Promoting Positive Youth Development

through non-electronic games and community involvement

From the Kitchen: Game Loft Pantry Challenge Updates

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.

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.

From the Kitchen: Game Loft Pantry Challenge Updates

From our Director’s Kitchen a blog from Patricia Estabrook

Update on the Pantry Challenge March 8
First, thanks to all of you have signed up for the pantry challenge. I have made it through the first week in pretty good shape. I do find that I am very conscious of what we have and what we are eating. In the past I would go for variety and put in the back of the refrigerator the leftovers from the previous day. You know, as well as I do, what a terrible fate comes to those leftovers. They sit on the shelf unwanted until they are green and fuzzy. So this week we have eaten our leftovers and Ray has been forgiving and, at times, complimentary. 


Two things surprised me this week, but I was able to roll with the punches. The first was that we had an unexpected invitation to eat out with a friend who is recovering from a major illness. I had only one dinner out for the month on my plan so that is over. No more eating out in March. The second was that I failed to check my calendar and godson Andrew’s birthday came up with very little warning. Fortunately I had planned to roast a chicken and I had some frozen pound cake in my freezer so I was able to make the meal look festive (and planned!).


I found 15 blackened bananas in my freezer and so I began to use them up. How I got 15 bananas is beyond me. I made banana bread the conventional way with the first 5 and with coconut instead of pecans in the second batch. While coconut is O.K. in banana bread it didn’t stand out but I was able to save my precious store of pecans for one last recipe this month. 


This week I find that I’d better make some hummus and some caponata that I didn’t get to last week or lunches will be a little on the catch-as-catch can side. For supper I am making Caldo Verde with kielbasa, chicken vegetable soup using the leftovers from the birthday dinner, and a roast pork butt that will give us lots of leftovers. Since I was raised to believe that pork can’t be digested without apples (where did that one come from?) I am also serving applesauce that I canned last fall. 


Ray is doing well with his home brew challenge. He came to the realization that he actually prefers the coffee he makes at home to the brew he can get on the road. So we are all learning. 


I will deliver my first check for $100 for the combined pantry and brew challenge on Monday. Please help support this effort in any way you can. 


P.S. I feel a little like Jerry Lewis doing the Muscular Dystrophy marathon on Labor Day weekend years ago. By the end of six weeks I may be frantically begging for your leftovers so please help soon.

Support the Game Loft’s Annual Appeal

Dear Friends of the Game Loft,

Someday you will face a life-changing event. In that moment you will depend on the skill and wisdom of a surgeon, a judge, a police officer, a minister, or a president. When that day comes I hope you are in the hands of a Game Loft graduate. Here are three reasons for you to invest in the young people who may someday hold your life in the balance:

Food Some have said that the Game Loft kids can get by on ramen noodles and rice because they are filling and cheap. We say that growing bodies and minds need fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains to function at their peak. Healthy kids need healthy food to sustain them today and to help them function effectively in the future.  Last year we served 4,015 nutritionally balanced meals and snacks to hungry kids.

Please help us feed the hungry by giving generously to the Game Loft.

Transportation At the Game Loft we believe that rural, social, and technological isolation are the enemies of a healthy life. According to a study done by Julianne Hold-Lundstad, PhD, social isolation has the same health consequences as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. A lonely, isolated kid is a target for drugs or other trouble. If kids can’t access Game Loft programs they may never learn the skills that help them become adults who are caring, confident, competent, contributing, and connected. Worse yet, they may become angry, defeated, unskilled, and self-centered.  Which would you prefer when your time of need comes?

Please reach out to kids by giving generously to the Game Loft .

Positive Youth Development The Game Loft is about more than just playing games, it is about mentoring youth to help them gain wisdom. As they grow, Game Loft kids will still see the wonder of the world. They will achieve much without being blinded by superficial success. They will learn to value character over fame. The Game Loft teaches kids to listen and ask questions and to respect the opinions of others. They will grow in hope, regardless of what is happening around them. Game Loft kids learn how to take knowledge and apply it in new circumstances for the common good. Last year we helped 275 kids grow in knowledge and wisdom. Your gift is an investment in the future, their future and yours.

Invest in knowledge and wisdom as though your life depended on it.

You can donate today at http://www.thegameloft.org or by mailing your check made payable to ‘The Game Loft’ to 78A Main St.; Belfast, ME 04915. Thanks to your donations, programs at the Game Loft are free and open to all youth. 

Celebrating 21 years of service to kids,

Patricia and Ray Estabrook, co-Founding Directors

Game Loft Annual Youth Volunteer Awards

Game Loft Youth Volunteer of the Year, Alex Tripp (pictured).

                  Saturday October 26th Game Loft staff, board, mentors, parents, and families came together to honor the year-round volunteer efforts of Game Loft youth.  Each year Game Loft kids are encouraged and supported in logging volunteer hours and joining in a friendly competition for the ultimate title of “Youth Volunteer of the Year.”  This year the coveted award went to Alex Tripp now in her junior year at Belfast Area High School who logged an impressive 290.5 hours.  In total 80 Game Loft youth contributed 1,826.5 hours of service to the community over the 2018-2019 school year and through the summer of 2019.

                  Kids can log hours they contribute through outside organizations, but many youth volunteer primarily to and through the Game Loft.  Alex Tripp earned the vast majority of her volunteer hours serving as a mentor for both the Game Loft’s Monday program for younger kids ages 6-11 and the I Know ME program serving youth in the Mount View School system beginning in the 7th grade. Other ways to clock hours include volunteering in the Game Loft kitchen, prepping for opening, or cleaning up.  There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with the Game Loft in the greater community, as well.  Whether it’s stacking wood, shoveling snow, boxing food with Heroes 4 Hunger, or helping out at any number of community events, you’ll find Game Loft kids giving back to their neighbors and connecting with their community throughout the year.

                  This year the Game Loft’s Youth Volunteer Awards ceremony was preceded by a potluck soup and dessert dinner at First Baptist Church in Belfast.  In addition to giving out awards the evening was celebrated with a skit on Positive Youth Development performed by Game Loft youth, a kazoo precession led by staff and families, and a raffle drawing for an Adirondack chair crafted by local artist Peter Walker.  We’d like to extend our thanks to all of the families and supporters who came out to show their appreciation for Game Loft youth volunteers and made the night’s events a rousing success.  If you are interested in learning more about Game Loft programs or becoming a youth or adult volunteer, please call (207) 338-6447 or e-mail info@thegameloft.org for more information.  The Game Loft has been serving Waldo County youth for over 21 years with free out-of-school programs promoting Positive Youth Development through non-electronic games and community involvement.

All photos courtesy of Tom Foster