New fund aids seniors

BAR HARBOR — A new fund is being established by the Maine Community Foundation to help older people in Hancock County who have needs they can’t afford to meet.

Ed Kaelber, a founder of the Maine Community Foundation and founding president of College of the Atlantic, conceived of the fund, which is called Pay it Up. He and his wife, Ann, live at the Birch Bay Village retirement community.

“If you drive around this island on some of the back roads, you can see some real poverty,” Kaelber said. “It seemed to me it would be a good idea for some people at Birch Bay to set up a fund that helps people our age who are not in the fortunate position we’re in. So, we’re starting with people here, but anyone of any age can contribute.

“I think it would be great if we could get this fund up to maybe a half-million or a million bucks.”

Maine Community Foundation will invest donated funds. It is partnering with Healthy Acadia, which will be responsible for establishing eligibility criteria and making grants to those who qualify.

“We are very honored to be brought into this and to be able to support this incredible initiative,” said Healthy Acadia Executive Director Elsie Flemings.

“We will be reconvening the Healthy Aging Task Force, which is a region-wide group that has been active on and off, and we will look to them to help provide guidance as we develop criteria (for grant eligibility). Then we will be setting up a process to look for the needs that are out there and figure out how to make decisions each year.”

Carl Little, director of communications and marketing for the Maine Community Foundation, said his organization tries to make the best use of every dollar people donate.

“But we can’t do that without organizations like Healthy Acadia, who know the territory and where the money will have the greatest impact,” he said.

Flemings said that even a small grant can make a big difference in someone’s quality of life; for example, it could enable them to buy a hearing aid or install a wheelchair ramp at their home.

“If we take the barriers away, people can continue to thrive,” said Debra Chalmers, executive director of Birch Bay Village, which is supporting the new fund for seniors. She noted that the retirement community is already involved in various initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the greater community.

Kaelber said the new fund will benefit donors as well as recipients.

“When you get to be 90, you realize that one of the dangers is you spend all of your time thinking about yourself, and that gets awfully dull,” he said. “I think it’s a very healthy thing to get people to reach a bit beyond themselves.”

Chalmers said Kaelber is the perfect person to persuade others to open their checkbooks.

“How does anybody say no to Ed?” she asked.

For information, contact the Maine Community Foundation.

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]