Stories of Excellence
Sweetser Staff, Programs and Services have touched many lives. Here are some stories we want to share with you.
Client’s Experiences Help Him, Family Grow and Celebrate
Theodore (Teddy) Temple, Jr. has faced obstacles for years to having what one might consider a “normal” life. Teddy was born hearing impaired, developmentally delayed, and with poor muscle tone. He was diagnosed with a 78% loss of hearing at the age of five and fitted with hearing aids in both ears. Because he thought of himself as “different”, socially and emotionally, Teddy withdrew. He became what he describes himself as “that shy kid”.
Teddy’s mother, Georgia Temple, a Sweetser employee, became a champion for his success. From the onset of his diagnosis, Georgia reached out to establish a strong network of community partnerships to provide Teddy with the support he needed. Teddy engaged in services with the Maine Education Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, case management, school based services, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and special education. In addition, Georgia signed Teddy and herself up to join the Cub Scout program, to give Teddy a social outlet with his peers. With the network of providers around him, Teddy began to respond, physically, emotionally, and socially.
At the age of ten, life changed for Teddy as he was faced with Georgia’s divorce from his father. Teddy really struggled with his feelings and his ability to fit in. Teddy’s response to this traumatic change in his life, was “I am a “failure”. The divorce proved to also be a major challenge for Georgia as well. In an effort to help Teddy find the strength to deal with this challenge, Georgia sought out services of Cindy Kivler, LCSW. Georgia also called the Sweetser EAP line to connect with a social worker for herself. By now, Teddy had reached the end of the Cub Scout program and was faced with the choice of joining the Boy Scouts. Because he was reluctant to participate in the physical aspects of Boy Scouts, Georgia joined with him as a leader with the promise to be with him as he experienced the challenges he would face. Georgia’s motto was “if I can do it, you can do it”. “I had no idea how to do the skills, a Boy Scout needed. However, I was determined to learn and to do whatever it took to help my son to grow.”
With counseling to help Teddy learn to express his feelings and with the experience and skills of Boy Scouting, over time, Teddy began to grow. Through hiking and camp outs with the Boy Scouts, Teddy was able to face challenges head on and conquer them. With each rank advancement, merit badge, and opportunity to lead, Teddy became more confident and more determined. “Joining Boy Scouts proved to be one of the best decisions we made”.
Over the course of five years, to Georgia’s delight, she watched Teddy go from “I can’t” to “I can” to “I will” and now “I have”. On December 12, 2013, Teddy at the age of 16, successfully passed his Board of Review to become an Eagle Scout. They can now share in the celebration that Teddy has recently received the rank of Eagle Scout. This is the highest award in Boy Scouting and is given for excellence in skills development, leadership, personal growth and community service. Another requirement to be able to achieve the rank of Eagle is to coordinate a service project to benefit his community. For his Eagle Scout service project, Teddy replaced the "Welcome to Bowdoin" sign on Route 125, between Lisbon and Bowdoin, that commemorated Bowdoin's Bicentennial in 1988. The project required a year of planning by Teddy and the project took over 140 service hours to complete.
Teddy now views himself as confident. He has set goals for himself to get his driver’s license, to stay on the honor roll at his high school and to become a Boy Scout camp counselor. Teddy wants to pay it forward, to “help the younger Scouts.”
Georgia’s willingness to share Teddy’s story was influenced by her desire to thank the providers who supported Teddy during his journey. As an employee of Sweetser for over 26 years, “My motivation is Sweetser’s mission to: “provide quality treatment, support and hope to children, adults and families through a network of mental health, behavioral health, and educational services”. You never know when your own life will throw you a curve and having the resources to help you overcome the challenges is reassuring. I want providers to know that they are a part of someone’s success story. They make a difference and they do help people find promising futures.”
Congratulations Teddy & Georgia!
Mobile Crisis in Portland Helps Child
Missy Esty, mobile crisis in Portland, received high praise from a child's mother - "Missy was wonderful. She came in and calmed everything down, and then helped us figure out what services we needed and what the best treatment would be to help."
Client Recognizes Brunswick CSU
The Brunswick CSU also received a nice note from a recent client - "Thank you for all of your help and support during my time at the CSU. Your patience and encouragement has set me on a path that will give me every opportunity to be successful."
Brunswick ACT Team Makes Impact
My daughter has benefited greatly from Sweetser's services. Each of her ACT team members has positively impacted her life and has helped moved her towards health and wellness.
CSU Staff Helps
To the CSU Staff,
I want to thank all the caring staff at the CSU for their help and support. I am so impressed with the standards that you maintain. Thank you for making a difference in the least restrictive environment.
Father Thanks Residential Services
I'd like to Thank You for the opportunity you guys gave to me with my son. He's doing a lot better since you put him into my life and I want to Thank You for that. You are awesome, all of you, including workers in his cottage. I have an awesome time when I am with my son and my son does too. I am thankful for this opportunity as it's been a long time coming; this is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. Thank you!
