Stepping into Eimskip’s sixth annual Scandinavian Northern Lights Christmas Charity Event at Ocean Gateway in Portland on Dec. 14 was a bit like visiting the Far North – along with more than 400 friends from Maine.

Images of the Northern Lights glowed from behind a Scandinavian buffet from Portland Hunt + Alpine Club featuring cured mackerel toast, pickled shrimp, fennel salad and deviled eggs with smoked trout roe. Starri Valdimarsson, a producer who works with pop artists in Iceland, was the deejay. Raffle tickets were sold for a trip to Iceland. Even the bottled water was Icelandic.

Eimskip, a transportation company headquartered in Iceland and with a U.S. presence on Portland’s waterfront, dedicated the proceeds of its sixth annual holiday party to a Commercial Street neighbor: The Telling Room. Altogether, the event raised more than $50,000 in donations and pledges for The Telling Room.

“This is hugely beneficial at this time of year,” said program director Nick Whiston, explaining that the nonprofit’s primary annual fundraiser, Show & Tell, isn’t until April 2. “This helps us keep our after-school programs free. We’re incredibly grateful.”

“At The Telling Room, we empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world,” said Executive Director Celine Kuhn, adding that The Telling Room serves about 4,000 students a year, ages 6 to 18. “Our programs strengthen literacy skills, build confidence and make better communities. And we provide real audiences for kids.”

“They get a chance to play around with language and identity,” said Anja Hanson, a mentor for Young Writers & Leaders, a free after-school literary arts program for international multilingual high school students.

“We’re serving students for whom Portland is a second home, and they’re building community through stories,” said Shima Kabirigi. “I love the storytelling aspect of students having the tools to be empowered to tell their own stories.”

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

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