Donor Testimonials

For Sweetser, Mary Turgeon is the gift that just keeps on giving. And her generosity is expressed in many ways, including as a donor and a volunteer.

As a child, she used to visit her aunt who not only lived on Moody Street up the street from Sweetser’s Saco campus, but also worked at Sweetser. That was the start of a wonderful family tradition that has positively impacted the lives of many children, adults and family members served by the organization.

As Principal at Gawron Turgeon Architects in Scarborough, Mary has a talent for designing environments that foster healing such as Sweetser’s rebuilt barn on the Saco campus, where she incorporated classroom space to accommodate the Experiential Learning Program. She also transformed an office space in Brunswick into a therapeutic setting with a soothing waterfall at the entrance to welcome clients, and a curved hallway that leads to a meditation room.

Most recently, her in-kind giving and ingenuity results in the renovation of the former “President’s House” on the Saco campus to serve as the new home for the New England Eating Disorders program. Thanks to Mary, the new design included the addition of a dining room, where clients now share their meals with staff in a family-like atmosphere.

Since 2008, she has been generous with her time as a member of Sweetser’s Board, including serving as Chair from 2012-2014. Mary also serves on Sweetser’s “Sold on Kids” Auction Committee and is a major sponsor of the event. With Mary’s leadership, Sweteser is quite literally helping to building promising futures.    

An important part of Sweetser’s history is the City of Belfast, where the Children’s Aid Society of Maine began in 1893, later becoming a part of what is now known as Sweetser.

Longtime Sweetser Corporator and supporter Louine Robbins is helping to keep the Society’s mission alive. The Belfast native joined the Board when an opening became available in the late 1980s. She fondly recalls attending monthly meetings at Sweetser’s Saco campus with other women from Belfast. “They just swept me under their wings,” she said.

“Joan Dickey used to drive, and the weather always seemed to be good,” said Louine of the 125-mile trip. Others on the road trips included Melanie Benner and Martha Rogers.

These days they don’t have to leave Belfast to see their legacy in action. Among the many services Sweetser offers today is the School at Sweetser – known locally as the George Robertson School – where in 2006 Sweetser began a program to help youth aged 5 to 20 years old gain the skills needed to return to a public school setting.

As a sixth grader, Louine and her classmates were the first to attend the new George Robertson School, and she’s happy that Sweetser is making good use of the space.

A midcoast symbol that endures today on the Saco campus is Belfast Cottage – it opened in 1951 and continues to serve Maine children today, honoring its midcoast roots.

Longtime Sweetser supporters, Bill and Mary Johnson, recently made an important decision to find a new home for their beloved 20- and 21-year-old donkeys, Coalby and Dolly. The donkeys had become an extension of their family, but the Johnsons were not getting any younger and caring for them was getting more difficult. “You get pretty attached to these animals after 21 years,” says Bill.

After much research, Bill and Mary contacted Sweetser’s farm manager, Julia Birtolo to see if there might be a match. Julia and her assistant, Angie Anders, made four trips to the Johnson’s Saco home to see how the donkeys would adapt to new people. The farm is part of Sweetser’s Experiential Learning Program located in the heart of Sweetser’s residential and school campus in Saco. Students are taught to take care of the animals as part of their school curriculum.

The placement has been a perfect match! The Johnsons could not be happier. Bill, a former three-term Saco Mayor and Selectman, visits Coalby and Dolly at least three times a week and the donkeys are receiving lots of love and attention from the students.

“We are so impressed with the Sweetser educational program and particularly the farm staff,” says Mary. “The key to making this happen was meeting Julia. She is so dedicated and sets the tone with her management style working with the children. We admire how Julia partners with the children and does not talk down to them.”

The Johnsons even hosted a donkey birthday party on campus providing carrots and apples for the donkeys and cake for the students and staff.

The Sweetser farm staff and children look forward to many years of joy having Coalby and Dolly on campus and visits from the Johnsons.