-Father of child in Residential Services
Grateful Parents Thank Sweetser
You are in receipt of this note because my wife and I consider you as one of the several kindhearted people to enter into our daughter's life and assist her on her journey through a tough few years. Over those years, we would tout her progress only to jinx it. She would move forward two steps and jump back one. She graduated from high school (on time!) and we are all confident she will follow through on the next step of her journey - a new beginning - so to speak.
She was one of only 60 freshman out of nearly 1200 applicants to be accepted into a nursing program at a large, prestigious university. We have made several trips and connected to resources on campus. She will embark on this trip on August 20th and takes with her the confidence you each instilled in some part, large or small over the past three years. We are all indebted to your faithful service. Our sincere thanks to you all for either the support you have given us and the positive impact on our daughter.
-A Grateful Family
Clinician From Another Agency Thanks Sweetser Case Manager
From a clinician at CSI to Child Case Manager, Courtney White:
"I just wanted to thank you so much for organizing the team meeting for [client] at Sweetser. This meeting was so important and I am so grateful to you for doing this! You took the initiative to organize this for [client] and family and if it were not for you doing this, they would never have gotten what they need. This was way beyond your job description, and I appreciate your diligence with regard to the client and family."
Letter from a grateful client’s family
To Missy Esty -
I had planned on sitting down and writing you a real thank you note, on real paper, and sending it the old fashion way, but time has gotten away from me, and I really wanted to get in touch with you.
Our family cannot thank you enough. The day that you came to our home was, what we hope, our 'rock bottom'. Things were completely beyond our control, and our daughter was in such a frightening state of mind, we had no option but to ask for help. However, the best of all possible outcomes came out of our calling 774-HELP, and from our meeting you.
Things have completely turned around. Our daughter is on medication and she is seeing a wonderful counselor who has given her invaluable tools to deal with her anxiety and OCD. But, I believe that it was you that helped her, and us, turn the corner. Your straightforward, in your face, manner with her was the perfect approach. She liked you from the minute she met you (you dress very cool), and respected the way that you talked to her, adult to adult. You did all this with just a light touch of humor, to help us all calm down, relax and let our emotions surface so that we could talk about how this situation was making us feel.
While she is still dealing with anxiety, she has returned to her loving, affectionate, sweet self. We cannot express our gratitude enough. It is a comfort for us to know that you are there, not just for us, but for others who find themselves in similar situations.
~ A grateful family
Success with Wraparound from a Youth Perspective
Chelsea was involved with the department of corrections at the age of 12 and then got involved with child protective services at age 13. Chelsea witnessed violence and drug use within her family, which led to a lot of trauma and created instability in her life.
After Chelsea was unsuccessful in multiple family placements and group homes, and due to her use of illegal substances, she was committed to Long Creek Correctional Center for three years at the age of 16. At that time, she also was dealing with other issues including an eating disorder and cutting.
Although Chelsea had a long history of trauma, she always stayed focused on her goals and achieved in both the classroom and through sports. Chelsea realized who she was as a person while in Long Creek and although she had a few slips along the way, graduated a year and a half early and began taking college classes at age 16. Chelsea displayed her determination and willingness to make herself a better person through the Long Creek program.
Chelsea was referred to Wraparound in January 2010 after completing the Long Creek Correctional Program in 11 months.
Chelsea has learned a lot in the last year from the Wraparound program. She realizes that honesty is the best policy and opening up to people you trust can help you get through the hardest times in life. Chelsea feels it is very important to identify supports that are available and she has learned to eliminate negativity in her life.
Today, at the age of 18, Chelsea is living with her step-sister and her husband and their two children in a stable living environment. Chelsea has started her spring classes at Southern Maine Community College and is working part-time.
Chelsea has a dream to become a success story. Chelsea believes the Wraparound program has changed her life and hopes her story will help the lives of others in similar situations as they strive to reach their goals.
Thank You To Sweetser Crisis
Thanks Sweetser Crisis,
Thank you all for everything you have done to care for and help our children. We appreciate it more than we can say.
~ an appreciative family
A Grateful Employee Returns
I am so proud to be a part of the Sweetser team, and with my recent return to the organization, feel like I've come home to family again. I started working for Sweetser about 15 years ago as an ed tech in the School, under Gail Lawrence. I then worked at the School in Windham under Tom Bouchard. I earned my masters degree in clinical counseling and also had many credits in school psychology. I did my clinical internship for Sweetser in SAD 57 under Neil Raymond as a home/school clinician. I left for a time to teach my own day tx class in public school in Windham. Soon, I found myself back at Sweetser as an intake clinician for residential services under Denise Wilson. I really enjoyed that work and found myself very influenced by the structural family work of the Family Focus program on the Saco campus. I fell ill and was layed off, and then worked at a college in southern Maine in Student Services.
I always had my eye on returning to Sweetser, however. Honestly, Carl, the supervision I've received here is by far the best of any of the places I've worked. Each one of my supervisors, from Gail to Tom to Denise and now to Tom Riddell - each one of them have been encouraging, professional and of the highest ethical standards. I've been able to channel my mission of helping children and families into a career here, both in the education and social services worlds. My current position is no exception. I am thankful to work with such dedicated people of the Bridgton office, and Tom Riddell in particular. I am currently a BHP in Bridgton, waiting to finish new requirements for the LCPC-C license. When I do get my license, I hope to become a full clinician in the HCT program in this region. The families we serve inspire me everyday with their tenacity and strengths.
