Bucksport’s Thriving in Place program seeks funding



BUCKSPORT — A mostly volunteer program called Thriving in Place (TiP), which helps Bucksport area seniors remain in their homes, could soon face a funding dilemma.

The organization’s three-year implementation grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation, which supplied about $57,000 of TiP’s $85,000 budget this year, expires in October.

“This is the final year,” said Sara Martin, the health planning director of the Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition, of which the TiP program is a part. “So all that means is we need to look for funding from elsewhere.”

Over the past several years, the TiP program has become a key feature of the senior care landscape in Bucksport, Prospect, Verona Island and Orland. It provides its 47 participants with easy access to resources such as Downeast Transportation, the RSU 25 Senior Meals program, the Bucksport Senior Center and the Bucksport Regional Health Center.

“We meet whatever individual needs they might have,” Martin said. “If they need transportation, Downeast Transportation helps with that. Some people just need socialization and meals, so they get that through the RSU 25 meals program at the senior center.”

TiP also provides eight healthy living workshops a year, where participants can learn how to manage their financial and legal affairs as well as how to cook and exercise.

TiP and its partnerships are largely driven by volunteers. The only two paid people working on TiP, and on the Bucksport Bay Healthy Communities Coalition in general, are Sara Martin and Ben Crocker, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer.

“Our job is the spoke in the wheel that monitors the TiP participants and connects them to services and arranges for and provides meeting space,” Martin explained.

Part of the grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation is used to pay Martin and Crocker. The money is also used to pay for a wellness nurse to check on participants, for printing and office supplies to promote TiP programs and for covering travel expenditures so that the program’s partners can attend monthly TiP meetings.

TiP also receives funding from United Way of Eastern Maine and from the towns it serves. But without the $57,000 from the foundation, it would be difficult to keep up all of TiP’s programs.

“It is an urgent thing to try to find the funding from elsewhere,” said Martin, who explained that a sustainability committee has already been formed to brainstorm future sources of funding. Among the committee members are Susan Lessard, Bucksport’s town manager, and Leslie Wombacher, the head of the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve assembled a really great group of people to work on the sustainability committee,” Martin said.

Lessard has already written a letter to State Reps. Karl Ward (R-Dedham) and Richard Campbell (R-Orrington) and State Sen. Kimberley Rosen (R-Hancock County) asking them to help set up a meeting with Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. Lessard hopes that they can discuss future funding options for TiP at the meeting.

“Thriving in Place has been a big help for seniors negotiating the maze of agencies and entities in order to find ways to stay in their home safely,” Lessard said.

In her letter, she wrote “The goal of Thriving in Place is consistent with the state’s own goal of reducing the cost of nursing home care by helping Maine residents stay in their own homes.”

The Bucksport area isn’t alone in its search for more funding. There are seven other TiP communities across Maine whose implementation grants will run out soon if they haven’t already.

“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it,” Martin said. “I think we have some work to do.”

Anyone who would like to support or volunteer for TiP can find out more details at bucksportbayhealth.org or by calling 469-6682.

David Roza

David Roza

David grew up in Washington County, Maryland, has reported in Washington County, Oregon, and now covers news in Hancock County and Washington County, Maine for The American and Out & About.