Fostering belonging through food, friends, and safety year-round
School vacation should be a time for kids to have fun and be carefree. Unfortunately, the reality is that many kids are left isolated and lonely when school doors close with families still busy working and long distances separating them from their peers. That’s why at the Game Loft we’re open year-round offering free van-transportation to and from our site in Belfast during school breaks.
This April Vacation at the Loft, we got outside to enjoy the changing weather with the start of Live Action Combat season. Rio ran an epic Star Wars miniatures battle that all came down to a square off between the Imperial Forces and a small, scrappy troop of bounty hunters. In the end, Henry’s massive Imperial army managed to overwhelm the bounty hunters and claim victory! The week was capped with a special Pax Britannica event hosted at First Baptist Church (more to come on that soon), and a treat of blueberry pie for Friday night dessert.
What’s the difference between people and fish? This should have a snappier punch-line than I can offer but in short, the difference is instinct. Fish live their lives according to instinct and fate but humans must be taught to observe, reason, plan and create.
At the Craig Brook Fish Hatchery recently the I Know ME cohort 1 learned about the lives of Atlantic Salmon from birth in the hatchery to release in the wild and then returning to the hatchery to deposit their eggs. I Know ME Cohort 1 visited a cohort of salmon that have been in the hatchery since 2018, the year the kids entered the I Know ME program. The salmon will be released later this year, but our kids have one more year with the program. While the fish have spent the last five years just swimming and eating the kids have traveled around the state, seen sights, met people, and learned about themselves and their environment.
Cohort 5, who entered the I Know ME program in February 2022 are just beginning their journey to self-realization. Last month they and their mentors went to the State House to meet their elected representatives and to see the state house and senate in session. They began the process of observation, discernment, and appreciation. Looking into the capitol rotunda they observed the beauty of the building and got an inkling of the dedication and service our elected officials bring to bear.
Cohort 5 met with Nate Wadsworth, Ray’s cousin and supporter of the Game Loft who once played his ancestor, General Peleg Wadsworth, in a Game Loft historical re-creation. They also met Paige Zieglaar and Chip Curry, the senator from Waldo County, who challenged them to follow a bill going through the legislature. As 7th graders these students are teetering at the edge of childhood but beginning to see their adult lives ahead.
After a long morning of observing, considering, and learning it was important for the kids to cut loose. You can become a better adult if you have fully explored childhood so we took them to the playground to let off some steam. I Know ME stands for knowledge of the state and knowledge of self, because both are important. Because we don’t operate on instinct it is crucial to have this knowledge. Because unlike salmon who run on instinct, we believe that for humans “If you know who you are and where you’re from, you can find where you’re going.”
“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.
From our Director’s Kitchen a blog from Patricia Estabrook
Update March 15, 2020
Four years before I met Ray, at the tail end of a gray winter in
Concord, NH 40 years ago I faced my first pantry challenge. I had been the director of a guardianship
program for elderly patients at New Hampshire Hospital and the funding ran out.
My last paycheck hit a snafu in the bureaucracy delaying my eligibility for
unemployment compensation. I called my mother and she agreed to send me a check
for $100 but it was delayed in the mail. And so one Monday I faced the week
with $12.47 and almost nothing in the pantry. Since I had two pounds of pasta
on my shelf I spent my last cash to buy pasta sauce and hamburger, enough to
last until one of the checks came in. I skipped breakfast and ate pasta and
sauce for lunch on Monday. That was OK. The next day it was still OK. By
Wednesday I was getting a little bored with the menu but I was sure that help
was coming at any moment. On Thursday I was starting to get really bored and a
little anxious. After nine straight meals of pasta with meat sauce I was
frantic so I called a friend and begged for a dinner invitation. She was glad
to oblige and when I arrived at her warm cottage in the woods I imagined lentil
soup, Brussels sprouts, hot dogs, anything
but pasta and sauce! She met me at the door smiling and invited me in to a
heaping plate of macaroni with meat and red sauce.
Both checks arrived the next day and I gleefully threw out the last
sullen mass of pasta and sauce. I tell you that story from long ago and far
away because it prefaces a confession. Even though I am deep into my
self-imposed Pantry Challenge 2020 I could not face the fourth meal of
spaghetti squash Bolognese and threw out the leftovers this morning. There, I
said it, and am guilty as charged. We are having roast pork tonight.
Friends, I would like to take one more minute of your time today to beg for food. Now in the midst of the Covid-19 panic I urge you to think about kids in our community. Local schools have closed and so the Game Loft will be closing as well, but we will still need to care for kids in our community who are food insecure. At this moment we are setting the wheels in progress to feed kids with grab-and-go meals even as regular programs have closed. This is the kind of support that we provide the community. Please help it continue by giving generously today to the Game Loft. Please consider any amount, even $12.47 to help kids in need. We are relying on you.