Meet “Big” Frances Greenlaw

At 91, Frances Greenlaw stays young mentoring the students at Deer Isle/Stonington Elementary School
Frances Greenlaw, 91 years young, has been a Big Sister at Deer Isle/Stonington Elementary School for the past four years. Before the program started there, Fran mentored in several island schools for eleven years.

Quotes from people who have known Fran and her volunteer work with school children have said….

“We certainly need a lot more “Fran’s” in our life. What a much better world we would be living in!”

“I wish I had a volunteer like Fran interested in me when I was a child.”

Bernice Palumbo, pictured with Fran, is a Mentoring Coordinator for BBBS and a longtime friend of Fran’s.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Maine, Christian Ridge Rd., PO Box 1087, Ellsworth, ME 04605
Phone: (207) 667-5304 (800) 492-5550 Fax: (207) 667-6117 Email: [email protected]

Bernice Palumbo Honored

The HANCOCK COUNTY CHILDREN’S COUNCIL presented the 2004 Nancy Gentile award to Bernice Palumbo at their Annual Meeting held at the White Birches Restaurant on June 8th.

Award winner, Bernice Palumbo.

Ms. Palumbo is currently serving as a mentor coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Maine. Nominated by several former Nancy Gentile award recipients, Bernice embodies many attributes of Ms. Gentile. While working at the Wooden Boat School, she became one of the first Big Sisters at BBBS. For more than a decade, Bernice has volunteered her time in a variety of projects to improve the quality of life of Maine’s children. Because of Bernice’s efforts: Scholarships were provided to children to attend the Wood Boat School; greater awareness of the risks of substance abuse by youth was highlighted in her work with the alcoholism study circle in Bucksport & Orland; and children who needed mentoring found a special person through the Big Brother Big Sister program. Bernice also studied to become a clown, and with clown outfit, balloons and tricks in place, she has performed for children in various schools as well as for disabled children, and for the BBBS Bowl-a-thon.

Presenting the award to Bernice was Mary Jane Bush of Bucksport. Mary Jane was the most recent recipient of the Nancy Gentile award in 2000, and provided first-hand recollections of Nancy Gentile’s spirit, enthusiasm and style. In March of 1987, the HANCOCK COUNTY CHILDREN’S COUNCIL established the Nancy Gentile Award to perpetuate her name and encourage and recognize individuals who are symbolic of the qualities she shared with others.

Nancy Gentile was a strong human rights advocate whose life tragically ended in an automobile accident at the age of 36. She worked for fifteen years to end violence against women and children, serving as Director of Spruce Run, President of Hancock County Children’s Council, Director of Parents Anonymous of Maine, and was also instrumental in mobilizing members of the community to confront issues that plague our lives today. In the late 1970’s, she was instrumental in organizing the Maine Coalition for Family Crisis Services, which during her lifetime became a network of domestic violence projects throughout the state. Her organizing efforts helped secure legislative funding for women and children in crisis. She served as a Maine representative to the national “Coalition Against Domestic Violence”, beginning and maintaining an important link to national resources. Nancy also worked to prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, to promote Peace Activism and in mobilizing communities to confront the issues that plague our lives today.

During the Hancock County Children’s Council annual meeting, Jan Clarkin, Executive Director for the Maine Children’s Trust, provided an overview of child abuse and neglect prevention activities throughout the State of Maine during her keynote address. The mission of the Maine Children’s Trust is to prevent the abuse and neglect of Maine’s children. A non-profit agency, the Trust is appointed by the Governor to administer federal child abuse grant funds, and holds the State charter for Prevent Child Abuse Maine. Jan reviewed the status of the Trust’s strategic plan which calls for continuing expansion and strengthening of cross-disciplinary collaborations throughout Maine. Current priorities and activities include: cross-collaborative effort to create a prevention curriculum for prevention workers throughout Maine; development of the first ever Child Abuse Prevention Plan for Maine; with support from the Children’s Cabinet, developed 3 cross-disciplinary “Think Tanks” with professionals representing child abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and juvenile justice; and actively supports and leads a home visiting coalition working on public education, awareness and sustained funding.

Candy Eaton, Program Director for the Children’s Council honored Jaime Wood of Hancock and a student at Mount Desert Island High School for her efforts to chair the Keeping Kids on Track program for the Ellsworth Area Communities for Children & Youth. Ms. Eaton also thanked all attendees for their volunteer participation in preventing child abuse and neglect throughout Hancock County.