53 Years of Giving Joy

Alex Mantis, the original owner of Pizza By Alex, started donating pizza parties for Sweetser children back in 1961. A friend of his had two children who were helped by Sweetser and Alex wanted to show his appreciation by giving something back to Sweetser. His nephew Andy took over the family business in 1985, and continued the tradition, even after Alex’s passing in 2007. 

Every holiday season, the children living on Sweetser’s Saco campus look forward to visiting this well-established restaurant located in the heart of Biddeford. When it comes to pizza, Pizza By Alex is the campus favorite. “This is a special treat for our kids,” says Sweetser Residential Director, Gail Howlett-Brown. “We look forward to our Pizza Party all year long and it’s a great way to start the holidays.” 

Andy Mantis personally serves the children when they visit. “It makes me feel good to see smiles on their faces,” says Andy. “For one night, the kids can just be themselves and enjoy a pizza. The holidays must be a difficult time for these kids and we are happy to make the days a little more pleasant for them.”

The Mantis family has provided more than just pizza to Sweetser over the years. Upon his death in 2007, Alex Mantis bequeathed $475,000 to support Sweetser programs. Andy Mantis has been a loyal and generous financial supporter as well.

We are grateful to Andy and the Mantis family for their generosity for more than 53 consecutive years. They continue to enrich many lives and make a difference not only to Sweetser, but to numerous charitable organizations.

Generosity Helps Keep Learning & Recovery Center Open

Portland attorney Daniel Lilley, and his wife Annette, recently stepped forward to offer a generous donation of $50,000 to support Sweetser’s Learning and Recovery Center (LRC) in Brunswick.

The donation was made in memory of their late son, David A. Lilley.

Earlier in the spring, the LRC was dangerously near closing its doors, due to budgetary conflicts with the state. When Sweetser announced the decision that the program would close, the media attention also served to bring the struggle to the attention of Dan Lilley.

Of the donation, Lilley said, “My wife Annette and I are donating $50,000 to Sweetser to cover their funding shortfall at the Learning and Recovery Center, which has provided treatment to thousands of people who depend on the services there to get through life. We are assured that with this gift, this facility will remain open for another year and provide the peer support service to those people with health issues that have stalled their lives. The services that include an alternative to formal hospitalization will now not be closed for lack of money. We are making this donation in memory of our son, David A. Lilley, whose life was cut short in an automobile accident when he was 18 years old.”

Once the Lilleys stepped forward, the Department of Health and Human Services also came forward to reinstate the funds at the same level as in prior years.

Cindy Fagan, Sweetser’s VP of Programs said, “We could not have been more pleasantly surprised to receive the call from Mr. Lilley, as his incredible gesture put us in a better position to continue working with the state and most importantly to better serve our clients.”

The LRC is a peer-run program, which means that it is staffed by those people who have experienced mental health issues, and have specific training to work with others. The center has been open for 12 years, and has served thousands in that time. It remains a place where people can go to be with others in a comfortable environment and talk about their struggles; they can engage in crafts, gardening, music, and other activities, finding mutual support in their recovery.

Longtime Donors Continue to Find Ways to Give

Ed Bull and Sheila Matthews-Bull own and operate Cape-Port Caterers and the Rhumb Line Resort in Kennebunkport, Maine. They are Sweetser Corporators and loyal supporters, particularly towards Sweetser’s “Sold on Kids” Auction and Dinner, an annual fundraising event that raises nearly $90,000 to help support the agency’s statewide programs.

As former educators, Ed and Sheila appreciate the impact Sweetser makes on the lives of students and their families. Ed was a teacher and administrator at Massabesic High School in the seventies, eighties and nineties and has been involved with Sweetser for five decades. “I was always amazed at the quality and expertise of Sweetser staff working with at-risk students in our school,” says Ed. “You can’t put a price tag on the positive support system Sweetser has for those in need.”

