BANGOR, Maine — Ora Kinsley Bates was able to start saving for college the moment she arrived in the world.
Born at 1:50 a.m. Thursday at Eastern Maine Medical Center, she is one of more than 14,000 babies expected to be born in the state this year who will qualify for the Harold Alfond College Challenge, a scholarship program designed to help families save money for college as soon as a child is born.
The challenge will provide a $500 scholarship, to be invested in a NextGen College Investing Plan account, for each newborn in Maine.
The program began on New Year’s Day, and Ora Bates will be one of its first recipients as soon as her parents file the paperwork.
“She’ll need it,” the newborn’s father, Carroll Bates Jr., 33, of Glenburn said of the scholarship. “It’s definitely something we’re going to do.
“We do want her to go to college,” mother Nicole Bates, 29, of Glenburn said as the baby, who weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and was 21 inches long at birth, rested in her arms. “I went and her father went.”
Nicole Bates works as a veterinary technician in Dover-Foxcroft, and her husband is a carpenter. The couple met about 15 years ago in Shin Pond where the then-Nicole Morris vacationed every summer.
Ora Bates, the first child for both parents, arrived three days early. They checked into the hospital at 4 p.m. Wednesday, her father said. Krystal Morris, Nicole Bates’ twin sister, who was visiting from her home in Bushnell, Fla., was with them and in the delivery room for the birth of her niece.
Maternal grandparents Mary Beth Morris and Ronald E. Morris of Howley-in-the-Hills, Fla., arrived Thursday afternoon in time to take part in the media hoopla that goes along with being the first baby of the new year in Bangor.
Ora Bates paid little attention to the reporters and photographers who crowded into her mother’s room. She was much more interested in studying her parents’ faces.
“She’s an awesome baby,” Nicole Bates said. “Very quiet, so far.”
The new member of the Bates family will be spending a lot of time outdoors fishing and hunting before she’ll need to use her scholarship, her father said.
The college scholarship program was started last January with funds from the estate of the late Harold Alfond. He founded Dexter Shoe Co. and the state’s first philanthropic foundation. A successful pilot project in 2008 at MaineGeneral health facilities in Waterville and Augusta enrolled 320 babies for scholarships.
It is estimated that in 18 years at 8 percent interest, a $500 grant, without any additional contribution, would grow to $2,000, according to the Finance Authority of Maine. The account could grow to $25,000 in 18 years with a contribution of $50 a month.
Collin Alexander Duplissis of Westbrook most likely was the first baby to qualify for the scholarship in 2009, based on an informal survey of Maine hospitals. The boy was born at 12:36 a.m. at Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to a hospital spokeswoman. A girl was born about 30 minutes later at 1:07 a.m. at Portland’s Mercy Hospital.
Ora Bates appeared to be the third birth at Maine hospitals in 2009 and the first born in the Bangor Daily News coverage area.
For information on the Harold Alfond College Challenge, visit www.500forbaby.org.