The Hancock County Children’s Council is a community effort dedicated to the PREVENTION of child abuse and neglect in our local area and is a member of Prevent Child Abuse Maine. Financial support for our educational activities has been provided through the Hancock County Commissioners, Department of Human Services, Maine Community Foundation, Mainely Parents and several individual and United Way of Eastern Maine contributors.

The Hancock County Children’s Council has an extensive collection of books and videotapes on subjects designed to help children and families live healthier lives. The Family Resource Center Library is available to all residents in Hancock County and is located in the Downeast Health Services building at 52 Christian Ridge Road, Ellsworth, ME. Please call 667-5304 ext. 261, email [email protected] or visit our website at for additional information on parenting classes, child development and family resources available in Hancock County.

Unadorned Offerings

RADIO INTERVIEWER in Texas recently asked me, “How do we know that our positive actions will make any difference at all?” The program was live so I had to answer on the spot.

I swallowed hard and replied, “We don’t know.” Pause. “But that’s not the point,” I added. I grasped for a paraphrase of Václav Havel’s wonderful words: “Hope is…. not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

The host’s question wouldn’t leave me alone after the radio show ended. Nor would Mr. Havel’s words. I want the things I work for to “turn out well,” but hope doesn’t follow my tidy agenda.

I’m learning this the hard way in my own small efforts toward making a positive difference. For three years, I’ve been mentoring Amy* through Big Brothers Big Sisters. As we’ve swum and watched movies, kayaked and cooked, talked and played with my cat, we have slowly woven a bond at once delicate and tough. She teasingly calls me a nature freak and tries to talk me into watching shows like The Bachelor and Crime Scene Investigators so I will have a better grip on the real world. I laugh and listen and map out plans I think will help guide her toward self-worth and success. It’s only now that I’m beginning to see that I was operating under the delusion that I had all the answers–or at least some pretty good ones.

So when Amy told me she’d always wanted to learn the violin, I offered to pay for her lessons if she worked hard to improve her grades. We drafted a contract together and both signed it. The lessons went well for a few months, and at the end of the school year, she showed me her report card, a solid column of A’s and B’s. But not long after, she decided to quit the violin. A few of her grades dropped the next quarter. I felt like I’d failed.

Then I decided to try to teach her about saving money. I hooked her up with a lucrative babysitting gig on the condition that she’d deposit most of the money in a savings account instead of spending it on clothes. She took the job but told me, “My family said they’d handle my finances.” Strike two.

Last year, in the middle of eighth grade, Amy needed to pick a high school from among several in the area. When she told me that she wanted to go to the alternative high school so she could get into a good college, I thought, Great. Here’s something I can help her accomplish. I coached her on her admissions essay as we sat at my kitchen table eating pizza. By the end of the evening, she had written, by herself, an articulate essay on dealing with predators in Internet chat rooms. I felt so proud of her when she read the essay aloud, her voice confident and strong. Finally, it seemed, my efforts might be paying off.

A few days later, Amy told me, “I decided I don’t want to go to that school. I want to be with my friends.” And so she chose the less rigorous school. Foiled again.

Every plan I’ve made to “help” Amy has failed. When this finally dawned on me, I felt stupid and naïve. What had I helped her accomplish during our three years together?

Not much, it seemed–at least until last summer. I was driving to dinner with a friend when I saw a tall, pale girl walking a rottweiler down a lonely stretch of wet road. It was Amy. We hadn’t seen each other for a few weeks because she had moved out of town to live with her mom. I rolled down the window and introduced her to my friend. We chatted a little and then drove on.

The next day, Amy and I had lunch together. “It was so amazing that you drove by last night because I was thinking about you,” she said.

“What were you thinking?” I asked.

“Well, she said, “there were all these little snails all over the road. I decided to pick them up and move them so they wouldn’t get run over. When I was done, I thought, Hey, this is something Kim would do.”

In that moment, my sense of failure vanished–along with my agenda, which wasn’t what Amy needed anyway. The way I can make a difference in her life can’t be plotted or measured because the only thing I can give her is the unadorned offering of my company.

From her new town, Amy e-mails me funny, lively dispatches about her adventures in ninth grade. And this just in: she plans to apply to a more challenging high school next year because she wants to be an astronomer.

I’ll haul out our telescope on her next visit so we can admire the moon’s mysterious face and explore the stars. No plans beyond that. Amy is growing into a strong, savvy young woman with her own agenda. Regardless of how it all turns out, simply sharing time with her, as Václav Havel suggests, makes a great deal of sense.