Sheila, who also taught for many years before opening the Rhumb Line Resort in 1986 and is Chairperson of the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude, remarks, “Where would these kids be without Sweetser? Now that we are in a position to be able to give back, we are pleased to support Sweetser.”

Their popular Cape-Port Caterers lobster bake donation for twenty people, along with a getaway at the Rhumb Line Resort, always gets the spirited auction crowd in a bidding frenzy. “It makes us feel good,” says Ed. “We hope other businesses will join us in supporting a great cause.”

Donating Leads to Volunteering

Bob Tkacik’s journey with Sweetser Children’s Services – as it was then called – began in 1989 when he relocated to Saco with his family. Through his interactions with Carl Pendleton, President & CEO, and Jon Mistos, Senior Director of Facilities, and visits to the campus at The School at Sweetser in Saco, Bob was able to witness first-hand the incredible work done to help children and families.

Bob became a Sweetser Corporator in 1989 and helped develop the Toyota/Sweetser Golf Classic as a major fundraiser. The Golf Classic continues to this day, and Bob continues to be a participant and supporter of the event. Over the past twenty-plus years, he has always been involved with Sweetser as much as possible, but his time was limited due to a thriving automobile business. He has participated in The School’s Vehicle Fair for a number of years, bringing a special car from his classic and rare collection.

Earlier this year Bob was able to increase his involvement with Sweetser, when he also became a volunteer. As a volunteer, Bob spends his time at The School with Ed Tech Mark Perry who oversees the Auto Shop. The Auto Shop is a component of the Experiential Learning program, which allows students who have difficulty in traditional academic settings to learn through a hands-on environment. Due to Bob’s interest and experience with automobiles, it was a natural fit.

Bob says, “I try to share my automotive experience with the kids in the program, who are all great to work with. We take on all kinds of projects from auto maintenance and minor repairs to bicycle and lawn mower “salvation”. It’s rewarding to work with the students and I can see that they all enjoy being there, learning but still having fun. My advice is for those who can, give back in whatever way you can. You’ll be glad you did!”

Bob Tkacik (at right) is pictured in the Auto Shop where he volunteers with Mark Perry, an Ed Tech at The School at Sweetser in Saco.

Giving Experience & Time

Carol Thorne has been involved with Sweetser for over 20 years, and while that involvement has taken various shapes and forms, she has always been proud of her service and affiliation with the organization.

Carol initially became involved with Sweetser through a previous employer, who was a member of Sweetser’s Board of Directors. When that member’s term expired, Carol was asked to step into the role, and she eagerly joined the Board of Directors. She has continued to serve in that capacity, and is also a member of the Development Committee.

Carol was also one of the original committee members for what is now called the annual Sold on Kids Auction. After the second year of her involvement, she was asked to chair the Auction Committee. During the early years of the auction, money was raised in conjunction with the golf tournament, and primarily for children in the crisis centers. The auction continues to be a highlight in Sweetser’s fundraising calendar, as well as a joy for Carol as she remains involved in the planning of the event to this day. She enjoys helping choose the themes and solicit items for each year’s event.

A vocal supporter of Sweetser, she is proud to tell people about the organization as well as its mission and how they can become involved. She always strives to do as much as she can, and visits other Sweetser locations throughout Maine when the opportunity presents itself.

Carol was born and raised in Texas, and moved to Maine in 1967, upon her marriage. She and her husband have raised two children. Carol also has three grandchildren, one of whom will sing at the 2012 Sold on Kids Auction. She resides in South Portland with her husband.

Carol says, “I love serving on Sweetser’s Board! It is a commitment to thousands of people!”

Giving Back

Wall Street investor Chris Emmet first arrived at Sweetser in 1954 at the age of eleven. His mother was in the midst of a divorce and struggling with four children, and Chris was acting out.

During his years living on the Moody Street campus in Saco, Chris worked with a psychologist and case worker and joined Sweetser’s Little League team.

