MOUNT DESERT — Four Mount Desert-based nonprofits and one in Florida have received gifts from the Curtis and Patricia Blake Foundation totaling $575,000.
The organizations are the Land and Garden Preserve, which received $100,000, and the Maine Seacoast Mission, Mount Desert Nursing Association and Neighborhood House, each of which received just under $119,000.
That same amount was given to the Boys and Girls Club of Martin County, Fla.
Curtis Blake and his brother, Prestley, founded Friendly Ice Cream (now called Friendly’s) in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression. There are now 138 Friendly’s restaurant locations, mostly in New England and the mid-Atlantic states.
“Although my father achieved great wealth during his life, his family was of modest means,” his daughter, Susan, said in announcing the gifts.
“Dad’s success truly was built one five-cent ice cream cone at a time. Just as the people of Springfield, Massachusetts, helped the Blake brothers to build their business, these gifts are intended to assist those doing much-needed work for the betterment of all.”
The Blakes were summer residents of Northeast Harbor for many years.
Susan Blake said her father, who died last year at 102, had stipulated that the Land and Garden Preserve should receive a $100,000 gift. But it was up to her as the foundation’s gift administrator to select the other recipients. In making those decisions, she told the Islander she reviewed a list of all the donations her father had made over the past 10 years.
“I had to sift through all of those and try to figure out if he really liked that nonprofit or if a pal of his had said, ‘Come on, Curt, give to my organization.’
“I wanted to give to the organizations that help the year-round residents directly.” For example, she said, “It doesn’t sound sexy to give to the Nursing Association, but I know how important that is.”
The Nursing Association is MDI’s only home healthcare agency.
Blake said her father was deeply committed to the Maine Seacoast Mission. “That was very near and dear to his heart. So, that one was easy.”
The Mission provides healthcare, nutritional and educational services for residents of Downeast Maine’s coastal and island communities.
The Land and Garden Preserve owns and maintains four gardens between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor that are open to the public at various times.
Neighborhood House is Mount Desert’s community center, hosting meetings and group events and offering fitness classes, youth sports and after-school programs.
Susan Blake said that, in choosing the gift recipients, she consulted with Scott McFarland, former principal of Mount Desert Elementary School, who was a close friend of her father’s. The foundation’s gift to the Seacoast Mission was given in honor of McFarland.
Blake said the foundation’s five gifts announced Monday will be their last.
“I wish there was more money to give,” she said. “I really enjoyed this process, and everybody needs the money so much.”
Curtis Blake’s affection for Mount Desert was so strong that in 1981 he built the current Town Hall on Sea Street and donated it to the town.
“That was a pretty remarkable thing,” Town Manager Durlin Lunt said. “He was a wonderful man.”