At students' urging, Bath businesses open Heart Gallery for adoptions
BATH — Five sophomores from Morse High School's Jobs for Maine's Graduates program took to downtown streets Tuesday afternoon, carrying portraits of children in need of good adoptive parents.
The Heart Gallery, 49 portraits in the windows of 10 downtown businesses, will be on display until July 20. JMG specialist Maria Morris said the students approached the businesses a week before to ask them to display the framed photos.
The JMG class worked in conjunction with A Family for ME, Maine's statewide recruitment initiative for adoptive and foster families. Karen Page, who works with A Family for ME as a recruitment and development specialist for the Mid-Coast area, said that case workers throughout the state seek the service the gallery provides.
"Any child that is available for adoption in the state of Maine is able to be a part of the Heart Gallery," she said, adding that about 600 photos are traveling the state.
The effort is ongoing, Page noted. Its biggest months are May, which is Foster Care Awareness Month, and November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month.
Morris said her students' participation in the project is one way to involve them in their community. "Community service is part of the JMG requirements," she explained, "so this was a neat way for them to give back to others by helping some children hopefully find homes."
Page said a similar effort took place in downtown Bath two years ago.
"It puts a face to children who need homes," she said.
The average age of a child in Maine waiting for adoption is 11. "We do have some younger ones, but for the most part they're older; older teens," Page said.
A Heart Gallery exhibit shows only the youths' name and the year they were born. There is information accompanying each photo with A Family for ME's Web site and office number so that prospective adopters can get in touch.
Morris said A Family for ME reports a 60 percent success rate with the Heart Gallery – 60 percent of the children photographed are adopted.
The portraits are being displayed on Front Street at Papa Geppetto's Workshop, First Federal Savings Bank, Bohemian Rose, Country Farm Furniture, Stanton's Footwear, Café Crème and Renys; on Centre Street at Bath Natural Market and Bath Sweet Shoppe, and at Five County Credit Union on Washington Street.
Geoff Groleau of Arrowsic and his wife Julie, who run Papa Geppetto's Workshop, are in the process of adopting a boy and looking to adopt a girl. They are also building an addition onto their house so that they can provide foster care as well.
"And as the kids get older, we're going to take in teens to try to get them ready," Groleau said, "... whether it's to go in the military, college, work. We can get them organized and ready to go."
While he and his wife aren't wealthy people, Groleau said, "we do the best we can."
Log onto AFamilyForMe.org for more information or call (877) 505-0545.
Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.