I know you have many employees who feel as strongly as I do about the purpose and mission of Sweetser, and that is a direct reflection of you and your long years of service to the organization, Carl.
Kerry Zabicki, MS
BHP - Bridgton
A Former Sweetser Client Gives Thanks
I was a 2002 resident at the Sweeter Family Focus Program in Saco and then a student at the Saco School for a year and a half.
Sweetser saved my life, saved my family, and led us to bigger and better things. Sweetser helped me become the person I was born and raised to be.
What I learned at Sweetser I will carry all the days of my life and apply them to be successful.
I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to attend Sweetser and have so many great memories, lessons and visions.
Now my family will leave Maine after 17 years and return to our home state.
I just wanted to put a letter out that said.... Sweetser helped me so much and how thankful I am for your programs.
It angers me to see so many state cuts in health and human services. Sweetser is worth every dime because you're saving lives, saving kids from being in trouble and leading them to be successful in a way that benefits each individual. Sweetser had the greatest impact in my life of any program or services.
My family says thank you so much, you helped us so much and our time at Sweetser will be treasured in our hearts forever.
I am now 20, enrolled in college and a professional photographer looking to become a psychiatric social worker.
~ Rich J.
Sweetser Staff Continue To Make A Difference
Hi Chris Libby,
Just wanted to let you know how things have been going.They are going pretty good...haven't gotten in trouble since I got done with you.I wanted to thank you for working with me. I think you helped me a lot. If it wasn't for you being hard on me, I would probably still be doing the things I was before. Now I am still staying in school.Before, I was thinking about dropping out, but I thought I would not be able to do the things I want in life. I'm actually talking with Army and Marine recruiters and thinking about taking that path in life. Things with the family are going good. Sara's baby, Kia,is almost five months now. I just wanted to say thanks for all the help.
~ Sweetser client
A Letter From A Grateful Client
I appreciate that you shared your time when I came to visit and made me feel very welcome. It was important to see Sweetser again because I feel I have gone "full circle" now. Sweetser was, and will be, forever special in my heart.
Once again, thank you sincerely. After hearing my story and the good that came from the care I got at Sweetser, know in your heart, many years down the road, someone will be thinking and saying the same of you. God bless you and all the staff at Sweetser for the difference you make in people's lives.
Very gratefully yours,
(Sweetser resident, 1965-68)
An Email of Gratitude
August 4, 2009
Hi Mr. Eves,
I want to take a second to tell you how happy I am to be working with such an intelligent, empathetic and talented individual; Christine May of Sweetser (Hi-Fi facilitator). She is currently working with a family in York that has an extremely challenging and complex set of life circumstances and mental health issues. Christine has single handedly rounded up and put in place an entire team to deal with this family's issues in record time.
The police immediately contacted me pertaining to this case, as there was feces (dog and human) all over the house, DV issues, health issues, drug use and open cultivation, eviction issues, suicide threats, etc. (with the juveniles), who both have MH issues and were charged with cultivating marijuana. In the time it took for me to get the reports and schedule interviews (less than a month), Christine May already had Hi-Fi in place and various supports and services in place prior to my official involvement. This allowed me to divert these two at-risk juvenile offenders with significant MH issues from the Court system. I have NEVER seen services and supports put into place so fast! The family is very thankful of everyone involved, especially Christine. The children say that their father calls the providers his "Angels". This reference is indeed an understatement.
Christine May is a Godsend to this family and the greater York County community. I am fortunate to have her in my area. I hope that Sweetser fully appreciates what a wonderful employee they have, and support her in her future efforts to help those less fortunate who are in the midst of personal crisis.
Chris Libby, JCCO
A Volunteer Shares Her Experience At Sweetser
My two weeks at Sweetser went by all too quickly. I was even more at home this summer and look forward to returning next year. I'd love to stay longer next summer. It all depends on what's going on around here.
I don't hesitate to tell anyone when I share my experience at the crisis unit, that for children who are so troubled, there could be no better place for them. The staff is so caring and skilled in addressing the needs of each individual child. I think many parents would learn much about parenting in a firm and loving way if they stayed around there for a time. They're a great staff that is professional and skilled. Those children are lucky to be there.
Have a great summer!
~ Sr. Sue, Sweetser Volunteer
A Letter of Thanks to Sweetser
May 22, 2009
Amy Ackroyd, Supervisor
Hi-Fidelity Wrap-Around Program
17 Walnut Street
Rockland, ME 04841
As I leave my position here at the Department of Health and Human Services, I wanted to take a moment to let you know what a total inspiration April Perkins-Monahan has been to me as we have worked in the Wrap-Around process with the XYZ family. April's enthusiasm, determination, and strengths-based practice have truly taught me what the "wrap-around" philosophy can do.
