February 21, 2018
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More than 100 children pick potatoes on farm




CARIBOU, Maine — Child labor law advocates needn’t raise an eyebrow. The 100-plus children from newborns to 12-year-olds who were picking potatoes in Ayer Potato Farm fields on Saturday afternoon were just taking part in the Aroostook Kids Playgroup. Owners of the Ayer farm offered a variety of activities, including a mashed potato sundae bar, at no cost.

Each Potato Picking Play Date participant also got a chance to pick potatoes and fill for free a 5-pound bag of russets. The 10- to 12-year-olds had their bags filled in no time, but the younger kids, “they liked to play in the dirt,” said Aroostook Kids organizer Amanda Lericos.

“But they all came back with potatoes,” said Jen Ayer of Ayer Potatoes, who coordinated the event. Parents were instrumental, in many cases, in helping youngsters make their way down a portion of a row.

Even with 100 to 150 participants at the play date, the group picked roughly two rows out of 150,000 hundredweight, a fraction of a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Aside from potato picking, potato stamping and potato eating, there were coloring books, tractor rides, an opportunity to get a photo with the Aroostook County icon Spuddy and homemade, tractor-churned ice cream. “The kids loved it,” said Lericos. “It was a good chance for them to get outside and get some fresh air.”

The Aroostook Kids Playgroup was formed earlier this summer as a way to supplement the seasonal nature of the popular “Mommy and Me” play group.

Additional information regarding Aroostook Kids may be obtained at www.AroostookKids.com.


Caribou thrift shop aims to help families


CARIBOU — A local couple who understand the challenges life can pose have opened a new thrift shop with an eye toward helping those in need.

The Cubby, located in Suite C of the former Power’s Theatre building on Sweden Street, is a thrift shop that promises to fulfill the needs of almost any shopper. Chris and Cindy Johnson, the husband and wife proprietors, not only recognized the need for this type of shop in the area but also being able to give back to others and to the community.

The foundation of their desire to give back is the result of firsthand experience. The parents of five children, their son Kaleb was diagnosed at 9 months with neurofibromatosis, Type I, a life-threatening condition with no cure, in which tumors form on the body’s nerves. Kaleb, nicknamed Cubby, now 12, continues to undergo treatments in hopes of finding one that will halt or slow the condition.

“We have always received strong support from this community and others,” said Cindy Johnson. “We know how hard working Maine people are, how important it is to spend time with their families, so we decided that we could give back through this shop — by donating a percentage of all proceeds from Cubby’s to County kids and their families who are trying to cope with the needs of life-threatening illnesses.”

Cindy Johnson also spends time lobbying in Augusta on behalf of the needs of families like her own who have children with serious illnesses.

The Cubby is not a consignment shop; all items are donated by individuals with the pricing fair and reasonable. “We accept donated items of all kinds with the exception of home building supplies,” said Johnson. The shop is filled with a variety of clothing and accessories for adults and children, furniture and home decor items — some old, some new — and the shop also accepts appliances.

The Cubby accepts donations during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The new thrift shop also offers pickup service of donated items. For information regarding The Cubby, visit www.thriftandmore.com or call 496-0600.


Neighborhood upset by homes in disrepair


CARIBOU — During a regular meeting of the Caribou City Council on Monday evening, councilors considered the presentation of a citizen petition expressing concerns about the maintenance of three houses on Crosby Avenue.

The petition, dated Aug. 30 and signed by 22 neighborhood property owners, described the homes as “badly in need of repair.” The petition asked the city of Caribou to contact the owners to discuss repairs and yard maintenance.

The council responded by calling upon Steve Wentworth, Caribou’s code enforcement officer, to explain the history of the concerns and what actions had been taken. As the panel viewed photographs of the properties, Wentworth stated the three property owners had been notified by letters, before this petition was circulated, that they were in noncompliance of several city ordinances pertaining to maintenance of their homes.

“I would say that this neighborhood was built during the 1950-’60s eras, part of a WWII subdivision. From what I have seen, these concerns are not a safety issue but of a preferred maintenance nature. The houses are in need of paint [the city code mandates all wood surfaces need to be painted] but we have properties in the city that are much worse than these,” Wentworth said.

