Celebrating 90 years, the United Way of Greater Portland honored three community leaders and four companies with United We Thrive Awards at an April 23 luncheon at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, recognizing their work in the United Way’s focus area of education, financial stability and health.

During the first year of the Great Depression, Portland-area leaders brought together local agencies to collaborate in an appeal to help people in need. The organization first called Community Chest evolved into today’s United Way of Greater Portland.

“We believe, just as we did in 1929, that by mobilizing people in our community anything is possible,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Liz Cotter Schlax. “What’s remained constant throughout the years is the incredible giving spirit of the people and organizations throughout Greater Portland. We are so thrilled to recognize a few today that demonstrate what’s possible when we mobilize the caring power of our community.”

The highest honor, the Spirit of Greater Portland Award, was presented to L.L. Bean for its significant contribution to the 2018 campaign as well as its community support, volunteerism and advocacy. Including contributions from thousands of employees, L.L. Bean contributed $1.2 million last year.

“The culture here is one where we really look at things holistically, and giving back to the community is a key part of that culture,” said Michelle Martin, a senior manager for brand amplification at L.L. Bean who co-chaired the United Way’s 2018 campaign. “That’s embedded in everybody every day, whether that’s through the United Way campaign or other passions outside of work, we encourage people to participate and really take a stand in their communities.”

Change Maker Award recipient Suzanne Fox of Falmouth was recognized for her work growing The Yellow Tulip Project, a nonprofit founded in 2016 by her daughter Julia Hanson, who was then 16.

“She had lost two friends to suicide over four months and was tired of the silence around the topic,” Fox said. “We started with a cute logo and a simple idea, and what happened was a surge of young people so inspired by our call to action. It’s all about building community where people feel less alone. We want to smash the stigma associated with mental illness.”

Individual honorees included Baxter Legacy Award recipient Michael Bourque, who served as the United Way campaign chairman in 2016, and Andrews Volunteer Award recipient Deb Deatrick, who has championed public health in Maine for 40 years.

Organizational honorees included Day One and BerryDunn for giving at the small and large organization levels, respectively, and to Maine Medical Center for innovative programs such as the Preble Street Learning Collaborative.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at [email protected]

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