Maine Community Foundation seeks community input for critical issues facing communities

10 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Maine Community Foundation wants to find out Aroostook’s most critical projects that need its resources.

Around $16 million is invested in the Maine Community Foundation for 16 nonprofits based in Aroostook County, said Deborah Ellwood, president and CEO of Maine Community Foundation, during a gathering at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle on April 27.

Maine Community Foundation is figuring out how to dedicate more of their resources by interviewing and surveying their donors, along with the nonprofits they serve. Experts will talk with community leaders and focus groups to discover the critical issues that the Maine Community Foundation can get behind.

“We’re going to bring all of our knowledge about community and relationships across the state and our grant-making financial resources to see what more we can be doing,” Ellwood said.

The foundation will share its findings toward the end of 2023, Ellwood said.

The Maine Community Foundation has invested in statewide projects and nonprofits through the Community Building Grant Program and lend expertise with its professional investment management services, she said. This way, nonprofit organizations can focus on their mission while the foundation handles money management for nonprofits.

“The County and Local Committee is a program that has been very successful. We’ve probably donated, since 1986, $1.2 million to nonprofits in Aroostook County,” said D. Gregg Collins of Caribou, chairperson of the Maine Community Foundation Board.

One key is getting volunteers from Fort Kent to Southern Aroostook that know the needs of their communities, Collins said. 

Nonprofits have come to the County Committee seeking help, because they recognize the Maine Community Foundation as being connected to the nonprofit world, Collins said.

Residents of Aroostook County can donate to the Maine Community Foundation or to its Invest in Maine Fund that supports tackling childcare, workforce development and anti-poverty initiatives.

Ellwood joined Maine Community Foundation in July 2022 and leads the organization’s new strategic plan to invest in Maine.

“Maybe it’s coming from Minnesota, but I was really drawn by the decency of people who live in Maine,” Ellwood said.

Maine is much more than an iconic postcard with a patchwork of people, landscapes and industries, she said.

Maine Community Foundation’s mission is to bring people and resources together to build a better Maine for 40 years. The Foundation raised just under $4 million during the COVID-19 pandemic that was distributed to nonprofits throughout Maine.

“We’ve been working in partnership with people who are philanthropically inclined with not-for-profits doing the tough charitable work for the most vulnerable among us,” Ellwood said.

Maine Community Foundation has permanent endowments in every county in Maine with one of the first being created in Aroostook County in 1986, according to Ellwood. The endowment grant for Aroostook County has grown to $1.1 million. dedicated to nonprofits and charity organizations in Aroostook.

Northern Maine Community College President Timothy Crowley, who is also on the foundation’s board, welcomed the foundation to the college.

Maine Community Foundation members present included Brendon Reay, vice president of investments; Michele Camarco, vice president and chief financial officer; Hannah Whalen, director of donor engagement; and Erica McCrum, foundation officer for Aroostook County.