April is a great asset to your organization. In my work with her, she has managed to bring a very resistant family to the table in a caring, compassionate, and creative manner, and has facilitated their nearly miraculous transformation into a motivated family capable of setting goals and meeting them. This transformation has been due to April's dedication to them. They have been blessed to have her in their cheering section!
And so have I. I have been very fortunate to be under April's "tutelage," so to speak. Although she may not have known it, it was April who inspired me to apply for a professional position which will involve Wrap-Around facilitation. I will take April's example with me to my next employment opportunity with Kennebec Behavioral Health, and for that, I am deeply grateful.
My very best,
Jahneene M. Nickerson, LSW
Department of Health and Human Services
Child and Family Services
91 Camden Street, Suite 103
#11 State House Station
Rockland, ME 04841
Parents Thank Sweetser Saco Crisis Staff
I want to thank you for everything that you did for our child while he was with you. You all did a great job. You all offered him and us great support and advice. He will carry this advice with him for the rest of his life. You all should be proud of yourselves for helping out kids when they need someone the most. I cannot thank you enough.
~ A Grateful Parent
A Father Is Thankful For The Help Sweetser Provided For His Son
Back in 2004, our son had an 8-week stayat the Sweetser Crisis Stabilization Unit in Saco.
Some of the best social coaching work that was ever done with him around developing coping strategies and using words to vocalize how he was feeling occurred during that time.The skills that he learned during this out-of-home-placement have helped him to be more successful at home, at school and in the greater community.
We will soon celebrate four years of our son being hospitalization free.This after a two-year period -- between 2003-2005 -- when seven out-of-home placements kept our son away for a total of 297 days.
~ A Topsham dad
Sweetser Case Managers Help Single Dad With Epileptic Son
Steve wakes his son, Alex, by 4 a.m., to drive from their home in western Maine to Boston Children's Hospital for Alex's appointment. "We have done this many, many times before," Steve tells me over the telephone.
Alex was born with brain damage as a result of a stroke before birth. Now nearly 20, Alex faces a host of health issues, including epilepsy and cognitive and physical disabilities. "It's been a long road for him," said his father. "Alex was in the Intensive Care Unit for several weeks after he was born, and then the epilepsy kicked in."
Alex's brain damage caused physical problems, mental retardation and seizures. "He's needed different medications, special education services, and physical therapy," his dad tells me.
I ask Steve to tell me about his son's interests and he answers enthusiastically, "Alex loves sports and ESPN. He collects jerseys and although he doesn't play sports himself, he's going to manage one of his school teams. The coach, who will work with Alex, said he is really excited about being part of the team."
Still, the single dad shared his new concerns. "Alex is getting older, and his mother has not been a part of his life." Steve helps Alex become an adult alone.
Help for Steve came in the way of Child Case Management Services through Sweetser. "Before case management," he said, "I didn't know what was out there for my son. I needed a heads-up."
Sweetser case managers attend school meetings with Steve, help him apply for adult guardianship and supplemental security income for Alex, and apply for adult case management services, once he turned 18.
"Our case manager observes Alex to see for herself where he is at and meets with me to talk about his health, schooling, and where we go from here."
Steve, who works full time, has now enrolled Alex in a day program with Sweetser's help. "We checked places out together," he said. "I wouldn't have known what to do. It makes such a different just to be knowledgeable of what's available."
To protect the privacy of the family, their names have been changed.
Sweetser Group Home Taught Her Valuable Lessons
I used to live at Sweetser's Sanford Group Home many years ago and living there did me a lot of good. I didn't realize it at the time, but they taught me so much and taught me how to be a member of society. They taught me how to do things that my mom would never have shown me. I just wanted to thank you for all that you did for me.
~ A Grateful Sanford Area Client
Client Comes Full Circle
I would urge anyone wondering where and to whom to donate time or funds to please consider Sweetser. In the 1960's, I was a resident of Brown Cottage on the original campus. The values I learned there changed my life.
From a teen girl going nowhere, I graduated from high school, married and became a loving, nurturing mother. I went on to college and got my teaching degree in education and my master's in professional counseling.
I now work with troubled kids. Full circle. Thanks Sweetser.
~ A Former Client
Sweetser Is An Accessible Facility For Crisis Help
In August, Rachel's state of mind developed into a crisis. Rachel did not want to exist. Her husband was away on a business trip and she was alone in the house.
"I guess people who are thinking of committing suicide," she said, "just do it. They don't talk about it."
But talk Rachel did. She emailed her husband and told him how she felt. He immediately contacted Rachel's father, and soon police were at her door escorting her to an emergency room.
"My dad has lost another family member to suicide," Rachel explained, "and he wasn't taking any chances. He's the one who called 911." She was involuntarily committed for her own safety and Sweetser Crisis Services intervened on her behalf.
"When I got to the hospital, the Peer Services representative was there," Rachel said.
Sweetser Crisis Services personnel assured Rachel that she was safe even though, at the time, she was unwilling to cooperate in her care.
"The care and concern that I received from Sweetser made me believe that I deserved to stay on this earth," she added.
