Helping the poor. Finding new ways to educate and motivate children. Increasing charitable giving. Completing building expansion projects. Those are among the top goals of some Waterville area community leaders, who this week offered their hopes for 2014.

Ashley Lahoud

In the coming year, Hardy Girls Healthy Women hopes to broaden the horizons of more girls in the Waterville area by introducing them to women in a broad range of professions.

Ashely Lahoud, vice president of development and operations, said they hope these real-life examples will empower the girls in their programs by letting them know there are successful women different professions in fields like medicine, science, engineering and politics.

“When it becomes alive for them, it becomes something they can be interested in as an activist or to make their career in it,” she said.

Lahoud said one program plans to introduce girls to women in the business community and in non-traditional careers.

“If you reach someone when they’re that young it’s easier for them to imagine themselves in a business or non-traditional career,” she said.

The Waterville-based nonprofit group also partners with MaineGeneral Medical Center to teach girls about a healthy lifestyle and health related careers.

“We’ve had girls say they didn’t even know women could be doctors. It helps them see that as a possible career choice,” she said.

She said those who run the program hope the participants will learn how to be more active, so they can practically address problems they see, like bullying or a sexist school policy.

“We know girls see a lot of things they’d like to have change and this helps them to address those things,” she said.

Karen Heck

Waterville Mayor Karen Heck says she has three goals for the city of Waterville and the community in the new year: continuing renovations at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, working to help break the inter-generational chain of poverty (and helping to ensure that children read at the appropriate grade level), and working to help create jobs that pay well.

Heck, 61, she wants to see people statewide change the way they view those less fortunate.

“I want to see an end to the war on poor people, which I believe is distracting us from real economic development and I do believe it’s a war on poor people — no longer a war on poverty,” Heck said. “And I want to see an end to the notion that health care is considered welfare.”

Heck was elected mayor in 2011 and her term ends Jan. 5, 2015. She says she will not run for re-election in November, to give someone else the opportunity.

Heck speaks philosophically about what she wants to see happen on a global level in the new year.

“Can I have that big ‘peace’ wish? I think people are people for the most part and they don’t want to be fighting wars … and I wish that governments would operate more with people’s interests in mind rather than corporate interests.”

Her local goals include maximizing the potential of the city-owned airport, where a 100-foot jet landed the Friday before Christmas and bought thousands of gallons of fuel, she said.

“There’s an opportunity to really make money at that airport and my goal is to make sure that we maximize its potential,” she said.

Maximizing the potential of people, her second local goal, involves “2020,” a project that was the brainchild of Thomas College President Laurie Lachance that seeks to ensure at least 80 percent of children in schools are reading at the appropriate grade level by the year 2020, according to Heck.

The project received an $85,000 planning grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation and requires involvement of parents and the community.

Working to remove institutional barriers that prevent people from getting out of poverty is critical, she said. Heck said a task force is in place to help people get the education, skills and opportunity they need.

“I think that most people who pull themselves up by the bootstraps had somebody who either helped them get those boots, tie those boots or take hold of a strap, and that’s what I want us to be able to do for people who need that and I believe that there are lots of people in this town who want to see that happen, too.”

She said she will continue to work with the mayors coalition and officials from other towns and cities to make sure the state Legislature understands that the “shifting of state expenditures to the local taxpayers is taxing people in the most regressive manner possible.”

“They’re claiming they’re not raising taxes when, in fact, they are doing it in the most unfair way possible,” she said.

Justin Belanger

The Cornville Regional Charter School opened in October 2012, becoming one of Maine’s first charter schools. It serves grades kindergarten through seven and will expand to grade eight in 2014.

Justin Belanger, 36, executive director of the school, said one of the goals they have is to increase participation in community service projects among students, who are currently working on fundraising for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the local animal shelter.

“If we can increase the amount that we give, that would be great,” Belanger said. “Service learning is definitely part of our mission. Being part of the community and learning from the community is one of our goals.”

One way the school plans to do that is by hiring a new AmeriCorps volunteer to act as a community service coordinator to begin in the 2014-2015 school year, he said.

Now, there are five charter schools in Maine and the state is accepting applications for up to five more to open before June 2022. Belanger said he would like to see state officials provide funding for charter schools so they are not in competition with traditional public schools.

“I think we would be able to work together and learn from each other if there wasn’t that financial piece overshadowing everything,” he said. “Our goal is never to hurt the districts; it’s to provide a different choice for students.”

Tina Chapman

The United Way of Mid-Maine Inc. will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2014 and will put its new strategic plan into place Wednesday , according to Tina Chapman, president and chief professional officer of the United Way of Mid-Maine Inc.

Chapman, 45, said a major goal is to start a spring fundraising campaign to address youth homelessness.

“It is such a huge problem that doesn’t have a lot of visibility in the community,” she said.

The United Way’s goal is to work with school districts to help homeless youth. A couple of years ago, the United Way provided a small amount of money for a liaison who helps homeless youths or those who are “unaccompanied” or at risk, and the organization wants to continue to find money for the homeless liaison, Chapman said.

The idea is to help with needs such as clothing and to help keep young people in school, she said. She cited a youth who was living in a tent and had no way to get to school, so the fund was used for taxi rides for the student. Another youth showered at school, so the fund paid for towels, according to Chapman.

She said she also hopes an early literacy program United Way conducts in Bingham and Jackman, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, can be expanded to include all towns in Somerset County in 2014. Children born in the towns sign up for the program and get a free book a month until they reach age 5.

