Bangor business helps connect Katahdin Friends Inc. locales

Posted Oct. 07, 2011, at 6:26 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Folks at Katahdin Friends Inc. recently wanted to connect their three locations — Bangor, Lincoln and Millinocket — with a phone system that uses the Internet, but the routers were on back order with at least a seven-month wait time.

The nonprofit rehabilitation organization that has served people with disabilities in northern Penobscot County since 1962 was stuck waiting until Esther McLain, an account executive with Sierra Communication, decided “on a whim” to make a call.

“I called ZyXel [Communications] and said, ‘Do you do anything for nonprofits?’” she said Friday, while sitting in her Bangor office.

The telecommunications firm based in Anaheim, Calif., answered in the affirmative and decided to provide KFI the Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, routers for free, McLain said. Sierra Communications technician James McClay V installed the system and routers.

“By linking them up by Voice over IP, they’re using the Internet to make calls,” McLain said.

The equipment is working flawlessly and has helped this organization join the modern age, Jim Meehan, KFI executive director, said Friday.

“We had a very antiquated system,” he said. “Every time we picked up the phone we paid, and sometimes it was a long-distance charge.

“That was a major expense,” Meehan said. “By using the VoIP technology, we’ve been able to eliminate that.”

The new web-based system is projected to save the organization around $1,500 a year, McLain said.

“It’s a big investment, but it’s something that will pay for itself in the end,” she said.

KFI assists with connecting clients with programs, everything from recreational to life-skills building exercises, Meehan said.

McLain said she wanted to help the organization because her stepbrother has benefited from similar types of services.

“Places like KFI have helped him go to school, get on his feet and get a job,” she said. “It’s nice to be part of the ripple. This world needs a little more of what KFI does.”

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