"Sweetser Outpatient staff saw me right away," Rachel added. "I got out of the hospital on a Thursday, and my first appointment in Outpatient was on Monday with Mary Toof."
Mary Toof helped Rachel work out coping strategies and get assigned to a medications manager. "What's been really wonderful is that Dr. (Michael) Price has been extremely sensitive to me as far as medications," Rachel said. "I'm thinking so much more clearly. I'm more cognitive. I feel like I've been asleep for the last five years."
"I know that I've had issues since I was a teenager, but I've never had this kind of amazing professional support. I still feel that way. I want to advocate for others and let them know that they can come out of their houses, that there is a place to go. They don't have to stare out the window. Sweetser is a very accessible facility."
The Crisis Services team at Sweetser can be reached through Maine's state crisis response telephone number, 1.888.568.1112.
Belfast Family Appreciates Sweetser
We want all of you to know how very grateful we are for your care of M--. Your entire staff deserves great credit for doing their job so well. Certainly, we know the challenges to safety and sensibility that M-- can create. Everyone needs to know that there are places where crises can be managed by trained and caring professionals. Despite the anxiety and deep concern surrounding M-- situation, we shall recall our connection with you and your team as a huge blessing in our lives.
~ A parent
A Mother Appreciates Sweetser Summer Camp
Albert Einstein had it...Robin Williams has it...Michael Phelps has it...our son David has it. The 'it' is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - otherwise known as ADHD. Not only does our son have ADHD, but he also struggles with other diagnoses. Children like our son have impaired functioning in multiple settings including the home and family, school, and in relationships with peers in summer camp.
For 11 years, finding the right summer camp was a struggle, which usually ended in lost work, time and frustration. We've tried several different summer programs - all unsuccesful. At first, David was labeled the 'problem kid' and then we would receive that dreaded phone call to come and pick up our son, because he was being disruptive. Or even worse, to hear our son describe his day, and the apparent lack of understanding regarding his ADHD needs and inappropriate camp interventions. Needless to say, each and every summer program experience was not acceptable to us. And by spring, once again, we began to feel the pressure to find just the right summer program...until now!
Our Sweetser School Based Clinician, Mary Lynn Corradi, LCPC, told us that Sweetser was starting a new summer camp. Immediately, I went to sweetser.org and signed him up! We felt a sudden sense of relief and hope that this summer would be a different one. Finally, a place where we could take our son to be safe, have fun and be treated respectfully around his emotional issues.
When asked to describe his first day at Sweetser summer camp, David said, 'Sweetser Camp was awesome! I love it! Can I go tomorrow?' This was the first time we had ever heard him say this about any leisure activity. Throughout the summer, he would get up two hours early, ready to go. He would come home happy and - here's something new - TIRED! He did things that he had never tried before like climbing trees, sitting in a yurt, riding a BMX bike on a play track - but also, he did things like each lunch with the other kids, laugh out loud and not get out of control. Most of all, he felt safe and comfortable to express himself and his creativity. For the first time, we had a productive summer and peace of mind, knowing he was in capable hands.
We are truly grateful to the Sweetser camp staff under the direction of Kate Winant. There is no other camp quite like this one! Sweetser's summer program has the right perspective. Rather than the usual negative comments about our son's behaviors, Sweetser camp gave David an award for "The Most Eager To Learn!"
Don't let Sweetser camp be Maine's best kept camp secret! We need to let other families, like ours, enjoy this valued community resource. We need to find enough funding so that this camp experience can be shared.
~ Lillian Scenna, Saco Resident
A Parent's Email Shows Gratitude For Her Daughter's Experience At The Plymouth Campus
I would just like to thank Chris Kerr and the entire staff at the Plymouth location for helping our children learn some "real-life" coping skills. Every other program we have been involved with just perpetuated the problem, generation after generation, by refusing to allow these kids to accept any responsibility for their actions or words. Thanks to Chris, Toni, Terry and the crew at Plymouth, my daughter now has a good chance of surviving and thriving in the real world.
~ a Dexter parent
One Family Is Very Pleased With The Services Sweetser Provides
At four days old, Troy had a stroke that rendered him completely disabled. Today, at 15, although still non-verbal and quadriplegic, he has learned to respond to Yes-No questions with a switch that he can manipulate by hand.
His mother, Linda, said she has been assisted by Sweetser's Case Manager, Lennie Eichman, for nearly four years. She reported that Eichman opened her eyes to recreational opportunities for her son. "Troy thinks the world of Lennie."
"I just love her," Linda added. "Lennie got Troy tickets to Story Land and a trip to Pine Tree Camp. She's just the best." Today, Troy attends SAD 21 classes with his Ed Tech, Diana Jones, who has been with him three years. A CNA also has helped the family for the last seven years. "She's great with him, too," Linda said. "Troy loves to eat but he only weights 60 pounds," his mother said.
Troy will turn 16 in September.
Act Clients Trade Farm Labor For Vegetables
Five ACT Program clients in Brunswick trade their labor on a Wiscasset organic farm for shares of the vegetables they grow. One client, Jason S., shows up to garden every Friday afternoon, rain or shine. The others come when their lives and their mental illness allow them to participate, said Alan McKelvy, a Sweetser vocational specialist.
