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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 8, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, February 8, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, February 8, 2018
Community Compass wins grant, recognized for fight against poverty

by Anne Berleant

A coalition of concerned volunteers wanting to effect positive change is not exactly new or news, and translating good intentions into action is often easier on paper.

But Community Compass, formed in 2012 as Community Resource Collaborative, has steadily addressed the conditions that contribute to cycles of poverty on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle through training Neighborhood Navigators, creating a local Parents Are Leaders (PALs) program, holding career fairs, partnering with local nonprofits and successfully applying for grants to fund its mission.

Program coordinator Amy Houghton described Community Compass’s progress as “slow but steady and hopefully sustainable.”

Most recently, it was awarded $20,000 from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine Opportunity Fund to expand its work at a time when it is solidifying an action plan to carry the organization through 2020.

The nonprofit was also recognized by the much-larger nonprofit Eastern Maine Development Corporation with a 2017 Horizon Award, given in recognition of efforts to improve regional job skill training, according to a recent Community Compass press release.

The award has no money attached, Houghton said, but means, “Hey, you’re doing a good job.”

PALs, created with a $2,500 Deborah Pulliam Social Justice Grant in late 2016, has since provided home visits to all newborns and their families in Deer Isle and Stonington, and established three weekly playgroups in Deer Isle that also bring speakers and training opportunities to parents. It hopes to expand the program into Stonington this year, Houghton said.

Community Compass has also trained four Neighborhood Navigators, individuals who help neighbors in need break the cycle of poverty by linking them with available services. Community Collaborative trains and vets the navigators, who are paid a stipend.

“It’s important for navigators to have experience with poverty, [someone who] is or has been in a similar situation,” Houghton said.

The nonprofit has partnered with EMDC to create a Trades Academy, which would provide a paid opportunity to gain marketable skills, and is also researching ways to supplement high school curriculum to help students be ready to work.

Houghton said the response to its programs has been good thus far and, as coordinator, she has taken a few calls herself.

“I need to talk to someone,” is what people say when she picks up the phone, Houghton said.

The community has also responded, donating $7,000 to the nonprofit’s first annual appeal, Houghton noted. The organization is fiscally sponsored by Downeast Community Partners (formerly Washington-Hancock Community Agency).