“That was an important part of my life,” he said, “because it made me feel good about myself.”

From Sweetser School, Chris spent one year at public school in Kennebunk and received a partial scholarship to Northfield Mount Hermon, a prep school in Western Massachusetts. After Mount Hermon, Chris earned degrees from Bowdoin College and Cornell Business School. In 1967 he went to work on Wall Street.

For two decades he has been giving financially to Mount Hermon, Bowdoin and Cornell to provide scholarships for students from Maine.

“I enjoy giving back because I’m in a position to do so,” Chris said. “I like to contribute to education. Sweetser is education, but it is also more than education, it’s more important.”

Chris has also been a behind-the-scenes benefactor at Sweetser, which he credits with turning his life around as a child.

Over the past decade he realized that he had more to give than just money. For one thing, he had a sailboat that he kept off the coast of Maine in the summers.

In 2001, Chris teamed up with a Sweetser counselor to take three troubled teenage boys on a weeklong sail, stopping at Mount Desert Isle, Isle-le-Haut, Camden, Vinalhaven, Deer Island and Stonington. The boys ate and slept on the boat and did lots of hiking on their stops.

“It was something they had never done before and may never do again,” Chris said. “Whatever you have to give, give and make the world a better place.”

Chris also has a passion for fundraising, and in 2007 he was elected to the Sweetser Board of Directors.

“I haven’t been getting to as many Board meetings as I’d like,” he admitted, explaining how much his life has changed over the past three years.

Following a divorce from his wife of 44 years, Chris met his present wife Karol in a Costa Rican coffee shop. He was smitten with her and they married in 2008. They bought a coffee plantation – a good investment – in Karol’s native country. Chris already owned a horse farm in Oldwick, New Jersey. And then there’s the business of trading municipal bonds – which Chris does from his home offices, two weeks a month from New Jersey and two weeks from Costa Rica.

“I have a 46-year-old son who works with me on Wall Street and I have a one-year-old son,” Chris said. “I’ll be taking Thomas to soccer practice when I’m eighty!”

Chris is picture above with his wife, Karol, and their family.

Continuing Family Giving

Wesley Ford has been supporting Sweetser for more than 20 years. He admires the impact Sweetser makes on children’s lives. “I like the fact that my gift is helping children who need a better chance in life,” Wesley said. “Sweetser has been doing a good job with kids and making a difference for many years. My mother contributed to Sweetser for many years and I continue this support.” After retiring from Bath Iron Works in 1986 as a computer systems programmer, Wesley managed his investments well and established a trust that will significantly benefit Sweetser and those we serve. A quiet and private man, Wesley hesitated to be featured, but realized his story might encourage charitable and planned giving. At the age of 81, Wesley has accomplished much in his life. This planned gift will help Sweetser continue to provide services and direction to children and families in need. What began as a generous donation from a supportive mother, has evolved into a legacy of support for future generations from her caring son.

Wesley Ford seated in his home.

Continuing the Tradition   

For more than 30 years, the Pizza by Alex restaurant in Biddeford has provided financial support and an annual pizza party for Sweetser students.  Owner Andrew Mantis continues a tradition that was started by his late uncle and original restaurant owner, Alex Mantis.  “We just want to help make a difference for kids, and Sweetser has a great history of helping,” says Andy. “My uncle understood what it was like not to have money for a special meal, so this is just a small way to give back to those who are less fortunate.”  

After his passing in 2007, Alex Mantis remembered the boys and girls at Sweetser by leaving the organization a very generous bequest that will change many lives for years to come.  Andrew assumed the family business in 1988. Each year, he closes a section of his restaurant and caters to several Sweetser students who earn the privilege to attend this special night out. It is an event that the kids really look forward to.

Sweetser is grateful to Andrew, the Mantis family and Pizza by Alex for truly making a difference. 

Pizza by Alex owner, Andy Mantis (right), with Manager Bob Cole and Andy’s sister, Florence Harrison, above.

