Every week people in Pine Tree Society’s Community Support program gather together to do something they love: help others in need. From delivering Meals on Wheels to prepping donations at the South Portland Food Cupboard to volunteering at Maine Wildlife Park they take pride in giving back.

“Whenever we volunteer in the community there’s a sense of pride, a sense of helping,” said Karen Keefe, Senior Direct Support Professional Supervisor. “It makes me feel good to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and how excited people get when they know they’ve helped somebody. They love to go home at the end of the day and tell their families what they did and who they helped.”

These long-standing traditions not only help others, they help program participants engage in their community, meet new people and build natural supports.  

“In Scarborough, we have delivered to the same Meals on Wheels route for 30 years,” continued Karen. “We pick up the meals and our list then drive to each location. Everybody has the opportunity to deliver a meal and interact. It’s a win-win because we gain organizational and social skills and the recipient has the chance to talk with us every week. Sometimes we are the only contact they have.”

“We are always looking for unique ways to support our clients in reaching their goals,” said Shelley Zielinski, Director of Adult Support Services. “In Auburn, our Community Support program participants have volunteered at Maine Wildlife Park for more than 15 years. It’s a great relationship. We get to see all the different animals, contribute to upkeep of the grounds and assist with maintenance. We’ve gone out fishing with some of the staff and attend a volunteer dinner every year.” 

The group’s interest in animals led them to another opportunity to volunteer with Mr. Drew and His Animals Too, Maine’s longtime exotic animal rescue and education center. 

“We had visited Mr. Drew’s center numerous times and invited him to our program to present. He even joined us on Zoom during the pandemic,” Shelley continued. “Mr. Drew brought so much excitement and education to us, that it was only natural that we figure out a way to support him as well. We enjoy helping around his shop, getting to interact and engage with people who come to visit and having the chance to see all the animals. We get to learn as well as give back.” 

In Auburn, many program participants also compete in Special Olympics and work year-round to keep in shape and raise money for their sport. 

“We take part in 5K walks to keep in shape and those events require entry fees and fundraising goals,” said Deb Cote, Direct Support Provider. “Raising money is an opportunity to work on social skills, money management and organization.” 

They also raise money for team uniforms and room and board for Special Olympics games. 

“Tambrands in Auburn donates their cans and bottles to us every week. We pick them up and bring them to the redemption center,” continued Deb. “We all take turns doing it. The guard always recognizes and jokes with us when he buzzes us in. This relationship helps up pay for what we need, but it also helps us reach our goals of giving back and being an active part of the community.”

To learn more about Pine Tree Society’s Community Support program, contact Shelley Zielinski, Director of Adult Support Services at 207-386-5927 or szielinski@pinetreesociety.org or visit our website at www.pinetreesociety.org.

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