A few years ago, McKelvy bought the first 'share' of garden produce from his neighbor, Craig Collins, who owns a Maine Community-Supported Agricultural (CSA) Farm. A former social worker, Collins got to know McKelvy and his work at Sweetser, and decided to combine gardening with public service. "It's the best way to affect change with clients," he said of vegetable farming.
To help Sweetser clients learn marketable skills, Collins plowed a 160' x 30' garden plot at his "Two Sisters Farm" in Woolwich and taught Sweetser clients how to plant, tend and harvest.
According to clinical supervisor Rita LaBarbera, gardening teaches skills such as timelines, trust, commitment, following instructions, initiating ideas and follow through. The new gardeners plan to sell extra vegetables to Sweetser employees.
A Letter of Support
May 28, 2008
To whom it may concern:
In my job as a Probation Officer, I have had the opportunity to work with the Sweetser group home in Plymouth and the Healthy Seeds Program. One of my probationers participated in this program during his stay last summer. This program was a very positive experience for this young man. In participating in this program, he was able to grow in many areas. His self-esteem and confidence level improved greatly. He also learned to interact socially with others and was able to "come out of his shell" which has improved his chances for a more positive outcome. He was able to learn many coping skills through his participation in these activities to help him deal more appropriately with the stressors of every day life. His participation in the Healthy Seeds Program was a very valuable lesson and has increased his chances for a more successful future.
I highly support the Healthy Seeds Program at the Plymouth Sweetser group home.
Juvenile Community Corrections Officer
A Mentor Writes A Letter Of Gratitude
Linda Walker served as a mentor for a young woman in the Brunswick area for more than a year. Recently, Linda sent a letter to Volunteer Services describing her relationship with her mentee. She called it "a learning experience." The two enjoyed the time they spent together, she wrote.
Because of family changes, Linda cannot continue mentoring, but she wanted us to know "that mentoring has been very fulfilling for me."
From Linda's letter: "Even though I raised three kids of my own and thought I knew it all, I know now that I didn't know it all. I have learned so much. People are mean to kids that don't look like they think teenagers should look. My mentee sometimes looks like a tough little punk kid. Underneath is a heart of gold and the sweetest little girl you would ever want to meet. It has been an honor for me to volunteer for this organization. If in the future my situation changes, I won't hesitate to contact you again."
Linda has been nominated to receive an award at Sweetser's Volunteer Recognition Dinner on April 30. The purpose of the award is to honor someone for the difference they make in a young person's life and for the many opportunities they provide for those under their care.
Thank You For Helping My Daughter
I am enclosing a donation in thanks for all your staff did to help my mentally ill daughter, at the time she was in Brunswick (2004-2005). She has multiple problems and resists help. My daughter is now with the Community Correctional Alternatives in Farmington, where she is doing better. She has supervision in her own apartment and I am thankful.
~ Lydia S.
A Letter of Thanks
April 14, 2008
H. Chris Kerr, LMSW-CC, Clinician
Sweetser Plymouth Staff Intensive Program
1430 Moosehead Trail
Plymouth, Maine 04969
Re: The Gold Standard
Dear Mr. Kerr:
For 30 years I have worked with traumatized children and their families.Your program is one of the few that insists on total congruence of what is said with what is done.It meets the Gold Standard of treatment for kids - they succeed.
It has been my experience that a child succeeds when the staff truly makes every effort to understand the history and then respectfully deals with them in the present moment.This takes an amazing amount of preparation time involving the anticipation of problems and then the possible ways to prevent them from occurring.The structure of your program actually provides each child with a clear framework to learn constructive interactions and to form more positive relationships.Kids learn significantly more by doing and your program begins to sow the seeds of trust and hope for a better future that each child can create simply by doing.
As a Court Appointed Advocate for a young girl in your program, it has been wonderful to finally see her experiencing a relentless focus on truth and accountability for her actions.The consistency provided by living in the Staff Intensive Program has allowed her to begin to assess situations realistically, understand that she has control over her actions and that she is honestly responsible for her behavior.It is often very difficult to help a child understand that their behavior is part of their problem.But it can create great hope for them to discover that merely by choosing different actions they can actually solve their problems.Your program provides that opportunity.
Thanks to you and your team for truly making a positive difference in the lives of children!
Christine P. Griffin, M.S. Ed., ABSNP, NCSP, GAL, CASA
Certified School Psychological Provider
National Certified School Psychologist
Diplomat & Board Certified School Neuropsychologist
Sweetser Mentor Praises Lessons Learned
For two years, a Bowdoin College student has given mentoring and tutoring services to a Brunswick family. Brian Lockhart sent a letter to Volunteer Services thanking Sweetser for influencing his career choice. Lockhart wrote, "My future plans have been influenced by my volunteering at Sweetser. My interest in teaching was sparked by working with this family. That led me to looking into health care. I believe much of what I have learned while working for your program has prepared me for many of the challenges ahead. Thank you!"
