OAKLAND — Twenty seven years after graduating from high school, Kerri Oliver is still inspired by her senior year English teacher, Tanya Hubbard.

Oliver, a 1985 graduate of Mount View High School in Thorndike and a board member of Oakland-based Regional School Unit 18, was impressed by a project that Hubbard started a few months ago to raise money to buy heating fuel for needy people.

“She touched my life then and she’s touching my life 25 years later,” Oliver said. “She taught me about strength, grace, courage, resistance and compassion. And she taught me to reach outside my comfort zone.”

Hubbard coined her heating fuel fundraiser the 5 for 5 campaign and her initial goal was to collect $5,000 in donations to buy fuel for five Waldo County families.

Oliver said she has followed Hubbard’s campaign on Facebook. And last week, Oliver decided she would reach outside her comfort zone.

“I felt the best way of saying thank you to my past teacher, and as a symbol of recognizing the impact teachers have long after students move on — I stole her idea and am duplicating it at RSU 18.”

At last week’s school board meeting, Oliver, a board member from Sidney, talked about a 5 for 5 campaign she would undertake in the Oakland-based district.

Her initial goal was to raise $5,000 to buy heating fuel for families in the district’s five communities of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney.

As of noon Wednesday, Oliver said the campaign had collected $4,700

On Tuesday night, Oliver said people at a meeting and basketball game gave her $583 for the cause.

A friend who spends summers in the area mailed a check for $250 with a note that read, “No one should be cold in the United States.”

In the first 48 hours, Oliver said commitments totaling $3,500 had been promised, including a pledge of $2,500 by Honeywell, a company doing energy-efficiency projects in the district.

Directors and community members have also pitched in; Oliver said a number of families and businesses have joined the “100 Club” by each pledging $100.

Her daughters are selling homemade cookies to neighbors and friends.

Students and staff in all the district schools have been invited to take part, as well.

Oliver said the campaign will continue until March 1.

“Teachers have the ability to teach more than subjects,” she said. “This is my way of honoring Tanya and all teachers. My parents were both teachers, too.”

Oliver said school administrators and the district’s homeless liaison are coordinating with Fabian Oil in Oakland so that heating oil will soon be delivered to families in need in all five district towns.

“As much as raising money is important, paying it forward is just as important,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s former teacher Hubbard was prompted to help her neighbors earlier this winter.

She said she was distraught about the cut in funding for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. And when Hubbard overheard a local woman ask a pharmacist to cut her prescription pills in half so she could also afford to buy food and fuel, she sprang into action.

Hubbbard started by asking each of her 600-plus friends on Facebook, as well as community members, students and family, to contribute $10, or whatever amount they could, to help their neighbors stay warm this winter.

She said the results have surpassed all her expectations.

As of Tuesday, Hubbard said about 300 people from Maine and beyond had given more than $10,000 that has helped 20 Waldo County families.

“It’s real grassroots” Hubbard said about the donations that have ranged from a crumpled $5 bill to a $500 check.

The donations often came with notes, everything from eloquent hand-written messages on stationary to one inside a folded scrap of paper that read: “For heat.”

Hubbard said that her campaign is winding down — for this year.

She said she plans to undertake another campaign next fall.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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