Wentworth said that the lots of these properties are not littered with trash and the lawns are, at this time, being maintained. He also stated the continued downturn in the economy creates the situation where people do what they have to do to survive — “paint their house or feed their family.”

Councilor Mary Kate Barbosa, after viewing the pictures of the properties, said, “It does appear they are trying but it may be lack of money.”

Councilor Mark Goughan asked Wentworth whether he had any concerns that the city was being snubbed by these property owners with regard to the noncompliance issues. Wentworth replied that he had no actual contact with the owners other than the letters referring to the deficiencies.

“I propose the city continue to work with the property owners, and in another month or two we will see where things are. The one tool you do have [in relation to a statement that the city has no tools to assist property owners who may not be able to afford maintenance at this time] is communication and I would hope you do so.”

Mayor Kenneth Murchison said, “I agree with Councilman Goughan, we should continue to offer guidance to these property owners.”

The consensus of the panel was that they would continue working toward resolution.


152nd FA guardsmen work on preservation


CARIBOU — Members of the former Maine National Guard 152nd Field Artillery Battalion gathered in late August for their second reunion. Guardsmen and their families met at the Caribou Armory for an afternoon of reminiscing, storytelling and a barbecue lunch, hosted by the 152nd FA Association.

In hopes of retaining the long history of the 152nd FA, the organization, formed several years ago, continues to work toward maintaining documents including group and individual photos handed down over the years to family members of the guardsmen who belong to the 152nd Field Artillery Battalion.

Chuck McFarland of Ashland, who has served as the first president of the 152nd FA Association, in a summary during the annual meeting stated, “In the year since our last annual meeting the association has moved forward on several fronts. Our membership has increased, we’ve received several donated items of historical significance, corresponded with families of two WWII battalion commanders and many others and identified people in hundreds of old photographs.”

The association now has 106 members, 69 more than the last annual meeting. “This membership demonstrates a commitment to the objectives of the association and is necessary to establish the credibility of the association as a repository of memorabilia, among other reasons,” McFarland said.

Items donated to the association over the past year have included a 1950s vintage color group photo transferred to a canvas, uniforms, insignia and the history of the 43rd Division Artillery in WWII. Several photographs were lent to the association to be scanned.

McFarland noted that the group had conducted four picture parties since last year, two in Houlton, one in Caribou (focused on A battery) and another in Fort Kent. “We were able to put names to the faces in hundreds of photos. We need to do the same for service and headquarters batteries, and while B battery is pretty much done we could stand to do another one for A and C batteries. We just need someone to step up to coordinate the effort,” he said.


New lumber warehouse unveiled in Houlton


HOULTON, Maine — The S.W. Collins Co. celebrated the grand opening of its new drive-through lumber warehouse Friday, Sept. 3, marking the completion of an 11-month building process. Measuring 105 feet by 210 feet, the new warehouse gives customers an opportunity to browse inventory from the comfort of their own vehicles.

“Nearly all of the products that were stored outside are now stored inside,” said Scott Dionne, branch manager for S.W. Collins’ Houlton office. “This will improve quality and allows us to inventory a greater number and variety of products. It will also allow us to have more product on hand, so that we don’t have to transfer it down or special order it.”

About 250 customers congregated at the Bangor Road building supply store to check out the new warehouse, while also sampling a barbecue lunch complete with country music entertainment, provided by Ted Bither and Kevin Hogan.

Local contractors, according to Dionne, built the warehouse. Brown Developments and Nelson Construction did the groundwork, while Barry Dow did the concrete work. Buck’s Construction of Presque Isle erected the building.

“It really was a complete local effort,” Dionne said. “The big thing is how much we have invested in this store in the three years we’ve been here. We’ve done a complete store remodel, doubling the size of the retail space. We’ve also installed drainage so that mud no longer flows into Pearce Brook.”

In addition to the warehouse, other improvements were made to the area by re-grading and paving the entire facility.

S.W. Collins is a family-owned, full-service lumber and building materials supply center that started in 1844 in Caribou and has since expanded to Presque Isle and Houlton. The S.W. Collins Co. in Houlton formerly was known as Fogg’s Hardware.


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