March 12, 2010

Dining out on women's -- and girls' -- accomplishments

— very Girl Scout is a leader in the making.'' U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe shared those words with 300 guests attending the Women of Distinction Dinner. The annual event benefits programs of the Girl Scouts of Maine, which has more than 14,000 members and 4,000 adult volunteers.

Junior Scouts of Scarborough Troop 2324 led diners to the reception and silent auction at the Portland Marriott. Later, South Portland Troop 76 presented a flag ceremony in the ballroom. Karen Keim, GSME board president, introduced Scout officials and members of the Snowe family. Also addressing the crowd were dinner chair Sarah Twomey and emcee Kim Block.

Jackie Newell, a student at Cape Elizabeth High School, described her Scout-sponsored trip to Costa Rica. After seeing conditions there, she initiated a community service project with the Cape Rotary Club. Jackie will eventually earn a Gold Award for her efforts.

John Richardson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, congratulated Snowe on behalf of Gov. John Baldacci and himself. There was also a message from Sen. Susan Collins.

The honoree acknowledged the accolades on film from afar. She had planned to attend in person, but the Senate was called back for a special session. Snowe's remarks included a reference to the book, ''Nine and Counting: the Women of the Senate,'' which she wrote with other female senators. Her message to the Girl Scouts was about the many careers open to women today. Cheryl Leeman, Snowe's regional representative in the Portland office, accepted the award for her friend.

Tom Saturley, auctioneer, sold five live items plus 17 camperships to Girl Scout camps. Bonnie Chait, a longtime Scout, camper and board member, told fellow diners about ''a leader in the making.'' Bonnie was among 10 Girl Scouts who participated in an international event in Europe. One of the girls was Janet Napolitano, who later became the governor of Arizona. More recently, she was nominated to head the Department of Homeland Security.


Jim and Karen Conlon celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary with 550 good friends. The dinner party at the Portland Marriott coincided with Jim's selection as Spurwink Humanitarian of the Year. The Brewer resident is president and CEO of Bangor Savings Bank.

Dawn Stiles, president of Spurwink Services, praised the honoree as an individual committed to improving the lives of others. Conlon and the bank have continually supported Spurwink, an organization that provides mental health, educational and residential services for children and families.

The master of ceremonies was Yellow Light Breen, a bank official who explained his name as ''a product of the hippy generation.'' Yellow announced that proceeds from the evening totaled a record $363,000 for Spurwink programs.

Aaron Stubbs, diagnosed with autism, talked about his team treatment at Spurwink. ''His progress was extraordinary,'' said therapist Betsy Davis. After graduation, Aaron plans to attend vocational school.

A film presentation delivered kudos from Conlon colleagues Edwin Cliff, David Carlisle and Jim Dow. Adjutant General John Libby of the Maine National Guard thanked Conlon and the BSB for underwriting a calendar that benefits the families of deployed Guard members.

Also offering tributes were Charles Hewett, bank board chair; Bill Beardsley, president of Husson University; and George Campbell Jr., New Hampshire commissioner of Transportation.

Accepting the award, Conlon described Spurwink as a special place dedicated to success. He also spoke of stewardship, noting he was entrusted with a venerable institution and hopes he can leave it even better than when he found it.


''Season of Light'' was a festive night to support School of Music scholarships at the University of Southern Maine. The annual soiree got underway with a reception in the Abromson Center. Student singers and instrumentalists entertained while guests socialized in the main foyer. Individual buffets were arranged in nearby banquet rooms, and several groups of musicians serenaded, tableside, during the holiday dinner.

Hannaford Hall was the setting for an opera excerpt introduced by Opera Workshop director Ellen Chickering and a live auction directed by John Locke. Scott Harris, director of the School of Music, thanked the event's benefactor, Bill Waldron of Portland Saab and Portland Volvo. It was a busy week for Waldron, who previewed his Portland Motor Club for members of the Portland Museum of Art. The facility on Presumpscot Street will be open to the public early this year.

USM President Selma Botman led a champagne toast to the school. Nathaniel Menifield, a scholarship student, thanked the audience for helping him achieve a career in music education.

Dick and Carolyn McGoldrick received recognition for chairing the event's host committee. Dick said they were deeply grateful for the opportunity. Carolyn mentioned the School of Music performances she helps arrange for such organizations as the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine. Among other community groups connected with the school are the PSO, PCA Great Performances, the Choral Art Society and PORTopera.

A standing ovation followed for Margaret Wilkis, School of Music development officer. Margaret also headed the production staff for ''Season of Light.''

The finale of the evening was the Centerpiece Concert featuring solo pianists, the USM Wind Ensemble, the Chamber Jazz Ensemble and USM Chamber Singers.


Wouldn't you know it?

I'm no longer a poet.

The problem I face,

I've run out of space.

May your lives be fine

Throughout two thousand and nine.

Natalie Brenner has been observing and writing about the social scene for the Maine Sunday Telegram for 29 years.

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