Promoting Positive Youth Development

through non-electronic games and community involvement

Virtual Game Loft Coming July 17th!

Greetings! We are writing to let you know that the Game Loft has gone digital during the COVID pandemic. We honestly have no idea when we will be able to open up the Loft safely in the near future, but we want to make sure that our members can still find ways to socialize and do the activities they enjoy. To that end, the Game Loft has established a server on Discord, which will enable our members to stay in communication with each other while we play our games virtually.

What is Discord? Discord is a free platform that people (primarily gamers) use to create chat servers allowing them to communicate in real time while playing games. Traditionally, it has been used for video gamers, but we’ve created a server that will allow us to chat in real time while playing role play, board, and card games. The server has “channels” that are dedicated to the different activities we do at the Loft. For example, the Savage Room area has channels for all the active role play games (RPGs), the Board room has channels for board game chat and setting up on Boardgamearena. We’ve created a chat channel for our Youth Board so they can still have their bi-weekly meetings. We have a kitchen channel where we post what is being served for lunch in case the kids want to come by and pick up a lunch to go. We even have places for the kids to post memes, pet pictures, and their artwork and poetry!

Admission to the Game Loft Discord server is by invitation only – open only to members, adult volunteers, staff. We require that all the kids, adult volunteers, and staff have handles that easily identify who they are (I’m BossChris, for example). We have the same behavior and participation expectations that we do at the Loft, plus a few new rules that help govern online behavior. We want the kids to be able to interact with each other during this strange time and to do the activities they love, but also to use a space that is safe for them to do so.

The Discord solution allows us a little more flexibility schedule-wise. As the schedule evolves, there might be games that occur outside traditional Game Loft hours. But we also ask the members to be sensible in their use of the platform. We’ve already established, for example, that there should be no posting to the server before 9 am and after 9 pm.

Here are the requirements to take part:

  • Participants must be at least 13 years of age.
  • Participants must already be members of the Game Loft with membership long forms on file.
  • Participants must have a valid email that they check regularly.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must provide a phone number and are strongly encouraged to provide a valid email address.
  • Parents/caregivers of participants must fill out and sign a supplemental permission form that will be kept on file with the participant’s membership form. It can be printed and mailed to us at the Loft at 78A Main St, Belfast, 04915 or scanned and emailed back to Chris (c.donley@thegameloft.org) with the subject line “membership – (child’s first name)”.

In addition, depending on the activities participants want to take part in, members will need to create accounts on supplemental platforms besides Discord that are designed for our activities, such as (but not limited to) Board Game Arena, Roll20, Cockatrice, and Tabletop Simulator, depending where their interests lay.

If your child is interested in joining us on the Discord platform and meets the above requirements, please email Chris at c.donley@thegameloft.org to get instructions on how to get him or her started.

We will officially launch the Game Loft online program on Friday, July 17 at our End of the Year Zoom party. Updates will be sent via our E-courier and on our Facebook page.

Thanks, we look forward to hearing from you!

Chris Donley
Game Loft Program Manager

Game Loft Updates Concerning COVID-19

In light of the RSU 71 and RSU 3 closures, The Game Loft will be closed for regular programming until further notice.

However, we feel that it is now especially important that we honor our commitment to feed the kids the community who need it. To this end, The Game Loft’s Belfast site will be providing lunches on a grab-and-go basis from 12-2pm 7 days a week beginning on Tuesday, March 17th to all school-aged youth regardless of Game Loft membership.

We will keep everyone posted on any updates as we get them. Thank you all for your continued support and understanding. Please call us at 338-6447 or e-mail info@thegameloft.org with any questions.

Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Mean Social Isolation

For the past 22 years the Game Loft has emphasized “no physical contact.” Now we have new reasons to enforce that policy. The no physical contact rule has always been in place to make sure that all our kids are safe from roughhousing and unwanted affectionate contact. Now, we are keeping ourselves safe from Covid-19 by requiring appropriate social distancing. We all wish we could be open during this period but we are doing our best to keep you safe.Fortunately, you don’t have to cut off all Game Loft contact just because your games have been cancelled. Chris Donley has volunteered to be a contact to you during this period through Facebook. He will have the question of the day as well as chat about games or other areas of interest to you. You are important to us and we want to stay in touch, without touching of course.If self-isolation during this time gets to be too difficult reach out to us through Facebook. We are always there for you.

