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Success Stories

CEI and Mano en Mano

Hand in Hand ApartmentsCEI_logo

In the early 1990s, the town of Milbridge, Maine, became home to a large number of farm workers who decided to leave the “migrant stream.” Since then, an estimated 400 Latino residents have settled in Washington County, one of Maine’s poorest regions and producer of 85 percent of the world’s wild blueberries. Finding affordable year-round housing poses a considerable challenge, especially for low-income families dependent on seasonal seafood and farm work. When Mano en Mano, a nonprofit organization offering education and advocacy for agriculture and aquaculture workers, requested help in building Maine’s first off-farm workforce housing, CEI and CEI Investment Notes, Inc. stepped in with a $220,000 loan, technical assistance and construction oversight.

Mano en Mano story photo

USDA Rural Housing Administrator Tony Hernandez and USDA Rural Development Area Director Virginia Manuel and personnel from Maine Fair Trade Lobster visit Hand in Hand Apartments. USDA and Mano en Mano discussed issues that affect MFTL employees Maria Santos and her son (also pictured here) such as housing and transportation. USDA Photo by Emily Cannon.

Hand in Hand Apartments houses six families, half of whom are Latino. Most of the families have young children, and almost all are seafood workers (sternmen and processing) with one family that rakes blueberries. Mano en Mano has added a playground, garden plots, and has also piloted a new program, “Kids Can Grow!,” in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, providing gardening education to children living in and nearby the apartments.

“As first-time developers, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the construction of Hand in Hand Apartments on-time and under budget without CEI’s expert assistance and flexible approach to lending,” said Yaffe.

Major funding for the project was provided through a USDA Rural Development Farm Labor Housing Grant and Loan package. Additional key partners included MaineHousing, Edmond J. Bearor of Rudman & Winchell, HUD’s Community Development Block Grants, the Maine Community Foundation, and community donors.


Disability Rights Maine

Rebecca & Marina Yao – Building a New Lifedrm_logo_

Sisters Rebecca and Marina Yao were raised in the Ivory Coast and arrived in Maine two years ago. Born Deaf, they had no access to education or useable language while growing up. With no hearing aids, audiologist or teacher of the Deaf available to the family, the girls had no language skills and were left to try and make sense of their world based solely on what they could figure out by watching those around them. They developed a rudimentary gesture system between them, but had no way to communicate with their family or anyone else.

DRM photo

Rebecca (L) and Marina (R) Yao pose with DRM Deaf Services Advocates Ashley Whittaker and Michelle Ames.

In 2014, Rebecca and Marina moved to the U.S. to live with their father, who had immigrated here during their youth. A kind community member referred the sisters to DRM Deaf Services, which developed an individualized program to assess their ability to learn, and to teach them how to work in the US. Advocate Michelle Ames also helped the sisters learn key elements of American culture, such as hot and cold markings on water faucets, operation of basic office equipment, recycling, and using American money.

With the support of Vocational Rehabilitation, both Rebecca and Marina were accepted into the Teen Employment Program at Maine Medical Center. Unfortunately, they didn’t have transportation and were adamant that they did not want to learn ride the bus; it was too scary. DRM Deaf Services provided them with hands-on training on how to use the bus. Michelle worked with the sisters to develop navigation skills, which enabled them to get to and from the employment experience independently. After completing the Teen Employment Program, both Rebecca and Marina obtained full-time jobs in the laundry department at Maine Medical Center, where they received support from a signing job coach and Deaf interpreter.

Our work together is not yet done. DRM Deaf Services is now developing a training to teach the sisters the concept of paying rent and utilities in preparation for them to move into their own apartment. There is also a need to teach their family members to sign, so they can understand when Rebecca and Marina express their gratitude to their family for all they have done for them.


New Ventures Maine

Programs for careers, business, and financial education.new-ventures

Joline first came to New Ventures Maine (NVME) in 2012 while a student in the Mental Health and Human Services (MHHS) program at UMA, based at the University College Bath Brunswick (UCBB). As a new non-traditional student with an unconventional work history, Joline needed assistance with a resume that would highlight her transferable skills so she could get part-time work in her major while studying. Discussions with NVME staff helped her craft both a resume and a job search strategy which would strengthen her qualification for employment in her field of study.  She looked for volunteer and work study opportunities that aligned with her chosen career path. Eventually this led to her being qualified to take on the role of Asset JConnollyAllenOrganizer with the Midcoast CA$H Coalition. In this role she assisted tax filers with information and referral to sources of financial education and other resources. The position demanded all the skills from her previous work experience as well as skills gained from her time at UCBB–work study, student association activities and academic coursework.

As her graduation neared, Joline once again worked with NVME staff to revise her resume–this time to support her application to the Maine NEW Leadership program. This resume highlighted the set of career-aligned activities she had engaged in while in school. She was accepted in the Maine NEW Leadership program class of 2015 and graduated in May, 2015 from UMA with her B.S. in MHHS.

Joline is eager to begin her career and has the academic and practical experience to make significant contributions to her community. And New Ventures Maine is there to help.


Bicycle Coalition of Mainebcm new logo2010

Ensuring that Maine bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists have the knowledge and skills to safely share the road.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s education program fields a team of professional educators to coordinate a number of statewide safety, education, and encouragement programs. This team provides a local presence in nearly every county of the state, education programming to nearly 10,000 children and adults annually, and basic technical assistance on infrastructure projects and walk/bike to school initiatives.

Safe Routes to School Program engaged 63 schools in 12 counties throughout the state to participate in scheduled Walk and Bike to School events during the school year. These events included single or multi-day events in the spring and fall seasons, plus Maine’s first ever Winter Walk to School Day in February. The program also awarded 10 communities up to $300 of funding to catalyze their proposed biking and walking projects though the Mini-Grant Program.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safely Education Program (BPSE) provided 463 individual presentations to kids and adults during its 2014-2015 season, educating a total of 8,315 Mainers about safe biking and walking. Instruction venues ranged from classrooms to parking lots to the Department of Transportation Headquarters in Augusta. Additionally, the BPSE Program fielded 50 requests for its Bicycle Helmet Program and was able to distribute 1,657 helmets to children and adults.