Help for Hampden comes in many forms

Posted March 08, 2011, at 6:10 p.m.

When opening a piece of mail from a church group, you don’t often have to suppress a giggle at what you see coming out of the envelope.

But that’s what I did when I  received information about an upcoming event hosted by Hampden Congregational Church.

The event is a Benefit Community Concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at HCC, 101 Main Road North, and the proceeds benefit the Help for Hampden Fund.

Admission is a suggested donation of $10 at the door.

Believe me, it will be a fun-filled afternoon, judging by the poster which features, on the left, a photo of a choir, fully robed in formal choir robes, and on the right, a bright and colorful clip-art photo of a Hawaiian/Tahitian dancer.

The benefit boasts “dancing, singing, swinging and Spring-ing,” according to the poster, and offers guests the opportunity to enjoy the voices of HCC’s “Fearless Choir” along with some of its “Friends.”

Those special entertainers include former Memphis Belle singer Pat Cummings, local organist Clayton Smith, students from Hampden Academy, piano instructor Amy Maier and her studio students, and Hui Na Kawaiuaili, also known as MartyBeth Hewett’s Hawaiian/Tahitian Dance Group.

The delightful afternoon of entertainment also features refreshments, but more than anything else, it’s all for the worthiest of causes, which is helping community members in need.

Diana Richardson is chairwoman of the HCC Missions and Outreach Committee and heading up this event to benefit the Help for Hampden Fund.

Diana explained the fund was founded by her church in 2003 by two members of the congregation who discovered HCC had no minister’s discretionary fund with cash available for emergencies, and they decided something needed to be done.

“So, in our congregation, we made our first donations through the fund in 2004, and it, very quickly, got adopted by the entire community,” she said.

Now, five churches are part of the Help for Hampden fund: HCC, Hampden Highlands United Methodist Church, St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Church of the Open Door, and Neally’s Corner Church.

“The program serves the communities of Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport, and provides emergency cash for fuel,” Diana explained, adding that while fuel is the most constant need, often money is needed for other utilities, or to help someone make a rental payment.

“When none of the other available sources of funding come through, Help for Hampden steps in and does what it can,” she said.

Diana then shared a wonderful story about how this program has produced its own “pay-it-forward” activities.

Diana said a few weeks ago, Help for Hampden received a letter from a gentleman who had a friend “who received help from us, in the past, to the tune of $250 for utilities.”

“The man wrote to tell us he would like to make an anonymous donation” to help repay that assistance, but added that whenever he was about to do that, he found his own church had a need.

One day, Diana said, the gentleman drove by a house that needed roof repair and said to himself, “if I could find someone to do the labor, I could donate the materials.”

Later, driving with a friend to a store to purchase items for a project they were working on, the men passed that very same house and his friend, also noticing the need, said, “If someone could donate the materials, I could donate the labor.”

Right then and there, Diana said, the men “ditched the project they were working on and got that house weather-tight for the winter.”

The gentleman closed his letter by saying, “I just want you folks to know how what you do gets spread throughout the community,” Diana said.

“He was just paying it forward in a different manner.”

Before Diana and I ended our conversation, however, I had one more question for her.

What’s the meaning behind “Fearless Choir?” I asked.

She told me a former choir director gave them that name “because we’re an all-volunteer choir and we never know how many will show up, so we just do what we can.

“If there are just four of us, we’ll sing four parts.”

Fearlessly.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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