Staff News and Events

Organizational News:

Julia Wilcock, our Vice President of Facilities, is taking on a new job opportunity working with a property management company that has over 50 properties in multiple states. It is an awesome promotion and new adventure for her.

Although thrilled for Julia we are saddened to lose her passion, commitment and expertise.

Julia started working here in 1993 as June's assistant and Finance Director. Since that time she became the Chief Financial Officer then our Vice President of Business Development before moving to Facilities.

Julia is responsible for building our housing portfolio and the year after year growth within the agency. She has taught us all about laughing during the worst of times, taking risks, being determined and being resilient.

She has created an amazing legacy within this organization and in communities across Maine and New Hampshire.

Missy Ayotte will be moving on from Volunteers of America Northern New England on October 10th. Missy has been the Program Manager at Paul Hazelton House 1 & 2 for over three years and will be missed by her coworkers and residents. We wish Missy all the best in her new endeavors.

Nathan Grant has accepted a position as the second IRT Program Manager working with Don Cray. Nathan has been a valued member of our Behavioral Program for over 10 years! He has proven himself many times over in a variety of roles through the years; as a residential counselor, a QA specialist and Assistant Program Manager at Brackett Street House.

Luke Curtis will be joining the Behavioral Health Team on September 6 as the new Brackett Street House Program Manager. Luke has his B.S in Mental Health and Human Services from University of Maine at Augusta and already has his MHRT-1 and MHRT-C! Luke comes to us from Medical Care Development where he served as their Resident Care Director. He has over 20 years of experience working with clients who have mental illness, substance abuse and/or physical and emotional health issues.

Robyn Goff will be representing the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center (MCRRC) at the 2016 SecurManageā„¢ User Conference in Pittsburg. SecurManageā„¢ is a web-based software package for residential community release facilities, designed to track residents from the time of their acceptance into the facility through their release. Robyn is very excited to participate and learn how to utilize the system better and looks forward to returning and sharing the knowledge with her colleagues at MCRRC.

Both Nancy Ives and Kanni Francis attended the Federal Bureau of Prison's Eastern Sector Contractor Conference being held in Philadelphia, PA from September 13 -15, 2016. Nancy and Kanni were educated and trained in the new policies and procedures that the Bureau of Prisons will be rolling out to all its contractors. They also had the opportunity to meet their counterparts and share stories of their challenges and successes with other Reentry Centers in the Eastern Sector of the United States.

Carmen Daigle has been accepted into the Key Makers Leadership Training Program through our VOA National Office. Carmen is currently the Program Manager supervising our Resident Service Coordinators and is an emerging leader within our organization.

Program News:

Our Veterans Programs Staff and Residents are participating in the Biddeford / Saco Veterans Day Parade on November 11th. There is an (unconfirmed) rumor about Mike Merrill being the Grand Marshall!

Tokoyo Leonard writes: I work at Beach Street program and I would like to share what's working at my program.

Our assistant manager Leann Coll brings her well-mannered dog, Hank to work. He visits us and clients and we all enjoy having him.

Hank has been very therapeutic to clients, especially one gentleman who has high anxiety and a difficult time getting out of his room. Hank helps. I also saw Brackett street program has cats who are therapeutic for clients. I see VOA has such an open way to accept pets coming in to our program, and the pets are so helpful.

I am aware of people who do not prefer pets at home in general, and I do not want to be inconsiderate to clients and staff who do not prefer to have pets, but I just wanted to share this story to people who feel that pets are therapeutic to people who enjoys them.

Thank you, Toyoko Leonard

Lisa Ouellette is supervising a student once again at Miller Square and he is from China. His name is Rooney. He is a breath of fresh air and is very kind and so helpful!

He writes of himself: Rooney, a boy, comes from Shanghai, China. His real name is Rooney is his nick name. He is a Master of Social Work Student at the University of Maine in Orono.

Rooney will be doing an internship here at Miller Square this new year, and will be working with Lisa as his field instructor. Rooney will be here on Wednesdays and Thursdays. He can play any card game or chess games. Rooney also likes to paint, sing swim and so on... He knows Chinese culture and customs, and he is very glad to share his experience with everyone.