The Staff At Sweetser Saved My Life
I was the first kid to enter the Portland Cottage Offender Program (in 1992) when I was 12. The staff there saved my life. I could never verbalize the gratitude I have for everyone there who helped me become the kind, honest and sincere man I am today. My hope is, to some day soon, be able to give back to Sweetser for all that was given to me. I still miss my primary counselor, Mary Boothby, who was a second mother to me.
I'm sorry I don't remember my teachers' names, but they were awesome! I do remember the cook, Margaret, a sweet woman. I want you all to know you saved my life. For that I will be forever grateful.
~ Dale J.
Wraparound Team Goes Above and Beyond
A 15-year old young man, who was living in group care and presented with a history of juvenile corrections involvement, had no viable family or guardian to assume responsibility for him or provide a home after his treatment. In a seamless collaboration between Sweetser and another provider, the Sweetser Wraparound team identified a relative of his in Massachusetts, who was willing to relocate to Maine for the purpose of offering legal guardianship and a stable, healthy home in the community where this client grew up. In addition, the youth is being supported in developing athletic skill, after-school work opportunities and a completion of his probationary requirements. None of this would have been possible without the extensive efforts demonstrated by the entire multi-disciplinary, multi-agency Wraparound team.
~ Sweetser Staff
Thank You For Assisting A Family
A client reported to Family Focus in Sanford that she only had 36 hours of wood left to heat the house, and was cutting trees in her back yard and burning green wood to keep warm. After many calls to lumber yards, foresters and firewood companies, one company stepped up to help our family. Timberwolf Firewood of Lebanon, on the very day that they were contacted, drove 40 miles to donate a cord of seasoned firewood already cut and split to fit the client's stove. "I couldn't believe you at Sweetser had been trying so long to find someone to help," said Patty Schaffer of Timberwolf. "Depending on how much winter we have left, they should be all set for at least six weeks."
Thank You For Helping During A Difficult Time
Thank you and your agency for making yourself available to come to our school. Mrs. Dayn and I greatly appreciated your kindness and expertise in helping our community cope with the death of our friend and colleague. With your support, and the help of others, we were well prepared to respond to the needs of our staff and students.
We invite you to come back to East End Community School to see the mural that our community created to express our warm memories and caring for Mrs. Donovan.
~ Larry Herdade, Social Worker
Thanks For All The Help And Support
I miss you guys a lot. I still can't believe that I graduated! Thanks for all the help and support that I needed to survive in life. Without you, I would not be able to stay calm in situations like I do now. Sweetser is one true family!
~ C.J. G.
Thank You For Helping My Brothers And Family
Sweetser is forever in my heart for taking my brothers in, back in 1956, when my mother was so sick. I was only six years old at the time, but I remember it still. You were very good to them. I have tried to help Sweetser whenever I could. God bless each and every one of you for all the good work that you continue to do and for all the children you have saved.
~ Sara B.
Sweetser Changed My Life
You guys changed my life. I will always remember my time at Sweetser. I lived in Portland Cottage in Saco and Bob Gauthier was the best male role model I have ever had.
~ Mike B.
Sweetser Employee Goes Above & Beyond To Help A Client
It is not often that you encounter a young man who performs his given responsibilities exceptionally, but goes the extra mile to make someone's life a little easier. That person is Jeff Gilman, Community Support Specialist, in your Brunswick office. He helped my sister, who suffered from mental and physical disabilities that made her life difficult, at best.
Living in Virginia and (facing) my sister's deteriorating mental condition made it very difficult for me to communicate with her. Jeff became my eyes and ears as an advocate. The list is long for situations that Jeff resolved. Without Jeff, my sister's situation would have unraveled, but it stabilized over the two years that Jeff was involved. Unfortunately, my sister died in 2002.
I thanked Jeff for his dedication, but I want you to know that you have an exceptional individual working in Brunswick. Sweetser is a wonderful program, and I thank you and Jeff for allowing my sister the opportunity to participate.
~ Ted S.
Sweetser Employee Helps Out In A Time Of Need
Our patients have many needs so Jeanette called the unit to offer her time. She spoke with a patient who had been having extreme difficulty. Jeanette was able to sit with her for a consistent amount of time, allowing this woman to feel safe enough to share her thoughts and fears. The patient told us later that she really enjoyed the interaction with Jeanette.
Jeanette took extra time to distribute pamphlets and cards. There are times that our unit cannot provide these extra services, but, at times like this one, Jeanette's help was very valuable and greatly appreciated by staff. Nice work!
~ Denise Mathieu, RNC, Behavioral Health
A Heartfelt Testimonial Written With Deep Appreciation
It is with deep appreciation and heartfelt thanks that my husband and I write this testimonial. Our entire family has benefited tremendously by being a part of the Sweetser "Family."
We had just hospitalized our son, Josh, for the fourth time when we met our assigned Sweetser case manager. It was a very emotional time for us and we felt hopeless and helpless. It was through the highly professional and dedicated efforts of our case manager that we were able to get the help our family so desperately wanted and needed. So many doors were opened for us that would not have been possible without her.
