A portion of this article was published in the Portland Press Herald on 08/14/2020 and was written by Blaine Flanders, Community & Donor Relations Coordinator at Tedford Housing.
The full article is below.
In an upside-down world, I’m not sure if it’s my teams innovative thinking or a reaction to COVID-19, but I have been asked to introduce myself. My name is Blaine Flanders, and I started working for Tedford Housing in the heat of July. As the Community & Donor Relations Coordinator, I am responsible for Tedford’s marketing, development, events and volunteer engagement. My various work and life experiences have prepared me well for this position, and I bring several new ideas that will strengthen our organization. I am eager to develop Tedford’s current initiatives with creative thinking and new ways of community engagement. I earned my Master of Public Affairs from Merrimack College, and my Bachelors in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am an Army veteran who worked overseas planning and managing humanitarian assistance projects in East Africa. I have worked on the corporate relations, development team for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and have media and marketing experience from working at the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus. While at United Way, I learned vital skills in community impact, donor engagement, event planning, and many others that will elevate Tedford’s community engagement platform. Of course, this was a lot of information, but it all boils down to this: I have worldly, out-of-the-box views with a passion to develop my local community in new ways.
Starting a new job during a pandemic makes for hurdles that no one could foresee. I’ve had to finagle times for staff meetings, while simultaneously working from home a majority of the time and rotating time in the office. I took a tour of Tedford’s houses, but I had to minimize contact with staff and guests, all while walking around their place of rest. Although these seem like no big deal, COVID-19 has changed the way work is done. It boils down to consistent effort and open lines of communication between staff that has given me a good stepping stone in this position. Diving into a job, during a pandemic, that is so heavily focused on community engagement and building relationships has been an unreal undertaking, however it is possible with clear, organizational direction and self-driven hard work.
Recently, I have been working on projects such as Meal-A-Month program engagement, the eNewsletter, the summer newsletter, as well as new development plans that I plan on using for 2021. Last week, I announced the need for Tedford Housing’s Meal-A-Month program through our media platforms and have engaged our current volunteers in an updated information release. Tedford Housing’s Meal-A-Month is a volunteer-executed program to provide dinner meals to our adult shelter guests every evening. It was nice to engage with current volunteers, as well as thoroughly learn about the program. Volunteers cook meals for our shelter guests and deliver the food to the adult shelter. Tia Gregory, one of Tedford’s shelter attendants, works hard every week to schedule volunteers, ensuring that meals are being delivered every evening by 5:30pm. I explain the program in its entirety to emphasize the complexity of its’ moving pieces to get the job done.
My time at Tedford Housing thus far has been a heart-warming and engaging experience. Tedford builds a rich sense of community by enriching others’ lives every day. This in turn creates a positive working environment that would put a smile on anyone’s face every time they stepped into the office. Tedford Housing’s mission is to empower people to move from homelessness to home. This mission statement drives everything our staff does, from entering data into a database for funding, to sorting items in preparation for someone moving out of the shelter.
So far, I have yet to engage with Tedford’s community partners, but recognize the vital importance of the work, despite COVID-19 slowing down the initial engagement. I am looking forward to connecting with our partners and learning how our four entities work to support and use each other as a resource. Tedford Housing partners with many organizations in the region. Among them, Oasis Free Clinic, Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and the Gathering Place represent key parts of the safety net for people experiencing homelessness in our area. Community partnerships excite me, as I am eager to meet new people and bring together new entities. Growing together and sharing resources is what creates a broader sense of community that is vital to the MidCoast Maine region.
Undoubtedly, donor engagement will be different this year due to COVID-19, however I plan to engage to the best of my ability and thank every donor. Each donor is important, no matter how large or small the donation, and I believe should be treated as such. As a new staff member to Tedford Housing, I am making it a part of my personal mission to thank each donor personally. It is my goal to engage with donors and bring their support to light, as we would not be able to facilitate our mission without them.
I feel lucky and empowered to join such a long-standing non-profit organization as developed in the community as Tedford Housing. I’ve lived in Falmouth and Auburn during my time living in Maine, and look forward to expanding my knowledge of Brunswick, Bath, Topsham and the surroundings towns. I am consistently searching for opportunities to learn about and engage with active leaders in the homelessness prevention and advocacy world. During my undergraduate degree, I volunteered at an overnight shelter program called Craig’s Doors in Amherst, Massachusetts. Through this experience and working in a third-world country, I found my passion for helping people who do not have a place to rest. I believe strongly that a home is important for your physical and mental health, and our society has the ability and duty to house all homeless individuals and families. I am eager to bring my creativity to Tedford Housing, and help our fellow citizens experiencing the destabilization of homelessness find long-lasting homes.