Barbara Hinckley, who lost her life savings to a scammer, poses for a photo in her home in Auburn. Former Maine Governor John Baldacci said he was disgusted by what happened to Hinckley, and is organizing a fundraiser to help her. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Last Sunday, former Gov. John Baldacci read a Sun Journal story detailing the scam that stripped a 95-year-old Auburn woman of her life savings.

He said it made him so disgusted that he decided he had to do something to help the victim, Barbara Hinckley.

So Baldacci has spent days on the telephone organizing a benefit dinner that he hopes will draw a big crowd of people with hearty appetites and open wallets.

“It’s really a very thoughtful thing to do,” Hinckley said Friday.

The fundraising dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8, Baldacci said. Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said it will take place at Auburn Middle School.

Barbara Hinckley sits in her Auburn home with paperwork from a monthslong scam that promised her millions of dollars and a new car, but instead drained her life’s savings. Andree Kehn/Staff Photographer

It’s a chance for everyone to show that stealing money from the elderly is “not the way we want Maine people to be treated,” he said.

Hinckley’s daughter, Marsha Donahue, owner of North Light Gallery in Millinocket, said Friday it’s wonderful the Baldacci family is stepping up to help.

“My mother always lands in clover somehow,” Donahue said.

Baldacci, whose family has organized many benefit dinners over the years across the state, said they’ll provide the food — spaghetti with meatballs or garlic butter, salad and rolls — and community members have agreed to do much of the work involved.

The cost will be $5 a person, he said, but since the money collected will go entirely to Hinckley, he hopes everyone will be as generous as they can be.

“It’s all about turning people out,” Baldacci said.

Baldacci, who left office a decade ago, said his aim is turn “a negative into a positive,” especially at a time of year when people are feeling particularly charitable.

Baldacci said he has spoken extensively with Hinckley and found her to be “a lovely lady” who has “more get up and go than people half her age.”

Three days after hearing she had won $2.5 million in a Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, Barbara Hinckley received a package that included a purported copy of the check she would receive for $2.5 million. It turned out to be a scam that cost Hinckley her life savings. Provided image

Over the summer, Hinckley gave away more than $16,000 to a sweet-talking grifter who got her to send him all her money by convincing her she’d come in second place in a Publisher’s Clearinghouse contest, with a prize of $2.5 million and a Mercedes-Benz.

Hinckley said she’s heard from a number of friends praising her courage for speaking out.

But, she said, “I never thought about it being brave. I just wanted to help other people.”

Donahue said she is glad the story of her mother’s misfortune became public because people need to know that con men are out there stealing what they can from vulnerable people.

She said her mother was never someone she’d have thought could fall for a scam because she’s always been so careful with her money.

“She gets upset if she’s one penny off” in balancing her checkbook, Donahue said.

Baldacci said it occurs too often, which is one reason he admired Hinckley’s willingness to speak out about her experience.

“We were just appalled by what happened” to her, he said.

Donahue said she is grateful that Baldacci decided to help. She said his family is terrific and their kindness in doing fundraisers such as this is well known.

“We will definitely get behind it,” she said.

Baldacci’s family had a restaurant in Bangor for decades — Momma Baldacci’s — that once held political fundraising dinners but began holding spaghetti dinners for charitable causes as well, from raising money for Hurricane Katrina victims to helping the homeless.

The restaurant closed in 2008 but the Baldaccis still have a catering business.

Anyone who wants to help Hinckley immediately is welcome to send her a check through her church. Make it out to her and send it c/o The First Universalist Church of Auburn, 169 Pleasant St., Auburn, ME 04210. Just write on the envelope that it’s for Hinckley.

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