Letter from the Editor

Darby MurnaneEditor-In-Chief

Dearest readers,

    We close out the year with the spring’s final issue of the Farmington Flyer. As with the previous issue, we are still solely online with our contributing writers and reporters scattered across Maine and the U.S. Our stories in this issue continue to look outward from the UMF campus and cover a greater range of material from as many regions as our writers reside. 

    It is strange not to be holding the final issue in my hands, not to be writing these words on campus but rather from six states away. This is certainly not the proper ending to my time on Flyer that I had imagined, but so very few endings ever feel right and proper. So I will take what I have and make of it what I can. 

    Though this may be an ending for me, it is a beginning for the new staff who will be taking the reins on the paper for the year to come. I’d like to introduce Portia Hardy and Colin Harris as the new Editor in Chief and Assistant Editor. The current Assistant Editor and Secretary Emma Pierce will be guiding the new staff into their roles with her experience and expertise, as well her unending patience from dealing with me. 

     And to Portia and Colin, I offer you some advice that hopefully can be construed as wisdom and thoughts to keep with you as you take this paper and make it your own: This is the time to practice looking at the world with a more piercing gaze than you would’ve looked with before. There is always another layer to a story, another question to ask, another perspective to seek, another angle to consider. Pay attention to the story itself- this might sound silly, what else would you be paying attention to? But sometimes the story knows how it wants to be told, how it needs to be told, and if you don’t pay attention, you run the risk of telling it wrong as some stories require a specific form and voice. You will miss things- constantly. But don’t be afraid of that. Learn to ask yourself, “What am I missing? How do I find it?” Ask for help. This is not a job done alone, and should never be. I would never have survived without my fellow editors and relied daily on the support of their teamwork. And beyond even the staff, remember that this job is done with the help of those who agree to talk to you. Never forget your sources and the favor they have done you by donating their time and voices. Remember your empathy. If you don’t have an honest connection to your sources, if you don’t earn their trust, you have nothing. If a story of some sensitivity and weight lands on your desk, your every decision should be made with respect, dignity, and care. Not every detail, not every piece of a person, is meant for a larger audience. 

    Remember your grit, your resilience, your spine. It is your job in your reporting to maintain accountability and transparency. It’s your job to ensure nothing stays hidden or swept under the rug. But sometimes doing that job will start a fire. Even a small student paper like ours can, and has, sparked change. There will be days when it feels like everyone and their grandmother is coming after you. And it may induce the urge to throttle someone. Resist the urge, I beg you. And listen. Has there been a mistake? If so, how do you fix it? If you can swear up and down that you’ve done everything right, you may very well feel a wave of righteous anger, a sense of how dare you, and feel as though you should express all those feelings in the strongest possible terms. Don’t. If you can, wait 24 hours to collect yourself. If you can’t wait and an immediate response is required, never underestimate the power of asking “Can you tell me about your concerns?” It’s when you refuse to listen that a real problem will arise. 

    An editorial position is a lot to take on and I will not hide that from you. Just take it one story, one issue at a time and have mercy on yourself.

    And to you, dear readers, be gentle. A student newspaper staff is perpetually in the learning curve as roles change hands every year. But still, hold us accountable as we hope to hold the community accountable. We will never continue to grow if our faults are hidden from us.

    Thank you for your time, your voices, and your stories. Until we meet again.

Goodnight and Good News,

Darby Murnane, Editor-In-Chief 2019-2020

Community Members Supply Food for Monmouth and Winthrop Students in Need During Pandemic

Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer

    Since the closing of all schools due to COVID-19 members of the Monmouth community have been stepping up to provide food for the RSU 2 school district students in Monmouth and Winthrop, Maine.

    Norm Thombs, director of Camp Mechuwana, a United Methodist Camp in Winthrop, jumped on the opportunity to help feed students in the community. Thombs is also one of the Monmouth Academy track coaches, and he and two other Monmouth track coaches, Tom Menendez, and Molly Menice helped pass out student meals.

    Together, Monday through Saturday they stand outside the Town Office in Monmouth for an hour and a half, giving breakfast and lunch to anyone in need. In addition to passing out food, the three have also been traveling to Winthrop to pass out meals to Winthrop students on Mondays and Wednesdays.

    Many students are desperate and in need of meals during this time. In one day alone they had given out 462 meals. Thombs’s plan is to continue giving out student meals as long as necessary.

    When the schools closed, RSU 2 superintendent announced that food would not be provided for kids. When Thombs heard this, he wanted to create a pandemic feeding center at Camp Mechuwana to help the community. Within two days the camp was set up to be a food distribution center. In the beginning local schools helped Thombs, Menendez and Menice, “The first week some of the school workers from RSU 2 helped out in the kitchen,” he said. However, as the closings continued, the schools were no longer able to help, leaving the three to operate alone. The Winthrop school system had also begun struggling to find help, and asked if Camp Mechuwana would be able to provide food for their students.