Although his English is not as fluent as he would like, He still likes to chat with people. His major is social work, so he has a good command of social work skills, interpersonal skills and communicating skills.

He used to intern in the Shanghai institution and volunteer in the nursing home, he has experience, and is happy to help anyone. Please introduce yourself to Rooney when you see him around!

Here is a great article on the Reentry Center Garden in Belfast, click here to read.

Also, a 207 News Story aired last week about the Garden, click here to watch.

The residents at Paul Hazelton House have opted for a different kind of fundraiser this year. In the past they have participated in yard sales, bakes sales and a raffle calendar, all which have been successful, but required a lot of work and asking for money. So when presented with options this year there was much enthusiasm about doing a Shoe Drive. The Shoe Drive, as expressed by some of the residents felt more like they were making a difference in the world than raising money.

The Shoe Drive began in July and will end November 5, 2016. The residents are collecting gently worn, used, or new shoes that will be sent to micro-enterprise partners in developing nations for improvised people to start their own businesses in places such as Haiti, Ghana, Nicaragua, Togo, Honduras, Swaziland, Guatemala, Bolivia, Tanzania, Botswana, Benin, Zambia and Senegal. In the US alone, approximately 630 million pairs of shoes are thrown away per year. The materials used to manufacture a pair of shoes are created from chemical compounds that will create health hazards if left to disintegrate openly or in landfills. By donating your shoes to the Paul Hazelton House, your shoes are given a second chance to make a difference.

There are several drop off locations in Saco accepting your donations: Paul Hazelton House Bldg 1, Saco Police Dept., Saco City Hall, Dyer Library and Most Holy Trinity Church. Arrangements can be made for pick up your donations as well, by calling Patti at 571-3473.

Our first Ministry intern, Tom Kircher, from the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine (CHiME) began his journey with us on September 19th. Tom will be assisting with ministerial programs at sites and events as needed. When you see him please be sure to give him a big VOA welcome. Rev. Al is in conference with leadership at CHiME to discuss a deeper mentoring/supervision program with other students at CHiME.

Mark your calendars. We are excited to announce our first "Spiritual Round Table" to be hosted by our Miler Square facility and lead by the Ministry Team. It will be held over lunch on Thursday, December 7th from 12 - 2 PM. All staff of the northern region of the affiliate are invited to attend. The goal of the round table will be to offer staff the opportunity to share in 3-4 minutes what they personally do as spiritual practice and how they find it meaningful.

You do not have to be an authority on the topic, just someone who experiences a meaningful spiritual expression. Sharing your experience would be a true gift to your fellow employees. Perhaps you attend a particular church, synagogue, mosque or sit quietly every day. Whatever your practice we invite you to share it. Please contact Rev. Al ( if you wish to offer your experience of spiritual practice. We are hoping to do a similar Round Table in the southern portion of the affiliate later on, should this effort prove meaningful to VOANNE staff.

Rev. Al now attends all new staff orientations with the goal of making every new employee feel welcomed and valued for their spiritual path. As a church without walls, VOANNE seeks to create an atmosphere of welcome and validation spiritually to every new employee. We also invite new and long term employees to learn more of our ministry team and become directly involved in its activities. We are pleased that we will welcome at least 3 new members to the team this fall. If you wish to learn more of our activities and how you might become involved please contact Rev. Al.

Big Life Events

Steve McDermott, Program Manager at Sawyer Street House just got married! We wish them all the best.

Donna Runnels reports: My husband and I are both part-time Safety Officers at the Northern Maine Regional Reentry Center in Bangor. For 17 days in June and July, we had the trip of a lifetime. We took a Viking Cruise on the Baltic Sea. We flew from Boston to London to Bern, Norway, where our trip began.

We subsequently cruised Denmark, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden. Donna's grandparents were from Denmark, and it was high on her list to see. She also speaks German, but had never been to Germany. However, the highlight had to be Stockholm. We were able to meet up with a foreign exchange student we had hosted in the late 1980's. He took us to Skansen, which is a combination of park, zoo, and historical buildings moved there from all over Sweden. We would next like to take a river cruise through Germany.