Josh had to stay at the Sweetser Crisis Unit for a few months. It was a hard time for him and for us. We never had him away from home for so long but he did adjust and we went to see him every day. All of the staff were so good to the children there.
No matter how stressful a situation seemed to be the staff stayed calm and firm. I admired their commitment to these children. I made many calls and every time the staff was polite, patient and caring. They knew it was hard for us to have to leave Josh, but we did feel he was in a safe and kind environment.
Our case manager arranged for us to be able to join the Family Focus Program. It has been such a positive turning point in our lives! It helped me, and my husband, understand even more clearly that emotional and behavioral problems are not just our child's problem. The entire family needs to work together to make the outcome successful and also continue to be consistent and successful at home. Josh worked very hard to learn and use more appropriate coping skills and we learned more effective ways to communicate with Josh, and our daughter, to lessen the level of frustration. It is a work in progress that we continue to work on each and every day.
We are so proud of our progress as a family, and each of us as an individual.
Josh is also currently in the Sweetser School. When Josh started at Sweetser School, he was between a 2nd and 3rd grade level in reading. We are SO PROUD to say he is now reading and working on other school subjects on a 6th grade level, just one level below his grade appropriate grade level.
Josh has grown tremendously under the care of all the truly dedicated and skilled teachers, therapeutic counselors, and staff at Sweetser School. He went into the school a very depressed, angry boy who kept mostly to himself. He is now a very popular, well behaved (most of the time) young adult who cares about his fellow classmates. I have been told he is a leader that all the other students in his class look up to!
Josh sees Dr. Kaplan, one of Sweetser's Psychiatrists, for medication management. Dr. Kaplan is a remarkable doctor, whose insight and wit makes parents and children alike open up to him. He truly listens to both the child and the parents and respects their feelings and opinions.
Josh was also blessed with a wonderful behavioral therapist, Jack White, who helped him learn to use his coping skills in the community. Jack is the most committed, patient and kind man, and therapist, we have ever met. We learned so much from him.
As you can see, we have been fortunate enough to have access to all of the best that Sweetser has to offer.
We truly want to give special thanks to our case manager, Jean Rainville, who helped us not only find all the wonderful help through Sweetser, but, also, many other needs we had and continue to have. There have been times when Jean worked well into the night working on something for us, as I am sure she has done for others. Thank you, Jean for going above and beyond the call of duty. You truly are a remarkable person who gives all of themselves to help others in need.
With our deepest gratitude and thanks to all at Sweetser. May you continue to reach out to families in need with your lifeline.
~ Harold and Nancy B.
Sweetser Has Gone Beyond The Call Of Duty For My Family
It is with great pleasure that I take my son home today. You see, I have never been able to function on a life level while Josh was in crisis. Your facility has not only done wonders for Josh, it has done wonders for our family. It was nice to know that my son was always in good hands and very well taken care of. I have to say your home and program have gone beyond the call of duty.
I will never forget all that you have done for my son...I will express my deepest thanks to staff and supervisors of Pride Street.
~ Mellette D., mother of Joshua
Sweetser Helped Me Become The Person I Am Today
I was a teen at the site in Saco in 1966, and lived in the Brown Cottage. The Sargents were house parents then. I was a horrible kid and hated my time there, until it was time to leave, and then I cried. I didn't learn the value of my time at Sweetser until I became an adult. When you work with a troubled kid, and feel you are not reaching them, hang on. You can never count them out.
I became who I am today in large part because of the caring people at Sweetser. Today, I am the mother of two grown children, grandmother to five, and have fostered 12. We have three children still in our home today. I am earning my graduate degree in clinical counseling. So, you see, you never know what that horrible kid is going to become.
Thanks, Sweetser, and good luck with your wonderful work.
~ Elizabeth M.
Thank You For Your Response During Our Time Of Crisis
Please accept this donation with our deepest gratitude. Andy, from Sweetser, responded immediately, in our time of crisis, to help me provide support and counseling to our staff after a very difficult event at our facility. I have worked here at the Androscoggin Animal Hospital for 15 years, and have never experienced such an event. Andy helped us respond to our grief in a timely and efficient manner. We sincerely appreciate his guidance. Although I hope never to need these services again, I have great peace of mind that I have provided my staff with the best support to help them cope and move forward.
~ Rachel R.
Thank You For Helping My Son
My son, Ryan, attended Sweetser during the second half of his junior year and most of his senior year. He made an immediate connection with his teachers, and also with the students, who struggled with some of the same issues my son did. Sweetser exemplified a level of patience and genuine concern that I had not seen before. I knew these people were special. Ryan was finally thriving! He would come home and talk to me about school and the friends he made. He was enjoying school for the first time in his life.
The Sweetser team became my partner in this difficult journey to help my son. Sweetser worked so intimately with our family that I wondered if we would have made it through without them. I will be a lifetime donor. You are my heroes.
~ Tammy W.
What Our Clients Are Saying
I would just like to thank Chris Kerr and the entire staff at the Plymouth location for helping our children learn some "real-life" coping skills. Every other program we have been involved with just perpetuated the problem, generation after generation, by refusing to allow these kids to accept...