Kudos to two employees of the Town & Country Federal Credit Union who took it upon themselves to come up with a program to benefit people in recovery.

Nicole Lemieux and Karina Tripp work at the credit union’s Forest Avenue branch and noticed last year that more than 80 of its newest members had addresses at Portland’s sober houses. While setting them up with checking accounts and debit cards, they realized many had no understanding of budgeting and poor or no credit scores – serious impediments to independent, healthy living.

Lemieux and Tripp reached out to the managers of Portland’s sober houses and asked what could help their clients’ journey through recovery. From those inquiries arose a four-week money management program called Discovering your Path to Financial Wellness, which provides information and support for people in recovery around basic money management skills to help them get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. The program is taught on site at sober houses, and since it was formed last year, the program has graduated 35 men.

“I went to one of the graduations and it was very emotional,” said David Libby, president and CEO of the credit union. “You could see the impact the class had on them.”

For instance, one man was able to get a low-limit credit card through which he established enough of a credit history to qualify for a car loan. That, in turn, expanded his employment opportunities.

“I thought what Nicole and Karina did was a fantastic example of seeing a need in the community and putting together a program to address that need,” Libby said.

The financial wellness classes are continuing at other sober houses this year, including women’s sober houses.

INVESTING IN A SUNNY FUTURE

The Maine Historical Society and Portland Public Library have collaborated on a solar array atop their joint archive building on Riverside Street. The installation, paid for with a $300,0000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and $100,0000 in private fundraising, will provide 75 percent of the energy needed for the climate-controlled building.

“Interestingly and ironically, material stored at the facility includes our Central Maine Power Co. collection, which demonstrates the electrification of Maine in the 20th century,” said Steve Bromage, the historical society’s executive director.

Facing storage crises on their separate facilities on Congress Street, the two organizations jointly envisioned and developed the building with specially designed temperature and humidity controls to protect art, artifacts, manuscripts and other materials that document the history of Maine. It opened in 2014.

The solar investment in the archival building saves the two nonprofits about $15,000 a month in electricity costs, Bromage said.

If you’re curious about how much energy the installation is providing, you can go to solar.mainehistory.org for a peek at real-time and historical usage.

DENTAL FILLINGS

Here’s something to smile about: The University of New England graduated its first class of dentists last month. Sixty-two students – including 24 Mainers – were awarded the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree, 11 of whom have already signed on with practices in Maine. Several other graduates said they intend to return to Maine after completing residency or specialty programs elsewhere.

Maine has had an enduring shortage of dentists. According to the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, all Maine counties except Sagadahoc have a shortage of dentists to serve their populations. The American Dental Association said there were 666 dentists working in Maine in 2016, only 24 more than in 2006. The national average is 61 dentists per 100,000 population; Maine’s average is 50.

With just the 11 new dentists who have already pledged to remain in Maine, the average ticks up to 52 dentists per 100,000 population.

As part of their training, this year’s graduates completed clinical rotations in communities throughout northern New England. They administered oral health care at a total of 27 sites, 16 of which were in Maine, according to UNE.

Business Editor Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

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