‘Reach Out to ME: I’ll Be There’ Postcard Project’

The Game Loft continues our work to create meaningful community connections for local youth and reduce the impact of social isolation during this time of necessary social distancing with ‘Reach Out to ME: I’ll be there’, an innovative postcard exchange initiative!

Here is something you can do during this unprecedented period of isolation. Kids love getting mail the old fashioned way. You can brighten the life of a kid who may be feeling anxious and depressed during this forced vacation. Please write a postcard to a kid in need. We are hoping to send out 200 postcards a day to kids in the local area who are housebound and nervous about the changes in their lives due to the school closings. Make the messages light or funny. Riddles or jokes would be appreciated. We are asking for postcards rather than letters so that parents can pre-screen all content. Please do not use your full name or address on the postcard. Drop the postcards off at the Game Loft 78A Main Street in Belfast. We will re-address the cards and make sure that they get to kids who need a smile. If you have blank postcards of any type we will be glad to have them. Donations can be dropped off at the Game Loft. 

For more information about this program please call Patricia Estabrook at 207-322-3229 (cell phone). To learn more about the Game Loft and regular programming visit www.thegameloft.org.

The Last Gasp of the Pantry Challenge

One last surviving stalk of celery greets some graying cabbage and a can of tomatoes. Last year it might have been garbage but this year it tomorrow’s vegetable soup.

Well, I made it over the finish line of the Pantry Challenge. We ate as much as possible from the stash in our freezer and pantry and only went out to eat once in early March. Ray took his coffee with him whenever he went out and we reached our contribution goal. Thank you to Jen Gunderson who contributed to the coffee challenge. If there are any others out there who saved their pennies during the last six weeks to donate to the Game Loft’s challenge please send a check with the line on the notes that says, “Pantry Challenge.” We currently have $650 in going for $1,000.

There were some challenges this week. I guess the biggest one was when I made spareribs in ginger beer in the pressure cooker and the heat must have been too high because instead of succulent spareribs we ended up with shreds of pork that I laboriously picked out of a volcanic blackened crust at the bottom of the pot. In other times we would have scrapped the whole dinner and gone out but since that isn’t a possibility we “ate around” the blackened pieces. I usually have great success with the pressure cooker but that night’s dinner could best be described as a “total failure” or more explicitly, “a revolting mess.” I had planned to make enough for leftovers but once was quite enough.

I had enough dried fruits and nuts in the pantry to make about a cup so I put them all together and made hot cross buns for Good Friday and Easter. Right after dawn we distributed them to friends in Northport and Frankfort and didn’t even get stopped by the police for unnecessary travel. I also made daisy cookies and Resurrection buns for the Game Loft’s Easter baskets. We had 16 kids take lunches that day.

All in all the Pantry Challenge encouraged me to be more careful in my purchasing. We had almost no food waste during this period and that is heartening for our budget and the environment. I am surprised to see that I even have some things left over in my freezer. In the weeks ahead we will whittle those things down as I shop more wisely. We have also learned how to eat at home on an everyday basis and that saves a lot of money as well. I hope to keep Ray brewing his own coffee as well. From now on I will make a monthly chart of the meals I plan to prepare and stick to it as much as possible. I proved that you can save $100 a week by careful planning and thinking ahead. Ray hopes to use our pantry savings on a vacation when we can travel again.

Pantry Challenge Update: Final Week

All is not lost when I still have lots of oatmeal, dried beans, and prunes

Well, I knew it would be a challenge but I certainly didn’t anticipate what Covid-19 would bring to cooking. I have been whittling down my pantry items but, to be truthful, not as diligently as I would have liked. When going to Hannaford is the only outside recreation for the week it is tempting to over-indulge. This last week will be the final push to see if I can save $100 a week and donate it to the Game Loft.

During this enforced stay-at-home period I have been doing some cleaning and reorganizing and some of that has been in my cookbook collection. This week I have decided to focus on a single cookbook and see what I can make using the ingredients on hand. It is complicated a bit by the fact this is the last week of Lent and I should be avoiding meat, sugar, butter, oil, dairy, and all the things that make food really taste good. I have decided to try a new recipe for the pressure cooker that involves lentils and butternut squash. My squash has been in the pantry for quite a long time and is looking a bit “squashy” but if I have learned anything during this period it is to use it up, don’t throw it out, so I am going forward.

