News Feature

Castine
Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 20, 2019
Blue Angel a community model for easing hunger issues
First season feeds friends, neighbors

Adams School garden

Blue Angel used the Adams School garden and greenhouse to grow produce, above, and also gardens at Trinity Church.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Joy Corey

by Anne Berleant

Sparked by the idea that no one in her community should go hungry, last spring Deborah Joy Corey gathered a strong group of volunteers and started Blue Angel, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that grows community gardens and solicits food and other donations to help bridge the food gap that leaves one in four Hancock County residents insecure about their next meals.

“It didn’t seem to be necessary that people are hungry,” Corey explained in the most simple terms.

Six months, two community gardens and a weekly “porch drop” at Corey’s home later, and Blue Angel not only provided weekly deliveries to anywhere from 15 to 22 local families but also stands as a model for other communities looking to end hunger, one family at a time.

“We’ve had a lot of community support,” Corey said, with gardens and/or a greenhouse donated by Trinity Church and Adams School, kitchen use and storage by the church, along with gifts of seedlings, donut sales, leftovers from farmers markets and local restaurants and stores closing for the season and financial donations.

“There’s lots of different [organizations] on the Peninsula to help with food insecurity. I think anytime people help using local food—I’m happy to partner with that,” said King Hill Farm co-owner Amanda Provencher, who sold and donated farm stuff to Blue Angel.

One of the greatest gifts for Blue Angel is time.

“A lot of people were interested, but the core [volunteer] group was the young people, coming back for the summer,” Corey said. “They just grabbed it.”

Community comes in large part from connections, and Corey’s goal extended beyond addressing hunger to forming relationships with the families she delivered to each Friday, and those she met at a stand set up weekly outside of H.O.M.E. day care in Orland.

“The goal is to get to know your families,” Corey said. “We have a few retirees. Most of the other families everyone’s working one or two jobs, and they just can’t make ends meet.”

The weekly deliveries include fresh produce from donations and the Blue Angel gardens, and some type of protein Blue Angel purchases. Occasionally, deliveries include a food or dish already prepared and cooked. If there’s more than can be stored, it goes to Tree of Life food pantry in Blue Hill and H.O.M.E., Corey said.

For Corey, Blue Angel is “a full time job, pretty much,” she said. “I work at it every day, but it’s also really rewarding. You get to know these people. I think, if I don’t do this today, he might not have dinner this weekend.”

She recalls one regular for whom she left his delivery outside each week. “[He] finally opened his door in October and started telling me his story and what his life is like. It’s an honor.”

She added: “The people we’re serving are not any different than anyone in this community. They have lives, they have stories, they have opinions.”

Corey points to a few core Blue Angel supporters, such as Christine Lutz and Amy Gutow, and Amanda Provencher from King Hill Farm in Penobscot, but said the Blue Angel message hasn’t reached the summer population. “We have had a very hard time getting the summer people to support [us] financially, which is so necessary.” One woman, Jean Pedersen, has jumped on board, though: “I am so happy to help this wonderful cause….Food insecurity is a huge concern. We cannot have people going hungry!”

To volunteer, donate and for more information, visit blueangelme.org, and Facebook: Blue Angel Maine.

“We don’t see hunger and we don’t ask,” Corey concluded. “It’s not a sexy cause. It’s not a historical society or museum. There’s no way to put distance between the heartache.”