    Before lunchtime every day, both Thombs and Menendez travel to the camp to prepare and pick up food. A few students who had graduated from Monmouth Academy work in the camp kitchen to help prepare the meals. “[They] make all the meals and Tom and I back in the vans and load meals into them.” he said. Yet, Thombs wants as few people as possible in the kitchen due to the virus. 

    After passing out meals the group travels back to Monmouth to begin passing out meals at the town office. Whatever leftover food they have, which is normally not much, they take back to the camp and put in a cooler.

    The food to make the meals is being supplied by companies such as NorthCenter Food Company and Dennis Food and Supply. These companies supply restaurants and cafeterias. People from the community have been generously donating paper bags, sandwich bags, and food containers. “People have been sending us donations because not all our costs are covered,” Thombs said. “People have been really great.”

    Standing outside every day, often in the cold and rain, can be difficult, but Menendez said he is happy to help. “It puts a smile on their face,” he said. “At least the kids get a lunch and a breakfast.” The meals are helping meet the needs of people in the community.  

    Thombs, Menendez and Menice are experiencing added benefits as well. They are able to say hello to students, and meet new people in the community. “Some kids are so polite and so helpful when they come by with their parents,” Menendez said. “It makes you feel good.” One child who routinely goes to get lunch surprised him “There’s this one little kid who came down over the hill and asked if he could make me a picture,” Menendez said. “He came back about twenty minutes later with a picture”, Menendez now keeps the picture on his fridge.

    The food provided is mainly for students who are unable to have breakfast and lunch because of school closures, yet they will not deny anyone from the community who needs a meal. “We’ll give them an extra meal if we know the family is in need,” Menendez said. There are elderly people who may be in need, or college students who have come home from school and may not be able to afford food. “If they need it, we’ll give it to them,” Menendez said.

Farmington Businesses Work Through COVID-19 Together

Taylor BurkeContributing Writer

    Farmington’s essential businesses are working hard to serve their communities through the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), but since Maine Governor Janet Mills mandated the stay-at-home order, this hard work doesn’t come without challenges. 

    Franklin Printing, just five minutes away from UMF, has remained open because the customers they serve are part of essential industries. “The two general categories we service are medical supplies and food packaging,” said David Nemi, Marketing and Sales Manager at Franklin Printing, in an email interview. “One of our customers, Abbott Laboratories, is manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. We print the materials included with each kit.”

    Nemi is very appreciative of how the staff is responding to the changes involving how business is being done. “We have a dedicated team who works hard to service our customers,” he said. “When Abbott needed COVID-19 materials from us in 24 hours, we rose to the occasion, working over the weekend to make a delivery on a Sunday morning.” 

    Franklin Printing is working hard to protect both its staff and customers in accordance with precautions concerning COVID-19. The building isn’t allowing any visitors except for those who are essential. In addition, they are constantly cleaning surfaces, practicing social distancing, and providing all employees with masks and bottles of hand sanitizer. “Everyone is adapting and understands our good decisions now will bring a better tomorrow that much sooner,” Nemi said.

    Even though Franklin Printing is experiencing a decrease in business and have been forced to cut hours for their production team, Franklin Printing is using the challenges they’ve faced as a learning and growing opportunity. “Our goal is to make sound decisions now so there is no long-term financial impact,” Nemi said. “We are taking advantage of the various stimulus programs the state and federal government are offering to provide financial assistance to employees.”

    Mary Jane’s Slice of Heaven, a pizza restaurant near Narrow Gauge Theater that opened in January, has been overwhelmed by the community response that it’s received over the changes. Mary Jamison, owner of the restaurant, has had to make, including laying off new employees, running the business by herself, and switching to take-out only. “The support from the community and the customers is amazing and humbling,” she said in a phone interview. “Everybody that comes in has been super friendly.” 

    Being a new business trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some challenges for Jamison, especially in the efforts to receive federal aid. “We don’t have a lot of the documentation that they’re needing,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to make it work.” This has included contacting banks and other resources recommended to her in order to get the assistance she needs. “It’s like starting the business all over again,” she said.

    To keep everyone safe, Jamison is following social distancing guidelines and has made changes to how she interacts with customers. “It has all been a challenge, but we’re doing it.”

    Jamison is also giving back to the community to those in need during these tough times. “We donated food for the kids’ meals through W.G. Mallett School,” she said. “We also worked with the Children’s Task Force to donate some pizzas to families in need.” 

     The Pierce House, a residential care facility located on Main Street in Farmington, also has the goal of keeping spirits alive for those that they serve. Administrator Darlene Mooar and her staff are doing everything they can to accommodate for new recommendations while also continuing to offer the same way of life that the residents enjoy. “We are providing the opportunity to carry on their most precious activities (exercise, Bingo, and sitting on the porch) by modifying the room set up to accommodate for social distancing.”  They had to inform Pierce House residents and family members that there would be visiting restrictions

    With these visiting restrictions in place, Mooar was worried about the residents. “My greatest concern is the risk of separation anxiety from their usual visits,” she said. However, her team still plans to support residents just like they always have. Through the kindness of those in the community, The Pierce House has been able to exceed the needs of their residents to make them as comfortable and safe as they can.