I will admit to being overly enthusiastic about hot cross buns this Lent. They are my chief (but by no means only) indulgence. We have been eating Hannaford buns but this week I plan to make my own for Good Friday. Many years ago we went to a church in Canada that insisted on fasting on Good Friday followed by divine hot cross buns right out of the oven when the 3-hour service ended. Breaking a fast was never so sweet.

One final note: Please make an effort to reach out to Chris, Natasha, and Nikky and thank them for feeding kids seven days a week during the Covid-19 period. They are my heroes and I can’t thank them enough. Your words of encouragement are always treasured but never more than now. Send a note to The Game Loft, 78A Main Street, Belfast, ME 04915 or email to Chris Donley at c.donley@thegameloft.org

Pantry Challenge Update

I hadn’t planned that the challenge would be so challenging. I am in week 5 and it’s still going on, just not quite as planned. As you may know, I signed up for six week of Pantry Challenge and Ray signed up for six weeks of Home Brew Challenge. So far we have been able to donate about $100 a week to the Game Loft but I will admit that these days going to Hannaford is our weekly outing and when there I am persuaded to buy things that otherwise I would do without. Last week it was popcorn and throughout the month I have been buying hot cross buns. So much for good intentions!

I have been trying very hard to use things up, though. I made a double batch of tapioca pudding that didn’t turn out very well but I am glumly eating my way through it. I made two loaves of gingerbread yesterday and that makes Ray happy. I won’t have any help now on the remaining tapioca. I still have lots of rice so we are having fried rice with odds and ends tonight. I have always heard that fried rice is basically Chinese leftovers and so it will be for us.

Have you ever made homemade mango sorbet? Here’s an idea if you happen to be hoarding a bag of frozen mango, as I am. This is not a recipe but you can do it from these instructions. Put a cup or two of frozen mango in a blender. Add ½ cup of lemon juice and ½ cup sugar. Blend until smooth. It makes quite refreshing mango sorbet. You can adjust the sweetness or tartness to taste. I think you could also do this with other frozen fruit but I haven’t tried.

I’m looking forward to Easter. I had a loaf of stolen in my freezer leftover from Christmas. I have been doling out one slice each on Sundays during the Pantry Challenge and the loaf is almost done but then for Easter I can make a whole fresh loaf. In different times that might not have been a big deal but now we take our pleasure where we can.

Pantry Challenge Updates

Keep Calm and Carry On

When I designed the Pantry Challenge fundraiser for the Game Loft I didn’t realize that we will all be feeling challenged to empty our pantries and be more food aware than we could then imagine. So instead of showing you what you already know, that our supplies are going down, I offer a word of hope during this time that has stressed out many people.

My grandmother was born in 1888. She lived through the Russian Revolution, World War I, World War II and the Cold War. During the 1960’s when my mother was anxiously watching television for more news about some upcoming war my grandmother turned away from the set and said to me, “You know this whole Russian Communist thing? We always thought it was just a fad.” She died in 1988 and never got to see that her words came true, Russian communism faded away like an outdated fashion.

Right now it seems as though we will always be under the threat of the current pandemic and that life will never return to normal. That is particularly true for kids who have not experienced this kind of hysteria before. I remind them, and those of you who are old enough to remember, that global or national disasters happen on a regular basis and that we must “keep calm and carry on.”

I remember during the 1970’s we lived through a very significant gas crisis. My boss stated categorically that living in rural areas would soon be impossible because there would be no gasoline for our cars and no heating oil for our houses. He strongly advised all hospital employees to move to congregate housing within walking distance of the hospital as soon as possible but before I could pack my possessions the oil embargo ended. However, during the embargo there was a restriction on gasoline purchases on Sunday. I was travelling back to Aroostook County from a visit to Yarmouth when I realized outside of Lincoln, ME that I didn’t have enough gas to make it home. My son, Adam, was then about 2 years old and I realized that he and I would have to find a place to stay the night in Lincoln. I pulled into a shabby tourist hotel and signed the register while a sinister old woman looked over my shoulder. “Isn’t there anyone at home waiting for you dear?” she croaked. I shook my head. “Are you all alone with your little boy?” she asked pointing a crooked finger at my son. When I said I was okay she said, “Aren’t you brave!” I thought to myself, “If she offers, don’t drink the elderberry wine (a reference to Arsenic and Old Lace.) I survived then and we will all survive now. But somewhere in Lincoln, ME I would not be surprised if an old man named Teddy is digging the Panama Canal in his basement.

Keep smiling and send us postcards that we can distribute to kids.