Challenges Can Bring out the Best in Community

December 31, 2015

Photo By: Christina Berube, BAHS
Blog By: Dennis Marble

Looking back on twenty years working at 263 Main brings a range of memories and emotions.  Seeing a huge group of harmed and injured people suffering in deep poverty is inescapable.  Feelings of pride and appreciation for a team of employees, remembering their quiet heroics and their black humor and foolishness.  The unavoidable collection of terrible moments—Louie off the trestle, Trevor burning under the bridge.  I think the most important impression I’ll walk away with is the solid knowledge that help is there if you ask, and that the broader community should know of the incredible team doing tremendously professional work in the Bangor Region.  They don’t have a big market payroll like the Yankees or the Sox, but they truly know how to play ball!

The staff of the various emergency shelters interconnect constantly.  Front-line employees are in touch with their counterparts frequently, navigating the minefields of confidentiality and individual rights in attempts to keep people at risk as safe as they know how.  These folks also work with our friends in law enforcement, mental health ride along, and with the mobile crisis team, collectively crafting a safety net invisible to most eyes and not necessarily sought after by the folks who need it.  Monthly meetings help reinforce these connections, but the real work happens unpredictably and in events of immediacy, somewhat like the service of an emergency department.

Speaking of e.d.’s and e.r.’s, Bangor’s hospitals and our federally qualified health center, PCHC, play significant supportive roles.  “Supportive” to much of the emergency management of individual and family clients near crisis, but also as true community leaders. Area residents should know that there now exists a structure of partnership among our major area medical providers called the Community Health Leadership Board.  Growing from many unconnected conversations, all with a theme of “There must be a better way,” and playing out across the span of community leaders, the genesis may have come from the vision of Bangor’s City Manager, Cathy Conlow.  As I understand it, Cathy was wrestling with a range of citizen needs and concerns while also focusing on figuring out what Bangor’s public health capacity could and should be.  The “CHLB” earlier this year issued an ambitious set of goals supported by action steps, including prioritizing the need to address the growing problem of serious addiction in our community.

Area non-profits of various social service missions all play their parts as well.  Mental health counseling, treatment programs and community integration investments all serve to help stabilize people at risk and to support their stability and health.  Achieving such goals saves us in terms of avoiding the more costly emergency or late-stage levels of care.  Agencies like the Y, United Way of Eastern Maine, Eastern Area Agency on Aging, the Unlimited Solutions Clubhouse and many others all play their roles in connecting people with various supports as needed.

But perhaps the most important team in all of this, to me, is the mostly anonymous and generally invisible collection of individuals, churches, businesses and foundations who provide a seriously huge and powerful level of support to “clients” and families as well as to the aforementioned agencies who serve them.  The Maine Community Foundation, the John T. Gorman Foundation, our very own Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, Rotary, Kiwanis, the Betterment Fund, the Lions, elderly people living alone and near poverty themselves,  and many, many others are the key to making the scope of the collective work possible.  And to me, the real story is this collective decision to invest serious money and volunteer time in efforts to help people in need who are not even known to these entities.  It is the tale of our collective compassion, our “random acts of kindness.”  It is right that we do so.  It is right to help others who are hurting.  We help all of us by these actions.  We live lives that are human this way.  And at a time in our history when there is rage and yelling and blaming all around, we help our own health and sanity in the process.  Thanks, Bangor Region.