Dangling on a miniature Christmas tree, intricate golden spheres reflected the lights of the University Bookstore. Employees and customers paused to watch as bookstore director Richard Young plucked an ornament off a branch and held it spinning in the air at the 2010 bookstore ornament revealing last Wednesday at the University of Maine in Orono.

The ornament is dedicated to the student group Habitat UMaine, to honor its commitment to helping those who live in substandard housing in the Bangor area. All proceeds from ornament sales will go to the group to support its community service projects.

“It’s dedicated to a student group that has risen above and beyond,” said Director of Student Support Services Andrea Gifford. “It’s decided in the spring, and we keep it pretty secret up to the event. We’re sworn to secrecy.”

The University Bookstore Commemorative Ornament program started in 2003 to celebrate UMaine student organizations that best live up to the spirit of the holiday season through giving to people locally and around the world. The bookstore’s then-director, Bill Hockensmith, presented the idea after seeing a similar program at a university in Texas.

“He said that we need to recognize student groups that do a lot,” said merchandising manager Dianne Holmes.

The 2010 ornament is the eighth in the unbroken series.

Over the past seven years, the ornaments have raised nearly $21,300 for select student groups.

Each year, Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism nominates four organizations and sends descriptions of the organizations to a committee of staff and students at the Division of Student Affairs that makes the final decision.

Habitat UMaine works closely with Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Bangor Area. The group also is affiliated with MBS Corps, the Maine Business School’s community outreach organization.

“The fact that they do a lot of local things is visible and important,” Holmes said.

A few weeks ago, Habitat UMaine’s adviser Nory Jones e-mailed group members to let them know about the ornament. Habitat UMaine co-presidents Mandy Missud and Meghan McCarthy and treasurer Lindsay Begley attended the unveiling to accept the award.

“I didn’t know it was going to be this big a deal and I didn’t know we were going to be the only group,” said Missud. “This is just above and beyond what we expected.”

Each year Habitat UMaine presents a check to the Bangor Area Habitat for Humanity to help fund construction projects for Bangor residents.

“We see [the ornament proceeds] as a bonus, but we’re staying on track with our normal fundraisers and plans,” said Missud.

Last Saturday, the group attended the opening of the 13th home built by Bangor Area Habitat for Humanity. The house on Fifth Street in Bangor is now home to a family of seven.

The organization’s major annual fundraiser, “Snow Place Like Home,” is a three-night sleep-out on the UMaine Mall in December to raise awareness of substandard housing in the Greater Bangor.

“We put our heart and soul into it,” said Missud.

The group, which has 10 active members, sleeps in a shanty in the freezing weather. Keeping them warm is a fire burning in a pit outside the crude shelter and sleeping bags donated by Outward Bound. During the day, members take turns sitting by the fire, raising money and awareness.

Last year, the event raised $1,200 in donations made by passers-by and local businesses. The goal this year is to raise $2,000 at their third annual sleep-out, which will be Dec. 1-3.

For the spring semester, Habitat UMaine will focus on volunteering at the ReStore in Holden, a store for affordable, secondhand household items and building materials.

“We’re trying to form a stronger affiliation between the Bangor Area Habitat for Humanity and our group,” said Missud.

“We’re trying to do it bigger and better this year,” said McCarthy.

The 2010 ornament, which costs $18.95, will help them in their mission.

Each year, the ornaments are selected at the annual National Association of College Stores Show held in February. This year, Holmes traveled to Florida to make the selection.

The ornaments arrived at the bookstore in little gold boxes about two weeks ago.

“They’re a little bit pricier than our other [ornaments], but there’s a reason why,” said bookstore floor supervisor Colleen Gagnon. “It’s intricate. I like it, I think its one of my favorite so far.”

The sphere, designed by Chemart and produced by Vermont Design, is made of small golden circles that originally were numbered for the 12 days of Christmas. For the custom design, the numbers were replaced with UMaine logos and are engraved in dedication to Habitat UMaine.

Previous years’ ornaments are available for purchase at the University Bookstore. For information, call 581-1700. For information on the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bangor, visit www.habitatbangor.org or call 942-8977.


Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.