I Know ME In Action: Our AmeriCorps Members

“It is through the idealism of youth that man catches sight of truth, and in that idealism he possesses a wealth which he must never exchange for anything else.”  — Albert Schweitzer

March 14-20 is AmeriCorps Week. AmeriCorps has been an important part of the work done at the Game Loft/I Know ME for many years. Our AmeriCorps members have provided direct service to Waldo County’s most vulnerable population: its children and youth. Members use their unique talents to serve as mentors for youth and examples of lives well lived. AmeriCorps members in this program strengthen our community while learning about themselves, their state, and their country. 

“Once I was young and now I am old” but I have never seen an AmeriCorps member who was deficient in the wealth of idealism. Their insight into this truth gives me strength and courage and keeps me participating in the AmeriCorps program. This year in the Game Loft/I Know ME program we are fortunate to have four young, idealistic, and capable AmeriCorps members who are helping young people know who they are, where they are from, and shining a light on where they may be going. It is my pleasure to introduce you to four AmeriCorps members who are changing the world for the better.

Wyatt Manieri is self-effacing. He leads quietly and without fanfare but with a genuine concern for those who excel, and more especially, for those falling by the wayside. He shows curiosity and concern for everyone he meets. As a recent college graduate he is anxious to learn about himself during his AmeriCorps year and to challenge himself to become a man who has made the right decisions in life. He wants to open a path for youth to help them find something significant to believe in. He thinks that if you find a youth’s deep interests that you can instill hope that will last even during the most trying times. He says that at the core of his beliefs is love. He believes that unselfish love is a route to happiness. Love of friends and family, community and country gives him contentment and meaning to life. He expresses his love for humankind through kindness and respect. At the end of his life he hopes his children will remember him a man who was humble, grateful, and content. 

Molly Thibault is expansive, extroverted, and enthusiastic. She is a natural leader with a great sense of organization and time management. She graduated from Unity College this February and has known for years that she wanted to have direct experience working with youth and showing them the glories of living in Maine. Her view of happiness is access to the outdoors and space to roam. Because the environment has been so important to her she hopes to share that enthusiasm with kids. She wants to be a role model who leads by example as well as opening doors for those who face barriers in their lives. Molly believes that there is enough for all if we use our resources wisely. She believes that small initiatives will someday pay big dividends for our communities, our state, and the world. She hopes her legacy will be: “Molly spent her life helping the world by teaching youth to be resilient and strong.”

Zachariah Dewey is a Mainer who embodies this state’s long tradition of service. Zach is in his second year as an AmeriCorps member for the Game Loft/I Know ME. He is a Peace Corps alumnus with a Master’s degree. What attracts such a highly qualified person to our program? He values idealism more than wealth and creativity more than commerce. This year he is raising awareness of the potential of the program and working to improve every aspect of the Game Loft/I Know ME service delivery for youth. He knows that in the end the good memories he leaves with others will be his greatest gifts to the world. Zach is a gamer and uses that enthusiasm to create relationships with youth and to give them hope. He says, “I won’t last forever but games will last. If we can play, then we can hope.” Someday he wants to found a coffee-house/bar with a game room where people can leave their problems at the door and create good times and happy memories. He hopes that someday the Game Loft/I Know ME kids will remember him as someone who facilitated good times and cool adventures. Zach says, “I see the world not as it is but as it should be and can be with my help.” 

Jeremiah King is the kind of young man who will help you walk through life, no matter what the challenges may be.  From long association with Jeremiah we know he will never let us down. Jeremiah joined the Game Loft when he was 8 years old. He graduated from Thomas College last June and returned to the Game Loft/I Know ME as an AmeriCorps member this January. Jeremiah thinks before he speaks and considers before he acts. When he speaks it is with wisdom and when he acts it is with deliberation. But when he plays he is creative, joyful, and spontaneous. In the year ahead he hopes to gain more real world experience that will help him grow as a person. He wants to develop deeper friendships with colleagues, youth, and community members in order to become his best self. 

AmeriCorps members serve for one or two years and during that time they help to change the world. We celebrate and thank all the dedicated men and women who have served the Game Loft/I Know ME through AmeriCorps. We are grateful for your dedication and sacrifice.

Patricia Estabrook is the co-Founding Director of the Game Loft/I Know ME and an AmeriCorps alumna. 

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

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