Panel Discussion Convened in Belfast

Belfast Community Members Discuss VOA's Role

On a beautiful day in Northport recently, a panel was convened at Point Lookout Conference Center during our annual Board of Directors retreat. They discussed the role the Volunteers of America plays in the greater Belfast community.

Panelists included Senator Mike Thibodeau, President of the Maine Senate; Ray Porter, Waldo County Corrections Administrator; Pam Chase, General Assistance Administrator for the City of Belfast; Reverend Alan Shumway, Minister of the First Baptist Church; and Deacon Tom Duplisse of the Episcopal Church.

Volunteers of America was praised for our prompt and skillful assistance with the Group Home Foundation. We helped transition their clients' care to new providers with minimal disruption of the clients' lives.

The Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Belfast was discussed as a key community partner, promoting healing and greatly reducing the likelihood of recidivism. Rev. Shumway mentioned the benefits for the church having the Reentry Center in the community: the Reentry residents provide volunteer services and interact with parishioners, and the church provides the residents a respite and place for worship.

The Reentry Center Garden was the subject of great enthusiasm, citing how much fresh, healthy food was contributed to pantries, churches and individuals in Belfast.

Among the community needs brought into the discussion is an alternative education program that would dovetail with training for folks who are not natural workforce age, for example, older illiterate persons.

In addition, there is no homeless shelter in Belfast or addiction assistance. People who need help have to travel to Bangor or Augusta. Volunteers of America has a national program on Moral Injury that has shown a higher success rate for people who find God in their lives and enter into faith-based treatment options.

Finally, there is a great need in greater Belfast for transportation and affordable housing in general. "We could use six more Reynolds Houses (Volunteers of America affordable senior housing)," one of the panelists said.

Question and answers followed and everyone agreed the panel was a wonderful and informative forum.