As the holiday season approaches, I think back to past experiences and one that comes to mind is the Maine Sea Coast Mission. One memory is being a young child in Maine and filling shoe boxes with soap, toothpaste, mittens, pencils, etc.. The boxes would be labeled Boy or Girl and decorated. The Maine Sea Coast Mission took the boxes to children living on isolated islands off the coast of Maine.
Memories of the Sea Coast Mission’s boat, the Sunbeam, coming to Ocean Point one Sunday a summer also come to mind. The Sunbeam would arrive early on a Sunday morning and leave the minister off to walk to the Wilson Memorial Chapel. He would speak at the chapel that day, telling fascinating stories of the people living on isolated islands of Maine. Ocean Pointer gathered clothing and household goods which they left at the dock the day the Sunbeam arrived. These good were distributed to island families. Depending on the tide, it was often possible to go onboard the Sunbeam for a tour. Sunday dinner would be roasting in the galley oven and I remember the wonderful aroma to this day!
The Maine Sea Coast Mission, based in Bar Harbor, celebrated its 110th birthday this year. The Mission started on July 11, 1905 at which time they sailed a sloop along the entire coast of Maine to call on families living on isolated islands. Today the Sunbeam V sails from Bar Harbor to Monhegan Island. Some work is now done by land to isolated places.
Many volunteers come to work for the Mission’s Housing Repair Program during the summer. The Weald Bethel Chapel which has been in use for 51 years has provided housing for dozens of visiting work groups. The Chapel is currently being renovated to provide 300-400 volunteers space to stay.
The Maine Sea Coast Mission provides island residents with medical care as needed. Using the telemedicine equipment on the Sunbeam V the Missions’s Director of Island Health is able to connect islanders to needed medical services on the mainland. She is always available to islanders by phone and email. Isle au Haut, Frenchboro, Matinicus, Monhegan, Great Cranberry, Islesford and Swan’s Island are currently served by the program.
Thirteen years ago the need for youth programs in Washington County, Maine’s poorest region, was brought to the Mission’s attention. Programs now reach over 700 students in 18 towns of Washington County.
The Downeast Table of Plenty started in 2012. Each week a community meal is served on Sunday to 75-100 people. This program does a great deal for hunger and loneliness in the area. All ages, from toddlers to people in their nineties, come to share food, fellowship and live music.
The first boat was a Friendship Sloop named Hope. In 1995 the Sunbeam V was built at the Washburn and Doughty Shipyard in East Boothbay. It is 74 feet long, has a 22 foot beam and a seven foot draft. What changes have been made over the years!!
The programs offered by the Maine Sea Coast Mission are a very important part of the lives of many Mainers. It is only possible thanks to the many volunteers and donations received annually. What a wonderful 110 years of service. Happy Birthday!