       The Pierce House staff are reporting any symptoms of respiratory infection, taking their temperature before starting their shifts, and wearing surgical masks, cloth face shields, and face shields when needed. “The best thing I have seen is the employees’ willingness to do everything necessary to protect each other, the residents, and their own families,” said Mooar. “We are the armor that shields our most critical resource: human beings.”

    Despite the challenges Farmington businesses are facing, they are still going strong with the support of their customers, community, and staff. Their resiliency is a true testament to how important togetherness and dedication are in times of uncertainty. 

Keeping Faith During Quarantine

Andrea Swiedom Staff Reporter 

    As the third week of quarantine approaches, UMF students and faculty have had to adapt numerous aspects of their lives including their faith practices. For many Christians, Easter Sunday was a televised celebration this year as were many of the Catholic Holy Week traditions. Similar alterations to practicing the month-long Muslim tradition of Ramadan starting April 23 will also be made due to quarantine.

    Sophomore Abbie Hunt typically spends Easter Sunday watching the sunrise over Sabattus Pond at Martin’s Point in Sabattus with her family and friends before attending a service at Community Baptist Church in Sabattus.  

    “My family still got up early– around six– to watch the sun rise from our house. Then we had our own breakfast together. Since my dad is the associate pastor and my mom is one of the worship leaders, they went to my church to put on our live stream service,” Hunt said in an email. “My siblings and I watched the church service on Youtube Live from our couch.”

    To maintain a semblance of normality, Hunt and her sisters dressed up for the live streamed service and texted friends from church during the sermon.

    For creative writing professor Patricia O’Donnell, who practices Catholicism, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is filled with numerous opportunities to attend special mass services. “I would usually go to at least one other service that week, like Good Friday; that’s the service that I would often go to. So it was kind of hard to get into the feeling of Easter,” she said over video chat from her Farmington home.

    Instead, O’Donnell live streamed an Easter mass from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. “I have been there before and it’s beautiful! It’s like I can go visit another church!”  

    She was surprised to see how the service was conducted in the midst of the pandemic. “They had 15 to 20 people conducting the service, and they weren’t doing a lot of social distancing. They gave communion to the attendants. The priest put it in his hands as he usually did and some of the people had him put his fingers right in their mouths!”

    Freshman Yusuf Mohamed who practices Islam, can only anticipate how his upcoming Ramadan practices–a daily sunrise to sundown fast, keeping up with praying five times a day, acts of charity and attending Jummah; a Friday prayer service held at a mosque–will be altered to adhere to the stay-at-home order.

    “Actually, quarantine makes it hard because you usually try to stay productive because if you just lay down, your body gets lazy and you’re not even gonna want to pray,” Mohamed said over video chat.

    Mohamed relies on soccer to keep himself energized during Ramadan even though he is prohibited from food and water during the day. “We usually have a Ramadan soccer tournament. And even though we can’t drink water, I’m used to it. I’ve been fasting since I was 8 years old.” 

    He also anticipated quarantine interfering with a sacrifice that his family makes every year. “At the end of Ramadan, my family usually slaughters a goat for a sacrifice and eats it as a way of saying thank you to Allah. I think that might be difficult because we usually go to a farm in Green and pay the place to kill it.”

    O’Donnell also reminisced about her typical holiday non-quarantine traditions which always includes a big family dinner. “Sometimes my grandchildren would come up and we would have an Easter egg hunt here and they would go to mass with me, the two little girls. They can’t say no, only the adult children can say no,” she said laughing.

    Instead, the granddaughters, O’Donnell’s three children and their partners visited each other for Easter Sunday over a Zoom chat and then O’Donnell had a quiet dinner with her husband.  “Our special dinner was that we ordered a dinner from Harry and David. We ordered two lobster pot pies and it was sort of like eating out, and it cost about as much as eating out!”

    Despite quarantine restricting certain traditions, faith communities have found ways to keep people connected and practicing their religion. Hunt is part of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IV), a bible study group that hosts weekly fellowship, worship and games at the UMF campus.

    “Now, we are pretty much doing that same thing, but we’re doing it over Zoom,” Hunt said over a video chat from her family home in Monmouth. “Our leader shares his screen over Zoom and he plays a worship song on Youtube. So that has actually worked pretty well.”

    O’Donnell attends Saint Joseph’s Church in Farmington which is remaining connected with congregants in a variety of ways. “Our priest is good at keeping in touch through the Facebook page. He did a drive up confession. I’m not gonna do it,” she said smiling with her hand over her chest. “He let people drive up to the church hall and they have a confession there and then they drive away.”

    For Mohammed, remaining connected with his faith community during quarantine will mean spending more time with his siblings and his mother, watching Islamic lectures and leaning in even more to the purpose of Ramadan.

    “I believe quarantine will get people closer to Allah because they won’t be distracted. They’ll practice Ramadan more. It’ll make us grateful for what we have for sure,” Mohammed said. “Every year, Ramadan just brings me feelings of being grateful.”

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