Errol and Kyran, two of our high school students and I returned this evening from a couple of donor appreciation luncheons in Concord, New Hampshire and Portland, Maine. I was the one who felt appreciated as we ran into so many people delighted to be with us and meet students and staff. Many have been long time supporters of St. Joseph’s, but this was the first chance they had to meet any of us. One donor from New Hampshire presented me with a hand carved walking stick made from white birch, the state tree. It is almost 5 feet tall and thicker than I can wrap my hand around. As I left the luncheon someone looked at me and quipped, “Do you walk softly?”
We were graced by the presence of Shea Keck, an internationally known Native American performing artist. She is from the Eastern Band Cherokee from North Carolina, and led off the luncheons by singing Amazing Grace in both Cherokee and English. She has a soft spot in her heart for Native American children’s issues, and we were meeting to arrange a visit to the school. She remembers her grandmother giving to St. Joseph’s and said her journey has brought her full circle.
In Concord, we visited the Alan Shepherd/Christa McAuliffe Discovery Center, and took in a movie about Black Holes in the Planetarium. As a good museum should, it tricked us into learning something about science by making it fun. Our houseparent and chaperone Frank, who grew up on a farm, marveled at the thickness and durability of the rubber on the Space shuttle tire. Frank has been a houseparent for 25 years and reflected on the changes and improvements he has seen over the years. We constantly look for ways to improve, but it was encouraging to hear his perspective of how we have strengthened our team approach to child services.
Since New Hampshire is known for it’s dairy farms, several people told us a must-visit spot on our tour of the area was Johnson’s Dairy Bar for ice cream. They suggested I try the “kiddie-sized scoop,” which was as big as a soft ball. With chocolate chips and cherries, the Maine Black Bear flavor definitely lived up to the locals’ rave reviews.
I always imagined Maine as being a small state, but several people who live up north in “The County” drove three, four and even seven hours to join us in Portland. A few people spoke of a long association with St. Joseph’s Indian School through their parents or grandparents, and carry on a tradition of giving in their memory.
Though the weather was cold and blustery, we couldn’t come all the way to the East Coast without letting our students get their feet wet in the ocean. Fort Williams State Park holds a scenic and famous lighthouse, with a commission all the way back to George Washington. Our crew was captivated by the rocky beaches and tankers pulled by tug boats going by. Then we strolled around the waterfront in downtown Portland, where the boys bought a few souvenirs and mementos. We tried some of the local seafood specialties, and I had my first Whoopie Pie.