Initiative in RSU 1 aims to provide school supplies to all students

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BATH — Summer vacation is only a month away, but the Midcoast Community Alliance is already focused on going back to school.

The organization hopes to raise enough money and materials to supply school supplies to every student – pre-kindergarten through grade 12 – in Regional School Unit 1 next year.

“Back to School: Set for Success” has kicked off with donation boxes at area businesses. It’s the MCA project’s first year, weaving together elements from Boothbay’s seven-year Set for Success initiative, and a prior Back to School program spearheaded by Toni Weber and the Masonic Solar Star No. 14 Lodge in Bath.

“We’ve joined forces with them, and that’s why we’ve combined the names,” MCA founder Jamie Dorr said in an interview May 2.

Volunteers will collect funds and supplies through mid-July, and on Aug. 19 make them available at a day-long event at Bath Middle School. Each student will be given a backpack, which they’ll fill with school supplies for their return to school. Pre-K to eighth-grade students are asked to attend between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and high school students from 1-3 p.m.

To ensure that the necessary supplies are available, teachers are providing “shopping lists” that will be posted by the donation boxes. More information will soon be available at mcamaine.org.

Donation boxes can be found at the Bath Area Family YMCA (303 Centre St.), Brackett’s Market (185 Front St.), the Mustard Seed Bookstore (74 Front St.), Hair Creations (55 Congress Ave.), and other locations around the city.

Dorr emphasized that the supplies are for all RSU 1 pupils.

“All students are invited, regardless of need,” she said. “We want this to be something for everyone to come together. It’s really part of our larger ‘You Matter’ movement, making sure that every child has what they need to be successful for school, making sure no one’s falling through the cracks.”

Along with supplies, an “Information Highway” will be available, providing information on community organizations that provide educational support, behavioral health services, and address addiction, health issues and food insecurity. Police Chief Mike Field, one of a growing number of MCA members, is organizing that program.

“People can get to know others in their community,” Dorr explained. “Maybe they will learn about something they didn’t know before, or they’ll make a personal connection with someone that may come in handy down the road.”

Students can also get free haircuts and mini-manicures, and procure clothing through the free Clothing Closet.

With RSU 1’s student population totaling a little more than 1,200, “it’s gonna be big,” Dorr said of August’s event. “That’s a lot of school supplies, a lot of backpacks.”

Since this is MCA’s first go at this type of event, budget numbers are still being determined. The organization is reaching out to companies about getting items at wholesale prices, seeking sponsors for the event, and looking for partners for subsequent “Back to School” gatherings.

“We’ve set a budget of just over $40,000; we’re not really sure if that’s way too much, or way too little,” Dorr said. “That’s our target to make sure that we do have something for everyone.”

The MCA is asking parents that in lieu of going school shopping, they donate to the organization instead and then attend the Aug. 19 event.

Dorr’s concern about the number of young people taking their own lives in the Mid-Coast area led her in 2016 to create MCA, a network which helps troubled youths and the adults around them access the knowledge and resources to prevent such tragedies from happening.

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 last December.

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, as well as a Caring About Lives nod from the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the Department of Health & Human Services.

The MCA meets at 2:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month at the Bath Parks & Recreation Department, 4 Sheridan Road.

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

The Bath-based Midcoast Community Alliance, founded in 2016 by Jamie Dorr, seeks funds and donations in the coming months to outfit all Regional School Unit 1 students with school supplies at an Aug. 19 event. Donation boxes are at locations throughout the city, including the Bath Area Family YMCA.

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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.