Ryan Sirois, right, with the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen distributes free food Tuesday at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville as part of an event featuring about 60 community service organizations that provide food, shelter and other services to those in need. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Rebecca Dustin had no idea that she could get respite help, or that her daughter, Mari Lord, 4, is eligible for special supplemental nutrition benefits from WIC, or the Women, Infants and Children program.

Dustin learned the news Tuesday at the Community Collaborative Support & Education event at Head of Falls off Front Street where about 60 booths were set up to help people receive connections to all sorts of services for physical, mental and behavioral health, nutrition, safety, employment and more.

The organizations included Northern Light Inland Hospital, MaineGeneral Health, Waterville police and fire officials, Winslow Community Cupboard, Alfond Youth & Community Center, NAMI Maine, Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, Families Matter, Kennebec Valley Community Action Program, South End Neighborhood Association and the Maine Department of Labor.

People from all walks of life were invited to attend.

Natasha Nadeau pets Max as his owner Bruce Bottiglierie, back, watches Tuesday at the Winslow Community Cupboard tent at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. Bottiglierie is the operations manager for Winslow Community Cupboard. The food pantry is among about 60 community service organizations gathered at Head of Falls to assist those in need of food, shelter or other services. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“It’s for everybody,” said Todd Stevens, community outreach coordinator for the Waterville Police Department who helped organize the event.

The perception, he said, is that only people who are homeless or destitute need help for mental health or substance abuse issues, but there are people who run businesses and those in dress shirts and ties who also need help and are just better able to hide it, according to Stevens, a social worker.


It is important, he said, to bring services to people, where they are, to better serve them, and that was the premise of  Tuesday’s event. Stevens said he and Dawn Kearns, Sweetser OPTIONS liaison, and Ashley Kimball of MaineGeneral Horizon program, had been discussing the idea for a while and he started inviting organizations in July.

The premise worked for Rebecca Dustin, who got help for her daughter. She said she lives on Front Street and sees homeless people in the area all the time and many were connecting with services Tuesday.

“It’s definitely really helpful,” she said. “We live across the street and having all the resources at the same place, especially since it’s hard for me to get a babysitter, is great. NAMI gave me information about respite help and we got an application. My daughter has autism. I found out she does still qualify for WIC until she turns 5 in January.”

Todd Stevens, the community outreach coordinator for the Waterville Police Department, handles calls Tuesday at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. Stevens helped organize an event that featured some 60 different community service organizations offering assistance to people in need. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Ashley Valente, 36, who is transgender, and her wife, Krystal Valente, 33, were encouraged by officials at the nearby Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter where they live, to attend the event and they are glad they did, they said.

Ashley Valente said she got help finding a doctor for people who are LGBTQ and was much relieved as the search was tough. Krystal Valente said they also hoped to make social connections.

“We’re trying to find some groups because I’m depressed, suicidal and stuff,” she said.


The Valentes said they left New Hampshire because of abuse issues and came to Maine. The people at the homeless shelter have been caring and helpful, according to Krystal Valente.

“We love them,” she said. “We’re trying to find our own place and it’s hard.”

Stevens, 48, of Winslow, has been the police department’s community outreach coordinator since March 27, after police Chief William Bonney pitched the new position to the City Council, which approved it. The goal is to connect with people and get them the help they need, and in many cases reduce people’s interactions with police.

Stevens, who spends time visiting homeless encampments, the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, the homeless shelter and other places, said he has had some 250 interactions with people since he started the job in March and helped connect them with services. He estimates there are between 75 and 100 people living outdoors in the city or in tents, including at 22 or 23 encampments.

“They’re popping up all over the place,” he said. “I think the number of homeless has probably grown from 10 years ago.”

He said some area communities break up encampments, which sends homeless people moving along, and the appearance of new faces in Waterville suggests they are coming here.


Bonney said it is important to bring services to those in need. He noted that 240 meals were served Tuesday on the riverfront.

“I’m really proud of Todd for organizing this event,” Bonney said. “The issues that we’re dealing with here are certainly very complicated and we’re not going to solve these issues without working together as a community, so making these connections is incredibly important.”

Rebecca Dustin and her daughter, Mari, 4, receive help Tuesday at the Community Collaborative Support & Education event at Head of Falls in downtown Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

State Rep. Colleen Madigan, a licensed clinical social worker and Democrat who represents District 64, said she has referred constituents needing mental health and substance abuse help to Stevens, who has responded immediately and found them the services they needed.

“Can we clone Todd Stevens?” Madigan asked.

Bruce Bottiglierie, operations manager for the Winslow Community Cupboard, had given out free vegetables, bread, fruit, nuts and other food to 32 families representing 83 people in the first hour of Tuesday’s event. The food cupboard travels to 13 communities, including as far north as Jackman.

“This program, year to date, we helped 20,000 households with 1.3 million pounds of food,” Bottiglierie said.


Waterville City Council Chairwoman Rebecca Greene, D-Ward 4, was impressed by the number of agencies that turned out.

“I love the message it sends about Waterville and its response to people’s well-being,” Greene said.

State Rep. Bruce White, D-District 65, echoed her remarks and praised Stevens for his efforts.

“It’s great that we have so many people that have stepped up to the plate,” White said.

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