A Lifetime of Giving

Irvin Foster’s first donation to Sweetser arrived in the mail in 1953. Since that time, this 83-year-old friend has never missed a year of giving to the organization. Not one.   “Sweetser has always had a good reputation, and I have a soft spot to help young people in need,” said Foster. “When I received that first appeal in the mail, I knew it was the right place to give to.”

Growing up in Aroostook County as an orphan, and having two sisters who were adopted by the Home for Little Wanderers, Foster holds a strong appreciation for the work of Sweetser. His generous gifts have helped to sustain this work for more than half a century.

Even geographical distance did not diminish Foster’s benevolence toward Sweetser. In 1980, he and his wife, Rosamond, moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Still, the Fosters continue to believe in Sweetser’s work and financially support our organization each year.

Development Director Todd Henry describes the impact of Foster’s support, “We are accustomed to recognizing donors for the size of their gifts to Sweetser, but just as important — if not more so — are those who give consistently to our annual fund. These donors provide the foundation for our efforts, year in and year out. And no one has given more consistently than Irvin Foster.”

In the fall of 2007, Foster was elected to the Cornelius Sweetser Heritage Society in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the organzation.

Thank you, Irvin Foster, for your 54 years of annual giving to Sweetser.  

Irvin ‘Cut’ Foster with his great-granddaughter, Taryn Lyons, above.     

Giving Back to the Community 

Ira and Judy Rosenberg’s first gift to Sweetser helped build the new barn on the Saco campus after a fire destroyed the original in the summer of 2004. They immediately pledged $15,000 and challenged other businesses to contribute.

“We had been planning to support Sweetser before the fire,” said Ira. “When we moved to Maine, we checked out all of the charities and Sweetser was one of our favorites. It’s all about helping the kids. Sweetser has been doing it for a long time, helping so many families in need.”

One of Ira’s most gratifying moments was when a woman came to his Prime Toyota dealership in Saco and bought a car on the spot. She thanked him for his support of Sweetser and said she was a longtime employee of the organization. She also happened to be a graduate of The School at Sweetser. Ira was touched.

“Where would the kids be if Sweetser was not there for them?” asked Ira. “They could be out on the streets, lost, with no place to go. The people at Sweetser help fill the gap, helping these kids and families cope with life’s many challenges.”

“We commend the employees at Sweetser who work tirelessly for the good of people — they certainly don’t do it for the money,” Judy added.

The Rosenbergs are active sponsors of the annual Sweetser/Prime Motor Group Golf Classic, an event held each June that raises more than $50,000 to support children and families. In addition, they have contributed to countless local organizations including the Dyer Library, Saco Museum, Young School Library, the Saco Fire Department, Saco Spirit, Counseling Services, Inc., and Southern Maine Medical Center. In Massachusetts, where Ira and Judy grew up and built a successful auto dealership, they continue to be significant donors to Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Sweetser is grateful to Ira and Judy for supporting our vision of helping people create promising futures.  

Judy and Ira Rosenberg, philanthropists and owners of Prime Motor Group in Saco pictured above.

Creating a Gift for the Future  

Don and Nancy Morse wanted to do something special for Maine people, especially children who are physically and mentally challenged. They decided to establish a charitable remainder trust to help fulfill their desire to benefit Sweetser, Maine Medical Center and Southern Maine Medical Center. Don has also contributed significantly to the University of New England.

 The charitable trust allows the Morses to receive a generous income while they enjoy retirement, knowing full well their philanthropic wishes will carry on after they are gone. 

“Local people supported me and my business, so this is a way we can support them in return,” explains Don. Born and raised in Wells, Maine, Don was co-owner of A.M. Morse & Sons Lumber and Building Materials, a company that grew as a result of his unique relationships with local folks. Don’s strong belief in personal service attracted him to Sweetser, because of the organization’s commitment to personal service for children and families. 

