Franklin Countys First News

Bridging Community Project kicks off

Dr. Donna Beegle address the issues of poverty in Franklin County with members of the community.

FARMINGTON - An event last week brought representatives from a wide variety of community sectors together in one room to address concerns of extreme poverty within the region.

The G.H. Bass Room at Franklin Memorial Hospital was packed with health care providers, lawyers, educators, social service providers and religious affiliates, all hoping to gain some perspective on the rising concern for those living in poverty. The event was hosted by Healthy Community Coalition and served as a kick off for the newly implemented Bridging Community Project.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Donna Beegle, addressed residents of Franklin County with her compelling story of growing up in the "war-zone" of poverty. Dr. Beegle spoke last spring to members of the community, inspiring a collaborative effort to bring her poverty awareness model to Franklin County.

The result of those efforts- the Bridging Community Project- is due largely to the work of RSU 9 Superintendent Dr. Tom Ward, HCC Program Coordinator Andrea Richards and Dr. Michele McCormick of FMH. The program is made possible by a grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation.

Dr. Beegle shared details of her childhood alongside shocking statistics to a captivated audience. She spoke about learning to "speak middle class," declaring herself fluent in two languages. She told the audience about sharing prescription drugs and even prescribed glasses with each other, because access to health care was limited if available at all.

"If someone has rotten teeth, what do people immediately think of?" Beegle questioned the audience. "First of all, people think of drug addictions. And secondly, they think they just don't take care of them. Why do we go to blame and judgment? Why aren't we asking 'I wonder if they ever had a dentist?'"

Dr. Beegle dropped out of school at the age of 15 to get married. It wasn't until 11 years later that she got her GED, enrolled in community college, eventually acquiring her second language of middle class and her doctorate. She is now in her 27th year of fighting the stereo types of poverty, has written two books, founded her own organization and has opened the eyes of professionals in every single state.

The Bridging Community Project aims to connect "navigators" with "neighbors." A face-to-face approach for helping those who are struggling in the war zone of poverty. Through intense training, navigators will be able to help neighbors find and access resources within the region.

"In poverty, the dominant message you hear is that nobody cares. But in all of my years of work, I've never once heard someone say they don't care. We care. So where does that message get lost?" Dr. Beegle said.

Dr. Beegle went on to question the audience, what would our community look like if children were our top priority? Answers rang out- access to food, ability to play safely, exposure to the arts.

"What do you call homework when you don't have a home?" she asked. "We need to be separating the people from the poverty."

Details on the Bridging Community Project will be released in the near future. Volunteers will be needed for all aspects of the program, with training to be held in May. Navigators will commit to spending 8 to 12 hours a month with a family or person living in poverty.

For more information on the program contact Andrea Richards at Healthy Community Coalition at 779-2435 or

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

9 Responses »

  1. Poverty has been with us forever. America is not a socialist country, we have those that do well against the odds and those who do not. In the past it wasent unusual to move to where there were better prospects. With the advent of cradle to grave welfare we have established a system where it's easier to stay on the dole than it is to seek work. Who winds up paying, the taxpayer does. If you like you taxes going up every year keep incouraging welfare recipients to stay on the dole. Don't be fooled here, medical care is a for profit venture. Docs, the managers and facilities like Franklin all make money. If not off those with insurance it comes from the taxpayers that foot the bill for Medicare. Check the saleries handed out to the heads of Main Med, no poverty there. Ms. Beetle is paid by a nonprofit and the underpinnings of here proposal are essentially a concerted effort to encourage more people to utilize welfare centric services in our community. Navigators and accessing resources, fancy talk for sticking the taxpayers with higher bills. Watch your wallet.

  2. Peter, I respect you point of view. I agree that the system for caring for those in poverty is not fiscally responsible for our society. However, for many it isn't as simple as pulling themselves up by the bootstraps and getting a job. I won't go into all of the details. I wish you were at the conference. It wasn't about keeping people on 'the system', rather it was about understanding the different types and reasons of poverty and how communities can work toward change to really help them.

    I won't argue that your point is one shared by many. The only way we can really change things is to have everyone in the community helping instead of judging or just talking with no action.

    Have a good day.

  3. Kathy,

    No judgement simple facts. Maine spends roughly 83 percent of the very dollar collected from taxpayers on welfare and education. The former includes all manner of medical services offered gratis to the user and billled to the tax payer. The simple reality is the model is not sustainable, it is beyond any mathematical solution short of charging the taxpayer more. Most of my contempories grew on the less than fortunate side of our economy. Most have prospered, not from handouts but hard work. Another point of note, almost all of us had to work outside of Maine in some fashion in order to survive and offer a decent living for our families. We had to go offshore so to speak. Ironically, we were forced to pay all manner of taxes to Maine for the sole benifit of calling ourselves residents. All this while some of neighbors simply refuse to work and rely on a liberal welfare system for their survival. Pardon me if I don't see the equity in this arrangement. If this is judgemental in your eyes perhaps you are a tad myopic and cannot see past the bill of goods folkish like the good Doctor are trying to sell you on.

  4. Peter, did you make any of these events? What is suggested is some one like you, or me, with a little more knowledge, or a few more connections in the world, offer some one our knowledge, and may be some of our time. Another thing suggested, and I do work with folks in poverty, is that poor people, don't want to be, but don't get enough respect for being humans that they give up trying for better for their families and themselves.
    If not you, who?

  5. Local,

    Sorry for my late response, I have a job. Miners aren't short on empathy but they are tapped out on taxes. The whole poverty claim smacks of ones claiming victim status. Between the snowflakes in 60k a year colleges and the Somalis all looking for our money, where do the real Mariners catch a break here. I see the poverty professionals driving snow machines and 4 wheelers in their copious spare time. No one seems to be seeking viable employment. Am I wrong here, don't you see this as well? We have created a welfare class, where it's ok to be on the dole for generations. It has become the norm. Is it wrong that Mexicans and Guatemalans plant saplings in in our forests? Hint, none of the locals want the work. Anyway, Mariners paying the tab are simply tapped out, we can't do it any longer. It's sad for me to see Maine go down this path, we deserve better. I wish you and yours all the best.

  6. THANK YOU, Peter. Someone, obviously, who sees thru the rhetoric and liberalism being touted here. Hand-ups are one thing. Hand-outs are another. Let's see how this goes.

  7. And Kathy...I'd love to volunteer. I work. Take care of an amputee husband. Shovel snow. Clean house and cook. I'd love to sit on my butt and read a book, but no time. And at the end of the day, there's no energy left. And yes, I'm one of those who look around and wonder how people can just waste their day doing nothing.

  8. Peter, Thank you for your comments to help folks understand the view on poverty in Maine. I also work, 3 jobs, my husband 2, as well as support our community and pay taxes. We believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Have a good day at work

  9. Thanks so much for bring this speaker and project to franklin county ... as evidenced above , there is much work to do!