PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — During the organization’s annual dinner and awards ceremony, the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce honored many individuals and businesses that have made a great impact on local communities.
Rick and Nancy Duncan, who helped spearhead the fundraising for and creation of the Aroostook House of Comfort hospice facility in Presque Isle, received the Citizens of the Year award. During his speech, Aroostook Hospice Foundation member Mike MacPherson commended the Duncans for their perseverance in pursuing the possibility of a hospice home despite many setbacks.
The couple, along with Dirk and Sharon Duncan, all of Presque Isle, had begun fundraising in 2009 but it took nearly a decade to find land that would suit the needs of a hospice home. At one point, MacPherson said, a feasibility study that was conducted by a West Coast company concluded that a hospice home in central Aroostook would not be possible to build and maintain.
“Rick and Nancy will tell you that it takes a team to see a project like this through. But it also takes great leaders and I doubt that the House of Comfort would be here today if not for their faith and persistence,” MacPherson said, during the awards ceremony held at Northern Maine Community College on Jan. 24.
The Aroostook House of Comfort is now located on 15 acres of land on Green Hill Drive in Presque Isle and provides a home-like environment for patients who are near the end of life. The 2,500 square-foot facility serves all of Aroostook County and includes six bedrooms, an open-concept dining area, living room, children’s play area, conference room and office space for Northern Light Home Care and Hospice, which manages the facility.
Rick Duncan said that although he and Nancy were honored to receive the chamber award they could not have created Aroostook House of Comfort without the community fundraising partners, volunteers and healthcare officials who also believed in their dream.
“These people don’t get rich at what they do, but they give themselves fully to their work to make the end-of-life experience comfortable for patients and much more meaningful for families,” Rick Duncan said.
Among the other major awards presented Thursday evening was the Community Support Business of the Year, given to Caribou-based Soderberg Construction. Sam Collins, president of S.W. Collins Company, presented the award to Carl Soderberg, owner of Soderberg Construction, and praised the company for constructing or reconstructing hundreds of ski hills and recreational trails in central Aroostook, including the Nordic ski and hiking trails behind Caribou High School, a tubing hill at Bigrock Ski Area in Mars Hill, and ski trails at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle.
Other major projects for Soderberg Construction have included the construction of the 4,000-foot Taxiway A at Presque Isle International Airport completed in 2017 and the recent beginning of construction for the new pre-K-8 school in Caribou, the Caribou Community School.
“Soderberg Construction not only moves earth, they have built mountains,” Collins said, referring to the company’s many contributions to ski slopes and mountains in Aroostook County. “If you talk to the coaches and managers of the ski world, they’ll tell you that they have Carl’s number on speed dial in case they need changes done on the slopes.”
Soderberg credited his fellow co-workers, business partners and community members for helping the company provide services that benefit entire communities.
“I feel fortunate to live and work in a place that has such wonderful people,” Soderberg said.
The chamber also presented the President’s Award to Steve and Prudy Dobson, who have volunteered hundreds of hours at numerous chamber events including the Crown of Maine Balloon Festival; the Economic Impact Award to Presque Isle-based Northeast Packaging Company; and the Lifetime Achievement Award to Rob Kieffer, agency manager for United Insurance Kieffer Agency, located in Caribou.
Rob Kieffer’s daughters — Alison Kieffer, Lydia Kieffer-Till and Ginger Kieffer — presented the award to him. They noted that in addition to running his business for 39 years their father has been involved with numerous organizations and served on many boards, including Cary Medical Center, the Caribou Rotary Club, and Caribou Downtown Revitalization Committee. He also is a registered Maine Guide and was a Nordic ski coach for Caribou Middle School for many years, including the years when his daughters were team members.
“Our father has taught us lessons about work ethic that are invaluable,” said Ginger Kieffer. “He’s the type of person who has dedicated himself to building a business and contributing to the community while never missing his kids’ soccer games.”
While accepting his award Rob Kieffer praised his family, friends and community members in helping to shape his rewarding career and personal endeavors in Aroostook County.
“I’m thankful for my family, great friends and for being able to work on a variety of projects over the years,” Rob Kieffer said. “All these relationships are what allow us to work together and make a difference where we live.”