Over 300 esteemed guests turned out for the annual Muskie Access to Justice Awards Dinner at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on May 30 to honor an individual who is known by many as an advocate, a connector and a champion.

“It is our profound honor this year to bestow the 2018 Senator Muskie Access to Justice Award on Mary Allen Lindemann, co-founder of and community builder at Coffee By Design,” said Helen Meyer, development director at Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Portland and coordinator for the annual dinner.

“At this event, we honor leaders in our community who ‘honor commitment to the public good, advanced through hard thinking, deep feeling, a voice of eloquent civility and a passion for justice.’ Mary Allen, like Senator Muskie, has the courage to take risks for what she sees as right. She demonstrates her commitment to fighting prejudice and injustice in all she does, running a business that is a model of social responsibility, creating coffee houses that are places of community, volunteering her time to advance causes of social justice, and making personal connections that impact lives as far away as Burundi and as close as her own backyard.”

Guests mingled for cocktails and conversation before the sit down dinner and award ceremony. Kifah Abdulla, poet, artist and teacher at MECA, chatted with Loretta Prescott, ILAP development director and Katherine Griffin of Toole, Powers & Griffin in Portland; Jon Gale, attorney and candidate for Cumberland Country District Attorney, was joined by his campaign treasurer, Jim Cohen, and Gabe Weiss of Wex; and Andrea Suter, counsel at Pierce Atwood, attended with fellow Pierce Atwood attorney, Lisa Gilbreath.

“We are here to support the guest of honor,” said Gilbreath, who works with Lindemann on Women Standing Together, a community that supports women as entrepreneurs and leaders. “It’s important that we stand up and out for each other.”

“I’m here to support Mary Allen with a small thank you for all that she’s done for the people of Portland…the art community, the music community, the immigrant community …” said Viva, director of Viva & The Reinforcements. “I think she really keeps the neighborhood in her heart.”

“I’m here to honor Mary Allen as an example of what even one person can do in a lifetime for the cause of justice,” said Carl Lakari, who sits on the board of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center  with Lindemann. “She is always generous, and committed to the efforts to create a better world for all of us. This is encouragement for each of us to take action, put effort in, and find our own personal path to where we can make a difference.”

Respect and admiration for the evening’s guest of honor were palpable throughout the evening. There were numerous speeches and moments of tribute, but two individuals had the distinct honor of introducing Lindemann before she accepted this prestigious award: Alain Nahimana, the executive director of GPIWC, and Danielle Conway, dean of the University of Maine School of Law.

“This evening is important to me because people take justice for granted,” explained Nahimana before the presentations. “I come from a country where there is no justice. I appreciate what is here. At the same time, people don’t take justice as a destination, but as a journey. People need to continue this journey to justice.”

“This is important because Senator Edmund Muskie started something revolutionary with respect to access to justice,” said Conway. “His roadmap was so clear that all of our community members in Maine are able to do justice. We are all here to celebrate Mary Allen Lindemann, who picked up the baton of justice and has run with it.”

“It is an honor to receive an award named after Edmund S. Muskie, who believed equal access to justice is the right of all people,” said Lindemann, clearly moved by the honor. “At the GPIWC, we talk about the power of ‘We’. Working together, we can make great things happen. I accept this award on behalf of the many immigrants here in Maine who have allowed me into their lives, showing me what true courage is.”

The annual Senator Muskie Access to Justice Award Dinner raises money for six nonprofit civil legal aid organizations in Maine that advance access to justice for all in Maine, particularly those who are socially or economically disadvantaged.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

[email protected]

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