Laura deDoes and her husband, Patrick Mendelsohn, adopted their son Bezabeh from Ethiopia about four years ago.

The adoption created a special place in their hearts for their son’s birthplace. Wanting to do something to celebrate that and to connect more with their son’s roots, they decided to host an Ethiopian New Year’s party at their home in Cumberland.

So each September they open their home to not only Ethiopians, but also to many members of Greater Portland’s African community.

“We get maybe 100 to 140 people,” said deDoes, who works as an X-ray technician at Maine Medical Center in Portland. “I feel a very close connection to Ethiopia, and I’ve become very close to a couple (African immigrant) families.”

DeDoes also has become active in working to help African immigrant families settling in the area, from looking for housing to finding furniture and cookware. The couple also has an older son, Dane, who is 8.

DeDoes and Mendelsohn’s outreach to the African community is an extension of their natures, neighbors say. After Halloween, for instance, deDoes decided to ask people to give her any unused candy. She figured lots of people don’t want the temptation of having all that extra candy around. She then took the candy and donated it to local homeless shelters, to be used for upcoming holiday parties.

Last summer deDoes mentioned to Mendelsohn — who works as a paramedic/firefighter in South Portland — that their neighbor Nancy MacDonald could use some help installing a new mailbox post. Mendelsohn saw the post in MacDonald’s yard, so he decided to install it while she was out.

MacDonald said she was “stunned by this neighborly act of kindness.”


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