Franklin Countys First News

Western Mountains Baptist Church hosting food delivery program for home-bound community members

In the front row is Jeff Smith, Debbie Hinkley, Dori Hinkley and Elijah Coffren. In the back row is Bruce Taylor, Priscilla Hinkley, Cathy Haines, Doris Foley and Jim Secotte. Missing from photo is Barbara Nickerson. (Photo by Crystal Fitch)

NEW PORTLAND - The Western Mountains Baptist Church is excited to announce that it is now the headquarters for a not-so-new program called "Bridging the Gap." Once a month, Bridging the Gap volunteers provide, prepare, package and deliver a hot meal to community members who are elderly or home-bound. The new organizers, Jeff Smith and Cathy Haines, are both from Salem Township and both are members of the Western Mountains Baptist Church.

The idea for an elderly food program was created by then college student, Tracy Bessey of Kingfield, as a community project for a sociology class. At that time, in 2007, she and her husband, Tom Bessey, cooked and prepared meals in their own home for residents of the Kingfield Elderly Housing. Tracy Bessey and her daughter would deliver 20 meals to the complex each month. The Bessey family loved to cook and were so passionate about the project that they bought and prepared most of the food themselves until they found new volunteers to take over the program. Bessey continues to be concerned that there are too many older adults in our communities who live alone with limited visitors and who have limited resources.

Sue Jones, leader of the Kingfield Girl Scouts, adopted the program from the Bessey family in 2008. With input and suggestions from the girl scouts, the name of the elderly food program was changed to Bridging the Gap - viewing the program as a way to bridge the gap between youth and older citizens. The Girl Scouts were instrumental in getting the community involved by requesting donations of food and paper products from local businesses and individuals.

Bridging the Gap’s next home was with Pastor Connie Maginnis and other members of the Kingfield United Methodist Church. Bruce Taylor, of Kingfield, recalls with good humor how Pastor Connie asked him to help out with one of the meals and he has been helping ever since. That request was made eight years ago. Maginnis worked effortlessly with local businesses and had the program running smooth as clockwork from month to month. A picnic in the park and a summer barbecue held at the Elderly Housing complex were added to the program to encourage fellowship among the recipients while enjoying a meal together.

Last summer, while Maginnis was away on vacation, Yvonne Woodcock, member of the Kingfield United Methodist Church, sent out a plea on Facebook for help with the upcoming meal. Because “neighbor helping neighbor” efforts are not new to members of the Western Mountains Baptist Church, eager volunteers stepped up to the call. For the next several months, members of both churches worked side by side to provide meals to the elderly and homebound in Kingfield.

After Pastor Connie's unexpected death in September 2017, Pastor Tom DuBois agreed Bridging the Gap would be a good fit along with the other outreach services provided by the congregation at the Western Mountains Baptist Church in New Portland. The elderly food program will continue its grass roots beginnings while maintaining the working relationship with members of the Kingfield United Methodist Church.

Jeff Smith, along with his neighbor, Cathy Haines, volunteered to spearhead the program out of the kitchen at the Western Mountains Baptist Church. Smith along with longtime volunteer, Taylor are now the head chefs. Haines collaborates with the local businesses and takes meal selections from recipients. Each month folks have a choice of two meals that include a dessert which are prepared by Debbie, Priscilla and Dori Hinkley from Kingfield. Deliveries are made by a team of drivers including Jim Secotte and his helper Elijah Coffren, age 10, of Kingfield, Doris Foley of Salem Township and Barbara Nickerson of Kingfield. The meals are delivered in time for folks to be able to enjoy a hot nutritious meal at lunch time. Currently 45 meals are prepared and delivered. Smith and Haines look forward to serving more people as word spreads about the free meals for the elderly.

Bridging the Gap’s success has not only come about by the volunteers willing to coordinate, cook and deliver the meals but in large part by the ongoing generous donations of food and money from many individuals and businesses in the Kingfield community. Before it’s closing, the Nostalgia Tavern, provided one of the two meal selections each month. Tranten’s Family Market has been a longtime supporter providing food containers and other needs. In addition to bottles of water, management and employees of Poland Springs provide whatever is asked of them from baked goods to mayonnaise. They also host the summer barbecue at the Elderly Housing complex. The Town of Kingfield, Longfellow’s Restaurant, The Orange Cat, Annie’s Market, CMS and The Woodsman have all played an important role in feeding the elderly in their own back yards. Over the years, many community members have been involved by making desserts or side dishes and delivering meals. Because of new funding from the Western Mountains Baptist Church, Bridging the Gap meals have now been expanded to include residents living in New Portland and Salem Township.

There are no income guidelines and no church affiliation is needed to receive a free home-cooked lunch. The meals are provided on the last Saturday of each month. The upcoming meal choices for February are turkey and vegetable pot pie or meatloaf with mashed potato and peas. If you or someone you know is elderly or homebound and would like to receive a meal call Cathy at 678-2442 or the Western Mountains Baptist Church at 265-2557.

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2 Responses »

  1. Good job guys and very good job Bruce

  2. Thank you for your mission with those in need.