May 25, 2020
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Up Beat: 7 Mainers who have stepped up during the pandemic

Natalie Williams | BDN
Natalie Williams | BDN
Matt Dexter, executive director of the Christine B. Foundation, right, provides Devin Silveria of Waterville and her son with groceries so they don't have to risk going to the grocery store during the pandemic.

Up Beat is a new section of the Bangor Daily News dedicated to uplifting stories. Look for tales of people helping people and things that will make you smile.

Over the past two months, there’s been plenty of news to worry about, as our lives have been turned upside-down and the number of COVID-19 cases here in Maine has topped 1,400.

But many Mainers have shown their true character during the ongoing pandemic, taking selfless steps to make the lives of others better, even in difficult times.

Today, we’re highlighting seven of those stories that illustrate a simple, but essential fact: Even when things are bad, we are surrounded by good. All we have to do is look for it, and appreciate it.

Teddy bear hunts

Nina Mahaleris | BDN
Nina Mahaleris | BDN
A teddy bear is spotted from the window of a Milford residence on Wednesday, April 22.

Maine has a tradition as a spot where hunting is embraced, but the pandemic led to an entirely different kind of hunt. People in Milford embraced a trend that had been spreading around the globe: Teddy bear hunting. The activity proved to be perfect for social distancing guidelines, as people could drive or walk with their children around the neighborhood and look for the teddy bears that participants had displayed in their windows.

Distilling hand sanitizer

Pete Hansen | BDN
Pete Hansen | BDN
Bottles of home distilled hand sanitizer free for the taking at the end of Pete Hansen's driveway.

Hermon’s Pete Hansen came up with an interesting way to help out his neighbors when the pandemic struck and the demand for hand sanitizer left stores with empty shelves. The hobby distiller started producing sanitizer, which he put at the end of his driveway, free for the taking. There’s a tip jar there as well, so people who want to contribute some cash toward the enterprise can do so, but Hansen said all proceeds would be used to buy more supplies so that he can produce more sanitizer. Making a profit just wouldn’t be right, he said.

Online community outreach

Sarah Race Photography | Cass Clemmer
Sarah Race Photography | Cass Clemmer
Cass Clemmer, an Orono emergency medical technician with a background in public health education, started the Maine Coronavirus Community Assistance Facebook page in March. A month later, it had more than 20,000 members.

Orono’s Cass Clemmer figured that a Facebook page might help her and her friends link service providers with those who sought those services. A week after launching the Maine Coronavirus Community Assistance page, it had more than 12,000 followers in search of a variety of items and services. Need some insects to feed your pet gecko? Need a portal for an online workout? Looking for someone to make a grocery store run for you? Clemmer’s page has you covered.

Second-grader feeds the masses

Courtesy of Lisa Liberatore
Courtesy of Lisa Liberatore
Dorian Pillsbury, a second-grader at Brewer Community School, poses with snacks he bought for hungry Maine kids in this undated photo.

When Dorian Pillsbury, a 7-year-old second-grader at Brewer Community School, looked around during snack time, he was saddened that not everyone had something tasty to munch on. He started selling candles to earn money to buy snacks for the needy. After the pandemic struck, he shifted his focus, teamed up with United Way of Eastern Maine, and started selling T-shirts and stickers to provide meals for kids all over eastern Maine.

Let’s sew masks!

Courtesy of Connor Pelletier
Courtesy of Connor Pelletier
Connor Pelletier, 15, crafts face masks to donate to healthcare workers, in his St. Francis home.

At first, there was a shortage of protective masks. Then, Maine health officials ruled that face coverings should be worn in most public settings. Groups of crafty Mainers from across the state answered the call, sewing masks to fill a supply void. In Aroostook County, more than 100 volunteers responded to a request for mask-makers in a single day. Down in Belfast, the response was similar. The common denominator: Caring Mainers sharing their skills with others in a time of need.

Feed the pets

Kevin Nicholson | BDN
Kevin Nicholson | BDN
Dozer the dog waits patiently for his food, treats and other items that are donated through Backpacks for Homeless Dogs.

Two years ago, Journey Ramsay began helping homeless people and their pets, providing backpacks filled with pet food, coats, collars, leashes and treats. Since then, more than 200 backpacks have been given out through Backpacks for Homeless Dogs. The pandemic hasn’t reduced the need for help, and with the help of Maine Homeless Veterans Alliance, the effort continues, with social distancing guidelines being observed.

Teamwork makes a difference

Natalie Williams | BDN
Natalie Williams | BDN
Matt Dexter, executive director of the Christine B. Foundation, gives an "air high five" to 9-year-old Liam Marchesi in Brewer on April 29.

In an inspiring collaboration, Matt Dexter of the Christine B. Foundation, Spencer Wood of Tip Whip, and the United Way of Eastern Maine have teamed up to get food into the hands of cancer patients across the region. Dexter’s group has been working on nutrition efforts for cancer patients, and Wood’s free ride-share start-up, which has been idled by the closure of college campuses around Maine, had plenty of volunteer workers eager to help. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com. Share your Up Beat stories with him.


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