A Caring Community
This month marks my fourth anniversary as Director at Healthy Oxford Hills. Today, two days after Christmas and back at work, I was surprised. During a week that many folks take off to vacation or be with family, Healthy Oxford Hills held its last monthly Coalition meeting of 2016. These Coalition luncheon meetings have been going on since long before I came along, and they are an opportunity for our partners and the wider community interested in public health to come together, network, share events coming up, talk about gaps in services and special needs in the Oxford Hills area, learn together from special presentations, and sometimes, like today, provide important local perspective and input on health issues confronting us. In today’s case, input that will help inform decision-making about substance use prevention efforts being planned in the coming year.
When we sent out the invitations I was hoping we would get a dozen or so people to show up. It is the Holidays, after all. Some would say I was being optimistic. But this conversation could not wait. It is part of an assessment going on across the whole State of Maine that has to be completed by January 9, and the timing of our scheduled Coalition meeting presented an opportunity. Remember the ‘being surprised’ part I mentioned earlier? Twenty-seven people showed up at the Harper Conference Room at Stephens Memorial Hospital, where we always meet. Some were from as far away as Rumford and Sacopee Valley and had made a special effort to show up because of the importance of the issue. At least three people in the room were on vacation…and still came. There were representatives from social services organizations, substance use treatment providers, prevention specialists, children’s services, elder services, the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce, and three different faith organizations. One of our State legislators and the regional representative for Senator Angus King were there. And there were local citizens who showed up because they care.
I was surprised at the number and the diversity of people who showed up, and yet, I really shouldn’t be. One thing I have learned in the past four years is how many and how deeply people care for each other here in Oxford County. It is an amazing strength of our area, a gift we give to each other, and the main reason I am confident that the year ahead will see still more progress on the issues we all care about. You all proved it once again, today. Happy New Year.
Jim Douglas, M.Ed. is the Partnership Director for Healthy Oxford Hills, your local Healthy Community Coalition and a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital. You can connect with him at 739-6222 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HealthyOxfordHills
Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser Democrat