CUMBERLAND — After being away from Maine for 12 years and moving back from Washington, D.C., in 2016, James Mallar and his young family were relative strangers in town – but not for long.

Thanks to the launch in May 2017 of Cumberland’s New Resident Orientation open house, the Mallars got to know many town officials and learn about various local programs, resources and services, all in one night.

The initiative has drawn about 50 newcomers in each of the past two years. The third annual event will be held in the Town Hall Council Chambers, 290 Tuttle Road, from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 7.

The event is free, but residents are asked to register in advance at tinyurl.com/newresidentorientation so that organizers know how many people to expect.

“I thought it was cool that they were trying something new,” Mallar recalled April 26. “I’d never thought of that being done, and it fit into the community small-town feel that attracted us here.”

He befriended a few other new residents, and was inspired enough by the experience to begin volunteering with the Chebeague and Cumberland Land Trust, and ultimately join its board of directors. He was back at last year’s New Resident Orientation, this time hosting a CCLT table, and he will do the same this year.

“We’ve had a bunch of people from the event last year who have joined CCLT” and become active volunteers, Mallar said, encouraging anyone interested to attend.

“It’s just a nice, low-key event to be able to chat with whoever you happen to be interested in talking to, or an organization you want to learn more about,” he added.

The family-friendly event offers a play area for children while their parents are getting the scoop on the community.

Residents new and old alike are welcome, event coordinator Eliza Porter – also the town’s communications director and deputy town clerk – said April 25. Some have moved to Cumberland within the past few weeks, and some the past few years, but the program can also be helpful to longtime residents, she pointed out.

Some of the newer residents might be more connected to the community, since the town through the orientation connects them to Cumberland’s weekly newsletter and social media pages, and subscribes them to motor vehicle registration reminders.

“Sometimes people who’ve lived here for so long, we’re still trying to figure out how to target them, because maybe we’re not getting them in these different avenues,” Porter said. “… We want anyone to be able to attend these events; there’s no restriction.”

Although town staff had initially considered holding a presentation at the beginning of each event, the loose open house forum allowed people to mingle at their own pace and swing by the tables where department heads sat.

“The biggest takeaway from this event that we’ve heard from people, is they feel like they’re welcomed into the community, they’re putting the faces to the names, they know who they can talk to if they have questions about waste and recycling, or how do I register my car,” Porter explained. “It’s nice for them so that when they come in, the people who are working here recognize them.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Leah McDonald, left, and James Mallar host an information table on the Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust during Cumberland’s 2018 New Resident Orientation event. Mallar attended the inaugural orientation in 2017 as a new Cumberland resident, and was inspired to become involved in the community.

Eliza Porter, Cumberland’s communications director and deputy town clerk, has coordinated the town’s New Resident Orientation open house since its 2017 launch.

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