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Penobscot Bay Press
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News Feature

Deer Isle & Stonington
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 11, 2020
Outpouring of support for Island Nursing Home
Lights, meals, notes, hearts

COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020
Click here to see the full COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020.

Healthy Island Project Executive Director Rene Colson Hudson

Healthy Island Project Executive Director Rene Colson Hudson outside her office—and next to the blue cooler where people leave donations to the Island Nursing Home residents. Hudson has been inundated with offers of support for INH.

Photo by Leslie Landrigan Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Leslie Landrigan

When word got out that dozens of Island Nursing Home (INH) residents and staff tested positive for COVID-19, help quickly arrived from the island and peninsula.

People dropped off snacks and drinks for staff outside the INH, a Christmas gift drive was organized for the residents and the Northern Light Health system sent doctors, nurses and personal protective equipment (PPE).

“There’s a lot of good that’s come out of this,” Stonington Town Manager Kathleen Billings told the select board on December 7.

But tragedy has come out of it as well. Five residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.


“The community has been just a tremendous support,” INH Executive Director Matthew Trombley said in a December 8 podcast by the Island Health and Wellness Foundation. “To have that instantaneous community support when this event occurred was just amazing.“

People have put up banners, Christmas lights and cut-out hearts. They’ve sent letters and pictures to the nursing home.

Pam Dewell, Barrett Gray and Oriana Wuerth organized a meal train through which people drop off meals for nearly a dozen volunteers and staff working long hours and staying away from home. Healthy Island Project (HIP) is accepting donations to pay for adding the INH staff to its Thursday meal-delivery program and takeout meals for nights without a volunteer meal.

“This community just blows me away,” said Rene Colson Hudson, HIP executive director, on a December 8 Zoom call.

Healthy Island Project is also collecting gifts for nursing residents in a large blue cooler outside its office at 304 Sunset Road. Residents have requested such items as art and craft supplies, slippers, small puzzles and postage stamps. For a complete list, check HIP’s Facebook page

Trombley said people can help by doing their part to prevent virus spread. That means no gatherings over the Christmas holidays outside of the immediate household.

“Those are the sacrifices we have to make,” he said in a December 8 Zoom call. “It’s not going to be the Christmas we want it to be.”

More help

The nursing home has also received institutional and government support, including the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Maine National Guard and the Northern Light Health system. Northern Light’s Blue Hill and Maine Coast hospitals sent doctors, nurses and personal protective equipment, according to John Ronan, the hospitals’ president, in a November 30 Zoom call.

Northern Light Homecare & Hospice has helped with testing and staffing, according to Dr. James Jarvis, Northern Light medical specialist, on a December 2 Zoom call.

Kelley Columber, Northern Light spokesperson, said in a statement that Northern Light’s COVID-19 rapid response experts offered to provide guidance to INH, which is not a Northern Light facility.

“Blue Hill and Maine Coast hospitals continue to work cooperatively with INH, Hancock County Emergency Management Services, and Maine CDC to help INH provide the best care possible for its residents and staff as we continue to provide care and testing for our communities around the peninsula,” she said.