“We want to help make a difference in our own special way,” says Nancy. A Maine native from Lubec, Nancy feels the same as her husband. Her experience as a junior high school teacher with a Master’s degree from the University of Maine at Orono influenced her to establish two funds through the Maine Community Foundation to provide scholarships for high school seniors to pursue higher education, and support a variety of projects for people or communities in need. 

Don and Nancy learned about Sweetser from former Sweetser Board President Sue Megathlin. “We didn’t know much about Sweetser,” recalls Nancy, “but we are pleased with the great work being done.” Don adds, “Sweetser has a great legacy and now we are part of it.”

Don and Nancy Morse are pictured together above.  

Leaving a Legacy

For several years, David and Marjorie Tourangeau have sought an opportunity to invest in Sweetser’s future. The couple wanted to provide more than a financial gift; they wanted to leave a legacy that would significantly benefit Sweetser’s clients for generations to come. The Tourangeaus have found a way to not only support Sweetser, but to strengthen their own financial position by establishing a Sweetser Gift Annuity. In return for their generous gift, the Tourangeaus will receive fixed payments for the rest of their lives. They will also receive a charitable deduction and some tax benefits.  

As a Board member and the chair of Sweetser’s Development Committee David pursued the creation of a Gift Annuity Program. “Many respected institutions offer gift annuities,” he explains. “Friends of Sweetser deserve the benefits that a program like this can provide.”  

“Sweetser has been around for 175 years,” David explains. “It is financially strong and well endowed. Before an individual can make this type of gift, there needs to be confidence in the organization’s ability to manage assets well. Sweetser has my full confidence. Sweetser means security.”  

David, now retired from UnumProvident, has been active in helping Sweetser grow. Originally a trustee for the Maine Home for Boys, a Sweetser precursor, he was present during the creation of Sweetser Children’s Services in the mid-1980s. Since then, he has also served on Sweetser’s Investment and Finance committees.  

“Gift Annuities have a good rate of return, comparable to other investments and savings,” he says. “In fact, there are some great tax benefits as well. In addition, it’s nice to know I’ll always be a part of Sweetser. I’ll receive an income for the rest of my life and can take pride in my efforts to help people find promising futures.”  

David Tourangeau is pictured above with Todd Henry, Sweetser’s Director of Development.

A Gift of Land  

For many years, long-time Camden resident Jack Williams considered donating his 80-acre parcel of land in Searsmont, Maine, to a reputable charitable organization. The land he had purchased in 1969 had appreciated in value over the years and he wanted to see it put to good use. One day while driving through the town of Belfast, Mr. Williams noticed a Sweetser sign next to the Hutchinson Center and MBNA along Route 3. He drove down Sweetser Lane and was impressed with Sweetser’s growing Belfast campus.

“I didn’t realize all the things Sweetser was doing in my own back yard,” said Mr. Williams. “I used to donate years ago to Sweetser, but seeing the campus near my home inspired me do something more.”

Mr. Williams donated the 80 acres of land to Sweetser. No stranger to community service, Mr. Williams is well known in the area for his devoted support of the Camden Snow Bowl. He helped spearhead a successful fundraising effort to raise $100,000 to rebuild the popular Camden toboggan chute. Mr. Williams even has a ski trail named after him on the mountain, in recognition of his many years of volunteerism. The retired founder of Knox Semiconductor continues to find time to ski regularly and enjoy the company of his three adult children and six grandchildren, who still live in the area.  

As a result of Mr. Williams generosity, “The Williams Woods” will provide future outdoor recreational opportunities for Sweetser staff and children.

Says Sweetser President & CEO Carlton Pendleton, “We are grateful to Jack for his thoughtful gift. This property will be a great resource for Sweetser as we continue to expand services in the Camden, Rockland and Belfast communities.”  

Jack Williams is pictured above with Todd Henry, Sweetser’s Director of Development.    


Learn more about Sweetser’s planned giving opportunities.