Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 24 : Spring 2015 - Page 31

Where There are Farms, There is Promise. Jane Margesson AARP Maine Communications Director We have all heard the inspiring statement “one person can make a difference.” In the case of a retired business man in The County, nothing could be truer. From humble beginnings, one man’s passion to help older Mainers who are going hungry has resulted in an extraordinary community project. It’s quite a story! After 35 years in the business, Dale Flewelling, a lifelong resident of Houlton, sold his popular transmission shop to his son in 2006. Long connected with his community, Dale recognized that many older residents were struggling to make ends meet. Some, he knew, were going without a decent meal on a regular basis. When in 2008 a farmer in Benedicta contacted the Empowering Life Center where Dale was volunteering, a light bulb went off. The farmer had extra rows of corn he didn’t need and wanted to donate the crop to anyone willing to harvest it. After recruiting five other volunteers, Dale harvested 3,600 ears of the farmer’s corn and donated it all to Aroostook food pantries. Over the next few years, this new idea became a community initiative, aptly named “Friends of Aroostook” or FOA, and it continues to expand. Local farmers donate or inexpensively lease their acreage to Dale. Along with a dedicated team of volunteers and low-income wageearners, Dale grows and harvests fruits and vegetables all of which is donated to local food pantries and programs such as Meals on Wheels. From 3,600 ears of corn, the program now annually donates over 120,000 pounds of fresh produce. SPRING 2015 29