AUGUSTA — Actor Patrick Dempsey never forgot his roots.

Dempsey, originally from Lewiston and best known for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy,” spoke at Wednesday’s Maine State Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and dinner at the Augusta Civic Center. Along with several of Maine’s governors, Dempsey lauded Mainers’ compassion and willingness to help others.

The annual meeting celebrated the state’s upcoming bicentennial with a showing of a video compilation of interviews with seven of Maine’s living governors. Chamber President Dana Connors interviewed each governor — Kenneth Curtis, Joseph Brennan, John McKernan, Angus King, John Baldacci, Paul LePage and Janet Mills — who each appeared for a few minutes in the half-hour-long video. Dempsey, who is widely known for his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd on “Grey’s Anatomy,” was the night’s guest speaker.

Multiple governors touched on the caring nature of Maine residents. King said the 1998 ice storm was a moment that stuck out to him, calling it the “greatest natural disaster to hit Maine.” He said there weren’t enough emergency officials to adequately check on all residents after the storm hit, so state officials made a point to ask Mainers to check on their neighbors.

”We got on the radio and said it’s neighbor to neighbor,” he said. “It was, in a sense, Maine at it’s best.”

Connors said after the video that the state should be grateful for having those seven officials representing the state for more than 50 years.

Mills, Brennan and Curtis, who were present at the event, were each given the chamber’s “Dirigo Award.” Connors said this award was only given one other time, in 2016, to five of Maine’s U.S. senators.

During opening remarks, Chamber board Chairman Larry Wold noted there were 70 local high school and college students in attendance. He said the chamber’s members should work to retain younger people in the workforce as the state’s population ages.

”We all know how important it is to retain these people in our workforce,” he said. “Encourage them to keep their talents here (in Maine) with us.”

Dempsey founded the Dempsey Center in 2008 in response to his mother’s multiple bouts with cancer. The Dempsey Center, with locations in Lewiston and South Portland, provides wellness services before, during and after cancer treatment. The organization provides a number of services aimed to help improve the quality of life for those affected by cancer.

Dempsey, after being mobbed by attendees asking to take photos with him, spoke about his organization’s goal to expand its reach from 3,000 people currently to the entire state. He said the organization is looking to expand into Bangor and northern Maine. He urged students in the room not to give up on their goals, even if they seem distant.

“I went for 10 years auditioning and never got a single role,” he said. “I made a decision very early on (that) I was never going to come back to Maine unless I was successful and I wanted to give back to the state.”

Dempsey said among the successes of small businesses is that business owners can give back to the community and organizations they are passionate about. Further, he lauded Mainer’s compassion and said it was instilled in him when he would perform at the Theater at Monmouth that he should never forget where he came from.

“(Mainers) care about their neighbors,” he said. “They give you space, they give you respect you want and the privacy you want. But if there’s an emergency, they are there in a minute. I’m very fortunate to have grown up here.”

Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce President Deb Neuman was given the “Chamber Professional of the Year” award.


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