Bailey Island restaurant fundraiser feeds Harpswell fuel fund

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HARPSWELL — Cooks Lobster & Ale House raised more than $10,000 at its annual fundraising dinner to benefit the town’s home heating assistance program – a record that will probably cover the program’s funding for the year.

Jen and Nick Charboneau, owners of the 61-year-old Bailey Island seafood landmark, started the fundraiser eight years ago after learning of a friend in town who had difficulty heating their home in the winter.

That sparked the idea to donate the proceeds from a night at the restaurant to the town’s heating assistance program. The program provides fuel to residents who are ineligible for general assistance, but whose income meets or falls below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

General Manager Mary Coombs, who organized this year’s event Dec. 9, said 20 percent of regular menu sales and 100 percent of specials (made with donated food from suppliers) went to the fundraiser.

Proceeds from a live auction increased the total, and the big-ticket item was once again a carrot cake baked by Coombs’ mother – beating out a pair of Red Sox tickets. The dessert went for $600 to the same customer who bids on it every year.

In a town with distinct regional communities, the fundraiser is a chance for residents to come together at Coombs’ favorite time of year.

“In Harpswell, you have Orr’s and Bailey Islands, Cundy’s Harbor, and Harpswell,” Coombs said. “Sometimes you feel like there are ‘sides,’ but (the fundraiser) is the one night when they’re are no sides.”

This year’s dinner easily surpassed last year’s fundraising total of about $7,000.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said the benefit will likely cover the entirety of the town’s needs through the winter, based on what was spent the last two winters.

“We haven’t had to raise any money through property taxes to support the program because we get so many generous donations,” Eiane said. “We are just so appreciative of their willingness to conduct this fundraiser.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Mary Coombs, general manager of Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Bailey Island, organized the restaurant’s annual fundraising dinner, which raised a record $10,000 Dec. 9 for Harpswell’s home heating assistance program.

Edited 12/21 to correct restaurant location.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.