BANGOR, Maine — The first baby born in 2009 at Eastern Maine Medical Center waited in line at the Bangor Mall on Saturday with other babies who arrived this year for a professional photo shoot and a $500 grant for higher education.
The babies modeled for a “casting call” and a chance to be a featured face for ad campaigns associated with the Harold Alfond College Challenge, which provides every Maine baby born in 2009 and beyond with a $500 grant to start a NextGen College Investing Plan.
“This is a nice start to her college fund,” said Glenburn resident Nicole Bates, mother of a New Year’s baby, 10-month-old Ora Kinsley Bates, who was born at 1:50 a.m. Jan. 1 at EMMC.
Saturday’s event was held to get the word out about the free savings program, which was created to fulfill a dream of Dexter Shoe founder and well-known philanthropist Harold Alfond, who died in November 2007.
“Mr. Alfond’s legacy gift to Maine was to give every child a $500 start for college,” said Elizabeth Vanderweide, program manager for the Harold Alfond College Challenge for the Finance Authority of Maine, which runs the NextGen program.
Alfond believed the investment in Maine’s future leaders would go far to improve the state’s economy and that it would cause individual aspirations to flourish, she said.
There are no income limits and no additional contributions are needed to receive the grant; however, families are encouraged to add to the college savings.
The $500 grant will turn into around $2,000 for college if left entirely alone, however, with a contribution of $50 per month, the account could grow to $25,000 in 18 years, according to FAME data.
The baby photos will be used by Vanderweide and others to spread the word about the Alfond grants.
“We call them the Alfond Babies,” she said. “I do a lot of online ads and I take six or seven babies and these rotate. At the end of all this, we’ll have about 500 baby photos that we can pick and choose from when we need them.”
Future “Casting Call: Future Faces of Maine” events are planned for 3:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, at Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle, and 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at the Maine Mall in South Portland. Parents who want to sign up for the program at the event will need to bring the baby’s Social Security number and will be given a copy of their baby’s portrait.
While Ora was having her photo taken, Holden resident Johan Diaz applied a little cream to the face of his daughter, 2-month-old Victoria, who was next in line.
Lucretia Diaz heard about the Harold Alfond College Challenge while she was at the hospital having her daughter. She said she has been spreading the word ever since.
“I think it’s great,” Diaz said. “Where I work there are a couple of people ready to have babies soon.”
Bates and her husband, Carroll Bates Jr., of Glenburn also found out about the program while in the hospital, and already had registered for the $500 NextGen grant.
“It’s going to provide her with a higher education,” she said. “I went to college, her daddy went to college and it’s definitely a plan for her.”
Those who would like more information on the Harold Alfond College Challenge can call FAME at 800-228-3734 or visit 500forbaby.org.