People & Business: Oct. 4

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Genesis Fund marks quarter century in nonprofit loan business

Over 150 guests gathered on Sept. 19 at the Genesis Community Loan Fund’s offices in Brunswick to celebrate the nonprofit’s 25 years of financing affordable housing and community projects all over Maine. Revelers included founding past and present board members, key investors and donors, banking partners, community development organizations, and industry peers from all over the state.

As guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and live music, many reflected on their varied connections to the Genesis Fund, and its work in Maine over the past quarter century. “From the beginning,” founding Executive Director Elizabeth McPherson said, “I had beliefs and hopes… that the Genesis Fund would work in markets that other nonprofits overlooked … and lend to nonprofits that banks might shy away from … In its 25 years, the Genesis Fund has amply proven those beliefs, and has fully realized those hopes!”

The Genesis Fund wrote its first loan in 1992, financing two affordable housing projects which are still in existence today. Soon, the Genesis Fund began financing loans for other projects benefitting Maine’s underserved populations, including health and childcare centers, facilities for people with disabilities, and housing for the elderly. What began as a small revolving Loan Fund with $25,000 in annual lending has evolved into a vibrant and rapidly growing organization which has loaned over $37 million, funding more than 226 community projects all over Maine.

During his remarks to guests, Executive Director Bill Floyd emphasized the Genesis Fund’s continued commitment to its original mission of serving Maine’s most vulnerable populations through innovative financing and technical assistance, and honored Elizabeth MacPherson, saying, “We are grateful for the solid foundation Beth’s leadership provided and looking forward to continuing this important work.” 

Lucas Tree helps after hurricane; employee is ‘mini-celebrity’ 

As the 35 crews and 76 employees from Falmouth-based Lucas Tree worked to restore power in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, one employee sang a song that went viral.

Lucas Tree Experts, a utility vegetation management company, announced that the company has dedicated a total of 10,000 hours to Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in the trio of states. The company had 10 of its New England-based crews assist with the recovery, heading south on Sept. 9, and remaining in the area for 17 days and not leaving until all affected communities were restored to power.

“Our crews displayed exceptional character, dedication, and professionalism, working in the hardest hit areas, often living in tents, and spending many days away from their family and friends,” said Art Batson Jr., company president.

Lucas Tree employee Victor Robert Wright from Chocowinity, North Carolina, who has worked for the company since August 2016, was among those assisting with the recovery efforts. Wright was captured on video by a news reporter in Bartow, Florida, singing the country song “Long Black Train.” The video of Wright has gone viral with over 72,000 views on Facebook. With a deep and resonating voice, Wright has been christened “The Tree-Singing Man,” and has plans to take his singing career on the road.

Local wordsmiths to be lauded at annual Belfast Poetry Festival 

Poets from Portland, the coast and inland were winners, finalists and runners-up in the 13th Annual Belfast Poetry Festival. 

Jefferson Navicky, of Freeport, was awarded second place for “Proof”; Marita O’Neill, of Portland, took third place for “Arsonist’s Blues”; Katherine Hagopian Berry, of Bridgton, was given an honorable mention for “Sestina for Trump’s America.” The other finalists included Kevin Sweeney of South Portland for “The Temperature in Aroostook County” and Judy Tierney of Portland for “Telling.”

Along with the winner, Carol Willette Bachofner of Rockland, the finalists’ work will be read during the festival’s general showcase on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Troy A. Howard Middle School, 173 Lincolnville Ave., Belfast.

Granted

The Maine Education Association granted the USM chapter of the Associated Facilities of the Universities of Maine $597,480 grant to support professors Julie Ziffer and Susan Feiner in their work to establish The Frances Perkins Initiative for Social Justice Education. The Initiative was named after Maine native Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of labor, principal architect of the New Deal and the first woman to serve as a cabinet secretary. The grant will support USM faculty, staff and students engaged in academically rigorous explorations of pressing current events.

The Sadie and Harry Davis Foundation has awarded the following grants to local organizations through its Children’s Health Small Grants Program: Appalachian Mountain Club, Portland, for its Maine Woods Community Youth and Environment Program, $7,500; KidsPeace, South Portland, for wellness kits for families, $9,000;  Maine Access Immigration Network, Portland, $15,000 to enroll Maine children for health insurance coverage; Mid-Coast Hunger Prevention Program, Brunswick, $9,000 for a backpack food program; and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine, Bangor/Portland, $5,000. 

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. has been awarded $916,000 from the U.S. Treasury Department as part of its FY2017 Community Development Financial Institutions Program. The funds will be used to increase lending and investment in low and middle-income communities.

The U.S. Small Business Administration awarded a $195,000 grant award to Maine International Trade Center to support export growth among Maine small businesses. The funding was awarded through SBA’s competitive State Trade Expansion Program.

Hires, promotions, appointments

Verrill Dana attorney Elizabeth Connellan Smith of Cumberland was appointed as the first co-chair of the American Bar Association Workers’ Compensation Standing Committee from the state of Maine at the ABA Annual Meeting in August. 

Newly appointed American Heart Association Maine Board members are: Geoff Bruno, superintendent, Falmouth schools; Andrew Cook, VP, People’s United Bank; Dr. Dervilla McCann, Chief of Population Health, Central Maine Medical Center; and Dr. Brandei Wingard, Medical Director, Southern Maine Health Care Cardiology. Dr. John O’Meara, cardiologist with Portland Cardiology, was recently appointed the new AHA Maine board president and Richard Veilleux, program manager at MaineHealth, is the new AHA Maine board chairman.

Founding Genesis Fund Executive Director Elizabeth McPherson and current Executive Director Bill Floyd share a laugh during a 25th anniversary celebration of the community loan agency in Brunswick.

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