By Melinda Rice-Schoon and David Opdyke
Across Mount Desert Island, in all four towns, there are people who need help getting to vital medical appointments. Their number is greater than you might think – who, after all, does not have someone to drive them to chemotherapy, dialysis and other lifesaving treatments? The answer is: Too many. That’s where Island Connections comes in.
Island Connections is a nonprofit that provides rides to medical appointments and lifesaving treatments for seniors and people with disabilities (whether the disability is temporary or permanent). Island Connections also provides grocery shopping services and literally puts the “wheels” in the Meals on Wheels program on Mount Desert Island. It allows people to live more independently and stay in their homes longer than they would be able to otherwise. Those people are called “Neighbors” by Island Connections, and the fact is, that they’re your neighbors right here on Mount Desert Island.
They are people who have been your teachers, your firefighters, your doctors and nurses, people who built businesses on the island and people who worked in those businesses. They raised families here. One former Neighbor fought the fire of 1947. Another Neighbor, a 94-year-old who uses a walker and oxygen, says Island Connections “is essential to my wellbeing.”
In 2021, with just three employees and a dedicated group of volunteer drivers, Island Connections provided 3,746 rides to medical appointments, life-saving treatments, and grocery shopping. They also and drove 1,062 meal routes for Meals on Wheels and the Food Access Project. During the pandemic, the need for Island Connections’ services was greater than ever and remains high even as rising gasoline prices make it more expensive to provide those services.
Between 2016 and 2021, Island Connections provided 25,000 rides to Neighbors on Mount Desert Island, taking some of them as far as Bangor for vital appointments. But Island Connections got its start long before then. The organization was founded in 1997. This year the organization is marking its 25-year anniversary.
To celebrate 25 years, Island Connections got $25,000 in donations from people and businesses who want to see the organization thrive and grow, but those funds are contingent on matching donations totaling an additional $25,000. The 25 for 25 More Match Campaign started May 25. As of June 25, a total of $16,994 had been raised toward the match, leaving $8,006 left to meet the $25,000 matching goal.
Please consider making a donation to this worthy organization today, to help them help people in Southwest Harbor, Bar Harbor, Tremont, Mount Desert and Trenton. Think how hard it would be for you to procure food or get to your medical appointments if, for some reason, you could not drive and did not have anyone to help. Island Connections provides that help, at no cost to those who get it.
This is an organization that has a direct and immediate impact on the lives of people here on MDI on a daily basis. Please donate. The Neighbor you’ll be helping is your own.
Melinda Rice-Schoon is an Island Connections board member and lives in Tremont.
David Opdyke is a former Island Connections board member and lives in Bar Harbor.