Amy said, “You can write about me anytime” when I asked her permission to tell this story. I’ve changed her name to protect her privacy.

Kimberly Ridley
Editor, Hope Magazine

Big Brothers Big Sisters event tonight in Old Town

OLD TOWN – Residents will have a chance tonight to learn more about the area’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program during a program at the library. A game and information night for children, parents and volunteers from Old Town, Alton and Bradley who are interested in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. tonight at the Old Town Public Library.

Similar events for residents in Greenbush and Milford are being planned for later this month.

“It’s an opportunity for children, parents, and potential mentors to find out what the program is about,” Crystal Salinas, Penobscot County mentor coordinator, said Tuesday at her office.

Big Brothers Big Sisters recently received a Communities That Care grant from the University of Washington to make 35 matches with pupils in grades five through eight by Sept. 1 in the Old Town area.

So far, Salinas has met her January goal of placing 10 children with big brothers or sisters, but hasn’t yet reached her April 1 objective for the same number of matches.

In particular, finding male mentors for children is a problem nationwide, according to Salinas.

“Men often see the project and they think it’s a good idea, but they don’t feel that they can fulfill that role,” Salinas said. “Most of the time, little boys in the program just want somebody to come hang out with them.”

Two chalkboards, one with a list of eligible mentors and the other containing the names of children to be placed, can be found in Salinas’ Bangor office. The number of volunteers, however, is much shorter than the list of children looking for a big brother or sister.

In the Orono-Old Town area, University of Maine students often apply to be mentors. The only problem is that the organization doesn’t like to match UM students with a child after April 1 because there is only a month or so for the two to connect before college lets out for the summer and students go back home, Salinas explained.

“I have three kids that need to be matched, but they’re all boys and I have no big brothers,” Salinas said.

To become part of the program, children ages 7 to 14 are referred to Big Brothers Big Sisters by a parent.

While other organizations can give parents contact information for Big Brothers Big Sisters, a parent or guardian is the only one that can provide a child’s information.

Children then are put on a waiting list and placed with a mentor who lives in their community and shares some of the same interests. Matching a “big” with a “little” can take two weeks or more.

“It’s just a matter of finding the right match,” Salinas said. “We don’t match on a first come, first served basis.”

Matches are made based on a variety of things, including interests, parent requests, and gender.

“The volunteers are spending their time, so we want to make sure they’re happy with the match that they’re in,” Salinas said.

Big brothers and sisters are asked to commit six to 10 hours each month to spend with their “little.”

For the community-based programs, mentors must be 18 years old. School-based programs, however, allow mentors to be sophomores in high school or older.

Big Brothers Big Sisters conducts a Department of Human Services and criminal background check on all volunteers and also visits mentors’ homes to ensure they are a safe place for children to go.

The organization also requires that applicants provide a copy of their driver’s license and proof of vehicle insurance.

“We will always do what’s in the best interest of the child,” Salinas said.

Salinas noted that the application process shouldn’t scare away interested volunteers.

She also explained that the organization provides training for mentors, children and parents and follows up with “bigs” and “littles” each month to make sure that the match is working out.

“It’s not rocket science,” she said. “These kids just need somebody to pay attention to them.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Maine, Christian Ridge Rd., PO Box 1087, Ellsworth, ME 04605
Phone: (207) 667-5304 (800) 492-5550 Fax: (207) 667-6117 Email: [email protected]


Bowl for Kids’ Sake is our largest community event and fund-raiser, drawing the participation and support of thousands of area residents! Last year’s bowl-a-thon raised $65,000 to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Maine match more children with caring mentors.

It’s fun and easy to participate! And you don’t have to be a bowler to Bowl for Kids’ Sake

Just recruit a few friends to form a 4-5 person bowling team. Ask other friends to sponsor your bowling with donations. Come Bowl for Kids’ Sake on your chosen date and place. Get prizes for participating, including great-looking t-shirts and caps.

For more information on how to participate CLICK HERE!

In 2007, 500 children in Eastern Maine were matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister. Thousands more area children could benefit from our mentoring programs, but we can’t grow without your support.

Every cent that you raise will be used to benefit local kids! So come out and bowl, and help make a big difference in your community!!

This year we’re making it easier for you to contribute to Bowl for Kids Sake! To charge your contribution, just click below!