As Pine Tree Society commemorates its 80th anniversary this year, the organization is also celebrating the acquisition of nonprofit group Pathways, Inc. of Auburn earlier this month.

Pine Tree Society is best known for its summer camp in Rome that services both adults and children with physical or developmental disabilities. The organization is a “year-round resource” for those living in Maine, according to president Noel Sullivan.

Along with case management, speech and language services offered from their headquarters in Bath, the organization also provides American Sign Language services and a day program for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism out of Scarborough. The number of retreats at their camp have also increased from 15 to 25 this year.

On Friday, Sullivan was confident the addition of Pathways would only enhance Pine Tree’s mission, as the nonprofit organization is also dedicated to supporting individuals with disabilities in the Auburn and Lewiston community.

Before the two organizations had officially merged on Jan. 1, Sullivan said Pine Tree’s board and management team had been working on a strategic five-year plan.

“We believe we have an impact in Maine and historically, we have always looked to fill unmet needs,” he said during a phone interview. “We don’t want to compete in nonprofit work, but we were carefully looking (to) expand beyond our location, and then this opportunity in Auburn came along.”

Pine Tree had reached out to the Pathways board when they had heard the organization’s CFO and CEO were retiring and did not have the funds to continue programming.

Sullivan said they were particularly attracted to Pathway’s early learning center, a program that offers preschool services for children with special needs, and a senior program for retired residents in the area.

The early learning program currently serves about 25 children in seven different school districts, according to director Karen McClure-Richard.

“We’re really excited,” she said when asked about the merge. “I think being part of Pine Tree gives a whole lot of opportunities to provide more programming in our community because it has such a wonderful reputation.”

Both Pine Tree and Pathways also provide supportive employment programs geared toward those who want to work, but may need some supervision and guidance, said Sullivan.

“(Pathways’) location and mission match what we do already and do well,” he added.

While Sullivan said the merge itself didn’t necessarily pose a challenge, he noted that improvements may require some time.

“We have an obligation to bring stronger programming, and it’s easily a couple years of commitment,” he said.

“It’s been very positive for us up to this point, and there’s been lots of discussions and dreaming and what we can do with the space we have,” McClure- Richard also said. “We need to figure out what’s needed and we’re reaching out and having meetings and discussions to see what we can do, with lots and lots of support from Pine Tree Society.”

So far, the community has also been supportive.

“Generally, people are excited because they know we have plans to enhance what is already great programming, and we’re going to make it brighter and bring to the table what money sometimes blocks,” Sullivan said. “It can only get better from here.”

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