Here is a problem that 87 people solved.

There are some 2,000 students in Portland Adult Education’s academic and job skills programs. With the rising cost of housing, they often don’t live near the school in Bayside and can’t afford the Metro ticket to get to class.

Many of these students are in English for Speakers of Other Languages classes, including the class taught by my mother, Arline Saturdayborn. She has been an ESOL teacher at Portland Adult Education for 13 years. Some of the women and men who walk into her classroom have escaped unspeakable violence. Some have called a refugee camp home for years. Some have never known weather below 40 degrees. All have turned their lives upside-down to build a future that is safer, freer, wider than their past was. But that building won’t happen if they can’t get to class to learn how to read and write in English.

Last year, a wonderful one-time grant from the University of Southern Maine’s course on philanthropy was used to purchase 148 10-pass Metro tickets for Portland Adult Education students.

Last summer, I began thinking about a birthday present for my mother. While she was born in December, I had a few ideas that needed a long runway. One idea involved starting a supplies fund for Portland Adult Education students, since my mother had mentioned that many couldn’t afford notebooks and pens.

I reached out to Portland Adult Education’s terrific staff to share my thinking. Sure, they said, that idea could work. But we’ve got this other issue, and they explained the transportation situation.

Well, I thought, supplies aren’t going to do you much good if you can’t even get to class. I loved USM’s grant and how practically it was used. So, I figured we could build off of that.

Working with Portland Adult Education staff members, I started Arline’s 2025 Fund. The aim was to raise $2,025 to get 150 10-ride Metro tickets for Portland Adult Education students who couldn’t afford to get to class. We would surprise my mother with it for her birthday.

I reached out to folks in all corners of my mother’s life asking if they could contribute $13.50 – the cost of one 10-ride Metro ticket – to the fund. Portland Adult Education reached out to teachers and staff.

Donations started coming in. People sent checks. They contributed online. They handed me cash when they saw me for coffee. Some told me they needed to wait until their next paycheck came in, but they would get me money. They all did.

I sent emails packed with exclamation points to Portland Adult Education’s staff. Seventy percent of the way there! Only $318.50 to go! And on Nov. 17, 2017, I sent one with the subject line: “$2,036!”

Because of the huge hearts of the people who live in this state, and around the country, Arline’s 2025 Fund surpassed its goal. More money came in, and we were able to buy 156 10-ride Metro tickets for Portland Adult Education students.

On a bright January day, I stood outside Portland Adult Education’s first all-staff meeting of 2018.

“Now, we want to acknowledge the birthday of one of our teachers,” I heard a Portland Adult Education staff member say. “Her daughter is here. Come on in!”

I walked into the room. My mother did a double take. Portland Adult Education teachers gave her lilies and we told her about Arline’s 2025 Fund. Then everyone in the room stood up in applause.

You could say the applause was for my mother, and that would be true. But I don’t think it would be the whole truth. I would be willing to bet you more than $2,025 that a lot of that applause was because it was a reminder that we live in a world where 87 people will dip into their paychecks and their hearts to support brave souls building a new life for themselves.

Eighty-seven people solved this problem this year, just as USM’s philanthropy class solved it last year. But what about next year? There will be more new faces at Portland Adult Education, more snow, more need.

I don’t have an answer. But I do have hopes. Hopes that the great-heartedness we have seen for two consecutive years will manifest in another form. Perhaps you will be a part of it. I hope so. And if you are, let me know. I would love to contribute.