While most Mainers focus on finding relief from sweltering summer temperatures, Joan Sheedy is concerning herself with snowfall predictions.

For the past 10 winters, Sheedy has overseen a Senior Snow-shoveling Project to provide Portland seniors, age 65 and older, and those physically challenged, with free snow removal.

Sheedy’s efforts began shortly after she moved to Portland in 2004. That’s when she learned that the city fines homeowners $110 if they fail to clear snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours of a storm.

“I thought that was just mean!” said Sheedy. “All I could picture was some poor woman who’d just lost her husband having to search for a shovel down in her basement and clear all that heavy snow from her sidewalk.”

Sheedy quickly put together a proposal that she pitched to five Portland-area high schools, requesting the services of student volunteers to shovel the steps and walkways of senior residents.

“I knew that most schools require a certain amount of community-service hours from graduating senior students or those who wish to be considered for after-school groups like the Key Club or the National Honor Society,” said Sheedy, who thought the shovel project would offer the perfect outlet.

At first, Sheedy pitched her idea directly to groups of students. But the project has since taken on a life of its own, with Sheedy merely providing schools with a list of residents who need the services (these days, about 150 homes in Portland). School officials and student organizers now get that information to student volunteers.

The project has received some grant funding since its inception, with various organizations making donations of shovels and manpower to help keep it going over the years.

The effort also caught the attention of the National Association of Triads Inc., which partners law enforcement officials, seniors and area organizations to proactively address safety concerns among older residents. Triad officials asked Sheedy to formulate a plan for the shoveling project that has since been implemented nationwide.

“From there, everything just fell into place. Seemed like a great idea to a lot of people,” said Sheedy.

Sheedy’s home is decorated with awards, newspaper clippings and photographs that commemorate her work on behalf of seniors, including DownEast Magazine’s 2014 Best of Maine Editor’s Choice Award.

Now, Sheedy finds herself in need of help.

“I will be 80 this October and last year was a difficult one for me. I simply can’t keep heading this project. I am looking for a replacement – someone who is willing to take on the entire project or at least oversee projects in their immediate neighborhood, which is usually 8 to 10 houses.”

Sheedy said the rules are simple: Shovelers are required to clear a path from the front door to the sidewalk as well as the sidewalk section immediately in front of the property following each snow event.

“We don’t shovel off cars, clean out driveways, clear off rear stairs or roofs or other. We just clear a pathway to and from the front door so that elderly residents can get out and postal workers, emergency medical responders, Meals on Wheels delivery people and others can get in and out safely.”

The overseer of the project would be responsible for keeping a list of seniors who need the services and getting that information to participating volunteer groups.

Sheedy said many customers are referred to her by neighbors or those who know they need this service. She also advertises and daily reads newspaper obituaries to see who may no longer need services or to add newly widowed seniors to the list.

“I hope this program will continue. I would be content knowing that my peers are taken care of this winter.”

“I am looking for someone who likes older people, enjoys helping the elderly and is understanding of their plight – that they are not able to get around like they used to and can’t physically lift heavy snow.”

Interested candidates should call Sheedy at 774-7616 or email [email protected]