Bath-area youth support group celebrates outreach, honors

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BATH — It was a very good year for Jamie Dorr and the Midcoast Community Alliance.

The network, which she founded a year ago to help troubled youth and the adults around them access the resources to prevent tragedies like suicides, received its sixth honor of the year last week.

Dorr, who is president of the Friends of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark and a “big sister” through the Bath-Brunswick Big Brothers Big Sisters program, was presented a 2017 Spirit of America Foundation award from the Sagadahoc County Commissioners Dec. 15. She was credited for her “untiring, infectious energy” in founding the MCA, according to a press release.

Since the MCA’s creation 18 months ago, 34 area organizations in the Bath-Brunswick area have joined the network, with an eye toward reducing the stigma around mental health issues, bolstering support and eliminating suicide.

The statewide Spirit of America honor followed the MCA being named volunteer of the year by the Bath Area Family YMCA, and receiving a “Community Builder” award from United Way of Mid Coast Maine, and a “Caring About Lives” nod from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the Department of Health & Human Services.

Dorr was named Bath’s Citizen of the Year Oct. 7 during the city’s annual Citizen Involvement Day celebration, and the Portland Press Herald the following month listed her as one of “10 Mainers We Are Thankful For.”

But more important than receiving the awards, Dorr said Dec. 18, is that they help get the word out to a broader audience about the organization’s mission.

“Always, after something like (the Dec. 15 county ceremony), I start to get even more phone calls and messages (seeking help) than I typically would,” she said. “Or it’s a student saying, we need more metal health education. It’s just been really breath-taking, because we’re filling a need.”

Dorr praised the work of area schools, Midcoast Hospital, and Big Brothers Big Sisters in supporting youth mental health wellness. She added that she hoped the MCA’s role “can be to support and amplify the good work that these organizations are doing, and filling in when they need maybe more assistance.”

The MCA meets at 2:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month at the Bath Parks & Recreation Department, 4 Sheridan Road. More information can be found at mcamaine.org.

“Even on a low-attendance meeting day, I still have 25 people sitting around the table,” she said. “Sometimes we have so many people that they’re lined up against the wall … and we meet in a pretty big conference room.”

Dorr called it “heartwarming” that a year and a half after the MCA formed, “we still have that same level of commitment and involvement.”

Outreach and education among students, families and the greater community, as well as a deeper focus on early intervention, are the organization’s goals as it looks to 2018.

“Set for Success,” which will provide free backpacks and school supplies to every pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade student in Regional School Unit 1, regardless of need, is planned at Bath Middle School on Aug. 19, 2018.

An “information highway” of community organizations will be available, as well as free clothing, haircuts and even mini-manicures.

“It”ll be a pretty big community event,” with fundraising and volunteer recruitment planned in the coming months, Dorr said.

MCA hopes to raise about $22,000 to address the needs of 1,400 students.

“We’re really hoping that families who maybe feel like they don’t need to come to this, still will,” Dorr said. “Because if we’re all there together, it helps to reduce stigma. People maybe won’t feel as awkward or worried about what (other) people might think. If we’re all there together, then we’re all the same.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Jamie Dorr, president of the Friends of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse & Skatepark, recently received the Spirit of America Foundation award for her work with the Midcoast Community Alliance.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.