“The books are age-appropriate, chosen by experts and delivered to homes,” Chapman said.

The United Way of Mid-Maine, based in Waterville, also plans to work on other projects in the new year, including an emergency fuel program, free tax clinics and food bank work.

Chapman said, in general, she wants to see stepped up charitable giving programs this year. She said United Way had an old model of going into businesses and conducting fundraising campaigns and that program is now becoming harder to sustain.

“It’s still in effect but we can’t really rely on it to be the only source of revenue because we are a state and global economy,” she said. “There are so many options for somebody who gives to charity. We want to be able to reach out to some new demographics of potential givers and talk to them and demonstrate how important it is to be philanthropists.”

Kathryn Foster

This school year marks the University of Maine at Farmington’s 150th year since the school was chartered at the state’s first place of public higher education. President Kathryn Foster said the university staff are excited to continue the yearlong celebration.

“We’re in the middle of one of the most exciting times in our history. One of the goals for the year is to continue the year in style,” she said.

The university celebrated the anniversary with Charter Day in October, and a continuing schedule of other events themed by the six fields that have been taught since the school was chartered: education, psychology, English, biology, math and history.

“Through those six fields, we’re celebrating by looking both at the past and looking forward to the future,” she said.

She said another priority for the university is to continue growing the Partnership for Civic Advancement to connect student with community groups and businesses for out-of-the classroom learning. Through the program, the university has tripled the number of students working in internships since 2012 to 2013, said Foster.

“Our goal is to continue the extraordinary momentum of our town-gown partnerships,” she said.

David A. Greene

Currently executive vice president at the University of Chicago, David A. Greene will take over as Colby College’s 20th president on July 1. He said his goals for the upcoming year include strengthening the relationship between the college and the Waterville community after spending some time getting to know the campus and its community.

“Colby is in such good shape overall. It’s done so many extraordinary things academically as well as in the community,” said Greene, 50. “One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how to build on the good work that’s been going on. It’s not a place that needs a total change, it needs to build on the good work that’s been there.”

Among other plans, Greene said he plans to build on the success of the Colby College Museum of Art, which recently received a $100 million donation in the Lunder collection. Through the arts, Colby College can play a productive and helpful role in making Waterville an exciting place to be, he said.

Amber Lambke

Expanding grain production and sales to include stores and wholesalers around New England is a top goal for Amber Lambke, co-owner of the Somerset Grist Mill in the former county jail in Skowhegan.

Her company, Maine Grains, has a goal of selling 250 tons of Maine-grown grain in 2014, up from about 100 tons in 2013. The mill has two full time employees, three part time workers and the two owners. More employees could be hired if goals are met in 2014, Lambke said.

“We want to do this by expanding our reach throughout the Northeast into grocery stores and major bakeries,” Lambke, 39, said. “We will do that through strategic partnerships with businesses and by adding new distributors outside of Maine.”

The company works with distributors including Crown of Maine and Downeast Foods. Maine Grains processes hard red spring wheat for bread making, a pastry wheat for cookies, cakes and pie crusts, oats and heritage grains.

Lambke and her business partner, Michael Scholz, a wheat farmer and baker from Albion, bought the former jail in 2009. The mill went into production in 2012. The Grist Mill operation has added Happy Knits, a yarn shop, in the old jail, the TechSpot for computer classes, and The Pickup Café, a restaurant attached to the community supported agriculture program.

Josh Reny

In the coming year, the town of Fairfield will be challenged with creating a budget that doesn’t lead to large property tax increases, said Town Manager Josh Reny.

He said a decrease in state revenue sharing over the past few years has already increased the local property tax by a little less than $2 per $1,000 of property valuation, or about $200 in taxes for a home valued at $100,000.

“That’s putting an extreme amount of fiscal pressure on the towns trying to hold their property taxes stable,” he said.

He said in past years the town has found ways to prevent large property tax increases, but “its getting to a point where it’s not going to happen much longer.”

He said the town will also finalize a comprehensive development plan for the next decade and there will be public hearings before the plan is adopted. Within the plan, town officials hope to include a master plan for developing and promoting the downtown and riverfront area.

He said the town also will work closely with Summit Natural Gas of Maine in the upcoming year to connect more residents to the emerging energy source.

“This past year they did a lot of the backbone of the infrastructure,” Reny said, “and this coming year they’re going to be doing more residential build out.”

Rebecca Philpot

The New Hope Women’s Shelter in Solon is undergoing an expansion planned to be complete by June, allowing the shelter to accommodate up to 30 women and children, more than double current capacity.

Almost three years after a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2011, the exterior of the new building is completed and a heating system is being installed, according to Rebecca Philpot, 51, the shelter’s director. Sheet rock and electrical work will be completed in the spring before the building is furnished, said Philpot.

The new shelter is planned to open at the end of May or by June 1, she said.

Along with the 5,000-square-foot building, the shelter’s goal is to increase transitional programs, Philpot said. In addition to nutrition and job readiness classes and a daily Bible study that the shelter currently offers, the goal is to offer daily life skill, goal setting and conflict resolution sessions, she said.

“The goal,” Philpot said, “is to better enable women to have hope for the future, not just to give them housing but to give them the skills they need to sustain the housing. To get jobs if they’re able to work and to be successful in the community.”

This story was written by staff writers Amy Calder, Doug Harlow, Kaitlin Schroeder and Rachel Ohm.

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