An English teacher at Hampden Academy, Lisa Scofield often is seen pedaling her hybrid bike along Bangor-area roads. To her, biking is a form of meditation. She says it’s a slow and often tiring way to travel, but it’s rewarding.

This summer, she’ll be embarking on a special bike ride, the first ever Wellspring Women’s Scholarship Tour. Starting June 19 in Bangor, she’ll bike 800 miles through eastern and northern Maine, raising awareness and money for women struggling to recover from addiction.

“I’ve lived in Maine all my life, and I want to see this disease eradicated, just plain and simple,” Scofield said. “I want to see people treated for this illness.”

The solo journey will take about three weeks, she has calculated. By the end of it, she hopes to have raised $25,000 to provide a full inpatient treatment to several women through Wellspring’s recovery program. So far, she has raised more than $5,000.

Located in downtown Bangor, Wellspring is a small nonprofit organization that provides residential and outpatient services to foster recovery for people affected by addiction.

“Her unselfishness to be able to do this, it’s incredible for us,” Wellspring Executive Director Patricia Kimble said. “Nobody has personally raised that kind of money for Wellspring.”

Wellspring’s history goes back to 1965 with the establishment of the Bangor Half-Way House. In 1968, the Men’s Halfway House became the first public treatment program for alcoholism in northern Maine. In 1981, the Women’s Halfway House became the first Women’s residential program in Maine. As services expanded to include correctional programs, Wellspring Inc. was established.

Today, the Wellspring halfway houses are located in the same buildings in downtown Bangor. There are 15 beds in the women’s home and 13 beds in the men’s home — and there’s always a long waiting list of people waiting for a bed. The residential program takes an average of 150 days, during which the patient learns about his or her illness, attends group and individual counselling sessions and is provided with resources to aid recovery.

“These people are in the last stages of a chronic illness,” Kimble said. “Substance abuse is a chronic illness, and if there isn’t any intervention, they’ll die.”

Scofield didn’t comprehend the struggles of those recovering from addiction until she became involved in Wellspring in 2011, quite by chance. She was searching for a second job — to do in addition to teaching — when she found an online listing of an open counselor associate position at Wellspring.

“I honestly thought I’d be helping women get their GED, and [that I’d] teach cooking and rug braiding,” Scofield said.

The job entailed much more.

On the nights Scofield worked at Wellspring, she rode her bike 8 miles from her Hampden home to the women’s halfway house in Bangor. There, she distributed medications and enforced strict house rules. She listened to the women’s struggles and counseled when she could. And at the end of each shift, she wrote thorough reports about each patient’s progress.

“You see people who are very, very ill helping each other, and it’s amazing,” Scofield said. “I’ve never in my life had to work so hard at anything as these women work.”

Scofield helped extremely sick patients during their first few days at the home. Over the course of the months, she watched many of them grow stronger.

“I don’t want to use the word miraculous, but it’s like seeing a flower unfolding,” Scofield said. “I could see how these little pieces, every day, would add up to people getting better.”

About 50 to 55 percent of the patients in the Wellspring residential program stay to completion, Kimble said, compared with the national average of about 45 percent.

Most of the patients have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as depression, and many of the patients suffer from childhood trauma.

“If you know the histories of these people, you have to be amazed they’re still standing,” Kimble said.

The ultimate goal is for the patient to develop a support system for recovery, have a safe and sober place to live, and have the means of support after they leave. All this requires funds.

“If you give a dollar to Wellspring, it’s stretched to the max,” Scofield said. “There’s no fat in this organization, not even flesh. It’s just bare bones.”

Many of the men and women who apply for the Wellspring residential program can’t afford insurance and don’t qualify for Medicare, Kimble said, and federal and state funding for Wellspring programs are limited.

Scofield’s goal is for her bike ride to raise money to fund several patients who otherwise couldn’t afford the program. She also plans to raise awareness by telling people about her experience working with women at Wellspring.

“I love going the distance,” she said. “In a curious way, it’s a metaphor for what these women do in 180 days. Recovery is very slow.

“While I’m riding, I’ll think of the women I’ve met,” she added.

Scofield will begin her journey with a small send-off celebration at 8 a.m. Friday, June 19, at the Wellspring women’s residence at 319 State St. in Bangor. Anyone from the public is welcome to the event, and Scofield welcomes people to join her at any time during her three-week ride.

Towns she will be visiting, in order, include Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, Winter Harbor, Cherryfield, Machias, Lubec, Princeton, Vanceboro, Danforth, Houlton, Presque Isle, Van Buren, Fort Kent, Ashland, Patten, Millinocket and Lincoln. She will start and finish the tour in Bangor. While in the Millinocket area, she plans to hike in Baxter State Park.

Scofield hopes for this tour to be an annual fundraiser for Wellspring.

“Maybe next year someone in recovery might join me,” Scofield said.

To learn more or to donate to the Wellspring Women’s Scholarship Tour, visit GoFundMe.com/lplpzo or send checks payable to Wellspring WWST to 98 Cumberland St., Bangor, ME, 04401.


Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...