At the annual Ghoulwill Ball hosted by Goodwill Industries of Northern New England, creativity reigns supreme.

“People are thinking outside the box,” said Liz Smith of South Portland, dressed as a Starbucks tall nonfat caramel latte with light whip.

“I was trying to think of puns,” said Margaret Weare of Portland, who received a People’s Choice award and $150 Visa gift card. In a yellow Disney princess dress, sombrero, and mustache, she was Taco Belle.

“People talk about it all year,” said Goodwill store employee Traczie Bellinger of South Portland, dressed as a cactus with pipe cleaners sewn into a green sweater topped off with a sombrero.

Between corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, the Ghoulwill Ball raised $10,000 for Goodwill’s Job Connection program, which helps displaced workers and individuals with disabilities find jobs.

“The primary focus of Goodwill is helping the person who wants to work find work and keep it,” said Lynn Gaudette, senior vice president of Job Connection. “These events are really important because even though our funding sources are generous and our retail stores help tremendously, they can’t do it all. Events like this fill the gap. And they’re fun to boot.”

“It’s amazing that I get paid to do things I like to do,” said Bob Parker, who manages special events for Goodwill and was dressed as a nun. “To know that whatever you’re involved in ultimately helps others, that’s one of the most satisfying things.”

“Funding is getting tight and we can use more money to help people find jobs and help them in jobs once they’re placed,” said employment services worker Colette Bouchard, dressed as Red Sox player Mike Napoli, beard included.

“We’ve been trying to help Goodwill be sustainable, and they are helping the community be sustainable,” said Matt Arbo, managing principal of Healy & Associates, one of the event sponsors. He was decked out in a hippie costume coordinated with his teenage hippies Helena and Hunter Arbo.

“If you say you work at Goodwill, people say ‘What store?’ They have no idea how much Goodwill does,” said Kim Nesbit, a Goodwill employee who works with individuals with brain injuries. She paused to help her colleague Madeline Groeger, dressed as the Abominable Snowman, get a straw through her mask.

“Halloween is Goodwill’s Christmas because a lot of people go to Goodwill for costumes,” said Kimberly Curry, director of community relations. She dressed as La Catrina of Dia de Los Muerta. “I had this dress and I wanted to recycle it, so I stitched flowers all over it and used liquid eyeliner.”

“I go to Goodwill all the time, but I didn’t realize they had these extended programs,” said longtime Portland resident Linda Bridges, dressed as a pirate.

The biggest change for this year’s Ghoulwill Ball was a new venue: the Portland Club on State Street. With more than 150 guests – some in rather large costumes – there was plenty of room for everyone, whether they wanted to dance to cover band Take 4, hit the bar, sample food from Black Tie, or wander around the first floor of the old Shepley-Hunnewell mansion.

“We love the creepy feel of this place,” said Trendy Stanchfield, senior director of mission investment. “It’s rumored to be haunted upstairs.”

Jeff Lind and Josh Fifield of Clark Insurance, another event sponsor, were dressed as Ghostbusters with Jeff’s wife Michelle in the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man suit. “The Portland Club has a history of being haunted. That’s why we got the call,” Jeff quipped.

The winning costume in the ghost category went to Gray resident Manny Achibald, convincingly dressed as Jack Skellington.

But nothing was creepier than the grand prize-winning devil costume designed and brought to life by John Aday, an artist and body piercer from Portland.

“I’ve been shopping at Goodwill since I was a young punk,” he said.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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