JONI AVERILL

Community Connections offers recreational opportunities for people with mental illness

Posted May 03, 2011, at 3:58 p.m.

When the circus came to Bangor last weekend, several people who might otherwise not have attended, or considered attending, were able to do so thanks to a special program known as Community Connections.

Mary Sharkus is program director for Community Connections, which is a statewide recreational linkage service based at 150 Union St. in Bangor and is part of Maine Mental Health Connections funded by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and community donations.

After telling me that 30 people would be attending the circus thanks to this program, Mary asked that I help her get the word out about what this program does, and what its needs are.

Among those needs are donations of tickets for admission to recreational and-or entertainment outlets such as the circus, museums and plays for the participants of Community Connections.

Mary said she is eager to expand the support the program receives from its 6,014 members throughout Maine, and to help ensure that people with disabilities, who have a diagnosis of mental illness, begin to see  “that there is a light at the end of the tunnel” and have an opportunity, through this program, to take advantage of the many and varied recreational experiences Maine has to offer.

In addition to the statewide Bangor office, the program has sites in Portland, Lewiston, Augusta, Waterville, Jay and Caribou.

Each site is managed by a Community Connections volunteer, which enables people to access these opportunities in areas that are most familiar to them.

“People from all over the state can join as long as they have one mental health diagnosis,” Mary explained.

Community Connections offers Maine residents who are 18 or older and who receive mental health services information about upcoming events and leisure planning, and support and financial assistance for such activities in the form of admission to or discounts for everything from movies to bowling.

The program also provides outreach and education opportunities, and works to obtain local support through fundraising and various discounts and donations.

To qualify for membership in Community Connections, you must complete an application form to determine eligibility.

Those who are eligible may apply for scholarships from organizations such as the Bangor Y, Mary said, and Community Connections also may offer a $10 reimbursement toward that scholarship, provided funds are available.

According to its brochure, participants also may make specific requests, at any time, with the goal of improving quality of life through the recreational activities available in your community.

And while Community Connections doesn’t provide the total support for these opportunities, it is there, as the brochure states, to “help you stretch your money to get out and have fun.”

So, no matter what your idea of leisure and recreational activities is, and you qualify for this program, you have the opportunity to expand your horizons by joining Community Connections.

The program offers two activities, per month, for each member.

For more information, as a participant or as a supporter, call Mary Sharkus toll-free at 800-834-7150, 941-2998 or 941-2935;  write to her at 150 Union St., Bangor 04401, email statecc@mmhc.us or visit http://www.mmhc.us/.

The Community Connections office is open for your call or visit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

—•—

On April 30 I wrote about the efforts of Duck Cove Community Club to maintain the Little Yellow Schoolhouse on Route 46 in Bucksport.

Built in 1895, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Approximately $37,000 is needed to replace rotting sills and shingle the schoolhouse, and I suggested if 1,000 people sent $37, that could be accomplished.

Just so you know that I do put my money where my mouth is, I’ve sent my $37 and hope 999 others will do the same (or make any donation you can, in any amount) to help save this special piece of Bucksport history.

Donations can be made out to DCCC and mailed to treasurer Peter Fairbanks, P.O Box 158, Bucksport 04416. For more information, call him at 469-7531.

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

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