, photographs of the firefighting effort, and transcripts of question and answer sessions with the board and observers.
The effects of the fire were big but no lives were reported lost. Of the more than 12,000 acres burned St. Regis Paper Company lost an estimated 8,000 acres of young spruce-fir forest. The Georgia-Pacific Corporation lost an estimated 2,100 acres of woodland and 70 cords of already harvested wood. Two small hunting camps were destroyed and 25 workers were injured in the fire. Most injuries included abrasions, strained backs, sprains, and injuries due to lack of proper footwear. Only one serious accident occurred when a bulldozer operator was struck by a spring pole, breaking several ribs. (Decoster, 1965).
The timely and large scale response to the Centerville Forest fire owes a great deal to the policies set forth after the great fires of 1947. The effort to control it represented a feat of both interstate and international cooperation as well as a successful application of volunteer and national service. This day, August 4th, 2015, is exactly 50 years after this eventful fire. We should remember the role that service played in responding to the Centerville Forest Fire and ask ourselves what we would have done if we had been there.